10 Best West Coast Beaches and What Makes Them Great

The West Coast of America offers a wonderful variety of beach experiences, from the eccentric to the remote. I’ve listed 10 of my favorites, along with what I think makes them great. In no particular order – my 10 best West Coast beaches.

Ocean Beach, San Diego area
If your ideal Southern California beach comes from something you’ve seen on MTV, OB might shock you a bit, and that’s probably a good thing. I first experienced it while in the Navy, and am pleased it’s retained a unique flair over the years. Ocean Beach is gritty, eclectic, funky and true to itself.

Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles area
I lived in El Segundo while working at LAX, at Manhattan Beach was my favorite beach in the area. If you are a fan of beach volleyball, Manhattan Beach is the center of that universe. Riding a bike south to Hermosa and Redondo provides a great beach experience.

Refugio Beach State Park, Goleta, California
Different from the city beaches like OB and Manhattan, Refugio offers good camping and a more natural experience, while still being close to town. The campsites are a little to close to the highway for my tastes, but the beach is where you will spend your time anyway.

Russian Gulch State Park, Mendocino, California
Situated just outside the very picturesque town of Mendocino, Russian Gulch offers a camping, headland hiking, and nice semi-secluded beach. You can also hike in redwoods to a small waterfall, and camping is more private than at some beaches.

Harris Beach State Park, near Brookings, Oregon
Heading north out of California and into Oregon, a stop a Harris Beach reveals a lovely stretch of sand just north of town. Harris Beach has great tide pools, hiking trails, and views of stack rocks. It also has some of the warmest beach weather in Oregon.

Heceta Head Lighthouse and beach, north of Florence, Oregon
One of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world has an awe-inspiring beach just below it. Visit the sand dunes near Florence, then on the drive north stop at Heceta Head. Even the road above the beach is scenic, as Highway 101 comes out of a tunnel and over an arching bridge. One of the most scenic beaches around.

Fogarty Beach State Park, north of Depoe Bay, Oregon
It’s just a marvelous stretch of scenic opportunity, the Oregon Coast. Just north of the “Whale Watching Capital of the World” of Depoe Bay, Fogarty Beach is exceptional. The park is located on both sides of Highway 101. Parking is away from the beach, which is a lovely crescent with some nice rocks. Picnic in the woods out of the wind, then head down and enjoy the beach.

Pacific City, Oregon, Cape Kiwanda State Park
A huge sand dune to climb, exceptional tide pools, a scenic haystack rock – and a nice brewery just to the south of the dune. Pelican Pub and Brewery offers good pub grub and artisan beers. I said the entire town because there’s also Bob Straub State Park, located on the spit created by the Nestucca River. You can climb a dune here, too.

Long Beach, Washington
The entire Long Beach peninsula in Southern Washington is mostly one long beach, with numerous access points. The towns on the drive up the peninsula each have their own flavor, and are worthy of exploration. Starting at Ilwaco on the southern end, go all the way up to Leadbetter Point State Park. There are hotels and many camping opportunities on the peninsula.

Second Beach, La Push, Washington
For remote beach beauty, it’s hard to beat the Pacific beaches around La Push. Second beach offers views of sea stacks, and wave action. Nearby First Beach has lodging available, and La Push is 12 miles north of the town of Forks.