19 Best Beach Towns In California You've Never Heard Of

California is brimming with incredible beaches, picture-perfect ocean views, surreal outdoor spaces and parks, renowned coastal cities, plus must-visit sleepy beach towns. In fact, you can rarely ever go wrong with a California getaway, especially if enjoying a little fun in the sun or slowing down a bit oceanside is your goal. That said, there are more than a few well-known and charming localities littered about the coastline in the Golden State.

Popular areas like Malibu, Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Venice Beach, for instance, are absolutely worth a tour. With beautiful scenery, ample tourist attractions, and more, most of the Golden State's coastal cities do not disappoint. But if you want to truly experience the West Coast, sans the crowds, then it is highly recommended that you take the road less traveled by checking out these top-rated beach towns in California you've likely never heard of before.


Not many travelers have heard of Oxnard, in Ventura County. But this quaint beach town is known for its laid-back vibes, miles of golden sandy beaches, lively nightlife, and ample outdoor fun. From swimming, surfing, and paddleboarding to exploring the surroundings and very picturesque harbor, Oxnard is the perfect place for an easy-going escape.

This beach town also has stunning Victorian-era architecture, great eateries, fantastic farmers' markets, and several must-visit museums like the Mullin Automotive Museum and the Channel Islands Maritime Museum. And speaking of the Channel Islands, visitors can easily access this fantastic national park, often called the Galapagos of North America, which is five separate islands. Besides all this, Oxnard has a diverse cultural scene and performance art venues galore. Plus, this oceanside paradise is home to the annual California Strawberry Festival, which is just one more enticing tidbit about Oxnard.


Just a few miles from Santa Cruz, situated on Monterey Bay, visitors will find Capitola. This charming town is home to the oldest beach resort on the West Coast and two beautiful beaches — Capitola Beach and New Brighton State Beach. Capitola is truly a seaside gem with some serious Mediterranean style that has it all and then some. Of course, here, visitors have plenty of things to see and do, like shopping in Capitola Village, stopping at the Capitola Historical Museum, and enjoying some nearby wine tasting.

What's more, Capitola is yet another coastal spot with great art, a phenomenal culinary scene, rich history, and abundant entertainment options. Travelers can also book first-rate pampering experiences, delight in various seasonal festivals, and add all kinds of outdoor activities to their to-do lists. So whether it is hiking, surfing, sunbathing, or indulging in fine cuisine while catching the beautiful sunset you desire, Capitola has got you covered.

Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg is another beachy little metropolis that is, first and foremost, known for its Glass Beach (three magnificent beaches in total actually make up this hidden gem). Located on the North Pacific Coast, Glass Beach is definitely a must-see for any Fort Bragg visitors, but this is not all this beach town has to offer. With its picturesque Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, lovely MacKerricher State Park, unique historic downtown area, and more, Fort Bragg is overflowing with sights and activities.

From rail biking, sea kayaking, and traversing Noyo Headlands Park and Pomo Bluffs Park to watching whales, and hiking through Pygmy Forest, Fort Bragg offers much in the way of adventure. This beach town also has historical sites like the Skunk Train, the Point Cabrillo Light Station, and the Guest House Museum. So if you happen to be a history buff, an avid explorer, and a beach lover, Fort Bragg is simply perfect.


Spending some time in the breathtakingly beautiful inland area that is Avalon feels like a trip to some distant beach town off the Mediterranean coast. Here, visitors can bask in the surrounding beauty and the southeast coast of Santa Catalina Island. Plus, with incredible views of Avalon Bay, posh accommodations, spas, first-rate restaurants, and brilliant beaches, visitors are in for a relaxing seaside experience in this town.

Besides being aesthetically pleasing, Avalon has ample activities both by land and sea. So whether you are more of an adventurer, an ocean lover, or all about guided tours and excursions, you will quickly see that there is something for everyone in this island paradise. This fantastic beach town also has various points of interest, including the Catalina Casino, the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, the Hermit Gulch Campground and Trans-Catalina Trailhead, and Lover's Cove State Marine Conservation Area.


