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13 SECRET California Beaches That Locals Love!

California’s coastline is world-renowned for its stunning beauty, from the iconic shores of Malibu to the bustling beaches of Santa Monica. 

But nestled amongst these are several hidden gems that often escape the spotlight.

These secret havens are cherished by locals.

In this guide, we’ll be uncovering 15 of California’s most underrated beaches that locals love. 

These beaches haven’t become major tourist hotspots yet so tend to be fairly quiet compared to hotspots like Venice Beach and Santa Monica Beach.

Number 7 is my favorite!

1. China Cove, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

China Cove, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

China Cove, nestled within the pristine landscapes of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, is a secluded area brimming with natural wonders. 

Here, you’ll find crystal-clear waters that invite snorkelers and scuba divers to explore the vibrant marine life beneath the surface. 

The beach’s calm and inviting atmosphere also makes it a peaceful spot for relaxation. 

As you stroll along the shoreline, you’ll encounter dramatic sea stacks, sea caves and rocky coves that add to the area’s scenic charm. 

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit China Cove at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is during the late spring, summer and early fall months. 

During this period, the milder temperatures make it ideal for snorkeling, scuba diving and hiking. 

The calm and clear waters during these months also provide excellent visibility for underwater activities. 

2. Carpinteria State Beach

Figueroa Beach, Carpinteria

Carpinteria State Beach, is a perfect day trip from Santa Barbara because it’s an unspoiled coastal haven that offers a blend of natural beauty and tranquility. 

Here, you’ll discover a wide stretch of sandy shoreline perfect for sunbathing and picnicking. 

During low tide, the beach reveals fascinating tide pools filled with marine life!

Surrounded by stunning cliffs and cliffsides, this beach also offers excellent opportunities for coastal hikes and scenic walks.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Carpinteria State Beach is during the late spring, summer and early fall months. 

During these seasons, you can typically enjoy more pleasant weather conditions with warmer temperatures, making it ideal for sunbathing, exploring tide pools and coastal hikes.

3. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach in Fort Bragg is a unique and fascinating coastal destination.

What makes it special is the colorful sea glass that covers the shore, which was created from decades of discarded glass and ceramics being naturally smoothed and polished by the ocean. 

It’s a great place for beachcombing and marveling at the sparkling glass pebbles along the coastline. 

*Do not take any glass away from this beach. It’s illegal.

It’s not as covered in sea glass as it once was, but it’s still a cool place to go.

Some people end up going to the wrong beach which is why you may not find the sea glass.

The video below is incredibly helpful and shows you exactly how to find the beach.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Glass Beach is during the late summer and early fall, typically from August through October. 

During this period, the weather is generally mild and pleasant, making it comfortable for beachcombing and exploring.

However, be aware that in the summer months there can be foggy weather in the mornings. 

4. Cowell Ranch Beach, Half Moon Bay

 Cowell Ranch Beach, Half Moon Bay

Cowell Ranch Beach, situated in Half Moon Bay, offers a tranquil escape along the California coast. 

This beach is known for its serene and uncrowded atmosphere, making it a perfect spot for a quiet day by the sea. 

It’s an ideal place for sunbathing, taking leisurely walks along the shore and tidepooling, away from the crowds of nearby beaches.

Best Time To Visit

You can visit anytime but the best time to visit Cowell Ranch Beach is during the late spring, summer and early fall months. 

These months typically offer the most favorable weather conditions with milder temperatures and less fog. 

5. Pirates Cove Beach, Malibu

Pirates Cove Beach in Malibu is a hidden coastal gem tucked away between Point Dume and Zuma Beach. 

This serene cove offers a quiet and picturesque escape from the bustling beaches nearby.

With its rocky shores, sea caves and tide pools, it’s a favorite among locals seeking a peaceful and less crowded beach experience. 

If you like exploring tide pools or simply relaxing by the sea, Pirates Cove Beach is perfect for you.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Pirates Cove Beach is during the late spring, summer and early fall months. 

These seasons typically offer the most pleasant weather with warm temperatures and clearer skies, making it ideal for enjoying the beach, exploring the tide pools and taking in the scenic beauty of the area. 

6. Luffenholtz Beach, Humboldt County

Luffenholtz Beach, Humboldt County

Luffenholtz Beach, located in Humboldt County, is a hidden gem along California’s northern coastline. 

This serene beach offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

With its breathtaking cliffs, sea stacks and coastal trails, it’s a perfect place for a leisurely stroll and connecting with nature. 

Luffenholtz Beach is a cherished spot among locals as it offers a serene atmosphere and dramatic coastal scenery.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Luffenholtz Beach in Humboldt County is during the late spring, summer and early fall months. 

During this time, you can expect milder weather with more sunshine, making it ideal for exploring the beach, enjoying coastal walks and taking in the stunning scenery.

7. Hidden Beach, Aptos

Hidden Beach, Aptos

A well-kept secret, Hidden Beach lives up to its name.

It’s a secluded cove with golden sands and often fewer visitors than nearby beaches.

This cove is super secluded meaning that it offers a quiet and calm environment.

