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15 Beautiful Beaches in California You’ve NEVER Heard Of

California is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

And the everybody knows it which means that a lot of California’s best beaches are super busy.

Luckily there’s still many relatively unknown beaches in California that the tourists still don’t know about.

They offer the unbelievable scenic beauty that is characteristic of California but without the crowds.

1. Spooner’s Cove

Spooner’s Cove is a picturesque beach located within Montaña de Oro State Park, on the central coast of California, near the town of Los Osos. 

This hidden gem is known for its pebbly sand, rugged cliffs and the distinctive large rock formations that dot the shoreline. 

It’s a popular spot for picnicking, tide pooling and exploring the unique geological features. Keep your eyes peeled for sea glass!

The cove is also surrounded by hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the cove below. 

2. More Mesa Beach

More Mesa Beach is a secluded beach located in Santa Barbara, tucked away beneath the bluffs of the More Mesa preserve. 

This beautiful, quiet stretch of sand offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and is known for its serene environment, making it perfect for those looking to escape the crowds. 

The beach is accessible via a short hike from the cliffs above, leading visitors through a natural preserve that is home to a variety of diverse wildlife and plant species. 

Due to its remoteness, More Mesa Beach is popular with nude sunbathers although it’s important to note that it’s technically prohibited.

Insider Tip: The beach is very narrow so make sure to visit at low tide! At high tide, there is very little sand.

3. Ben Weston Beach

Ben Weston Beach is a secluded beach located on the southern end of Santa Catalina Island. 

It offers a peaceful retreat from the more tourist-heavy areas of the island. 

The beach is characterized by its wide stretch of sand, surrounded by tall, rugged cliffs that provide a stunning natural backdrop. 

Access to Ben Weston Beach involves a bit of an adventure as it requires traveling along dirt roads and a hike down to the shore. 

It’s worth it though as very few people bother making the journey so it’s usually pretty quiet, if not completely empty.

It is known for its excellent surf conditions which attract surfers looking for uncrowded waves. 

It’s also known for its rich marine life making it a great spot for snorkeling and diving. You’ll also find an old military bunker from WWII here.

4. West Street Beach

West Street Beach is a large sandy beach located in the vibrant city of Laguna Beach which you’ll find along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. 

This beach is known for its clear, turquoise waters and soft, golden sand and so is the perfect place for sunbathing, swimming and watching the sunset. There’s also a volleyball court.

West Street Beach is particularly famous as a welcoming and inclusive spot for the LGBTQ+ community and hosts various gatherings and events throughout the year. 

The beach is easily accessible from the street, with footpaths leading down to the shore. This allows visitors to enjoy its beauty without a challenging hike. 

Its proximity to downtown Laguna Beach also means that beachgoers can easily explore the city’s charming shops, art galleries and restaurants.

5. Montara State Beach 

Montara State Beach is a stunning stretch of coastline located in Montara, just about 20 miles south of San Francisco along the scenic Highway 1. 

This beach is renowned for its breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs and fine, golden sand. 

Montara State Beach offers a wide range of activities including surfing, fishing, hiking and exploring tide pools.

The beach is also home to the historic Point Montara Lighthouse which adds a touch of history to its natural beauty. 

With its clean, uncrowded shores and the picturesque backdrop of Montara Mountain, Montara State Beach is a true hidden gem.

6. El Pescador State Beach

El Pescador State Beach is a picturesque beach located in Malibu and forms part of the Robert Meyer Memorial State Beach. 

It’s known for its beautiful rocky shores, clear blue waters and secluded atmosphere which makes it a perfect spot for those seeking a quiet day by the sea. 

The beach features tidepools and rocky outcrops that are ideal for exploring marine life including hermit crabs, sea snails, barnacles, urchins and sea stars.

It’s also super common to see fish swimming around in the waters surrounding this beach. You may also spot a lobster, an otter or a seal too!

Access to El Pescador requires a short hike down to the beach from the parking lot. This adds to its secluded feel. 

It’s particularly famous for its scenic beauty and is a great location for picnics, sunbathing and intimate gatherings away from the crowds typical of larger beaches.

There’s actually another secret beach in this area that you can only access from El Pescador State Beach!

At low tide, walk west along the beach, past the rocks and you’ll eventually find the hidden El Sol Beach.

7. Carmel Meadows Beach

Carmel Meadows Beach is a hidden gem located in Carmel-by-the-Sea just south of the famous Carmel Beach. 

You’ll find it hidden in a quiet residential area known as Carmel Meadows. 

This secluded beach offers stunning views of the rugged coastline and the Pacific Ocean and comes complete with soft white sand that is characteristic of Carmel.

It’s known for its peaceful atmosphere so is an ideal spot for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of more crowded beaches. It’s particularly popular with locals.

The beach is accessible via a short trail down the side of the bluff.

Carmel Meadows Beach is also a great place for wildlife watching as it’s not uncommon to see marine animals like sea otters, seals and even whales frolicking in the nearby waves.

We don’t recommend swimming at this beach as the waves can be dangerous.

8. Panther Beach

Panther Beach is a secluded beach located in Santa Cruz along Highway 1. It offers a hidden escape for those in search of natural beauty. 

Known for its striking sandstone cliffs and unique rock formations, including a notable arch that stretches into the sea, the beach provides a dramatic backdrop for anyone that visits.

Access to Panther Beach requires a short hike down a somewhat steep path which helps keep the crowds at bay.

