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Central Coast Beaches
 Carmel, Big Sur, Oxnard, Pismo, San Simeon & More!

                                                Beaches listed North to South

The Central Coast Region of California encompasses the peaceful expanse of coastline between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Frequently called "the Middle Kingdom," it's dotted with idyllic small towns, nestled amid golden rolling hills.  The region offers an astonishingly rich coastline.  With its eerie cypress trees, fog-shrouded cliffs and pounding surf, the Central Coast is a top destination for visitors who enjoy scenic ocean beauty.

The majestic Big Sur coast is lined with steep cliffs dramatically dropping-off to thunderous surf below. We can highly recommend that you discover the "hidden treasures" of the coastline by listening to Al Frankel's "Big Sur - Tours on Tape," while driving south on Highway 1!  

Pismo Beach is famous for its eucalyptus groves that provide a temporary home each year to hordes of migrating monarch butterflies. The area also has the most extensive coastal dunes in California.  Whales, sea otters, seals and sea lions all thrive along the Central Coast. Popular outdoor activities include: kayaking, sailing, fishing, hiking and surfing.

As you'll see from the Water Temperature Table, the Central Coast beaches are more suited to enjoying the scenic ambiance than they are for actual swimming.  The water is chilly -- even during the summer months.  But if you enjoy surfing, snorkeling or other water sports, there are plenty of places to rent wet suits, which will greatly increase your comfort.

The weather is always changeable in this area -- and is often surprisingly cool. No matter what the time of year, we always bring layers of clothing to accommodate unexpected  conditions.

Map of Central Coast Beaches & State Parks

Monterey Beaches

Play Video of Monterey and Monterey State Historic Park
by California State Parks (3 min)

Monterey County Beaches, Parks & Campgrounds - This site provides detailed maps, as well as ideas for interesting things to do in the area.

Monterey Beaches Monterey County enjoys almost 100 miles of coastline.  Only a few of those miles provide sandy beaches suitable for swimming or water play, but they do provide some great nature watching, fishing and photography.

Zmudowski State Beach

This beach is a popular fishing area and anglers have been know to catch perch, kingfish, sole, flounder, halibut, salmon, steelhead and rockfish. It also includes the Pajaro River estuary, where a natural preserve has been set aside.  There are 177 acres to explore.

The sandy beach is a natural for bird-watchers.  And since horses are allowed near the waterline, it's also a favorite of equestrians.  Although this beach is popular for surfing, swimming and water sports can be hazardous because of strong rip-currents.

Moss Landing State Beach

Offshore fishing, surfing, windsurfing and horseback riding are popular here.  It’s also a good place for picnics because the dunes protect it from the afternoon winds.  This area is an important stop for birds migrating along the Pacific Fly-way, so there’s much for bird-watchers to see.  However, water recreation is dangerous because of strong rip currents.

The beach is located on Jetty Road in Moss Landing and 16 miles north of Monterey via Highway 1.

Salinas River State Beach

Salinas River State Beach lies in a cove between the mouth of the Salinas River and town of Moss Landing.
It protects one of the area's most interesting sand dune areas.  The dunes are beautiful to look at, but visitors must stay on the 2-mile trail that follows the Salinas River.

It's also a popular spot for fishing, bird watching and horseback riding.  The Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge us just south of the beach and is home to many species of wild birds, including Western meadowlarks, hawks, jays, valley quail, finches, towhees and sparrows, as well as least terns, brown pelicans and endangered snowy plovers.

The California State Parks service recommends that you not swim at this beach.  The water is cold; waves are strong; there are no lifeguards; and the surf is unpredictable.

Marina State Beach

Marina State Beach includes a boardwalk that winds through the famous sand dunes and enables us to get a first-hand look at them, while protecting the environmentally sensitive Marina Dunes Natural Preserve at the same time. 

The dunes are a popular spot for hang gliders, who are often seen around the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.  In addition to fishing, surfing, bird watching and whale watching, radio-controlled gliders and kites are also popular.  

