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7 California Beach Towns to Visit This Winter

In the Golden State, you can enjoy a relaxing seaside getaway in a sunny locale any time of year.

U.S. News & World Report

7 California Beach Towns to Visit This Winter

California - USA.

Want a break from the cold? Escape it all and embrace ample opportunities for sunbathing, surfing and catching up on R & R in the Golden State.(Getty Images)

While temperatures may be dropping around much of the country, the weather at California's beaches remains relatively mild. In December, the southern part of the state features average highs in the mid-60s, and northern beach towns like Carmel-by-the-Sea usher in comfortable highs in the upper 50s. Whether you want to swim, surf, hike, bike or walk along the beach before warming up by a warm fire at night, California offers iconic sands, enchanting parks and striking scenery. These charming beach towns will leave you longing for a coastal California getaway this winter.

Pacific Beach

The San Diego area offers a variety of beach towns, each with their own personality and scene. Pacific Beach is a lively seaside neighborhood north of the city that's popular with younger beachgoers who rollerblade, bike, skateboard and stroll along the paved Ocean Front Walk. What's more, the area appeals to families with kid-friendly restaurants, including the trendy Backyard Kitchen & Tap and the charming Woody's Breakfast and Burgers beach stand. As for accommodations, Blue Sea Beach Hotel and other hip properties offer modern accommodations and amenities like '80s-style video games in the lobby and beach chairs for rent. You can also stay in cottages that line Pacific Beach's Crystal Pier, which afford striking ocean views. A variety of family-friendly rental homes also line the beachfront and offer captivating ocean views.

La Jolla

La Jolla, the quieter and more upscale town north of San Diego, is known for its rocky cliffs and sea caves. Seals and sea lions frequent this area, which can make for a fun encounter for kids. Venture to the storied Cave Store or kayak in the ocean through sea caves with adventure company Everyday California and keep your eyes peeled for sea lions. Kids will also enjoy peeking inside tide pools left inside the ocean rocks at low tide. After enjoying some outdoor activity, peruse the area's charming boutiques, grab authentic Italian fare at Cafe Milano and retreat to the Mediterranean-style La Valencia Hotel.

Laguna Beach

One of Orange County's most popular beach towns is Laguna Beach, a quaint artist colony that sits among picturesque sea coves and rocky shores along the famous Pacific Coast Highway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Wander through downtown to browse more than 100 art galleries and other local shops or take a walk along the Main Beach, keeping an eye out for dolphins. Main Beach is also a treasure trove of tide pools full of sea life. Laguna Beach offers a free trolley year round to take visitors throughout the area, and hotels like the Inn at Laguna Beach, the Holiday Inn Laguna Beach and Montage Laguna Beach offer a range of places to stay, no matter your price point.

San Clemente

Just south of Laguna Beach in Orange County is the Spanish-style San Clemente, which exudes the sophistication of northern coastal destinations like Santa Barbara. Known for its iconic clock tower that has stood on the beach since 1968, San Clemente is a relaxed village with the atmosphere and charm of a mid-century California seaside town. At the main City Beach stands a historic 1,200-foot fishing pier with locally owned seafood restaurants serving hungry beachgoers. Venture down the town's Avenida Del Mar for shopping, dining and the weekly farmers market, and lay your head atl Casa Tropicana, an upscale boutique hotel.


You might think you're stepping into a fairy tale when you visit Carmel-by-the-Sea. Located to the south of Monterey, this coastal village is filled with fanciful houses and high-end galleries and shops. Biking through its winding streets and along the well-named Scenic Road that runs along the ocean is a lovely way to while away a winter afternoon. Walk into the captivating village area populated with restaurants and shops and spend time meandering through the former home of poet Robinson Jeffers, which includes a stone cottage, gardens and an Irish-style tower with 360-degree vistas. Nearby Point Lobos State Natural Reserve offers ocean scenery, plentiful seals and picturesque hiking trails. La Playa Carmel is an upscale hotel choice, or try the motel-turned-trendy boutique property Hotel Carmel.

Coronado Island

Frequently named one of America's top beaches, Coronado Island offers the best of San Diego combined with island living. Just across San Diego Bay, Coronado is not only home to the Hotel del Coronado, famous for its iconic red roofs, but also a naval base and a top public golf course. While lounging at the beach, keep an eye out for Navy Seals who may be training in the surf. The island is also ideal for biking. Explore its picture-perfect homes and bay views of downtown San Diego from behind two handlebars.

Venice Beach

Venice Beach, also known as LA's quirky beach town, has long been known for its eclectic band of characters who call the area home. With more high-profile people moving to the area and features on TV series like Netflix's "Flaked," Venice has become a trendy destination. Touring its maze of canals gives you a feel for the local scene and the area's mix of architecture. A bike ride along the Venice Beach Bike Path up to Santa Monica Pier, a walking tour of area murals and shopping Abbot Kinney Boulevard are all must-dos when in town. Several hotels, including Hotel Erwin and The Kinney Venice Beach, provide modern California-inspired accommodations.

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About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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