Cayucos is a surfer's paradise. But with miles and miles of sandy white beaches like Cayucos State Beach and countless wonders abound, this tiny oceanside town has so much more to offer and is undoubtedly another California gem. Located right off the famous Highway 1, Cayucos is just one more fantastic beach town that has a little bit of everything.

From five-star dining experiences, historical society exhibits, and mural tours to fun-filled adventures, exhilarating watersports, and then some, this beach town is hard to pass up. Here, visitors are known to easily lose track of time exploring shipwrecks at Estero Bluffs State Park, searching for marine life in tidepools, spending some quality time at Cayucos Pier, and hiking in the Harmony Headlands. Plus, with a lovely downtown area, a wealth of city happenings, and easy access to the Pacific Coast Wine Trail, there is never a dull moment in Cayucos.

Solana Beach

Only a few miles north of San Diego, Solana Beach is an enchanting little seaside town. Known for its Cedros Design District (a premier shopping haven), gorgeous scenery, dreamy beaches, abundant natural trails, beachside events, and more, Solana Beach is a great getaway just waiting to happen. A true fan favorite, this locale is home to a stunning coastline comprised of Fletcher Cove, Tide Beach Park, and Seascape Sur Beach.

These three main beach areas are open to the public and each offer something different in the way of amenities, vantage points, and vibes. In addition to this, all of Solana Beach is adorned with art and has no shortage of art galleries. So after some well-enjoyed fun in the sun, visitors should make it a point to go on an art-infused walkabout town. This beachy borough is also full of wine-tasting spots, tasty eateries, a must-visit farmers market, and a one-of-a-kind live music venue called the Belly Up Tavern.

Avila Beach

Located on California's charming central coast, Avila Beach is an oceanfront haven with quaint restaurants, boutique hotels, limitless water activities, and local wine. Here, visitors can effortlessly kick back and relax while enjoying the fresh ocean air and stellar views at beaches like Pirate's Cove. Wanderers can also explore this town's many attractions. Great spots like Avila Valley Barn, Avila Beach Pier, and Avila Hot Springs are just a few must-adds to your itinerary.

Other alluring points of interest in this beach town include Olde Port Beach, Pecho Coast Trail, and the Port San Luis Lighthouse. Olde Port Beach is a beautiful spot that is equal parts romantic and serene with its public fire pits and optimal sunset vistas. Alternatively, for more adventure types, Pecho Coast Trail offers a moderate walkabout to the Port San Luis Lighthouse (a local gem with a fascinating history and tours available) and a moderate to challenging trek to Rattlesnake Canyon. And a bonus here is that Avila Beach happens to be one of the delightful towns along California's iconic Highway 1 — making it a wonderful opportunity for pitstop for road trippers as well.

Pismo Beach

Yet another amazing beach town, situated between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is none other than Pismo Beach. Though Pismo Beach is not nearly as unknown as other California coastal spots due to its popular neighboring cities, travelers often overlook this incredible opportunity for a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of West Coast city living. With its spectacular beaches, tourist attractions aplenty, diverse accommodations, RV parks, plus numerous dining and entertainment options, Pismo Beach should be on your Golden State to-do list.

Pismo Beach visitors have a wealth of outdoor fun at their fingertips, including surfing, ATV riding, long walks along the beach, horseback riding, wine tasting, shopping, golfing, and then some. As a result, this not-so-sleepy beach haven is a terrific destination for ocean and adventure lovers. Pismo Beach is also chock-full of family-friendly excursions, hotels, and points of interest.


Also located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, travelers will find the seaside village of Cambria. Even though this particular beach town is on the small side, Cambria still knows how to dazzle its visitors. With grand architecture, historical sites, a vibrant downtown area, art galleries, divine beaches like Moonstone Beach, a robust shopping district, and more, the destination just beyond the Monterey Pines absolutely deserves a look-see.

