15 Most Romantic Beaches in California You Have to See

This article may contain affiliate links, please read our disclosure policy.

Are you on the hunt for special spots to explore for your anniversary this year? These romantic beaches in California showcase the best of the Golden State’s natural beauty and will have you completely swooning!

A romantic beach in Big Sur in California at sunset
An incredibly romantic beach in Big Sur, California, at sunset

There’s nothing better than spending quality time with the person you love, right?

So, if you’re looking for gorgeous new places to keep that passionate flame alive, I’ve got you covered!

These romantic beaches in California will take your breath away at first glance as they’re just pristine and incredibly beautiful.

Offering everything from stunning sunsets to soft sands and glimmering waters, these romantic destinations will have you itching to propose.

Trust me.

And hey, they’ll certainly make a change from classic dream destinations like Paris, Venice, or the Amalfi Coast!

15 Most Romantic Beaches in California

1. Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel by the Sea beach in California
A beautiful view of Carmel beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Not only is Carmel-by-the-Sea repeatedly voted one of America’s Top Beach Towns, but it’s home to a seriously beautiful beach.

The views of the glimmering Pacific Ocean are stunning from every angle here. Plus, the white sands are ideal for barefoot walks as you’re holding hands!

If you want to truly take in the incredible scenery, there’s a gorgeous path that takes you right by the towering bluffs.

But that’s not all!

What makes this one of the most romantic beaches in the Golden State is the whimsical and European-style village of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

This area is utterly dog-friendly (always a plus!), and it’s home to quaint art galleries, bougie restaurants, and charming old inns.

As the main town is just 10 minutes from the beach, you can easily switch out of your swim gear for a romantic evening out.

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The charming nearby village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. You can easily spend the day at the beach before wining and dining the night away with spectacular views.

2. Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

Keyhole Arch on Pfeiffer Beach
Keyhole Arch on Pfeiffer Beach, California

With its glorious purple sand and iconic Natural Keyhole Arch, it’s no surprise that Pfeiffer Beach is the perfect place for couples.

This pitstop on the Pacific Coast Highway is tucked away in Big Sur and it’s the top pick for stunning sunsets.

Seriously, the last rays of sunlight stream through the natural arch for the ultimate Instagram shot that’ll spice up any feed.

AND it’s home to a handful of scenic hiking trails that offer views of nearby McWay Falls and the beach’s characteristic rocky bluffs!

If you’re interested in marine life, you can also stop by the many tidepools to spot crabs, miniature fish, and everything in between.

Top tip

Fancy staying overnight? The gorgeous Glen Oaks Big Sur is an uber-romantic place to stay if you’re into rustic wooden cabins that are oh-so-luxurious. They’re just 15 minutes away from the beach, making them a great place to wind down after a day of hiking.

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The unique Natural Keyhole Arch that turns a simple sunset into a work of art.

3. El Matador Beach, Malibu

El Matador beach Malibu
One of my favorite beaches in California, El Matador in Malibu

Although Malibu is known for its incredible party scene (and the iconic South Beach!), there’s a lesser-known gem that’s worth visiting.

El Matador Beach is hidden away from civilization down a set of steep steps and is surrounded by towering craggy rocks.

It’s the first beach that made me fall in love with California, with its dramatic bluffs that directly overhang the ocean, the sea caves, and tide pools.

It’s easy to see why this is one of the most romantic beaches in California for stealing a few kisses.

If you’re lucky enough, you might even catch a few dolphins popping out of the water from time to time.

While on your romantic beach getaway, you can enjoy a relaxing picnic, stroll down the sandy shores, or splash around in the shallows.

Anything goes when the setting is this stunning!

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

Those striking sea caves that are perfect for hiding away and confessing your innermost secrets!

4. Butterfly Beach, Santa Barbara

Butterfly beach along Channel Drive in Santa Barbara, California.
Butterfly Beach along Channel Drive in Santa Barbara, California.

If you’re on the hunt for romantic beaches in California that let you get your surf on, Butterfly Beach is perfect.

This pristine beach is located along Channel Drive in the very fancy town of Montecito.

The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s lined with palm trees which give it a distinctive tropical feel.

