Moon Guides Author and Travel Expert Reveals the Best Beaches Along California’s Coast

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The summer crowds are gone and scenic autumn has arrived. Just in time for beautiful fall weather, travel writer and California local Stuart Thornton—author of Moon Coastal California—helps visitors make the most of California’s stunning coastline.

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Moon Coastal California by Stuart Thornton

California has just about any kind of beach you could possibly want.

Fall has arrived! Luckily, that doesn’t mean the end of beach season in the Golden State, and California has just about any kind of beach you could possibly want. Now that the summer crowds have subsided, Stuart Thornton—author of Moon Coastal California—shares top tips to help visitors find the best beaches along California’s coast, from north to south.

1. Big River, North Coast: Big River, just north of Mendocino Village, has a range of recreational opportunities. Surf the beach break, launch a kayak to explore the nearby headlands, or paddleboard the river before steering your board into the ocean.

2. Baker Beach, San Francisco and the Bay Area: On the northern tip of San Francisco, this mile-long swath of sand is your best bet for stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. The northernmost end is known for its nude sunbathers.

3. Año Nuevo State Reserve, San Francisco and the Bay Area: At Año Nuevo, gigantic elephant seals turn the beach into a battleground. You can also catch a glimpse of the eerie, abandoned light station buildings right offshore.

4. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Monterey Bay: Just feet away from the wonderful Cowell’s Beach, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk makes families happy with its rides, games, and entertainment. The boardwalk’s Giant Dipper roller coaster has been thrilling riders since 1924.

5. Moonstone Beach, Big Sur and the Central Coast: Hunt for eponymous moonstones on this Cambria beach. Its impressive driftwood structures are also worthy of exploration.

6. Pismo Beach, Big Sur and the Central Coast: Studded with volleyball courts and lifeguard stands, Pismo Beach feels like a Southern California beach without the massive development. It’s ideal for a day with the family.

7. Refugio State Beach, Santa Barbara and Ventura: The best beach on the Gaviota Coast is on this protected cove lined with palm trees. Its ocean waters are calm enough for wading children and beginning kayakers.

8. Leo Carrillo State Park, Los Angeles and Orange County: At the northern end of L.A. County, Leo Carrillo feels a world away from bustling Los Angeles. This 1.5-mile-long beach has tide pools, caves, and reefs. The northern section is also the perfect place to take your leashed dog.

9. Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles and Orange County: Hermosa Beach has the feel and attitude of a small beach town, even though it’s surrounded by metropolitan Los Angeles. Volleyball nets are available for pickup games and “The Strand” is ideal for a jog or a bike ride.

10. La Jolla Cove, San Diego: La Jolla Cove is a pocket beach between two cliffs. Sunbathers take up most of the real estate on crowded weekends, and an underwater park with sea caves right offshore is perfect for snorkelers and kayakers.

For more information about Moon Coastal California and about the Golden State’s dynamic and beautiful coast, visit moon.com/destination/us/california.

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About Moon Travel Guides & Moon.com
Moon Travel Guides make independent travel and outdoor exploration fun and accessible. With expert writers delivering a mix of honest insight, first-rate strategic advice, and an essential dose of humor, Moon guidebooks ensure that travelers have an uncommon and entirely satisfying travel experience. Moon not only guides, Moon inspires. Based in Berkeley, California, Moon is published by Avalon Travel, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Visit Moon online at moon.com.

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