Every time I have a guest visiting me in Los Angeles, they want to go to the beach. But what LA beach do we choose? I always like to ask what kind of beach experience they want to have, because not every Los Angeles beach is the same. Some LA beaches are great for people watching, others are great for dog watching. Some are quiet and chill, others are wild and crazy. I like to pick my beach based on mood, and after two years in Los Angeles I have some strong opinions on LA beaches. Read on for my Los Angeles Beach Guide!
The Best Beaches in Los Angeles—Your LA Beach Guide
Best LA Beach For: People Watching
Venice is a nice beach, but the real treat is walking along the Venice Beach boardwalk. There’s always wild things going on to check out. The skate park, muscle beach, basketball courts, and graffiti wall are all worth checking out.
Just avoid people trying to give you mix CDs (they want money) or huge crowds surrounding a street performer (pickpockets).
Another drawback of Venice Beach is there’s tar on the beach. This has only happened to me once, but sometimes tar will seep out of the sand and get onto your beach blanket or towel. It can be really difficult to get out, so maybe don’t bring your nicest beach towels to Venice.
If you don’t mind a walk, you can usually find free street parking around Venice. If you want to park closer to the beach, there are plenty of paid lots. Just be aware that their prices are elastic and tend to go up on busy days and they only take cash.
Venice Beach has showers and restrooms, but the restrooms are HORRIFIC and should be used for emergencies only (in my humble opinion).
Best LA Beach For: Taking Instagram photos
The Santa Monica Pier is one of LA’s icons. If you’re trying to get some pictures for Instagram while visiting the beach, Santa Monica is definitely the way to go. When you get sick of sunning, you can explore the pier or go shopping on Third Street Promenade. Although if you do decide to go walking around in downtown Santa Monica PLEASE WEAR SHOES! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen tourists walking around barefoot here. JUST DON’T DO IT. The Santa Monica Twilight Concert Series held in the summer is a MUST.
Parking can be a nightmare, but luckily you can now take the train here!
Best LA Beach For: Lighting some shit on fire
Dockweiler is a little beached tucked right in there between LAX and the Pacific Ocean. It’s not a very nice LA beach, but it’s one of the only beaches in LA where you can have a beach bonfire. There’s a paid lot, or you can park for free along the PCH.
Best LA Beach For: Being Fancy!
Manhattan Beach is arguably the nicest and cleanest beach in Los Angeles. The bathrooms are decent and you can actually leave your bag on the beach while you bathe in the ocean without having to worry about it being stolen.
Take a walk along The Strand, visit the aquarium at the end of the pier, or head to Downtown Manhattan Beach for food and drinks.
It’s a super cute area and I secretly fantasize about moving here when I’ve tired of the fast city life.
Just note that Manhattan Beach is SUPER hilly, so if you have mobility issues (or just hate walking up hills), you might have difficulty getting around.
There are paid parking decks, but you can usually find free street parking.
Best LA Beach For: Exploring tide pools
This rocky beach is located in Rancho Palos Verdes. It can be difficult to access and the rocks are hard to walk on. However, if you’re brave (and you go at low tide), you’ll be rewarded with tide pools filled with all kinds of little sea critters. There are no restroom facilities at this beach, but you can park on the street for free.
Huntington Dog Beach
Best LA Beach For: Letting your dogs run free!
Though not technically located in Los Angeles, Huntington Dog Beach is my favorite LA beach to visit with dogs. There’s no size restrictions on dogs and you can let them run around without their leashes. Huntington Dog Beach has a paid lot, or you can park along the PCH for free.
LA Beach Magic—Marina Del Rey
Best LA Beach For: Actually Chilling
This LA beach is my personal “secret spot” but I’m sharing it with all of you because I care. Venice Beach is wild and crazy, but sometimes you just need to go to a less crowded beach and relax. South of the Venice Pier at the end of Washington is a great beach. Basically no one ever goes there and there’s a huge dune you can sit on top of and watch the world go by.
Plus, it’s steps from the Venice Whaler, one of my favorite bars ever.
There’s a paid lot or you can try to score a free spot on the street in the neighborhood behind the beach.
What’s your favorite LA beach? Let me know in the comments!
If you like my photography, do be a dear and follow me on Instagram.
Note: This guide first appeared on Colleen’s blog, colleenwelsch.com, and was reprinted with permission.