California is famous for the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica, the Orange County, San Diego, and Malibu, the tourist attractions of Los Angeles and San Francisco, or even the historic monuments of Sacramento. However, if you read our blog, you know that we usually don’t focus on mainstream tourist attractions. We prefer hidden gems. And as wonderful as the above-mentioned places are, California has a lot more to offer, especially when it comes to beaches. After spending a significant amount of time in California, we were fortunate enough to discover some of the most beautiful hidden beaches in California, and in this article, we’ll share them with you!
Located in California’s Redwood State Park, Gold Bluffs Beach just adds to the mystic charm of the foggy redwoods of Northern California. The coast is rugged and completely surrounded by lush forests from all sides, making this beach a bit difficult to find which is one reason why this is one of the quietest beaches in California. Another reason why this beach is so peaceful is the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere; it’s located in a forest halfway between Portland and Sacramento which means that you won’t find a lot of tourists in the area.
The beach does have a nice campground and is one of the favorite camping destinations to locals that want to get off the beaten track.
College Cove, Trinidad State Beach
If you proceed 30 miles down the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll discover another one of California’s hidden beaches. A part of the Humboldt County, College Cove is a pristine rocky beach that’s very popular among local surfers. Here, you’ll find some of the biggest waves, that make College Cove one of the best surfing spots in Northern California. If you want to check it out, keep in mind that there’s a steep trail that you would have to walk to get to the beach.
The waves are at the northern side of the beach where you’ll find most of the surfers but if you walk down south, you’ll discover another secluded and quaint part of the beach. But that’s not the only reason to visit! If you’re lucky, you might even see some of the seals or sea lions who are frequent visitors of College Cove. And if you’re really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of whales.
Speaking of hidden beaches in northern California, we just can’t forget about Moonstone Beach. You’ll find this beach just off highway 1 in the village of Cambria. This beach is most famous for its beautiful tide pools that form when the waves hit the beach. And after the waves subside, at the southern part of the beach, you can even find the white semi-precious stone after which the beach is named (moonstone). If you’re looking for an alternative tourism destination in California, I strongly recommend you visit Cambria and spend some time on Moonstone Beach.
A long and winding drive from the tiny town of Petrolia via U.S. 101 will take you down to one of the most remote parts of California; the so-called Lost Coast is an appropriately named, natural area at the coast of Northern California that very few tourists know about. And even fewer know about Mattole- one of the most beautiful hidden beaches in this part of California.
Unlike most other beaches on this list, Mattole Beach is a sandy mouth of the Mattole River in the King Range National Conservation Area. If you want to get as far away as possible from the bustling streets of the biggest cities of California, only a few places in the Golden State can compare to the Lost Coast and Mattole Beach.
Elk Creek Beach
Elk Creek Beach has a well-deserving spot on this list of hidden beaches in California because getting there is only possible by kayaking. The beach consists of a deep cove and a sandy beach with a gated access road that says “private property”. This makes it quite obvious that passing by the road is not legal and the beach is only accessible by kayak or other means of water transportation. If you plan to do this, however, try to avoid the high tide as this can be quite risky!
Bowling Balls Beach
Bowling Balls is another one of the hidden beaches in California that most tourists don’t know about. Locals conveniently named this beach bowling ball because of the unusual rock formation at this beautiful, secluded beach in Mendocino that look like oversized bowling balls. This natural phenomenon is known as concretion and can only be found at a handful of other places around the world.
Bowling Ball Beach is one of the most scenic places in California but getting there comes at a price. In order to get to the beach, you have to follow one of the two trails from the parking lot that lead to the beach and both are mildly strenuous. Keep that in mind before visiting.
Located north of Gualala next to the rock-walled cove at the end of one of San Francisco’s most interesting trails, Bonham Trail, Cooks Beach is a pristine, sandy beach hidden amidst a lush pine forest. The only way to access the beach is to walk Bonham Trail that was set up at the beginning of the 21st century. The winding trail descends to a beautiful sea cave where the Glennen Gulch Creek flows in. Above the beach, you’ll also find a scenic viewpoint from where you can take amazing photos or drone videos from one of the most beautiful hidden beaches in California.