The beach is a favorite site for picnics.  However, water recreation is extremely hazardous due to strong rip currents.  The area includes one of the largest marine sanctuaries in the Monterey Bay.

Monterey State Beach

Monterey State Beach is a conveniently located stretch of coastline that's a favorite spot for surfers, fishermen, tide pool watchers. Because it's flat, it's also an excellent place for beach combing. 

The park actually has three separate beaches located about 1 mile apart.  The underwater area of the park attracts scuba divers, while other visitors enjoy kayaking, kite-flying and volleyball.

The park is located at the Seaside exit off Highway 218, west of Highway 1.

Del Monte Beach

This is a nice open beach with a board walk that winds through the dunes, providing an up-close look at this fragile restoration area. There are convenient picnic tables located along the trail.  Checkout this webcam view of the beach.

Lover's Point Beach, Pacific Grove, CALover's Point  

At Lover's Point in Pacific Grove, you'll find a 4.5-acre park, a recreation trail and a lovely beach.  As the name implies, this is a popular spot for weddings and romantic beach walks.  Activities include picnicking, biking, fishing, surfing, beach volleyball and a children's swimming pool. 

Asilomar State Beach

Located in the city of Pacific Grove, the romantic Asilomar State Beach offers surf, sand and forest.  The beach itself is a narrow one-mile strip combining sandy beach and rocky coves.  There's also a 3/4-mile walking trail that goes along the coast and a close-by paved bicycle lane. 

One of our favorite getaways is staying overnight at the rustic, but comfortable Asilomar Hotel on the Asilomar Conference Grounds (see picture above). The 100+ acre facility has been around for over 50 years and provides a peaceful back-to-nature retreat.

The resources of this lovely area are protected for posterity as part of the Pacific Grove Fish Garden Refuge and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Play Video of Asilomar State Beach & Conference Grounds
by California State Parks (3 min)


Carmel River State Beach 

Carmel River State Beach, located in Carmel-by-the-Sea, is popular for hiking, kayaking and -- during the summer months -- sunbathing.  However, on many-a-visit, we've been surprised by the fog and cool weather.  (At its warmest, the water is not more than 60 degrees.)  The mile-long beach is part of a bird sanctuary where you’ll see a wide variety of waterfowl and song birds.

Carmel River State Beach is known for its lagoon. The combination of fresh water and salt water is the lifeblood for the plant life in the marsh, which in turn, provides food and shelter for a variety of animals, from tiny aquatic organisms to large waterfowl.


Point Lobos State Reserve, Monterey, CAPoint Lobos State Reserve 


Point Lobos is often called "the crown jewel of the State Park System."  You'll find spectacular headlands, hidden coves and rolling meadows. However, that's only half of the reserve.  The other half is the protected waters offshore, which contain one of the richest marine habitats in the world.  This area is extremely popular with divers who can explore 70 foot-high kelp forests and the myriad unique plants and animals that create an underwater world of vibrant color.

Wildlife is abundant on both land and sea - seals, sea lions, sea otters, migrating gray whales (December to May) and seabirds. Point Lobos is exceptional for sightseeing, photography, painting, nature study, picnicking and diving. 

We can highly recommend taking one of the guided nature walks and visiting the Whalers Cabin Museum.

Play Video of Point Lobos (Timeless Coast)
by California State Parks (19 minutes)


Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Monterey, CAJulia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Named to honor the respected pioneer woman, Julia Pheiffer Burns, the park extends from the beach to 3,000 foot granite cliffs above. The most spectacular feature is the 80-foot water fall that drops directly into the Pacific Ocean. Impressive views of the ocean, redwood trees and coastal plants are abundant in this rugged area.

Play Video of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
by Califonria State Parks (2:30 min)



Limekiln State Park


Located along Highway 1 (about 55 miles south of Carmel), Limekiln State park offers breathtaking views of the Big Sur Coast combined with the beauty of the redwood forests.  The park's interesting name comes from the actual lime kilns that were used to bake lime out of the abundant limestone in the area during the 1800's.  The lime was then used for building materials, which became quite a profitable business at that time. 

