There is simply nothing quite like a beach vacation. The sun blazing on the sandy coastline with the ocean just steps away. The sea mammals jutting up from the ocean surface in all their fascinating glory. The stand up paddling, kayaking and kite surfing beckoning us to play…and the amazing, beach-close restaurants tempting us to indulge—this is what a true vacation escape looks like.

And since California has such an incredible array of picturesque coastlines, the beach escapes here are about as good as it gets. Take a look at five of California’s greatest coastal getaway destinations. We guarantee you’ll be shopping for a new bathing suit and mapping out your trip before you stop reading.

1. Cayucos


Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles is the picturesque coastal town of Cayucos, a hidden Central California gem. Known as one of the “Last California Beach Towns,” this surf village is incredibly untouched by big city development and still boasts the same Swiss-Italian and Portuguese-influenced historical buildings it has for decades, as well as charming gift shops, ice cream shops and wonderful restaurants. The beach area is located on Estero Bay with its famous fishing pier, pristine white sands and beautiful tidepools. One of the best aspects of the Cayucos beach is its dog friendliness—yes, you can bring your furry buddy on vacation with you as long as he/she is on a leash when frolicking on the beach. Can’t miss highlights include: Dining at Cass House Inn and Restaurant, taking a Kayak Tour of the hidden coves and lesser-seen beachfronts (and maybe sea lions lazing on the rocks) and shopping at one of Cayucos’ great antique shops.

2. Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara—or the “American Riviera” as it’s known—is consistently one of the best beach escapes in the nation. This gorgeous seaside town is about 100 miles north of Los Angeles but is worlds apart with its laid back atmosphere, pedestrian-friendly streets and pristine coastal air. There are a number of excellent beaches to explore, each with its own unique appeal. East Beach is smack dab in the middle of everything, so you can walk on the wharf, play volleyball, dine at a great restaurant—and even visit the zoo—because just about everything is within walking distance. Or there’s the lovely El Capitan Beach and State Park where you can just sit back, soak in the sun and dolphin watch for a few hours. Other beaches include Goleta Beach, Leadbetter Beach and the always-crowded Hendry’s Beach. Aside from the water attractions, Santa Barbara also has incredible dining, wineries and outdoor recreation (hiking anyone?) to take up your time making this one vacation destination that fits everyone’s agenda. Can’t miss highlights include: Dinner at Bouchon, wine tasting at any of the magnificent regional wineries and whale watching from the Condor Express.

 3. Sonoma Coast/Bodega Bay

Sonoma Coast

 The Sonoma Coast in Northern California’s city of Sonoma is one of the most beautiful natural vistas you’ll find in the nation. The beach area extends 17 miles with each beach separated by magnificent rock bluffs and headlands. While the water in the area is not recommended for swimmers because of the strong rip currents, it’s still an incredible destination for campers or those looking to relax for a few hours with the sun and surf as their inspiration. Some of the best beaches include Goat Rock, where you can gaze at the harbor seals sunning themselves (as a courtesy to the seals, no dogs are allowed on this beach), Shell Beach which is an amazing tidepool spot and Portuguese Beach where rock fishing and surf fishing are all the rage. Aside from the beaches, there’s also incredible vineyards to visit, great restaurants to enjoy in nearby Bodega Bay and unique shops to explore. Can’t miss highlights include: Having lunch or dinner at Terrapin Creek Café, horseback riding along the beach and enjoying a hike at Salt Point State Park.

4. Coronado Island

Coronado Beach 

When it comes to Coronado Beach, resistance is futile. Even before the Travel Channel named Coronado “One of America’s Finest Beaches,” this gorgeous paradise across from San Diego has been a premier destination for those looking for a true vacation escape. There are several incredible places to stay on or near to the beaches, including the legendary Hotel del Coronado, which celebrated its 125 birthday this year. No matter where you stay though, you’ll have easy access to all of Coronado’s glistening, Mica-infused sand beaches. From the  Coronado Central Beach with its stunning tidepools to the Silver Strand State Beach which extends to both the Pacific and the warmer San Diego Bay,  there’s no shortage of fun in the sun in Coronado. Can’t miss highlights include: Dining at Hotel del Coronado’s award-winning 1500 Ocean restaurant, enjoying a private gondola ride and teeing off at the 4-star Coronado Golf Course, a Golf Digest favorite.

5. Malibu

Malibu Surfers

Malibu is and will forever be one of the most popular beach destinations in the country because… well, it’s Malibu! From the legendary  Zuma Beach and stunning Point Dume to the surf-heavy Malibu Lagoon State Beach (aka: Malibu Surfrider Beach) and pocket beaches like the awe-inspiring El Matador Beach, this is the city to enjoy a quintessential L.A. beach experience. Not only will visitors enjoy some first-rate surfing, but the people-watching and celebrity spotting is often just as entertaining. Add on the opportunities for incredible hikes, fantastic seaside dining and attractions like the Malibu Getty nearby and you have one fantastic vacation in the works.  Can’t miss highlights include: Visiting the Getty Villa, exploring the tidepools and gorgeous scenery of the Leo Carillo State Beach and enjoying an oceanside dinner at the fabulous Geoffrey’s Malibu.

Have you vacationed at any of these great beach escapes? Let us know what your favorite California beach getaways are. In the meantime, if you’re interested in purchasing in one of these areas, here are some prime listings available from

8183 Lone Palm Dr.
Cambria, CA 93428

25160 Malibu Rd.
Malibu, CA 90265



1787 Fernald Point Lane
Montecito, C 93108

Main images sourced from Flickr