Oh, and don’t forget the long stone wall that lets you admire the ocean views from virtually every angle.

It’s an ideal beach for beginner surfers as the waves are small and calm. But you can easily swim in the ocean or snorkel if you’d like to dial things down slightly.

While you’re here, take time to explore the gorgeous Spanish Colonial Revival-style Biltmore Hotel and its lush gardens.

If you have time (and the energy!), head up the gorgeous Cabrillo Bike Path to take in the spectacular scenery!

Talk about an unforgettable day out.

Top tip

Although you won’t want to do this too often, the fact that you’re right across from the Biltmore Hotel is great if you need the toilet! And hey, it’s perfect for a quick romantic cocktail if you’d like to explore the Ty Lounge.

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The beautiful palm trees that make you feel as though you’ve been dropped in St. Lucia!

5. Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach

View on a beach from Heisler Park in Laguna Beach, California
An incredible view of the beach from Heisler Park in Laguna Beach

Boasting an impressive 3.2 miles of beach and several luscious hiking trails, Crystal Cove State Park is a must-visit for nature lovers.

It’s been regarded as one of California’s most beautiful beaches since opening in 1979.

And that’s largely thanks to its glimmering tide pools, perfect golden sands, rolling hills, and striking forested canyons.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the next-level rolling surf that’s made for adrenaline-seeking couples!

Despite being in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Laguna Beach, this state park couldn’t feel further from Cali’s urban setting.

Seriously, the 18 miles worth of surrounding trails will instantly connect you to the natural world.

And luckily for you, there are several picnic tables dotted around the trails for a private bite to eat!

Top tip

If you have time to spare, stop by the adorable Historic District’s 46 vintage cottages. They merely add to the area’s quaint, rustic vibe and some are even available for overnight stays!

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The untouched natural beauty of the place – you can easily spend hours walking around here and chatting away to your heart’s content!

6. Baker Beach, San Francisco

Baker beach with the golden gate bridge in the background
The famous Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach, San Francisco

It’s no secret that San Francisco is known for its majestic Golden Gate Bridge, culinary delights, and iconic cable cars.

But did you know that it’s also home to one of the best beaches on the West Coast?

The main selling point of this balmy beach is the dramatic backdrop offered by the Golden Gate Bridge.

However, it’s also a wonderful place to stop for people-watching and catching the Bay Area’s colored skies around sunset.

Throw in the craggy serpentine rock formations, lapping waves, and towering pines, and it’s easy to see why it’s the best beach for a romantic stroll!

If you’re looking for an adventure with your sweetheart, hop on the California Coastal Trail or the Batteries to Bluffs Trail.

Just remember to pull on your walking shoes!

Top tip

If you’re visiting San Francisco during the winter months, wrap up warm to shelter from the strong winds! Oh, and don’t even think about swimming. The undertow and rip currents make the water pretty hazardous.

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The Golden Gate Bridge views, of course!

7. Point Dume, Malibu

A romantic view of Point Dume in Malibu. Photo by Laura Clugston on Unsplash
A romantic view of Point Dume in Malibu. Photo by Laura Clugston on Unsplash

Point Dume is a relatively hidden gem that juts right out onto the Pacific Ocean.

Now, what makes this one of the most romantic beaches in California is the incredible boardwalk.

Not only is it an excellent way to stretch your legs after sunbathing, but it offers spectacular views of Santa Monica Bay!

If you’re looking for fun things to do on this State Preserve, why not try your hand at fishing, boating, or snorkeling?

And for couples seeking adventure, the towering cliffs behind the beach offer rock climbing routes which are perfect for intermediate climbers.

Prefer to catch a glimpse of how the other half lives? 

You can easily head along the beach and catch a glimpse of the enormous oceanfront estates that line the rugged cliffs!

If you keep your eyes peeled, you may even spot a few local falcons soaring through the skies.

Top tip

Couples that adore movie magic will want to head right to the edge of Point Dume to the secluded Pirates Cove. Not only is it gorgeous and relatively private, but part of the Planet of the Apes series was filmed here!

It used to be quite tricky to visit this beach (Dan and I had to climb down holding a rope!), but the last time we were there, they were building a 100-step stairway to the beach.