If you ever planned a Pacific Coast road trip, you know that Port Reyes is one of the most scenic parts of the whole journey. Most of the region is relatively famous and touristy but the last accessible beach of the Point Reyes National Seashore is an exception. That beach is McClures Beach. The beach sits at a scenic cove dividing two large, rocky headlands. To get there, you need to follow a short trail to the scrub-lined canyon at the coast but the journey is definitely worth it. McClures is one of the most secluded and peaceful beaches in California.
Kehoe Beach is a part of the 12-miles-long stretch of sandy beaches known as the Great Beach. It’s a secluded beach famous for its beautiful spring wildflower and picturesque sand dunes. To get there, you have to follow an approximately mile-long trail of dirt and sand, making it a perfect choice for people who like long walks along the shore. The beach is also pet-friendly and a perfect choice for people traveling with pets. Just don’t forget to carry a sweater; it can get chilly even in the spring.
Bean Hollow State Beach
Bean Hollow is a beautiful secluded beach in Pescadero that’s perfect for people who like exploring the tide pools that often bring crabs, anemones, sea urchins, and other marine life. The beach is also very popular among local fishermen and is ideal for family picnics. However, keep in mind that Bean Hollow State Beach is not ideal for swimming; rip tides make swimming here challenging even for experienced swimmers.
Alamere Falls Beach
It doesn’t get better than a hidden beach with a waterfall, does it? The beach at Alamere Falls is a more peaceful off-the-beaten-track version of the popular McWay Falls. Alamere Falls. There isn’t a board that states the name of the beach and it’s not even on Google Maps, so since we’re not sure about the name of the beach, let’s just call it Alamere Falls Beach. The beach is a part of the Point Reyes Seashore and you can get there by following the steep Palomarin Trailhead (8 miles) that leads down from the top of the waterfall.
If you plan to visit, keep in mind that during high tide, the beach goes poof; the waves cover the sand and the waterfall falls directly into the ocean. This makes Alamere Falls Beach perhaps the best candidate for this list of hidden gems in California (get it?).
Rodeo Beach is a short drive away from San Francisco, making it a perfect day trip. Moreover, the beach is a great starting point for a few different coastal hikes that culminate with a mesmerizing panorama of Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay. It’s also one of the rare pebbly sand beaches in the state of California. The waves are pretty high and the currents relatively strong, making Rodeo Beach a great destination for surfers.
Fern Grotto Beach
Hidden deep in Wilder Ranch State Park’s bluffs, Fern Grotto Beach is a beach with a shallow cave that’s a perfect option for people who like getting off the beaten track. Similar to many other hidden beaches in California, getting to Fern Grotto Beach requires a short walk. The walk isn’t strenuous and along the way, you’ll pass by a few beautiful vistas of the scenic surrounding coastline.
Enjoying this post? Check out our list of national parks in Key West.
Jade Cove Beach
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, Jade Cove Beach in Gorda is one of the most pristine beaches in California. The rocky cove lies next to the Sand Dollar Picnic Area and is one of the last hidden gems in the otherwise touristy part of the southern Big Sur Coast. If you plan to visit, don’t forget to get sturdy shoes; the rocky trail leading to the beach can get slippery.
Wilmar Stairs Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach is another oftentimes overlooked destination because most people who tour the area spend their time in Los Angeles or in San Francisco. However, Pismo Beach has several hidden beaches that are definitely worth your time. My personal favorite is Willmar Stairs Pismo beach, a long beautiful beach dotted with big cliffs, dominated by tall stairway whose top offers a beautiful vista of the ocean and the coast of Pismo Beach.
