The best West Coast beaches differ from what you will find on the East Coast.
As popular as some of the beaches on the East Coast are, they all look very similar, with brownish-to-tan sand from the coastlines of Georgia to well beyond D.C.
You have to get into New England to start finding some visual variety.
The West Coast is a different animal.
The Pacific Ocean is a lot colder than the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico, but the color palettes, the sands, the rocks, and the varied geological features stretching from Southern Cali to Alaska are diverse and unique.
Rocky, sometimes mountainous inlets feature turquoise waters, teeming with life and secluded in nature.
In some places, it's the might of the Pacific Ocean against great walls of rock as one relentlessly pounds the other.
Amongst all of that, here are 21 of the best West Coast beaches to visit.
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Santa Monica State Beach is located off the coast of Los Angeles and takes up about a 3-4 mile stretch of the oceanfront.
Like South Beach in Miami, Santa Monica State Beach is one of the more popular beaches in the entire region.
The deep blue water that rolls into a pristine expanse of sand serves as the backdrop to the distant skyscrapers of the city.
In between is a stretch of land that is quintessentially California, featuring a sea of palm trees that extend as far as the beach does.
The Santa Monica Pier is the most popular destination in the area, and it's such a deeply ingrained part of the shoreline that it's hard to imagine the beach without it.
There are plenty of amenities, including restrooms, picnic spots, bike trails, and even a Chess Park.
Address: 380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Coronado Beach is to San Diego, what Santa Monica State Beach is to Los Angeles.
This beautiful stretch of sandy shoreline is immensely popular throughout the local region and beyond.
The Hotel del Coronado stands sentinel, watching over the beach from its lofty perch on the shoreline.
The most exciting part about visiting Coronado Beach is crossing the Coronado Bridge to get there.
The elevation of the bridge delivers sweeping, panoramic views of the natural beauty the beach has to offer, building a sense of excitement as drivers approach from the east.
The beach runs parallel to Ocean Boulevard, which itself is lined with beautiful townhomes, shops, and the Hotel Del Coronado.
For those with pets, the North Beach section is one of the best dog-friendly beaches on the West Coast, while Glorietta Bay offers tons of activities for families and friends to enjoy.
Address: 2000 Ocean Blvd, Coronado, CA 92118
La Jolla Cove is a gorgeous beach with rock formations that have taken thousands upon thousands of years for the water to pound into shape.
The waves roll in and wash over the various rock formations, then flow out in intricate patterns, flowing in tiny streamlets, glittering with tiny reflections of the sun.
There's power in beauty, and La Jolla is one of the best West Coast beaches because of its raw power and timelessness.
The beach is known as the "Jewel of San Diego," and there's little doubting the aptness of the name.
La Jolla Cove is dotted with tiny, secluded sea caves, offering those of a romantic persuasion a place of remembrance.
If you enjoy a good spin on a kayak or a SUP, both crafts open all the little inlets and caves to explore.
Sea lions frequent Children’s Pool, and if you want to see one of the most stunning sights of your life, head over to Torrey Pines City Beach and view the mighty Pacific from 300+’ up.
Address: 1100 Coast Blvd, La Jolla, CA 92037
No list of the best West Coast beaches is complete without Cannon Beach, Oregon, which is frequently listed as the best beach in the country.
Cannon Beach is a resort town that looks out over a section of the Pacific Ocean covered in huge rocks that jut skyward from the water.
Some of the rocks even have tiny caves that are accessible via kayak or small Jon boats.
You can access some of these vast rocks on foot when the tide is low and at a certain time of the year, mainly in the summer months.
Four huge parks are nearby, one of which is the famous Haystack Hill State Park.
The town of Cannon Beach is built for the tourism trade, and you'll find all of the quaint little shops you can handle there, including coffee shops, boutiques, art galleries, and places to sleep for the duration of your stay.
Address: Cannon Beach, OR 97110
Waikiki Beach is located on the edge of Oahu, Hawaii, and is often listed as the most popular beach in the state.
That's saying something, especially since Hawaii is essentially one giant beach.
Though, it technically doesn't belong on a "beaches on the West Coast" list, it's hard to leave this one out.
Whichever hotel you choose to do business with, you’ll be a short walk from the beach, which is surprisingly calm year-round.
The water is simply stunning to look at and dive right into, reminiscent of the turquoise and glittering blues of the Caribbean.
The Waikiki Historical Trail should be on your list, and you can read the history of the beach scribbled on half-buried surfboards along the trail.