Of course, any place that dons the name of a California beach town is not complete with outdoorsy fun, and Cambria is no different. Here, nature lovers can enjoy hiking trails, lush parks like Leffingwell Park and San Simeon Beach State Park, the Covell Clydesdale Ranch, and the popular attraction — the Whale Trail which allows for some first-rate whale watching. Cambria is also a haven for foodies and a dreamy spot for beachside and serene forest weddings.


Known for its charm, Carpinteria is the perfect little beach community with mountain vistas, gorgeous beaches (Rincon Beach Park and Carpinteria State Beach), and, you guessed it, outdoorsy fun around every corner. Less than 15 miles south of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria is a great location for sightseeing, hiking, surfing, and lounging about in the sun beachside. With ample ocean frontage, lush rolling hills, wooden groves, palm tree-lined streets, and must-see marshes, Carpinteria is a pure paradise for nature lovers.

Carpinteria is also the place to be if you enjoy festivals and seaside fiestas. In fact, if you happen to be around in October, the California Avocado Festival is a tasty treat in more ways than one. Even if you cannot attend this particular festival, Carpinteria has countless events worth checking out. Plus, this beach town is jam-packed with historical treasures, great shopping, superb dining options, and never-ending entertainment.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay is a stunning seaside town with some of the most glorious scenery and freshest seafood around. From its unspoiled beaches and abundance of wildlife to its quintessential waterfront, maritime museums, and downtown district, Morro Bay is a true beach town through and through. That said, Morro Rock, the 576-foot-tall volcanic plug, definitely takes this place up a notch.

After marveling at this natural wonder shoreside, visitors can explore the beautiful Morro Bay State Park and various points of interest in town. Morro Bay is also the perfect place to get in some boating, bird-watching, whale-watching, and have a good old fashion beach getaway. And regardless of whether you opt to spend time at Morro Rock Beach, Morro Strand State Beach, or North Point Beach, one thing is for sure, the Gibraltar of the Pacific is undoubtedly out of this world.


Arcata is the perfect little beach holiday stop for travelers looking for small-town vibes, revered beaches, forested land full of adventure, and more. Located in Humboldt County, Arcata is, in many ways, nature at its finest. With the Redwood National State Park just around the corner, the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, and the scenic Mad River Beach County Park, exploring this tranquil destination is an obvious must.

Besides the incredible views of nature and the Pacific Ocean, Arcata has some seriously great museums and several historical sites worth perusing. Alternatively, if you are not a history buff, spending some time at the Arcata Farmers' Market, catching a game at the nearby sports arena, marveling at performance street art, cruising down the Bikeway Network, and enjoying amazing eateries are all options. Arcata also hosts an annual Kinetic Grand Championship/Sculpture Race, which is a captivating sight to behold.


The coastal town of Elk (or Greenwood) is situated along the northern coast of California. For travelers searching for spectacular unobstructed views of nature, this secluded beach community definitely delivers. With lush state parks, Greenwood State Beach, pristine wilderness, and a truly remote location, Elk is easy on the eyes and a great place to connect with nature.

Here, visitors can enjoy this hidden gem at their leisure, smell the wildflowers and salty air, and listen to the relaxing sounds of the ocean. Since Elk is, for the most part, off the beaten path, there are only a few inns and dreamy accommodations here. But with stunning Pacific Ocean vistas, gourmet cuisine, full-bodied local wines, and an overall welcoming atmosphere, staying elsewhere won't even cross your mind. Elk is another wonderful beach town, and if you prefer a faster pace getaway, never fear — nearby attractions just a short drive away.


The sleepy seaside city of Bolinas is one more wonderful spot on the map that the masses tend to overlook. A well-hidden gem, Bolinas is located on the outskirts of Marin County, and one of this area's arguably best-kept secrets is the rave-worthy longboarding scene at Bolinas Beach. Whether you are a newbie wave rider or a pro surfer, this beach is everything and then some.

Of course, that's not all that this beach town has to offer. Bolinas also has quite the landscape with flowing waterfalls, a must-see lagoon, hiking trails, and rugged terrain to explore. In the way of accommodations, you will find a historic inn, Smiley's Saloon, and a handful of lovely vacation rentals. Plus, in town, points of interest like the Bolinas Museum and Eleven, a farm-to-table restaurant and wine bar, make great additions to your beach/surfing vacation as well.

