When it comes to searching for the best beach on the West Coast, the states of Oregon, Washington, and California cover over 1,200 miles, offering a lot of shoreline to choose from. Between lively, bohemian surf spots, family-friendly stretches with wholesome boardwalks, and rugged, windswept swaths, there’s a beach for everyone. Here are our top nine picks for the best beaches on the West Coast in the U.S.
With gorgeous white sand waiting below a picturesque headland bluff, it’s not hard to understand why Carmel Beach was previously voted as one of the best beaches in the world. The beach benefits from its location near the town of Carmel, where you can pick up provisions before indulging in a stroll along the bluff or relaxing on the beach beneath the famous Monterey cypress trees. The beach is a renowned surf spot and great for dogs, though the strong rip currents can make swimming unsafe. Tip: Try to stay and catch the stunning sunset.
Our Top Pick for a Carmel Hotel: Cypress Inn
Good restaurants, good facilities, firepits, and an excellent boardwalk make Mission Beach one of the liveliest beaches in San Diego. If you prefer a beach that has more than the requisite sand and water, then this is the one. Mission is a fun place to hang out for a day, pairing sunbathing and swimming with any number of other activities. Bring your bike for the boardwalk and your A-game for the beach volleyball.
Our Top Pick for a Mission Beach Hotel: Bahia Resort Hotel
Cannon Beach draws visitors with its blustery beauty and the promise of a glimpse at the impressive Haystack Rock, a huge basalt column that juts out of the ocean. It’s the natural beauty and atmospheric vibe that make this long, flat stretch of sand stand out from the other white-sand spots along the coast. Take your dog and wander the beach while gazing at the towering lava rock formed millions of years ago.
Our Top Pick for a Cannon Beach Hotel: Hallmark Resort & Spa Cannon Beach
La Jolla is a true Cali classic, judging by the mix of locals and tourists who keep it packed most of the time. Steep, smooth rocks lead to gorgeous sand, where visitors can watch surfers and sea lions simultaneously. Hidden away in a tight curved cove, La Jolla Shores is ideal for snorkeling and bodyboarding, thanks to its gentle waves and a sandy bottom. The beach is relatively short, but don’t let the crowds put you off — it’s popular for a reason.
Our Top Pick for a La Jolla Hotel: La Jolla Shores Hotel
5. Zuma Beach, Malibu
You’re unlikely to ever be alone at Zuma Beach, but with great beauty comes popularity and the crowds to match. Regarded as one of the state’s finest beaches, Zuma is the quintessential Los Angeles beach escape, with iconic lifeguard towers dotting its clean, golden sand, gentle waves perfect for swimming and bodyboarding, and a picturesque clifftop backdrop. Malibu has its fair share of private beaches, so it’s a blessing that the public can pitch up at Zuma. If the crowds are crazy, there’s always Broad Beach a little to the north.
Our Top Pick for a Santa Monica Hotel, a 30-Minute Drive Away: Hotel Casa del Mar
An attractive beach with plenty to do besides admiring the rugged coastal beauty, Seaside Beach is one of Oregon’s most famous seaside spots. Unusual for these parts, Seaside has a boardwalk and lots to do, including its annual beach volleyball tournament (one of the biggest in the world). Visitors can also enjoy crab rolls and local craft beers from beachside spots, saltwater taffy, and a hike away from the beach and onto the Tillamook Head Trail. Make the most of being in the area by taking the 20-minute drive up the coast to Fort Stevens State Park, where you’ll find the wreck of Peter Iredale, a sailing vessel that ran aground in 1906.
Our Top Pick for a Seaside Hotel: Lanai at the Cove
An iconic California spot that most will recognize for its famous pier, Huntington Beach is often packed with people fishing (you don’t need a license). Surfing, bike riding, skateboarding, and volleyball are all popular activities here as well. It’s the best place to soak in that unmistakable SoCal vibe. Plus, the people-watching is amazing.
Our Top Pick for a Huntington Beach Hotel: Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort
If you’re unsure whether you’ve arrived at the right beach, just keep an eye out for the turrets of the famous Hotel del Coronado, which overlooks the surf breaking on the golden sand of Coronado Beach. The beach is family-friendly, thanks to its flat, wide expanse of sand and warm, relatively gentle waves. You’ll also find plenty of fire rings, beach volleyball, and a dedicated dog park where pets can run off the leash.
Our Top Pick for a Coronado Hotel: Hotel del Coronado
If you’re in the Seattle area and aching for the type of beach you typically find lower down the coast, Alki Beach has you covered. A California-style beach with its own vibe, Alki is a great place to engage in water sports and rock pooling, though the sand isn’t all that golden and the water all that warm. While you’re here, stroll along the promenade and find the six-foot Statue of Liberty for a photo op. Oh, and there’s a great view of the Seattle skyline from the beach.
Our Top Pick for a Seattle Hotel, a 20-Minute Drive Away: The Edgewater, A Noble House Hotel
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