Ever think about what the best California beach towns are? It’s all a matter of opinion and everyone’s opinions will vary. But I did grow up in California and have lived in both SoCal and NorCal, and I have definite ideas about what qualities the best California beach towns have. So I’ll give it my best shot and you can decide for yourself.
First of all, what one considers the best beach towns in California will depend on how you define “town.” For my definition, it’s got to be literally a town, not a city. It must at least feel small to have that beach town feeling. It also has a lot to do with how you interact with the ocean. If you surf, sail, paddleboard, dive, or partake in some other water-based sport, that will color how you feel about a place. For me as a surfer/paddleboarder, the best California beach towns, for the most part, must be towns with that laid back surf vibe (although there are exceptions). Climate is, of course, important, too.
In San Diego, the best beach towns are in the North County, especially Encinitas, Leucadia, La Jolla and Del Mar. The superb climate makes for an outdoor-oriented culture and of course, some of California’s best surf is there. Further up the coast the best California beach towns are San Clemente (because it’s the center of the surf industry), and Dana Point (because it’s right next to San Clemente). Malibu is the birthplace of SoCal surf culture and although it’s gotten a little too “slick” it still retains some of its surf culture vibe. Ventura still has elements of that low key, older California small beach town feeling.Experience this beach in a safe manner as these beach are susceptible to flood.If there is any flood contact the San Diego flood restoration before its too late to avoid a huge disaster.
North of San Francisco, the best California beach towns lose the Mediterranean climate but the coast holds other kinds of beauty and culture. In Marin County, Bolinas and Stinson Beach are isolated and enigmatic. Along the coast of Sonoma the hamlets of Gualala and Point Arena are ideal romantic getaway spots. And Point Arena has some of the best surf on the NorCal coast. But none are more romantic than the town of Mendocino, with its Cape Cod feel.