Last Updated on: 26th December 2023, 12:13 pm

Central California is known for being home to some of the best beaches in all of the country. The four main regions of the Central California coast are Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and Ventura. These major regions are dotted with small, charming towns and cities with beaches of all shapes and sizes. With all of the options to choose from, how do you find the best beaches in Central California? We’ve rounded up a list of the best Central Coast beaches for you to explore in the area. Whether you are looking to surf, swim, or sunbathe, we’ve got you covered.

Santa Barbara Beaches

Arroyo Burro Beach | The Most Popular Santa Barbara Beach

Arroyo Burro Beach is one of the most popular Santa Barbara beaches. This gorgeous beach is many miles long and is located just ten minutes from Downtown Santa Barbara. Arroyo Burro Beach is complete with seasonal lifeguards and a grassy area for picnicking. This seaside attraction is also one of the only Central Coast California beaches that allow off-leash dogs, so bring your furry friend along! Just off the beach, you can check out the Douglas Family Preserve, which is a 70-acre reserve complete with oceanfront trails and spots to watch marine life.

Butterfly Beach | One of the Most Famous PCH Beaches

When it comes to beaches on PCH, Butterfly Beach is one of the most well-known. This beach gets its name from the stretch of flowers surrounding the beach that attracts butterflies to the area every year. Butterfly Beach is one of the best beaches on the Central Coast for those who want a quiet beach day. The beach is never too busy, and you can always find a place to place your towel, soak up the sun, and listen to the sound of the waves.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Brian Slattery (@bpslatts)

Leadbetter Beach | One of the Busiest Central California Beaches

Leadbetter Beach is easily one of the best Santa Barbara County Beaches. The seashore is located at the base of Santa Barbara City College, making it a hotspot for college students all year round. At Leadbetter Beach, you will find picnic tables, grassy areas, BBQs, tide pools, and public restrooms. You will also find a restaurant, The Shoreline Beach Cafe, directly on the beach. After spending a fun day at Leadbetter Beach, you can walk over to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum to learn about the history of the local coast.

Haskell’s Beach | One of the Best Pacific Coast Highway Beaches

Situated at the base of the Bacara Resort sits the famous Haskell’s Beach. Haskell’s is one of the most popular beaches on Highway 1 as you can easily access the area from this freeway. It is one of the best swimming beaches in Central California, as the waves never get too big. On the other hand, surfing is not the best in the area for the same reason. Directly next to Haskell’s Beach, you will find the Sandpiper Golf Club as well as the Santa Barbara Shores Park.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Emily (@emiallen)

East Beach | Palm-Lined Central California Beach

Sandwiched between two of the most popular beaches in Central California, Leadbetter Beach and Butterfly Beach, sits East Beach. This Santa Barbara Beach is known for its tree-lined park and gorgeous sunsets. East Beach has it all, with amenities such as a full beach house, volleyball courts, playgrounds, a full beach house, and a bike path. This is also one of the best beaches in California for metal detecting due to the thousands of visitors the area sees every day.

San Luis Obispo Beaches

Cayucos State Beach | One of the Best Central Coast Beaches for Fishing

Located 19 miles northwest of San Luis Obispo, Cayucos State Beach is one of the best Central California beaches. Cayucos State Beach is located in the charming beach town of Cayucos and is known for its fishing opportunities. The beach is home to Cayucos Pier, which visitors are free to fish from without a permit. The pier is adequately lit in the evening for night fishing. Along the beach itself, you will find picnic tables, play equipment, restrooms, and outdoor showers. Just a short walk away, you’ll find many shops and restaurants on Ocean Front Avenue.

Avila Beach | Sandy Beach With Many Shops and Restaurants

When it comes to the best beaches in Central Coast, California, Avila Beach is at the top of the list. Avila Beach is home to soft white sand, incredible views, and wonderful surfing opportunities. When visiting the area, make sure you check out the Avila Beach Pier, which extends 1,685 feet into the Pacific Ocean. You will also want to stop by some of the beachfront cafes and restaurants, such as Kraken Coffee Company, Custom House, and Blue Moon Over Avila.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Avila Beach (@avilabeachca)

Morro Rock Beach | Iconic City Beach Formed By Volcanoes

If you are searching for beaches along Highway 1, then check out Morro Rock Beach. The beach looks out on Morro Rock, which is a State Historic Landmark that was formed nearly 23 million years ago from the plugs of long-extinct volcanoes. The beach is very rocky, so it is not ideal for those who want to enjoy a traditional sandy white beach. However, the views from Morro Rock Beach can’t be beaten. Once you are done at the beach, you can walk over to Morro Bay T Pier, where you can often see otters swimming around!

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lamar (@415lamar)

Pismo State Beach | One of the Best Beaches on Highway 1

Pismo State Beach consistently ranks as one of the best Highway 1 beaches around. This beach is 17 miles long and fronts the towns of Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, and Oceano. Pismo State Beach is one of the most popular San Luis Obispo beaches and is known for its camping, hiking, swimming, surfing, and fishing opportunities. It is also a popular spot to bird watch. You will also see many butterflies at Pismo State Beach, as the nearby Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is home to thousands of monarch butterflies during the winter season.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Pismo Beach CA (@pismobeachca)

Moonstone Beach | Beach With One of the Best California Boardwalks

The narrow shoreline of Moonstone Beach is made up of brown sandy coves and rocky bluffs that are said to resemble moon rocks, making it one of the most unique Central Coast Beaches. Moonstone Beach is also home to one of the best California boardwalks, where you can enjoy a mile-long walk along the coast. Make sure you stop and take a look at one of the beach’s many live tide pools, where you can catch a glimpse of marine life, like crabs, sea palms, starfish, and sea anemones.