The park offers beach camping along a sandy cove, as well as campsites in the redwood forests high above.  Especially during the spring, we can recommend the hike through the redwoods, up to the beautiful Limekiln Falls.

San Luis Obispo Beaches

San Luis Obispo Beaches

William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach

Cayucos State Beach

Located just off Highway 1 (about 5 miles north of Morro Bay), Cayucos is an old-fashioned beach town.  Some even call it “the last of the California beach towns.”  It’s best known for its great beaches and its fishing pier.  But it also has a prosperous history, and there are many “old-West” historical buildings that now serve as unique shops and restaurants.  The area offers mild weather and is a popular year-round vacation destination.  It’s a short drive to Hearst Castle, Morro Bay, as well as numerous golf courses. 

The beach offers all kinds of water sports (surfing, swimming, tide-pooling) and the surrounding area offers picnicking, bicycling, kite-flying and shopping.  Fishing from the pier does not require a license and it’s even lit for night-fishing -- a unique experience which was a big hit with our kids!

Morro Strand State Beach

Play Video of Morro Bay
by California State Parks (3:35 min)

Pismo Beach Beaches

Pismo State Beach

Oceano State Vehicular Recreation Area

Guadalupe Beaches

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

Guadalupe Dunes Center Video

Santa Barbara Beaches

Lompoc Beaches

Point Sal State Beach

Ocean Beach

Jalama Beach

Gaviota State Park

Refugio State Beach

El Capitan State Beach

Goleta Beaches

Goleta Beach

Santa Barbara Beaches

Santa Barbara Beaches

 Arroyo Burro Beach

Carpinteria Beaches

Play Video of Carpinteria
by California State Parks (3 min)

Carpinteria State Beach

Rincon  Beach

Ventura Beaches

Ventura County Beach Cities & Beaches (north to south)

Beach Cities in Ventura County Beaches in Ventura County
Mussel Shoals La Conchita Beach
Seacliff Mussel Shoals Beach
Ventura Oil Piers Beach Hobson County Park
Oxnard Rincon Parkway North
Port Hueneme Faria Beach County Park
Solimar Beach
Emma Wood State Beach
Surfer’s Point
Promenade Park
San Buenaventura State Beach
Marina Park
Marina Cove Beach
McGrath State Beach
Mandalay County Park
Oxnard State Beach
Hollywood Beach
Channel Islands Harbor Beach
Silver Strand Beach
Port Hueneme Beach Park
Ormond Beach
Point Mugu Beach
Thornhill Broome Beach
Sycamore Cove Beach

Ventura County Beaches (Faria Beach, Hobson Beach, Rincon Parkway)

Ventura Beaches

Emma Wood State Beach

San Buenaventura State Beach

McGrath State Beach

Mandalay State Beach

Port Hueneme Beaches

Port Hueneme Beach & Pier, Port Hueneme, CAPort Hueneme Beach & Pier

Port Hueneme is located about mid-way between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara (about 50-60 miles from each).  Overlooking the picturesque Channel Islands, Port Hueneme offers a lovely beach and pier and the 50-acre Hueneme Beach Park.  You’ll find picnic areas, barbecue pits, snack bar, restrooms and plenty of parking.  Locating the beach can be a challenge, so we’ve included directions below.

Directions: From Highway 101 going north
Exit Vineyard Ave; Turn left and go over the freeway;
Continue straight on Vineyard to Ventura Rd; 
Turn left onto Ventura and continue for about 8 miles;
Ventura ends at a stop sign; Turn left; Beach will be on right.

Directions: From Highway 101 going south
Exit Wagon Wheel Rd;
Exiting the freeway, turn right at the first light;
At the second light, turn left onto Ventura Rd;
Continue on Ventura for about 8 miles;
Ventura ends at a stop sign; Turn left; Beach will be on right.













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