The Best Beach Day Trips from Los Angeles

From Orange County to Carpinteria, these are the best places for a beach day near L.A.—all less than a two-hour drive from the city.

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Warmer weather and sunnier skies means that the season of beautiful beach days is upon us. Though Los Angeles is a coastal city, most residents live at least eight miles from the beach, and with L.A. traffic, getting from one side of the city to the other can feel like a mini road trip. On top of that, beaches in Venice and Santa Monica get way too crowded and congested, making a trip slightly more outside of town well worth it. From Orange County to Carpinteria, these are the best places for a beach day near L.A., all less than a two-hour drive from the city.

Carpinteria

  • 1.5-hour drive

Carpinteria is a quintessential California beach town, located just south of Santa Barbara. Without traffic, driving to Carp can take less than an hour and a half, making its renowned surf and clean shores a great option for L.A. locals looking to get away for a day. Though a beach picnic is never a bad idea, no trip to Carpinteria is complete without stopping by Little Dom’s Seafood for lunch. Indulge in freshly shucked oysters and their zesty fish piccata while dining, or grab a Margherita pizza to go. Enjoy a family-friendly and lively atmosphere at Carpinteria State Beach, or head to Rincon Point for premier waves and stellar surf.

Carpinteria. Carpinteria.

Newport Beach

  • 1-hour drive

Explore 10 miles of pristine coastline when you take a short drive down to Newport Beach. Situated about an hour south of Los Angeles, Newport Beach is a fun and upbeat beach town that attracts visitors from all over California. Whether you’re renting a Duffy Boat for the day or exploring Balboa Island, those seeking a more active and adventurous beach day will find plenty to do in this slice of the O.C. For Harbor views and delicious bites at sunset, pop by Topside Lido House Roof Deck. Topside is the only rooftop bar in Newport Beach and some can’t-miss dishes include the yellowtail ceviche, truffle fries and skirt steak quesadillas.

Newport Beach. Lido House

Laguna Beach

  • 1.5-hour drive

Laguna Beach is home to some of the most crystal clear and swimmable waters in all of California. The coastal, palm tree-lined bluffs set the scene for a picturesque beach day straight out of a romance movie. Though places like Crystal Cove State Park and 1,000 Steps Beach are stunning, the historic Victoria Beach Pirate Tower is a must-see site. There are also plenty of incredible tide pools in Laguna where you’ll find starfish, sea slugs and speedy hermit crabs. Treasure Island Beach is another local gem that tends to be less crowded and is best enjoyed at low tide. Before driving back to Los Angeles, stop by The Cliff Restaurant for 180-degree views, live music and fish tacos.

Laguna Beach. Laguna Beach

Manhattan Beach

  • 45-minute drive

Despite being located within Los Angeles County, Manhattan Beach is a beloved South Bay community that has a small and charming beach town vibe. The steep, hilly streets and oceanfront townhomes make you feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of L.A., and it takes around 45 minutes to get here from most central parts of the city. The main strip of Manhattan Beach looks straight onto the pier, creating a picture-perfect scene for swimming, surfing or sunbathing. Longfellow Beach is another wide and sandy beach located right next door in Hermosa. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, sit down for coconut shrimp, steamed clams and mesquite-grilled Mahi Mahi at Fishbar.

Manhattan Beach. Manhattan Beach

Malibu

  • 45-minute drive

Malibu is an iconic and affluent beach town on the outskirts of L.A. From A-list celebrity watching to renowned surfing, Malibu is one of the most popular beach day destinations for Angelenos looking to catch a tan away from the chaos of Venice and Santa Monica. Though some spots in Malibu get pretty crowded, there are so many different beaches to choose from, each catering to a different kind of beachgoer. Explore the epic sea caves at El Matador Beach and Leo Carillo or post up with a cocktail in hand in a cabana at Paradise Cove. If you want to be right in the heart of Malibu, take a stroll along Carbon Beach before heading to Broad Street Oyster Company for caviar and uni-topped lobster rolls. 

Malibu. Malibu Beach Inn

Dana Point

  • 1.5-hour drive

Dana Point is the next-door neighbor to Laguna Beach, and can take as little as an hour and 15 minutes to reach from Los Angeles. Between its breathtaking marinas and its wide, sandy shores, Dana Point attracts both L.A. and O.C. locals all throughout the summer season. Looking to work up a sweat before hitting the sand? Hike through the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area and take in the sweeping Pacific scene. Doheny State Beach is a haven for surfers, sunbathers and volleyball players, as is Salt Creek Beach. For the most epic sunset, bring a nice change of clothes and head to 180blu at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for shared plates and refreshing drinks.

Dana Point. Ritz-Carlton

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