By Rachel B. Levin
November 05, 2014
Best Beaches in Los Angeles
Credit: Spring Images / Alamy

Immortalized in films, TV shows, and song lyrics, Los Angeles's beaches are the city's crown jewels. Perhaps nothing symbolizes the laid-back Southern California lifestyle more than this collection of coastal wonderlands. White-sand beaches framed by swaying palm trees and electric sunsets over the Pacific Ocean are the stuff of legend—and the envy of most of the rest of the U.S., especially in the winter. While the perception of "endless summer" abounds, the truth is that L.A. beaches aren't always warm and sunny. Especially during May and June, a thick marine layer blankets the coast each morning and typically doesn't burn off until afternoon (if at all). So, if you're planning to spend the day in a bikini or board shorts, be sure to arrange your beach trip for the late summer or early autumn—or else try to catch a winter or early-spring heat wave. That’s when you’ll get your quintessential beach vacation—and make your friends back home jealous!

Hermosa Beach

Hermosa means "beautiful" in Spanish, and this is certainly one of the loveliest beach communities in Los Angeles. The pristine white-sand expanse is popular for sunbathing and beach volleyball; and the adjacent quaint seaside town center is super appealing. Steps-from-the-sand Pier Plaza buzzes with bars, cafés, and boutiques for après-surf fun.

El Matador State Beach

This "pocket" beach is one of the three petite coves that comprise Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. Dramatic cliffs and rocky outcrops make this one of L.A.'s most scenic beaches. Mid-week and off-season, it's un-crowded and secluded, so it's an ideal place for a sunset stroll with your sweetheart.

Leo Carrillo State Beach

Beach adventurers will have a ball at this one-and-a-half mile stretch of sand. In addition to surfing, windsurfing, and scuba diving possibilities, you'll also find sea caves and tide pools ripe for exploration. For those who can't tear themselves away, consider making use of the onsite camping grounds and RV lot.

Malibu Surfrider Beach

The name says it all: This lagoon is a legendary spot for the surf crowd (popularized in TV shows and films like Gidget). Competition for the choicest waves can be fierce here! It's equally enjoyable to be a spectator or stop for lunch with an ocean view on the Malibu Pier.

Manhattan Beach

This South Bay stretch of seashore offers the classic Southern California beach experience. Mentioned in "Surfin' U.S.A." by the Beach Boys, it's a famous spot for the "surf and socializing" lifestyle. The beach has everything: The Strand, a lively walking and biking path; the pier, which hosts an aquarium; and beach volleyball galore.