The shopping and dining opportunities are immense, and everything is located within view of the water.
Address: 2452 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Also Read: The Most Beautiful Beaches in Hawaii
Home of Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach is one of the most impressive and stunningly beautiful beaches on the West Coast.
Surrounded on three sides by the local homes, shops, and businesses of the community, Laguna Beach is a paradise writ small.
With several forested areas stretching up to the beach, there are unique hiking opportunities throughout the region, along with exploring Thousand Steps Beach, Newport Beach, and Main Beach, the latter of which is always playing host to a volleyball game or two.
The local community is up close and personal with Laguna Beach, and there are plenty of things to do when you've had enough sun for the day.
Lodging is available nearby, with excellent seafood dining opportunities and more shopping than you can imagine.
Address: Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Also Read: Best Tropical Destinations in the US
Huntington Beach sits directly between Los Angeles and San Diego, making it an excellent spot for residents of both cities on top of the heavy tourism trade.
Huntington Beach is a large, ten-mile stretch of beach that many consider a paradise for families and couples to visit.
Oceanfront dining is a big part of this area, and the food is incredible.
One of the things that make Huntington Beach one of the best beaches on the west coast is the bonfires.
Locals and visitors can have bonfires along the beachfront (so long as they are safe and contained), and it's an incredible aesthetic against the dark backdrop of the ocean at night.
As far as amenities, the entire ten-mile stretch is adorned with luxury resorts, fine dining facilities, shopping opportunities, and sightseeing adventures.
One thing is sure, whether you are on the beach or off the beach, there is plenty to explore.
Address: Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Also Read: The Best East Coast Beaches You Must Visit
Known more by its iconic name, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Beach, California, is a surfer's paradise.
Surrounded by jutting rocks and small, sandy inlets, Camel Beach is a beautiful place to go for a swim.
The local marine life is truly incredible since the area is frequented by dolphins and seals.
The best time to go is when Carmel Beach holds one of its many famous annual events.
The biggest event is the Sandcastle content, which has been a thing in Carmel Beach for over half a century.
It's also in the top five beaches in the country for romantic couples, which is always a plus.
The local community plays a huge role in making Carmel Beach one of the best beaches on the West Coast.
It's not a big city community, which is often confusing and far too populated.
Carmel Beach offers visitors access to fine dining, lodging, and annual festivities that remain in your memory long beyond your visit.
Address: Ocean Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
Washington makes its first entry on the list, and it's a stunning entry at that.
Like Cannon Beach, Ruby Beach features huge, jutting rocks that stick out of the surf.
Some are so large that they’re growing their own foliage and grasses on the top, like miniature islands.
The beach itself is located in Olympic National Park, which is a protected area.
One of the most unique aspects of Ruby Beach is what is called "tidal windows." These are essentially holes in the giant "sea stacks" that stick out of the water.
Ruby Beach is also famous for all the driftwood that finds its way to the shoreline.
Of course, since the area is protected, you can't take any of the driftwood with you.
When the tide goes out, it reveals an arching sandbar you can walk around, with a smaller pool in the center.
Address: Beach Rd, Forks, WA 98331
Pfeiffer Beach is easily one of the most gorgeous beaches on America's West Coast.
The entire beachfront is flanked by massive redwood sentinels, and the beach hosts a gigantic, naturally formed stone archway.
It's also dotted with more sea stacks mentioned above, giant rocks sticking out of the ocean water, within easy access of a kayak or even on foot when the tide rolls out.
One of the more exciting aspects of Pfeiffer Beach is the purple sand.
The entire beach features a lot of rocks, but the purple sand is a unique feature you simply can't find on any of the other American beaches.
For the adventurous spirits, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is nearby, along with McWay Falls, if you're looking for yet another gorgeous view.
Address: Sycamore Canyon Rd, Big Sur, CA 93920
Also Read: The Most Beautiful Beaches in America
Rockaway Beach is one of the best West Coast beaches for families because of its small and distinctly local community surroundings.
Though the beach is a beautiful seven-mile stretch, the local town is where the true, beating heart of the area resides.
All the local dining options feature foods gathered through local resources, and the shopping opportunities are rife with quaint little stores full of unique items you won't find anywhere else.
Another family aspect of Rockaway Beach is the festivals.
Rockaway Beach has incredible festivals that are seemingly unending throughout the year.
They have many of them, and if you travel to Rockaway Beach at the right time, you're set up for a fantastic time.
