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So, you know LA for its web of car-clogged highways and sprawling urban scenes, but did you know it’s also home to some of California’s hottest beaches? Get ready for some serious sun-soaking, surf-catching, spray-tan rocking, and a soundtrack of perpetual Beach Boys hits with our laid-back guide to the coolest coastlines in LA.

Santa Monica Beach

First-timers, your beach journey starts at the iconic Santa Monica Pier. Picture this: a solar-powered ferris wheel, fish shacks, souvenir stands, and, of course, a trapeze school for those casual beginners (because who doesn’t want to try trapeze by the beach?). Venture south of the boardwalk to the Original Muscle Beach, an outdoor gym that’s been pumping up bodybuilders since the ’30s. And hey, there’s more – farmers markets, antique fairs, beachside yoga, and music festivals to keep you entertained. Parking can be a puzzle, so come early or park a bit away and enjoy the stroll to the sandy shore.

Venice Beach

Welcome to the bohemian vibe of Venice Beach, where street performers, exhibitionists, and a random basketball match might just be waiting for you. In the water, catch some waves or witness jaw-dropping skills at the beachfront skate park. Don’t miss the drumming circle on the sandy dunes, and yes, there’s another Muscle Beach here, famous thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1980s beefcake era. Word of advice: keep it a daytime visit; things get a bit sketchy after dark.

Dockweiler Beach

Looking for a party by the bonfire? Dockweiler Beach’s got you covered. Teens and White Claw enthusiasts unite around the public bonfire pits for a night of fun. The proximity to LAX means overhead flights, so it’s not the quietest spot, but it’s definitely a good time. With clear water, it’s one of the best beaches to take a swim, and RV parking is available for those wanting an overnight stay after soaking in the sunset. Summer evenings call for lining up early for a fire pit, so bring your firewood and marshmallows.

Malibu Surfrider Beach

This stretch of Malibu Lagoon State Beach is a surfer’s dream, possibly the most famous surf break in the USA. Divided into three points, it caters to longboarders, speed enthusiasts, and those seeking wild waves. Not into surfing? No worries – take a dip, or enjoy birdwatching from the beach’s wooden pier. Be warned: it’s a popular spot, so expect crowds, and parking is like finding a golden ticket.

Manhattan Beach

Considered the birthplace of beach volleyball, Manhattan Beach is your family-friendly retreat away from the city grind. Shop, surf, swim, or simply soak in the view – there’s something for everyone. Kids will love the Roundhouse Aquarium, and foodies can explore the Downtown Manhattan Beach Farmers Market every Tuesday. It’s a beachy haven away from the urban hustle.