A much safer alternative to the earlier treacherous cliff descent to the pristine sand.

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

It’s a hidden gem (which means it’s typically less crowded) and the rugged bluffs that makes things oh-so-scenic.

8. Moonstone Beach, Cambria

Monsoon Beach, California
Monsoon Beach, California

If you’re on the hunt for beautiful boardwalks, towering bluffs, and soft sands, you can’t beat Moonstone Beach in Cambria.

The 1-mile boardwalk is an excellent place to start your beachy adventure (while you’re still brimming with energy!).

You can spot everything from cotton-tail rabbits to coastal birds as you head on a romantic walk around the coast.

Oh, and you’ll want to snap a few adorable couples’ photos by the enormous Monterey Pines and Pride of Madeira plants!

Once you’re back near the water, why not try and spot a few otters, whales, and dolphins peeking out of the waves?

If you want to dial things up after catching a gorgeous sunset on your picnic blanket, Downtown Cambria is the place to be.

This charming village is on Main Street and boasts an amazing selection of restaurants, shops, and bars that are worth exploring.

Top tip

If you’re on the hunt for parking, it’s best to stick to the Hearst San Simeon State Park official lots. They’re much easier to find and remove the risk of being fined for using street parking!

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The romantic boardwalk that’s perfect for a moonlit stroll, but Downtown Cambria is a close second.

9. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Pile of rounded glass shards or sea-glass of Fort Bragg, California, US with blurry Pacific Ocean background
A pile of rounded glass shards in Fort Bragg, California

Glass Beach is a California beach that needs to be seen to be believed – yep, really.

This isn’t a typical sandy beach. Instead, its vast shoreline is loaded with layer upon layer of brightly-colored sea glass!

Each piece is entirely smooth, and the light reflects upon the various hues to create an incredible couple’s shot.

If you walk along the beach to the south side, you’ll come across a couple of secluded coves that are packed with sea glass.

Although it’s illegal to take any of it with you, the glimmering glass makes this place feel incredibly romantic (and unique!).

Top tip

One of the major benefits of visiting this beach is that there’s free parking in the town of Fort Bragg. Just be warned that it’s almost always full (so, you’ll need to get here as early as possible!). From the parking lot, it’s just a short walk to the beach.

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The smooth glassy rocks that line the entire shoreline. You’ll never have seen anything like it before – trust me!

10. Marina State Beach, Marina

A view of the san dune in Marina state beach
The amazing sand dunes that surround Marina State Beach

Marina State Beach is the spot to visit if you’re a surfing fanatic, but it’s also a stunning sandy beach for couples!

What makes this spot particularly special is the fact that it’s right across from Marina Dunes Preserve.

Here, you’ll find an amazing 170 acres of protected dunes along with an observation deck and a short, signed trail.

Along the trail, you’ll have the chance to enjoy an easy stroll (hand in hand, of course!) and spot up to 27 bird species!

As it’s right on the crescent of Monterey Bay, you’ll also benefit from a pleasant sea breeze and a walkable setting.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the mood for a spot of hang gliding or just fancy a romantic picnic.

This beach has got you.

Top tip

If you want to do any watersports (aside from surfing), I recommend heading down in the afternoon or early evening. The winds tend to be more favorable during these times!

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The impressive wildlife and protected trails that are ideal for secluded proposals.

11. La Jolla Cove, La Jolla

Beachgoers enjoying a beautiful sunny afternoon at La Jolla Cove in San Diego, CA. USA. Famous tourist destination.
People enjoying a beautiful sunny afternoon at La Jolla Cove in San Diego, California

La Jolla Cove is regarded for its incredibly warm waters, breathtaking ancient cliffs, and stunning local flowers.

So, it’s no shock that this spot is one of the most romantic beaches in California!

This crescent-shaped beach offers a dramatic coastline thanks to the large sandstone cliffs.

Oh, and did I mention that this spot is stellar for scuba diving, as it’s home to rocky reefs and large kelp beds?

You’re almost guaranteed to spot a few Garibaldis here, which is a huge plus!

Aside from the swoon-worthy scenery, what makes this a must-visit spot for couples is the sheer number of things to do here.