Address: Rockaway Beach, OR 97136
Another beach on Oahu, Lanikai Beach, is the "windy" beach since it's on the "windy" side of the island.
That shouldn't be a deterrent, however, because Lanikai Beach is an incredible palace for swimming and exploration.
It's also a gorgeous beach and a great place to just sit back in a beach chair and observe.
In fact, one of the more popular things to do at Lanikai Beach is to sit and watch the sunrise or the moonrise.
It's truly a unique and incredible experience that you should try at least once while you’re in town.
The romanticism on offer makes Lanikai one of the best West Coast beaches for couples.
The beach has grown smaller over hundreds of years of erosion (it's only half a mile long), and you can only access it by jumping on the various walkways that lead out to the beach.
This lends it a sturgeon sense of seclusion, another plus in the romantic category.
Address: Mokulua Dr, Kailua, HI 96734
Coronado Central Beach is easily confused with Coronado Beach, though it's truly only a 1.5-mile section of Coronado Beach.
Coronado Central Beach is often voted as one of the best beaches in America, and it's easy to see why so many people love this small stretch of paradise.
It's also full of family-oriented activities and is considered the main beach for visitors to Coronado Beach.
This part of the beach sits directly in front of the Hotel del Coronado, the famous lodging spot previously mentioned.
Coronado Central Beach is wide open, with light-colored sand, and is dotted with picnic tables, fire pits, and grills for cookouts.
When the tide goes out, it leaves behind a number of small tidal pools that are perfect for little kids to enjoy some of the beach life swimming opportunities as well.
Address: 101 Ocean Blvd, Coronado, CA 92118
Newport Beach, California, is a stunning beach featuring huge rock walls with condos and businesses perched above them, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Newport Beach is a wine-tasting community with plenty of wine flowing throughout.
It's one of the top clear-water beaches on the West Coast, featuring sunset cruises, swimming with dolphins, the aforementioned wine-tasting, surfing lessons, and just regular, beachside fun for anyone.
There are a ton of amenities on the town side of things, along with fantastic dining opportunities, shopping, and an extravagant nightlife for adults and adult couples.
During the day, you can swim, snorkel, kayak, and surf until your heart is content.
Address: 70 Newport Pier, Newport Beach, CA 92663
Also known as the “playground by the sea,” Venice Beach, California, is an incredible beach opportunity for visitors.
If you're looking for one of the best beach vacations on the West Coast, Venice Beach should be high on your list of places to visit.
In fact, millions of people flock to Venice Beach on an annual basis.
This gorgeous beachfront is flanked by a long boardwalk full of amenities.
The boardwalk itself is huge, large enough to contain an entire skate park, volleyball courts, and a bike trail.
If you enjoy fishing, there's a massive pier on the beach, and you'll often see the pier lined with anglers vying for the big catch.
Like many smaller towns on this list, Venice Beach hosts several huge annual festivities, so plan your trip accordingly.
Address: 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291
Glass Beach got its name from the glass rocks that adorn its shoreline.
They are truly unique in all of the World, primarily because of their location. It's not as if clear rocks don't exist anywhere else.
However, placed against the backdrop of the beautiful Pacific Ocean and you have a recipe for stunning scenery.
Located at Fort Bragg, Glass Beach, California, is a fantastic destination, if for no other reason than to see the glass rocks scattered across the shoreline.
Years ago, the massive environmental damage caused a lengthy shutdown of the beach.
It took years to conduct a thorough cleanup effort, and now that Glass Beach is open again, it is protected.
So, don't think about scooping up any glass rocks and sticking them in your pocket.
There are plenty of hiking trails and swimming opportunities throughout the area to enjoy the pristine beauty of this rehabbed beachfront.
Address: 940 Glass Beach Dr, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Also Read: The Most Unusual Places to Visit in the USA
Stinson Beach, California, is one of those rare West Coast beaches that nearly, but not quite, match the sugar-white sands of the Florida Panhandle along the Gulf of Mexico.
One of the more popular attractions that have little to do with the beach, other than the view, is the Marin Stagecoach.
However, at the end of the day, Stinson Beach is one of the best white sand beaches on the West Coast, mostly because they’re rare.
The local area offers the most amenities throughout the summer months, with a huge snack bar right on the beach, plenty of beachside showers, vendors, and places to rent recreational gear.
You can't have motorized boats inside the area, but kayaks are so much more fun anyway.
There is also plenty of surfing, bodyboarding, and kayaking opportunities on the water.
