5 of the Best California Beach Cities

Told by someone who has actually lived in California.

Growing up in San Diego and later living in Orange County, I have had my fair share of life in beach cities. For someone who has looked and rolled her eyes at various lists similar to this one, I think these are a few of the cities in California actually worth the time for a traveler who wants to see and experience the best culture California has to offer. Below is a list comprised of a few of the best and most enjoyable towns to visit in California for those that really want to experience the scenic side of this state.

5. Laguna Beach

If you’re into congestion and tourists, Laguna’s great! Because of the newly renovated trolley system incorporated in this beach town, Laguna Beach is appealing to one-time beach goers who want a day to walk a small city with plenty of activity. It’s accessible from anywhere in South Orange County and visited by practically everyone in South Orange County. Recently, my friend and I decided to take the trolley from outside our neighborhood in nearby Dana Point, and spent the morning walking the town. It was something we’d never done before and yet we lived right next door. It was quite the enjoyable day for someone who has forever lived in the area and yet never saw the attraction to venture in that direction. Laguna Beach was always known to me as a city that is loaded with the strangest and most diverse people in Orange County, while also housing some of the most scenic beaches. From a traveling point of view, Laguna is quaint and holds great store fronts and restaurants while being at the center of the action with easy access to public beaches.

4. Big Sur

Big Sur is a Central California city located on the coast. Camping is a great attraction to coming to Big Sur. The campsites are almost always somewhat scenic, close to the ocean and rivers and are great for families. Although the drive to this city can be narrow and contains many sharp turns, it’s much like a drive to Big Bear where you are satisfied with the location once you get to the top. I grew up with my family camping in Big Sur and have great memories from every summer there. We would inner tube down the river and, even though the water was cold, it was always fun and  memorable. The town in Big Sur is friendly and characteristic of the camping available in the area. If you are someone who enjoys camping, Big Sur is a great scenic city in California to do so.

3. La Jolla

This is a city characteristic of San Diego. It lives up to its reputation of housing beautiful beaches while being great for travelers and tourists. While I was living in San Diego, there was often much to do in La Jolla such as shopping, golfing, and simply walking around the town. This city is a place the locals hang out and often spend time. Various neighborhoods in La Jolla have ocean views and short drives to the beach. Overall, La Jolla is great for San Diego living and vacationing, while having friendly people who live the California culture.

2. Pacific Grove

Pacific Grove is a quaint and beautiful town in central California. It’s small and nostalgic and its close to all the great golf courses in the Pebble Beach and Monterrey area. I have personally spent much time staying in Pacific Grove. It’s my second favorite place on earth next to #1 on this list. For the best views of the ocean in Northern California (because let’s be real, you are not swimming, surfing, or doing anything in the water of the Pacific ocean when it reaches so low a temperature), Pacific Grove is home to some of the most scenic spots. Some of these aforementioned spots include bed and breakfasts that overlook the ocean and walking trails. Almost everywhere that there is a cliff plummeting into the sea, there is a walking trail that outlines it. The walkability and friendliness of Pacific Grove makes this town more appealing to travelers and it is equipped to handle seasonal tourists. The events and festivals that take place here are great for people passing through and welcoming to tourists. Mainly, Pacific Grove is great for golfers and those looking for a small peaceful town to unwind in.

1. Coronado

Coronado is the city that I grew up in. It’s what I compare and rate every place in California to. And after spending prolonged amounts of time all up and down the state, I can still say that Coronado dominates over everywhere else. Coronado is an island in San Diego. It is located and visible from the San Diego airport and best known for its characteristic blue bridge and Hotel Del. It’s amazing. Having a small town feel, the island is easily walkable unless you’re wanting to go from the golf course to the Del. Then you need a car for the short five minute drive. The people in this part of the state I regard as the nicest and most laid back. They are still Californians by nature, but show common hospitality as opposed to different uptight environments such as LA and the OC. The beaches are great but it takes a local to know the locations and times that are less expected to be crowded with unnecessary tourists. In Coronado, tourism is always evident. But there are ways and tricks to get around the spectators of San Diegan life and visit at a time that is mostly comprised of locals and normal things to do besides sightsee. Living the beach life like a resident and finding your way around the town is easy to get used to in Coronado and hard to pull yourself away from.


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