It’s the perfect place to relax away from the crowds.

You’ll find soft golden sand and calm waters where you can unwind, sunbathe or simply just enjoy the soothing sounds of the ocean.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Hidden Beach is during the late spring, summer and early fall months. 

These seasons generally offer the most favorable weather conditions, with warmer temperatures and more extended daylight hours, making it ideal for sunbathing and beach activities.

8. Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu

Leo Carrillo State Park Beach

Leo Carrillo State Beach, nestled in Malibu, is a coastal favorite that offers a unique blend of natural beauty and recreational opportunities. 

This beach is known for its unique sea caves, tide pools and remarkable rock formations. 

It’s a popular spot for both locals and visitors, perfect for exploring, picnicking and enjoying the California coastline.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu is during the late spring, summer and early fall months. 

This period typically provides the most comfortable weather conditions with warm temperatures, making it ideal for beach activities, tide pool exploration and picnicking.

9. Moss Landing State Beach, Monterey Bay

Moss Landing State Beach, Monterey Bay

Moss Landing State Beach, located in Monterey Bay, is a haven for nature enthusiasts. 

This beach is known for its abundant birdlife and unique tidal salt marshes in the nearby Elkhorn Slough. 

It’s an ideal spot for birdwatching and taking in the natural beauty of the bay. 

The calm and peaceful atmosphere here makes it a perfect place for a leisurely stroll or a day of exploring the coastal ecosystems.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Moss Landing State Beach is during the spring and fall months. 

During these seasons, you can typically enjoy pleasant weather, with milder temperatures and less fog compared to the summer. 

Additionally, migratory birds are often more active during the spring and fall, offering fantastic bird watching opportunities. 

10. Pomponio State Beach, San Mateo County

Pomponio State Beach, San Mateo County

Pomponio State Beach, nestled in San Mateo County, offers a bit of everything that makes the California coastline special. 

Here, you’ll find a scenic beachfront with golden sands for picnicking, sunbathing and beachcombing. 

The waves are inviting for surfers and bodyboarders, making it a favorite spot for water enthusiasts. 

For nature lovers, there are nearby trails for hiking and birdwatching, as well as tide pools to explore during low tide.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Pomponio State Beach is during the late spring, summer and early fall months. 

During these seasons, you can expect warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, making it ideal for beach activities, hiking and exploring the tide pools.

11. Hendry’s Beach, Santa Barbara

Hendry's Beach, Santa Barbara

Hendry’s Beach, also known as Arroyo Burro Beach, is located just a 10-minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara.

Here, you’ll discover a scenic sandy shore perfect for sunbathing and picnicking. 

The gentle waves make it an excellent spot for swimming and bodyboarding, while surfers ride the nearby breaks. 

Dog lovers will appreciate the designated off-leash area for their furry friends. 

Hendry’s Beach also boasts a restaurant, The Boathouse, with oceanfront dining.

It’s the perfect spot for a seaside meal.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Hendry’s Beach in Santa Barbara is during the late spring, summer and early fall months. 

These seasons typically offer warm temperatures and clearer skies, making it ideal for beach activities, swimming and outdoor dining at The Boathouse restaurant.

12. Capistrano Beach, Dana Point

Capistrano Beach, Dana Point

Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, Capistrano Beach offers a quiet setting with lovely views and opportunities for tidepool exploration.

Here, you’ll find a sandy shoreline that’s perfect for sunbathing and picnicking, set against the backdrop of beautiful coastal bluffs.

The calm waters also make it an ideal spot for swimming and wading.

For those who love exploring, tide pools can be found at low tide, revealing fascinating marine life including hermit crabs, starfish, sea anemones, mussels and barnacles.

The beach also provides opportunities for beachcombing and volleyball, making it a great place for family fun.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit is during the spring, summer or early fall months as you can enjoy more pleasant weather, making it ideal for sunbathing, swimming and exploring the tide pools.

Low tide during these months also provides an excellent opportunity to observe marine life in the tide pools.

13. Agate Beach, Sue-meg State Park

Agate Beach, Patrick's Point State Park

Agate Beach, located within Sue-meg State Park, is a coastal gem where you’ll find a picturesque shoreline adorned with an abundance of agate rocks.

The beach is ideal for leisurely strolls and picnics against a backdrop of dramatic cliffs and breathtaking ocean views. 

At low tide, fascinating tide pools await exploration, revealing a world of colorful marine life.

Agate Beach is one of California’s most naturally beautiful beaches and few tourists know it exists. It’s the perfect place to collect some agate gems to save as a souvenir. 

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit Agate Beach in Sue-meg State Park is during the late spring, summer and early fall months. 

During these seasons, you can typically enjoy milder temperatures, making it ideal for beachcombing, exploring tide pools and taking in the scenic beauty of the area.


And that’s it!

California’s coast is full of amazing hidden beaches, each with its own special appeal. 

From the crystal-clear waters of China Cove to the sea glass at Glass Beach and quiet spots like Cowell Ranch Beach, these less crowded beaches have a lot to offer.

They remind us that some of the best things are the simple, beautiful moments we find in nature’s secret spots.

Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

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