Even though it has a tough competition, I’d there to say that Latigo Beach is one of the most pristine beaches in Malibu. It’s one of those amazing hidden beaches in California that only a handful of people know about. It’s located just three miles away from the Pier and in case you’re wondering why the beach is so unfrequented, I’ll tell you; the locals actually don’t like other people hanging around “their” beach and there’s a security guard at the parking lot writing fines to everyone who parks there.
However, Latigo Beach is public and you can access it through the stairs that lead to the beach. Just don’t use the parking next to the beach!
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Malibu, Staircase Beach is the place to go. The beach is quaint and colorful and offers one of the most beautiful sunsets in this part of California. To put it simply, Staircase Beach is everything I would want in a beach. The main reason why it’s unfrequented is that it’s not very easy to find. The beach is on Google Maps but the map is a bit off while the parking lot is quite tiny, so it’s very easy that you might miss it if you don’t pay close attention.
If you’re driving on PCH, take a right turn after passing Leo Carrillo State Beach and look for a very large tree on the left side of the road. This tree actually marks the entrance to Staircase Beach’s parking.
Carbon Beach or Billionaires Beach is a beautiful, quiet beach where you’ll find some of the most beautiful and expensive homes in Malibu. A lot of people skip this beach thinking that it’s a private beach by looking at the expensive houses but Carbon Beach is actually open to the public. It’s the perfect beach for sunbathing, it’s one of the softest, most beautiful sand beaches in California, it’s a great place to go for a swim, and you can see some of the most beautiful beach houses in the region. Seriously, can one ask for more?
Big Rock Beach
Conveniently named after the gigantic rock sitting at the shore, Big Rock Beach is one of the most Instagrammable beaches in Malibu. It’s located north of Topanga and Big Rock Drive and can be accessed by a small, almost invisible stairway that leads down to the beach. The beach is narrow and rocky but during lower tides, you can catch a glimpse of the sandy shore of the beach right in front of the luxurious waterfront homes that just enhance the beauty of this part of the coast.
Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach
If you’re looking for hidden beaches in California with great snorkeling opportunities, rich marine life, and mesmerizing coral reefs, head to Shaw’s Cove in Laguna Beach. The beach is also famous for its beautiful tide pools that appear during high tide and white sands. If you plan to visit, note a couple of things.
Firstly, don’t touch or take any small forms of marine life you’ll find on the beach; all of it is protected by the State Marine Conservation Area. Also, if you’re with your own care, be careful of where you park it and make sure you’re not blocking the driveway of some of the locals staying near Shaw’s Cove.
Little Corona, Newport Beach
Located not too far from the always popular and crowded Corona del Mar State Beach, Little Corona is one of the most peaceful beaches in Orange County. After you pass Corona del Mar State Beach, turn right into Ocean Blvd and you’ll get to one of the most breath-taking viewpoints in OC from where you can see both, Big Corona Beach and divided from its big brother by a long stretch of rocks and cliffs, the lesser-known Little Corona.
The path leading to this beach is one of the rare ones in this part of California that doesn’t involve a long stairway leading to the beach. Instead, you have to walk down a steep hill to get to this beautiful secluded beach dotted with rocky reefs that make Corona Beach one of the most underrated diving spots in the region.
Helpful resources for traveling around California
Flying to OC or elsewhere in California? Check out Air France’s Discover the World at a low price program and save up to 25% on your upcoming flight.
For some great accommodation deals in the Orange County, use this Booking.com offer, and save up to 15% off on all accommodation bookings in the county.
If you want to rent a car, use AutoEurope to compare the best deals from all rental car providers in the OC. You can save between 15% and 30% every time you use their platform!
Last but not least, don’t forget about travel insurance. If you come from outside of the US, travel insurance is mandatory but even if you’re a local, it’s recommendable that you have one. Personally, I warmly recommend (and use) WorldNomads. They might be on the expensive side but they have you covered, no matter what happens to you on the road. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
How did you like this list of hidden beaches in California? Did you ever visit any of these pristine beaches? Do you think we didn’t mention some other secluded beaches in California? Let us know in the comments!
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