More than just the preferred address of the rich and famous, Malibu has 21 miles of coastline with some of the finest beaches in Southern California.
Leo Carrillo A 1.5-mile-long state beach, Leo Carrillo has tidal pools, reefs and caves along the water's edge and Wi-Fi access around the park visitors' center.
Nicholas Canyon A smaller, handicap-accessible county beach, Nicholas Canyon has restrooms, showers, 151 parking spaces and a food truck during the summer.
Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach Part of the eponymous state park, Meyer Memorial includes a string of three small cove beaches, El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador. Harder to reach but picturesque, they have picnic benches, restrooms and parking spaces on the bluffs.
Zuma A favorite with Pepperdine kids and Malibu residents, Zuma is a postcard-perfect county beach with restrooms, showers, volleyball nets, food concessions and 2,025 parking spaces.
Check out: Nautica Malibu Triathlon, Sept. 14, (818) 707-8867, nauticamalibutri.com
Point Dume A scenic county beach with tidal pools and rocky outcroppings suitable for winter whale-watching, Point Dume has picnic tables, restrooms, showers and 373 parking spaces.
Dan Blocker A thin county beach adjacent to residential areas, there's no parking lot but it does have lifeguard service and portable toilets.
Malibu Surfrider Malibu's main beach adjoining the town pier, it has volleyball nets, restrooms, showers and 90 parking spots.
Check out: 16th annual Call to the Wall Longboard Surfing Contest, July 21-22, malibuboardriders.com.
Las Tunas A thin strip of highway-adjacent beach used mostly by surfers, Las Tunas also attracts swimmers and anglers.
Topanga Scenic if a little rocky, Topanga Beach has picnic areas, wheelchair-accessible restrooms, showers and 96 parking spaces.
Will Rogers A popular beach abutting Gladstone's restaurant at the northern tip of the Marvin Braude bicycle path, Will Rogers has volleyball nets, wheelchair-accessible restrooms, showers and 1,832 parking spaces.
The city maintains its own 2-mile stretch of beach, with its famous pier and Pacific Park amusement center, plus volleyball and basketball nets, bicycle and running paths, picnic areas, and plenty of nearby shops and restaurants.
Check out: Copa Cabana Beach Soccer Tournament, a coed tourney of Brazilian-style beach soccer teams featuring members of the Brazilian and U.S. national teams, June 7-8, 1550 Pacific Coast Highway parking lot, copa. Also: Twilight Dance Series, a series of free concerts at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, opens June 26, Santa Monica Pier Parking Lot, twilightdance. Santa Monica Drive-In at the Pier, opens at 7 p.m. Thursdays, runs Sept. 6-27, santamonicapier
A deep, expansive beach with perhaps the busiest and most colorful boardwalk on the West Coast, Venice Beach also offers volleyball, basketball and handball courts, picnic areas, wheelchair-accessible restrooms, showers, bicycle and skate rental shops servicing the winding bike path, 971 parking spaces and a pier jutting from the bar-soaked end of Washington Boulevard.
Check out: Muscle Beach International Classic bodybuilding competition, May 25-26; Mr & Mrs. Muscle Beach, July 4; Venice Bodybuilding and Figure Championships, Sept. 1, musclebeachvenice.com. Also: Festival of the Chariots, a celebration of Indian culture sponsored by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Aug. 3, festivalofchariots.com
An expanse stretching from Playa del Rey to El Segundo, this recently improved and rededicated county beach is situated under the path of LAX air traffic. But it's the only beach along the Santa Monica Bay to allow open fires (in fire pits). Plus, it has food concessions, volleyball nets, restrooms, showers and 2,080 parking spaces.
Check out: The Gillis Volleyball Invitational, a festive two- and six-person-team competition for teens and adults, Aug. 9-10, thegillis.com
Encompassing the surfing hot spot of El Porto on the north to well beyond the iconic pier off its upscale shopping district, Manhattan Beach has one of the best maintained beaches in the county. It has well-used volleyball nets, restrooms, showers, a separate walkway and bike path and 378 parking spots.