Point Arena

Point Arena is a charming beach community that surprisingly has much to offer, given its overall size. Yet, even though Point Arena may not be the largest seaside village in California, this tiny town has quite the food scene, a bustling Main Street Historic District, boutique hotels, and countless attractions. In particular, the stately 115-foot-tall Point Arena Lighthouse and its Outdoor Museum are remarkable and definitely worth checking out while in town.

In addition to this, Point Arena has an artsy vibe, thanks to the local creatives, the Coast Highway Artists Collective, and the fully-restored Arena Theater. For outdoor enthusiasts, this beach town has miles of scenic multi-use trails, convenient access to Manchester State Park, and ample fun in the sun to be had at Schooner Gulch State Beach. The Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands are also an idyllic walkabout just waiting to happen with its sea caves, tide pools, grassy bluffs, and gorgeous sunsets.


Located in Humboldt County, the beach town of Eureka is far from an unknown. However, this beloved cultural and nature center is not always on Golden State visitors' to-do list when it should be. With its sandy shorelines, rugged landscapes, and picturesque ocean views visible from anywhere in town, Eureka is a town that does not disappoint. Here visitors can cruise down the Redwood Highway, enjoy family-friendly activities at the Sequoia Park Zoo, appreciate Victorian architecture wonders like Carson Mansion, and live their best life at Samoa Beach. 

Eureka is also home to two farmers' markets, a vibrant downtown area brimming with cultural experiences, a superb foodie scene, a beautiful waterfront, and fun outdoor recreation for the whole family.

Bodega Bay

Thanks to the iconic cult classic movie "The Birds," Alfred Hitchcock fans may have misgivings about a beach getaway in Bodega Bay. But the real Bodega Bay is far less scary. In fact, this seaside paradise is actually lovely with its golden sand beaches, marvelous whale sightings, relaxing spas, and terrific seafood. Bodega Bay is also home to the unique rocky cliff formations known as the Hole in the Head, and the city is near West Sonoma's wine region. So travel parties with diverse interests are truly in luck here.

Moreover, there is no shortage of outdoor recreational spaces in and near Bodega Bay. Popular go-to's like the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Doran Regional Park, Porto Bodega Marina and RV Park, and Sonoma Coast State Beach Park are just a few areas to enjoy when visiting this beach town. And if you are worried about where to eat after working up an appetite adventuring, any of the renowned waterfront restaurants in Bodega Bay are sure to please.


Less than ten miles from Santa Cruz, Davenport awaits California explorers. Here, visitors will fall in love with this beautiful beach town's dramatic coastline, rich history, and delicious organic strawberries. Touted as another hidden gem on the West Coast, Davenport is the perfect day trip or leisure weekend getaway. Attractions like the Davenport Pier, Waddell Beach, and Shark Fin Cove are not only Instagram-worthy, but they are also breathtaking. 

After spending some time seaside, sunbathing, admiring the ocean bluffs, and taking ample photos, downtown Davenport should be your next stop with its shops, historic buildings (particularly the Davenport Jail and St. Vincent De Paul Church), eateries, and chill vibes. And while you are thoroughly enjoying this spot on the map, do not forget to add Swanton Berry Farm and Rancho del Oso State Park to your itinerary.


Lastly, Mendocino is a lavish and pristine beach town just south of Fort Bragg. From its exceptionally beautiful scenery to Mendocino's many beaches, you might find it hard to tear yourself away from this seaside paradise when the time comes. In the way of leisure activities, visitors can partake in world-class wine tasting, shop in the village, enjoy a music festival or two, and indulge in some family time at beautiful spots around town like Big River Beach and more. 

Mendocino also has great dining options, romantic bed and breakfasts, kid-friendly accommodations, and enough outdoor recreation to last a lifetime. This beach town truly lets one choose their own adventure. And, with so much to see and do here, regardless of who you are with, Mendocino definitely deserves a lengthy stay.