Monterey Beaches

Monterey State Beach | One of the Best Beaches in Central California for Paragliding

Located just off of the PCA, Monterey State Beach is one of the most famous beaches in California. In addition to swimming and boating, Monterey State Beach is known for being a great place to enjoy recreational activities such as paragliding, kayaking, and kite-flying. The underwater portion of the beach is a part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and is a great spot for scuba diving. The beach is abundant with wildlife and marine life, and it is not uncommon to see otters, seabirds, and dolphins in the area.

Marina State Beach | Monterey Beach In the Center of the Crescent of Monterey Bay

Situated below high rugged dunes in the city of Marina sits Marina State Beach. Marina State Beach is one of the best California Central Coast beaches for hang-gliders, as the gliders can launch off the dunes and sail over the ocean below. This is one of the best beaches on PCH, and you can see the seashore from the highway. The area is popular among surfers, but the waves can get quite large in this area, so proceed with caution.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Esteban〽️Dias (@spikedias)

Del Monte Beach | One of the Least Populated Monterey County Beaches

If you are looking for beaches in Monterey Bay, then check out Del Monte Beach. This gorgeous beach is a hidden gem among Monterey Bay locals. You will find it tucked away from the main streets, so you may need to walk a few blocks before you arrive. This beautiful beach is known for its crystal clear water, wooden boardwalks, and clean, well-maintained sand. This is one of the best Central Coast California beaches for a leisurely walk or run, as the area is not too hilly or rough to walk on.

McAbee Beach | Busy Central California Beach Close to Popular Attractions

McAbee Beach is one of the best Central California beaches for those who want to be close to all of the action. Situated just outside of Downtown Monterey, McAbee Beach contains a large kelp bed, smooth sand, and wonderful swimming opportunities. This beach is very popular among tourists as it is located right next to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and directly in front of Cannery Row. After a day at McAbee Beach, you can grab a quick bite to eat at popular restaurants like Sly McFly’s, Ambrosia Indian Bistro, or Rock N Roll Donut Bar.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by @angeliangelia

San Carlos Beach | Small Beach Popular Among Divers

San Carlos Beach is located directly next to McAbee Beach but is significantly less populated. This area is a bit further away from all of the attractions and is not as popular among tourists. However, the beach is just as nice! You can swim, tan, and surf at this stunning Monterey beach. San Carlos Beach is often listed as one of the best California beaches for divers and is home to the Cannery Divers Memorial. There is limited public parking at this beach, so you may need to park further away and walk to the beach.

Ventura Beaches

Ventura Beach | One of the Top Beaches in California

Located just off of the PCH sits Ventura Beach. When it comes to Central Coast beaches, you can’t get much better than this. Ventura Beach is located just 1.9 miles away from Downtown Ventura (a 5-minute drive or 34-minute walk). This area is also home to the Ventura Beach Bike Trail, which runs alongside the beach and is great for bikers, runners, and walkers alike. If you need to grab a bite to eat, there are many restaurants nearby, including Social Tap Ventura, Pierpont Tacos, SPASSO Cucina Italiana, and Juiceswell. You can also enjoy shopping at Seaward Surf & Sport and Lucky Devil.

Harbor Cove Beach | One of the Best Beaches in Central California for Swimming

When you visit Harbor Cove Beach, you will be welcomed with gorgeous views of the entire Ventura coastline and picturesque sand dunes. Harbor Cove Beach is often labeled as one of the safest Central California beaches for swimmers, as it is protected by jetties and a breakwater. This eliminates the risk of rip currents, which is a problem for many of Ventura’s beaches. Harbor Cove Beach is monitored by lifeguards, so you can rest assured that your children are being looked out for when playing in the water.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ventura Makos (@venturamakossurfcamp)

San Buenaventura State Beach | Family-Friendly State Beach in Ventura

San Buenaventura spans over 2 square miles and is one of the best beaches on Highway 1. San Buenaventura State Beach is patrolled all year round by the State of California’s lifeguards. When visiting this beach, you can enjoy swimming, surfing, beach volleyball, sunbathing, and more. This state beach also offers bike paths and a bike rental shop, so you don’t need to worry about bringing your own bicycle! Because this is a state park, you will have to pay a small fee to enter. However, you can buy an annual pass if you think you will frequent the area often.

Oxnard Beach Park | Wide Sandy Beach Popular Among Cyclists

Oxnard Beach Park is one of the most famous California beaches. This picturesque beach offers white sand, grassy areas, BBQ pits, volleyball courts, and a kid’s play area. Along this beach, you will find a jogging path lined by palm trees, making it a great place to go for a run, rollerblade, or skateboard. This beach is located along the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, making it one of the best beaches in Central California for cyclists to stop and take a break.

Surfer’s Knoll | Central Coast California Beach With Easy Access to Shopping and Dining

Surfer’s Knoll is located directly across from Ventura Harbor Village and is one of the best beaches in Central California. Although swimming is not generally recommended due to rip tides, you can take advantage of other activities such as sunbathing, walking, running, and sea glass hunting. This beach offers free admission as well as free parking. Surfer’s Knoll is just a few minutes away from the Ventura Harbor Village Shopping Center, which is a waterfront retail complex where you can find unique boutiques and cozy restaurants with gorgeous ocean views.

Central California Beaches Map

Check out this map of the best beaches in Central California.


Now that you know all of the best California Central Coast beaches, you are ready to soak up the sun! When you are ready to make the move to Central California, let Southbay Moving Systems help you. Call our Central California moving company today at 831-786-5537 for a free quote!