It’s a popular spot for locals seeking a quiet place to relax, enjoy picnics and watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

At low tide, you’ll also be able to head through an opening in the rock wall on the south side of the beach which leads to another hidden beach known as ‘Hole-In-The-Wall’.

We don’t recommend swimming at this beach as the waves can be dangerous.

9. Bowling Ball Beach

Bowling Ball Beach is located on the Mendocino Coast of California, near the small town of Point Arena. 

This unique beach is famous for its naturally occurring spherical boulders which resemble giant bowling balls. You’ll find them all lined up along the shore. 

These geological formations are best viewed at low tide when the ocean retreats and reveals the rows of perfectly rounded stones set against the backdrop of the scenic coastline. 

The beach is part of the Schooner Gulch State Beach and requires a bit of a hike to reach.

Besides its striking rock formations, Bowling Ball Beach also offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

10. Sandspit Beach

Sandspit Beach is a long strip of sand located across the harbor from Morro Bay. It has formed a barrier that protects the bay.

It’s only accessible by either a boat or a hike from Montaña de Oro State Park. 

This secluded beach is known for its soft, golden sand and the dramatic backdrop of Morro Rock, one of the iconic Morro Bay landmarks. 

It offers a quiet, less crowded alternative for beachgoers. In fact, you’ll often have it entirely to yourself!

Sandspit Beach is also a popular spot for surfing with waves that appeal to more advanced surfers, though the currents can be strong. 

Swimming is NOT recommended due to strong currents and sharks.

The beach’s unique location, separating the ocean from the bay, creates a diverse habitat for wildlife. Therefore it is a great place for bird watching and spotting marine life.

11. 10 Mile Beach

10 Mile Beach is a breathtaking expanse of shoreline located just north of Fort Bragg, in Mendocino County. 

Although it’s known as ‘10 Mile Beach’, the beach itself is actually only 4 miles long.

Stretching for miles along the Pacific Coast, this beach is known for its pristine sandy shores, dramatic dunes and the serene Ten Mile River that flows into the ocean at its northern end. 

It offers a peaceful escape for those looking to enjoy long walks, beachcombing and the calming sound of waves. Locals, in particular, adore this beach! 

It has a very natural, unspoiled feel to it.

The beach itself is part of the larger MacKerricher State Park which provides visitors with a variety of natural landscapes to explore, from tidal pools to wetlands. 

10 Mile Beach is also a favorite spot for animal lovers as it is home to a diverse range of bird species and occasionally seals and whales can be seen basking near the river mouth.

12. Sculptured Beach 

Sculptured Beach is a secluded beach located within Point Reyes National Seashore, northwest of San Francisco. 

This hidden gem is celebrated for its dramatic landscape as it features intricate rock formations, natural arches and tide pools teeming with marine life. 

Access to the beach involves a hike through the beautiful Coast Trail. It’s an adventure in itself.

Sculptured Beach is particularly known for its low tide, when the retreating water reveals the natural ‘sculptures’ which have emerged in the rocks on the beach.

You’ll see many unique features including two rock arches, caves and sea stacks.

Its remote location and the peaceful environment make it an ideal spot for those looking to enjoy the natural beauty of the coast away from the crowds.

We don’t recommend swimming at this beach as the waves can be dangerous.

13. Victoria Beach

Victoria Beach is a hidden gem located in the city of Laguna Beach. It’s known, in particular, for its stunning natural beauty.

This secluded beach is famous for its white sand, crystal-clear turquoise waters and the iconic Pirate Tower. 

The Pirate Tower is a 60-foot tall stone turret that stands at the base of the cliffs and adds a touch of mystery to the place. 

Access to Victoria Beach is somewhat hidden and visitors will have to navigate through a residential area and down a steep staircase.

It’s a great spot for swimming, tide pooling, kayaking and photography. There’s also a volleyball court.

14. Fort Ord Dunes State Park

Fort Ord Dunes State Park is a spectacular natural area located along the coast of Monterey Bay, near to the cities of Monterey and Marina. 

This state park is famous for its vast expanses of dramatic sand dunes which offer breathtaking views of Monterey Bay and provide a unique landscape for visitors to explore. 

In fact, it features over 4 miles of shoreline just waiting to be explored.

And the best part is that the beaches here are often completely empty!

Once part of a military base, the park now offers miles of unspoiled beaches and trails for hiking, biking and bird watching. 

The park is known for its historical significance with remnants of its past still visible in the form of old military structures and roads. 

We don’t recommend swimming at this beach as the waves can be dangerous.

15. San Onofre State Beach

San Onofre State Beach is an exciting coastal destination located in San Diego County and is known for its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. 

This vast beach stretches along the Pacific Ocean, offering visitors a mix of rocky shores, sandy beaches and bluff-lined coves. 

It’s particularly famous among the surfing community for its iconic surf breaks, including Trestles, which is considered one of the best surf spots in the world. 

Other than surfers and some locals, not many other people know about this hidden gem!

The beach also features campgrounds which are located atop the cliffs, providing stunning ocean views for overnight guests. 

San Onofre is a favorite amongst locals as it offers activities like surfing, swimming, kayaking, fishing and hiking.

And that’s it!

These 15 beaches are still relatively unknown to most people which means that they tend to be super quiet.

Sophie Davis

Born and raised in the Bay area of California, Sophie is a California native. She joined our team in 2023 to create travel guides on California.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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