Check out: AVP Crocs Cup Shootout, a two-person teams pro beach volleyball tournament with men's and women's divisions, Sept. 19-21, avp.com
Manhattan Beach's younger and more restive neighbor doesn't have as pretty a pier, but it has all the daytime activity and twice the night life along the water. The beach has numerous volleyball nets, showers and restrooms, and a partly separate walkway and bike path along the Strand.
Check out: Fiesta Hermosa, the annual Memorial Day weekend bash including entertainment stages and a beer garden, May 24-26, fiestahermosa.com. Also: AVP Hermosa Open tour stop, June 6-8, avp.com; Beach Tennis USA, the "X-Games" of tennis, June 28-29, beachtennisusa.net.
With its large marina, the town is a bit more boat-and-fishing oriented than its northern neighbors, but Redondo still offers plenty of good swimming, children's swings, restrooms, showers and a municipal parking lot.
Check out: 12th annual Original Redondo Beach Lobster Festival, featuring a bevy of Maine lobsters, Sept. 26-28, Seaside Lagoon, 200 Portofino Way, redondochamber.org/lobsterfestival
The southern end of the Marvin Braude bicycle path peters out here in this slip of beach between Redondo and the cliffs of Palos Verdes, but it still has volleyball nets, restrooms, showers, concessions and 334 parking spaces.
Check out: International Surf &Health Festival, featuring lifeguard, fishing and sandcastle contests, Aug. 1-3, surffestival (Also in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach)
Palos Verdes Peninsula
The beaches might be hard to find, given the isolation, multimillion-dollar houses and a reputation for localism among surfers, but they're beautiful nonetheless.
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park With great views and tide pools, the park has the two most accessible beaches: Abalone Cove, which features lifeguards during summer, and the more remote Sacred Cove, which at one time was unofficially "clothing-optional." Parking costs $5 per car.
Home of the port of Los Angeles, the busiest port in the U.S., San Pedro isn't known as a swimmer's paradise -- though it does actually have some sandy shores along its southwestern edge.
White Point & Royal Palms The first good swimming point below Palos Verdes, these twin county beaches feature a fine picnic area and promenade, tide pools, restrooms, showers, 191 parking spaces and lots of palm trees.
Cabrillo The boat launching ramp indicates swimming is not the first priority, but this city-managed beach is a good local hangout with a pier, picnic area, grills, restrooms, showers, swings and a bait-and-tackle shop.
Check out: Fireworks, 9 p.m. July 4, cabrillobeachbathhouse.org.
Dominated by its own port, the second busiest in the country, Long Beach has more boat traffic than beachcombers, but it too has a nice stretch of sand.
Alamitos, Bayshore, Belmont Plaza and Peninsula Beach One pedestrian and two bicycle paths line this 4-mile stretch of sand east of Shoreline Park and west of the mouth of Alamitos Bay.
Check out: AVP Crocs Slam Bud Light Long Beach Volleyball Open, Marina Green Park, July 25-27,avp.com. Also: Tiki Beach Festival,a Polynesian-style festival with tiki bar, outrigger canoe and catamaran rides and three luaus, Aug. 23-24, longbeachseafestival.com
Northern gateway to Orange County, the town offers good surfing spots just south of its lengthy municipal pier and near the mouth of the county-dividing San Gabriel River, nicknamed "Stingray Bay" for the creatures attracted by the warm water from the power plant upstream.
Surfside There are no stores, restaurants or parking lots servicing this little neighborhood southeast of Anaheim Bay, the mouth of Huntington Harbour, but if you can find a parking space and climb the sandy berm protecting the houses, you'll find a pleasantly uncrowded beach.
Sunset Beach A tiny but century-old community farther south along PCH, Sunset has a 45-acre beach with a playground, restrooms and 627 parking spaces.
Despite adopting the trademark "Surf City USA" after Jan & Dean's 1963 hit "Surf City," Huntington does not have "two girls for every boy," but it does have some excellent sand.