The sealion viewings and rocky sea caves are certainly major selling points.

But it’s the shopping on Prospect Street and the beachy Cove House restaurant that’ll pull you out of bed in the morning!

Top tip

If you’re looking to spend the night, I highly recommend stopping at the Grande Colonial. It was La Jolla’s very first hotel and oozes prestige and romantic vibes from every nook and cranny. The views certainly don’t hurt either!

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The glorious underwater diving opportunities – talk about making memories!

12. Victoria Beach, Orange County

La Tour in Victoria Beach, Orange County

Victoria Beach is virtually unbeatable if you’re on the lookout for an impressive proposal spot in Orange County.

Although the crystal-clear waters are beautiful, it’s the 60-foot, Rapunzel-esque tower that makes this place shine.

Called La Tour, this structure was built in 1926 and turns the entire area into something out of a romance novel.

Throw in the craggy hills and glorious sunsets, and you’ll find that it’s the perfect backdrop for photographs.

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The glorious La Tour which lends the entire place an otherworldly, fairytale vibe!

13. Coronado Beach, San Diego

A Hotel near Coronado Beach San Diego
Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Beach in San Diego

Coronado is one of the more bustling beaches in California and is an incredible spot for a romantic getaway.

And that’s because the lavish Hotel Del Coronado is right on the beachfront!

Even if you’re not staying here, you can spend a couple of hours walking through the lush gardens and dining at the restaurant!

Aside from the 5-star hotel, this beach also offers spectacular coastline views, fine golden sands, and gently lapping waves.

If you’re here at the right time, you might even catch local sand sculptors creating impressive structures on the beach!

Oh, and don’t forget its whale-watching opportunities and the views of downtown San Diego.

Top tip

To visit Coronado Beach, you’ll first need to get on Coronado Island! I recommend hopping on the Coronado Ferry from downtown San Diego and grabbing a local Water Taxi to the beach itself.

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

Hotel Del Coronado, hands down! It’s an amazing place for an anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and everything in between. It might be pricey, but it’s worth shelling out for!

14. Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz

A natural bridge formation on Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz
An incredible natural bridge in Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz

If you’re a fan of gorgeous natural structures and azure waters, then you’re bound to appreciate Natural Bridges State Beach.

It’s famed for its incredible rocky sea structures that are proudly on display just where the shore breaks.

Plus, it’s virtually unbeatable if you’re into tide pooling as low tide reveals all the tiny critters lurking under the water.

If you’d like to explore the area’s natural beauty, why not head along one of the many hiking trails or the accessible boardwalk?

And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, there’s an entire eucalyptus grove here filled with migratory Monarch butterflies!

Although you’ll need to visit during the fall or winter to spot them, they make the setting uber-romantic.

Top tip

If you want to get the best views of the natural rock bridges, it’s a good idea to head to the lagoon area. This is by the far end of the beach and is typically less crowded than other vantage points.

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The impressive sea structures and the USP of the glorious Monarch butterflies!

15. Torrey Pines, San Diego

View of San Diego Ocean from top of the cliff in Torrey Pines
View of the San Diego Ocean from the top of a cliff in Torrey Pines

If you love to embrace nature’s marvels, Torrey Pines in San Diego stands as a mesmerizing epitome of beauty and romance. 

With its majestic cliffs overlooking the azure waters, this beach holds a timeless allure that will captures your heart.

Torrey Pines rugged, weathered formations tell tales of ancient strength and add a touch of dramatic elegance to the already captivating landscape.

There are plenty of beautiful trails along the beach, and depending on the tide, you’ll feel like you can keep waling forever feeling the gentle ocean breeze and listening to the rhythm of waves.

If you want the beach all for yourself, avoid the weekend, as it can get really crowded.

Top tip

The hike from the top down to the beach is a little steep at times, so watch your steps. If you don’t want to go down, you can hike on the flat rock at the top on easier trails like Razor Point or Yucca Point.  

What makes this beach the perfect romantic spot

The amazing landscape, rock formations, and spectacular sunset views.

Have You Seen Any Of These Romantic Beaches in California?

El Matador will forever have a place in my heart. But which one is your favorite?

Let me know in the comments!

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.