A trip to the beach should mean communing with wind and wave, not worrying that you’ll contract meningitis if you hop in the water. Each year, California environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay releases its report card of the state’s healthiest beaches. These stretches of sand and surf maintain an A+ water quality year round, so they’re all good water sport spots. And beyond just healthy ocean, they offer some other great perks too. Grab your towel and your sunblock, because it’s time to explore the most pristine oceanside spots in the Golden State.
San Simeon Beach at Pico Ave., San Luis Obispo County
Hearst Castle has always kept San Simeon foremost in the minds of visitors to California’s beautiful Central Coast, and it’s well worth venturing beyond the castle walls. The city beach of San Simeon is a renowned bird paradise where San Simeon Creek meets the ocean. Watersport fans also flock to this spot, where both traditional and kite surfing are popular activities. Late-winter air temperatures and water temperatures alike hover in the mid-50s.
Morro City Beach, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo County
Behemoth Morro Rock, standing 581 feet, is the sentry protecting this picturesque stretch of paradise. Visitors enjoy the natural beauty of the region as well as hiking and golfing. Mild temperatures and brisk ocean breeze meet here. Water temps average in the 50s.
Oil Piers Beach, Ventura
Although “Oil Piers” seems an unlikely name for a beach with fantastic water quality, this Ventura jewel is absolutely worth a visit. Occupying the span between the communities of Mussel Shoals and Seacliff Beach Colony, Oil Piers is conveniently located next to Highway 101. The beach’s namesake oil piers were removed in 1998. The Channel Islands are visible on a clear day, making this a perfect location to take in the majesty of the Pacific. With temperatures that rarely dip below the 50s, this is a great year-round beach.
Portuguese Bend Cove, Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles County
While high tide swallows most accessible beaches at this point along the coast, low tide reveals a treasured series of tide pools. The overviewing land consists of five majestic hills, perfect for hiking and exploring. This beach’s relatively difficult accessibility and isolation makes it an ideal spot for a scenic adventure.
The Wedge, Newport Beach, Orange County
Newport Beach offers world renowned surfing and some of Southern California’s most breathtaking views. The Wedge is known for its powerful shore-breaking waves. Surf is best during the summer and fall, though the mild temperatures of SoCal make it a popular destination year round. If the surf is less than ideal, explore some of the fabulous beachfront homes or sit and watch the boats come in. A day here is always well spent.
San Elijo State Beach, Encinitas, San Diego County
Bring your tent or your trailer and while away a few days on this unassumingly pretty stretch of sunny San Diego. Visit in late winter, when the crowds have dispersed and temperatures can still reach the mid-70s. Check out the host of surf schools while you’re here to truly make the most of the experience.