If you have kids, many manned lifeguard towers dot the area.
Address: 1 Calle del Sierra, Stinson Beach, CA 94970
Cape Disappointment is anything but a disappointment. In fact, it's one of the best West Coast beach towns, mostly because of its sheer, stunning beauty.
The image of the lighthouse on the water is represented by a T, with a huge lighthouse sitting atop a towering cliff, forever looking out over the sea, guiding sailors home.
Though the beach is a blast, and there is a ton of fun to be had in the local area, the historical significance of the site is semi-nostalgic.
You can't help but feel and hear the creaking bones of long-ago activities, loves, fun, disappointments, and the lives of those who made this area.
Cape Disappointment Camping Park sits nearby, offering over 2,000 acres of space for RVs, tents, and motorhomes.
The camping park alone makes Cape Disappointment the single best beach destination for RVers on the entire West Coast.
Address: 244 Robert Gray Ave, Ilwaco, WA 98624
If you love the idea of horseback riding as the waves crash into the shoreline right next to you, you’ll love Long Beach, Washington.
Long Beach is aptly named, with a 26-mile stretch of beach that seems like it will never end as you look down the shoreline.
Long Beach seems to be the go-to destination for everything those living in the local area, and some without, want to do.
It's the site for weddings, parties, romantic escapes, work-related events, festivals, and more.
There are various things to do throughout the area, including horseback riding, kayaking, hiking trails (Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail), pickleball courses, a ton of seafood restaurants, and more family-oriented activities than you can count.
Address: Pacific Way, Long Beach, WA 98631
We’ve already listed Laguna Beach as one of the best beaches on the West Coast in our little list, and Thousand Steps Beach is a part of that same beach.
However, there is a lot going on in Thousand Steps Beach that separates it from its parent beach in many ways.
Thousand Steps Beach is the hidden gem inside the mine. That's not to say the other surrounding beaches aren't fantastic, but they certainly are.
You can access Thousand Steps Beach via a narrow set of stairs that leads out onto a small boardwalk.
Once you're out there, it's a beautiful, peaceful stretch of beach that separates itself from Laguna through its isolation and peaceful solitude.
Besides the nearby activities listed above, for Laguna Beach travelers, there's not much else to say about Thousand Steps.
It's a beautiful, quiet beach perfect for moments of introspection.
Address: 31972 Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
One of the more interesting aspects of First Beach, located in La Push, Washington, is the massive number of washed-up logs on the shoreline.
It makes for an exciting aesthetic, not to mention some fun exploration opportunities. Once the tide goes out, these gigantic logs are stacked on top of stacks, drying in the sun.
For the history buffs out there, James Island should be the premier destination. It's an Indian burial ground and was also the spot for a 19th-century village.
If you are not a tribe member, you will have to look at it from the shoreline, which is pretty close.
Main Street has plenty to offer visitors, with quaint little restaurants, boutiques, and other shops offering unique, local items you won't find anywhere else.
La Push also features a ton of seaside cabins for lodging.
They lack the luxury of places like the Hotel del Colorado, but they're fantastic and outdoorsy in their own way.
Address: La Push Rd, Forks, WA 98331
There are a lot of beaches with pretty clear water on the West Coast, especially if you include Hawaii on the list. However, if one has to be named, La Jolla Cove probably features the clearest water on the West Coast, especially within the little sea caves throughout the area.
Everyone has their own tastes and certain aesthetics that draw their eyes from a personal standpoint. But, when it comes to just an overall average, La Jolla, Carmel, and Cannon Beaches probably take the cake for the prettiest West Coast beaches.
Sort of. Stinson Beach and Punaauia Beach are probably the most renowned white sand beaches across the West Coast. However, there is no comparison if you compare those beaches to some places along the Panhandle of Florida.
For the best comfort experience, the months of June through August are the warmest. However, if you want to go and enjoy the water while avoiding the crowds of tourists, early June and late August are the best times to go.
That's a hard thing to find along the West Coast, but there are a few, including Pirates Cove Beach in Malibu, Cowell Ranch State Beach, Starfish Cove in Newport, and Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park.
No matter what kind of good time you’re looking for on the West Coast, any of the above-listed places is a fantastic option. Whether you want a secluded place to relax, an adventure-filled beach to explore, or one that caters to big family get-togethers, the West Coast offers it all. With a variety of activities and plenty of places to stay, you will never be bored during your trip to these spectacular West Coast beaches.