Bolsa Chica This state beach is popular with surfers, anglers, bird-watchers and swimmers. On top of offering Wi-Fi around the visitors' center, it has restrooms, camping and picnicking facilities.
Huntington City Beach The beach radiating out from Main Street's municipal pier, it attracted 10 million visitors last year with the lure of volleyball and surfing and a bike-friendly boardwalk within walking distance of dozens of bars and restaurants.
Check out: NSSA Surfing West Coast Championship, sponsored by the National Scholastic Surfing Assn., Wednesday-May 18, nssa.org. Also: Duck-a-Thon, a race in which you sponsor a rubber duck that competes against thousands of others to race ashore, Pier Plaza, May 16-18,duck-a-thon.org. Huntington Beach Pier Swim, June 14,surfcityusa.com. U.S. Open of Surfing, July 18-27, usopenofsurfing.com
Huntington State Beach Across PCH from the Huntington Beach Wetlands, below Beach Boulevard and above the Santa Ana River lies this 2-mile stretch, home to the endangered California least tern. The beach features a bicycle trail, bonfire rings and good surfing and fishing.
Better known for its fictitious TV characters than its actual setting, it has a fine municipal beach around Newport Pier (a.k.a. McFadden's Wharf) with restrooms, showers, picnic tables and fire pits, in addition to two popular surfing points to the north.
Balboa Beach A second municipal pier calls for a second beach, this one equally disposed to swimming, and to shopping and recreational activities around the Balboa Inn and the Balboa Pavilion. Surfers like it too for a break known as the Wedge, on the southeastern end.
Check out: Movies on the Beach, free films Fridays and Saturdays at Newport Dunes Resort & Marina, May-September, newportdunes.com
Corona del Mar One of the few to offer a free parking lot (above the bluff), this half-mile-long state beach has volleyball nets, picnic tables, dressing rooms, food concessions, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and beach-friendly wheelchairs.
Crystal Cove This state park boasts 3 1/2 miles of rather rocky beach, which is more popular with adventurous hikers, anglers, mountain bikers, scuba and skin divers than lazy beachgoers.
This beautiful town claims 30 public beaches and coves along the six miles of coastline between Irvine Cove and Aliso Beach, but the most popular with swimmers and surfers is Main Beach for its amenities: A playground, basketball and volleyball courts, picnic tables, a boardwalk and nearby Heisler Park, where locals play shuffleboard and lawn-bowl.
Aliso Beach Park A sandy beach abutting green foothills dotted with chaparral, Aliso offers parking, picnic tables, a playground and fire pits.
Another upscale piece of briny real estate, Dana Point broke surfers' hearts when it built its harbor in 1966, destroying a natural break known as Killer Dana. Good surfing and swimming spots can still be found along the town's craggy coastline.
Salt Creek Beach Park A mile-long swatch of smooth, fine khaki crystals just beneath the Ritz-Carlton resort, it's a public beach ideal for swimming and sunning.
Doheny Picking up the sandy mantle just east of Dana Point's harbor, Doheny State Beach is bisected by San Juan Creek. The "north" (west) half features picnic facilities, volleyball courts and a visitor's center with Wi-Fi; the "south" (east) half offers swimming and campsites.
Capistrano Beach A narrow but picturesque finger of sand running along the wet side of Beach Road, it offers good swimming, volleyball nets and basketball courts, a parking lot on the northwestern edge and a surfing hot spot just about where PCH turns into North El Camino Real.
Just north of the renowned collection of surf spots known as "Trestles" lies the town of San Clemente, home to Nixon's Western White House and Orange County's southernmost beaches.
City Beach Swings, volleyball courts, fire pits, picnic tables, concession stands, restrooms and showers dot this 2-mile beach surrounding surfer-friendly San Clemente Municipal Pier.
Check out: San Clemente Ocean Festival, a swim-run-swim
biathlon, July 19-20, oceanfestival.
State Beach This cliff-shaded, 1-mile beach at O.C.'s southern edge is part of a small state park with camping, picnicking, bathrooms and showers and a host of other amenities including Wi-Fi.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times