This Little-known Coastal Town in California Has One of the Best Beaches in the U.S.

It's got sandy beaches, rocky bluffs, and a famous castle.

Flock of Western Snowy Plovers at Moonstone Beach, CA
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California is known for its laid-back vibe, but it's also home to some of the most dramatic vistas in the country. It's this combination of ease and drama that positions the state as a must-visit destination — and makes its beaches some of the best in the country.

Homes along a Pacific Ocean landscape in Cambria, California
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California's Moonstone Beach was just ranked the fourth best in the country by Tripadvisor's annual rankings of top beaches in the U.S. When walking along its brown sands, you're surrounded by impressive sights, like crashing waves, hidden coves, and rocky bluffs. According to Tripadvisor's survey, travelers love the beach for its "magical" ambiance, saying that it is a "great place to look for moonstones and jade." When visiting the charming town of Cambria, California, where Moonstone Beach is located, find out what time the tide heads out, and you can explore the nooks and crannies of the beach's tidepools for hidden treasures.

And there's lots to be done in the water, too. You can paddle out on your surfboard and ride the waves, watch dolphins and whales during their migrations, and even occasionally spot sea otters playing in the water.

But you'll want to explore Cambria, too. The town is located on the Central California coast in the famous San Luis Obispo County. If you're making a trip along California's Highway 1, this is the perfect stop between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Dusk in business district of Cambria, San Luis Obispo County, Central Coast, California, USA.
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driving down highway 46 in cambria, california
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For those who love the beach but hate sand in their shoes, you can enjoy a relaxing stroll along the one-mile Moonstone Beach Boardwalk. Then head into town, where you can walk through its picturesque and historic center. Cambria is packed with ocean-to-table restaurants and stylish boutiques. And if you soak up too much sun and need some time away from the beach, Hearst Castle (the inspiration for "Citizen Kane") is only a 15-minute drive from town.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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