Leslie Griffin, Heal the Bay’s chief water quality scientist and Beach Report Card manager, likes to kiss and tell. Here’s her list of the cuddliest spots for couples along the California shoreline.
Wanna enjoy a long walk on the beach?
I know it sounds like a line, but this lovers’ activity is a cliché for a reason. A seaside stroll proves both calming and romantic, with the vast ocean rippling along the shore while your toes sink into the cool sand. Or maybe your dream beach date consists of gazing at a gorgeous sunset while you enjoy a seaside picnic.
Either way, we are all about getting a little sandy, whether with a loved one, a friend, or for a little solo escape into the outdoors for some dedicated me time.
Here are 10 spots we love for love (and their great water quality too!):
Torrey Pines, San Diego
What we love about it: Torrey Pines State Beach has picturesque views of the San Diego coastline and the adjacent Torrey Pines State Reserve is filled with little trails leading down to the shore. We recommend that you only take marked trails and watch your footing, but the views are worth the adventure.
What to do here: We love the Torrey Pines Trail to Black’s Beach in the morning for a beautiful way to start your day. Fair warning: some nudists like to visit this beach as well.
Water Quality: The only sampling site at Torrey Pines is at the Los Penasquitos Lagoon outlet. That site received good grades in our most recent annual Beach Report Card.
La Jolla, San Diego
What we love about it: This spot is great for lovers and families alike, with plenty of adventure to be had by all ages.
What to do here: This is the perfect spot for a SUP (stand up paddleboard) adventure, snorkeling, kayaking, or even just a picturesque walk along the beach. For stunning ocean views over dinner, check out the Marine Room at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.
Water Quality: La Jolla shores received great grades in our annual report last year.
Victoria Beach, Orange County
What we love about it: Straight out of a fairy tale, this shoreline spot is guarded by La Tour, a 60-foot castle-inspired tower. Built in 1926, the structure provided beach access for a home on the cliff above.
What to do here: Looking to be someone’s knight in shining armor? Look no further. To get here, walk to the north end of Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach, around the bluff and past another sandy section of beach. (This is a privately owned structure, so while you can walk up to it, please do not try to go inside or climb on the structure.)
Water Quality: Victoria Beach received A+’s across the board in our last annual report.
Crystal Cove State Park, Orange County
What we love about it: With such a long swath of open sandy shores, this is an ideal spot for a romantic seaside stroll, or perhaps for a love-inspired photoshoot.
What to do here: If you’re looking for post-beach walk eats with an ocean view, the Beachcomber Café is a fun option.
Water Quality: Crystal Cove has great water quality in the summer or whenever the weather has been dry. Given the buckets of rain we have (thankfully) gotten this year, make sure to heed any beach posting signs you may see.
Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles
What we love about it: We love the PV areas so much, we had to lump the whole peninsula together as one of our top locations. Palos Verdes wraps around from the base of the South Bay down to San Pedro, and features beautiful neighborhoods, coastal trails, clean beaches, and tidepool adventures.
What to do here: If you’re looking for some marine biology-inspired adventure, time your visit for low tide to go tidepooling at Abalone Cove. For a short hike and a hidden rocky beach, check out Palos Verdes Bluff Cove.
Water Quality: The Palos Verdes area is home to multiple Honor Roll beaches, including Abalone Cove Shoreline Park.
El Matador State Beach, Malibu
What we love about it: This was easily the top rated romantic spot by Heal the Bay staff. Dramatic cliffs and coves (and even secret sea caves) make this beach feel like the backdrop of a steamy Hollywood romance scene. Whether it’s energizing a new flame or a longtime squeeze, you can expect El Matador to light your fire.
What to do here: Explore the dramatic landscape, take Instagram-worthy photos, find little hideaway spots for you and your date to share secret kisses, and wrap up your evening with a gorgeous sunset view.
Water Quality: El Matador is an Honor Roll beach with awesome water quality.
Arroyo Burro, Santa Barbara
What we love about it: Santa Barbara is the perfect little getaway for a weekend of romance. If you’re looking for some time together to rest, rejuvenate, and rekindle the fire, Santa Barbara is the perfect place.
What to do here: We love Arroyo Burro for a sunset walk, and with plenty of parking and restroom access it’s a stress-free beach walk experience.
Water Quality: Arroyo Burro has great water quality in the summer or whenever it has been dry enough that the creek hasn’t breached. Make sure to heed any beach posting signs you may see if you’re feeling like taking a dip. But if the creek is flowing, be sure to stick to the sand over the waves.
Big Sur Coastline, Monterey
What we love about it: Another area that is just so beautiful, we can’t limit it to just one beach. The shoreline in Big Sur is renowned for its rustic coastal beauty. A drive along the twisty coastline is certain to inspire awe. Pull off whenever your heart desires, and be sure to take photos so you can revisit the view whenever you like.
What to do here: McWay Falls is a stunning spot where you can watch a perfect little waterfall pouring directly to the beach. The Bixby Canyon Bridge is another cult favorite, and there’s even a Death Cab for Cutie song to match. There are plenty of hiking trails, camping sites, and little cafes to warm up in.
Water Quality: Monterey water quality testing only extends as far south as Carmel, so while there aren’t any sampling sites to rely on, the area is un-urbanized and thus less likely to have bacterial problems.
Baker Beach, San Francisco
What we love about it: If you’re in the Bay Area and looking for an ideal view of the Golden Gate Bridge, this is our favorite sandy spot.
What to do here: The dramatic backdrop makes this spot ideal for a photo shoot, or even just a quick selfie-sesh. We’d recommend cuddling up for a romantic picnic and enjoying the sunset together.
Water Quality: Just be sure to avoid swimming near the creek outlet if you’re looking to take a penguin dip.
Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County
What we love about it: The farther north you go in California, often the more dramatic and rural the coastal landscape. This National Seashore is a prime example of that raw beauty, and it is sure to take your breath away.
What to do here: There a quite a few campgrounds and hiking trails within the area if you’re looking to get back in touch with nature.
Water Quality: Marin County no longer samples within this area. The closest active sampling station is Bolinas Beach (another beautiful spot), just south of Point Reyes.
Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card is the only comprehensive analysis of coastline water quality in California. We monitor more than 500 beaches weekly from Oregon to the Mexico border, assigning an A to F grade based on the health risks of swimming or surfing at that location.