No visit to the Golden State would be complete without a view from the beach. Whether you're in the mood for sun, surf, good food, camping, shopping, or lounging, the California coastline has the perfect spot waiting for you.

Here are our picks for the best California beaches:

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Best Overall Beach Experience

Coronado Beach

Located in San Diego, Coronado Beach has what the locals call 'sugar sand'; the sand sparkles with tiny flecks of naturally occurring mica. The gentle waves are perfect for swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, and myriad other activities. We recommend this beach for families as lifeguards are on duty year-round and the beach is alcohol-free. Coronado Beach is the ideal place for an all-day stay; grab your things and play, relax, sunbathe, or beach comb the day away. There is also a bike bath if you are so inclined. And don't forget Fido, as one end of the beach has a dog run.

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Best Beach for Wildlife Lovers

Gold Bluffs Beach

 This isolated gem is located in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and is a hiker's and nature-lover's dream. Designated as a World Heritage Site, the park's crowning glory is its majestic redwood trees. Whether you're up for a leisurely stroll or a hard-core hike, you are certain to find the trail for you in over 75 miles of trails through lush forests and  over 10 miles of scenic beach. Make sure you stop to admire the native elk herd, which are often spotted right on the beach. Gray whales, mountain lions, bears, bobcats and many other species also make their homes here. Gold Bluffs Beach is located in Northern California near Redwoods National Park, in the top Northwest corner of the state.

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Most Captivating Beach  

La Jolla Cove

 This quaint crescent of sand is (not surprisingly) located in La Jolla. Snuggly tucked between high sandstone cliffs, this beach is touted as one of the most photographed beaches along the SoCal coastline. The cove is protected by the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve. Sea lions are a common sight as they bask on the rocks and enjoy the sunshine. Thanks to great underwater visibility, La Jolla Cove is popular with scuba-divers and snorkelers

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Most Romantic Beach

El Matador State Beach

 Widely known as one of the most beautiful beaches in Malibu, El Matador is a gorgeous stretch of rocky formations, steep cliffs, and coves just waiting for you to explore. Don't be surprised if you see a professional model or two on a photo shoot, as this jewel is considered by many to be the perfect background. Body boarders and surfers also frequent the areas swells. Because this beach seems to hold the masses of tourists at bay, we love it for a romantic day away from it all; pack a picnic lunch, a bottle of wine, and find your own private cove.

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Best Beach for People-Watching

Venice Beach

 What "Best Beaches" list would be complete without quirky Venice Beach? This tops our list for best people-watching experience. The world famous Ocean Front Walk (which just might upstage the ocean) is home to Muscle Beach, numerous street vendors, artists, flea markets, and entertainers - ranging from the sublime to the shriek-provoking. The list of things to see and do is seemingly endless. Suffice it to say we think you will not see a more memorable beach-side chainsaw juggling act anywhere. Venice Beach is located in Santa Monica within Los Angeles.

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Coolest Beach

Manhattan Beach

 We like to think of this as the quintessential SoCal experience. The pristine beach and pier is often seen in TV and movie productions. Play a game of volleyball at one of the courts and know you are in great company; the longest running continuous tournament in the sport is held here. Rent a a bike and enjoy the scenery from the bike paths. There are shops and restaurants for every budget just a short walk from the pier. Of note is that the pier has been a big part in the history of surfing- the first commercial surfboard shaper started under the pier in the 1940's. Also a plus, the Roundhouse Aquarium is located at the end of the pier and has a touch pools for kids and adults alike. Manhattan Beach is also located in Santa Monica (south of Venice Beach) within the city of Los Angeles.

Photo by: Lucky-photographer /

We must admit that picking the Best California Beach is akin to picking a favorite child. But with so many spectacular beaches, you are sure to find the one that's just right for you.

Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick
Published/Updated on: 02-22-2016

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