11 Best Hidden Gem Beaches In California For 2024

Sun.  Sand.  Surf.  Much of coastal California is famous for all three.

But with both residents and tourists alike flocking to the state’s most popular beaches during the warmer months, it can get a little crowded.

The good news for those who prefer to stretch out and have a more private beach experience is that among California’s expansive coastline lie a number of hidden gem beaches.

The following eleven California beaches offer the sun, sand and surf with much less of the crowds, even during the peak of summer.

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach, tucked away in California’s stunning Big Sur region, is a hidden gem known for its remarkable scenery and tranquil atmosphere. 

But you won’t just find seclusion here, this beach is also host to two unique features that are a sight to see.

Pfeiffer Beach actually has purple sand on its north end, a rare sight created by manganese garnet particles that wash down from the cliffs that surround the beach.

Pfeiffer Beach also offers several massive rock formations just offshore, including the iconic Keyhole Arch which makes for a spectacular sight as the light beams through it at sunset.

These features, combined with the beach’s rugged coastline and powerful waves of the Pacific, make for awesome views and photo opps.

Goat Rock Beach

You’ll find Goat Rock Beach in Sonoma County at the mouth of the Russian River.

This beach is part of the Sonoma Coast State Park and is known for its massive rock formations, including the most-prominent in Goat Rock, which sit just offshore.

The landmarks aren’t the only thing worth viewing here though, as there’s plenty of wildlife to be seen as well.

Whales can be spotted from the shore, but the main attraction is the sand spit that builds up at the mouth of the Russian River each spring that becomes packed with harbor seals and their pups all summer.

The bluffs surrounding the beach also include hiking trails that offer an awesome aerial view of the beach and ocean.

Bowling Ball Beach

You’ll have to take a short hike into Bowling Ball Beach, which is located at the north end of the also-secluded Schooner Gulch State Beach.

The beach is named for the many rocks scattered along its shoreline that are slightly bigger than but shaped just like bowling balls.

These rocks are only visible at low tide, but make for quite the unique site when viewable.

Coupled with rocky shoreline and classic California cliffs, Bowling Ball Beach is about as scenic as it gets but is usually not crowded.

Sculptured Beach

Sculptured Beach is a unique one right within the Point Reyes National Seashore, named for the natural rock formations it houses that have been carved by the wind and waves into artistic shapes.

This beach is isolated and usually not crowded at all.

When the tide goes out, you’ll find all sorts of sea life in the tide pools left behind including starfish, anemones and crabs.

The views of the rock formations from Sculptured Beach make it an excellent spot for photographers and is unlike any other beach you’ll find in the state or country.

Black Sands Beach

Black Sands Beach in Northern California is secluded and as unique as a beach in the United States gets.

True to its name, it features stunning black sand and a number of natural reefs that sit just offshore.

Part of the reason it’s often completely deserted is that you’ll have to hike in on the 20-mile long Lost Coast Trail to reach it.

But for those who are up for the challenge, it’s a beach that only a small number of the population will ever be able to claim they stepped foot on.

Wildcat Beach

A waterfall that dumps water directly onto the beach at low tide and into the ocean at high tide?  

Sign me up for this hidden gem, which is Wildcat Beach.

You’ll need to tackle an 8-mile round trip hike to get to and return from Wildcat Beach, but if you’re up to the challenge, it’s so worth it.

Nearby Alamere Creek flows over the cliffs above the beach, creating the waterfall that cascades onto the sand at low tide.

Wildcat Beach becomes fully swallowed up at high tide, but watching the waterfall dump into the ocean from the trail when this happens is pretty awesome.

Point Reyes South Beach

There’s nothing that spectacular about Point Reyes South Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore, except that it offers long, spacey beaches that you’ll often find deserted even during the summer.

The wide-open beach space it offers makes it perfect for long, leisurely walks, beachcombing, and picnicking, while the powerful waves make it a good spot for surfing.

You can also spot wildlife here, with a number of seabirds constantly flying about and the occasional seal and whale sighting offshore.

While Point Reyes South Beach doesn’t offer much in the way of spectacular rock formations or views, it’s an excellent place to lay on a towel in your classic beach setting with some added peacefulness sans the crowds.

El Matador State Beach

El Matador State Beach is one of Los Angeles’ best-kept secrets, hidden within Malibu and part of the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach.

It’s recognized for its dramatic rock formations, including caverns and archways that create a picturesque setting for beach goers and photographers.

You’ll need to descend a cliffside trail to reach it from the parking lot, but once there you can walk among the archways and rock pillars to a secluded cave that can be explored during low tide.

And one of the best parts is, you’ll rarely find a crowd here.

Marshall’s Beach

One of the few hidden gems you’ll find near San Francisco is Marshall’s Beach, which sits just north of the ever-popular Baker’s Beach.

It offers a small beach area that offers plenty of room to walk the beach with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and is much less crowded than what you’ll find at Baker’s Beach.

You likely don’t want to swim in the freezing cold water here any time of year, but catching a sunset with a view of the bridge from this beach is pretty magical.

South Ponto Beach

Most every beach in San Diego will be packed to the gills during the summer.

Not so for South Ponto Beach, located just north of San Diego in an undeveloped area at the edge of Carlsbad County.

South Ponto Beach offers a beautiful stretch of sand towards where the waves crash, with the sand rising upwards and giving way to smooth stones the further you get from the ocean towards the dune.

This is more of your classic beach experience, but is hidden away from most of the crowds that fill other San Diego beaches.

Silver Strand Beach

Silver Strand Beach offers around a one-mile stretch of sandy beach that is hidden away in a private neighborhood and blocked off on both the northern and southern ends.

On the southern end, there’s a wall of artsy murals that borders the Port Hueneme Naval Base and blocks off the beach.

On the northern end, the beach is sealed off by the ocean inlet to Channel Islands Harbor.

This spot is really only known among locals, and they cherish it as their very own secret beach.

Aside from offering soft, white sand, this beach also attracts local surfers thanks to awesome waves that break on the shore during the winter.

Final Word

If you’re looking for a unique beach experience without the crowds you’ll find at California’s most popular beaches, these eleven hidden gems on the California coast are well worth consideration.