The Most Instagrammable Beaches in Los Angeles California: LA's Best Beaches for Photography
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
I recently decided to move to Lake Tahoe after living in Los Angeles for 6 years. I have to admit that I struggled a bit with the decision to leave L.A because let's be honest; Los Angeles is hard to beat in terms of its weather, location, and of course..its plethora of beautiful beaches. I ultimately decided to make the move to Tahoe but before I hit the road, I wanted to compile and share with you a list of what I consider to be some of the best beaches in Los Angeles.
Of course when I say "best" what I mean is most photogenic or dare I say it "insta-worthy". The beaches on this list are all excellent photo locations, each for their own unique reasons. And hey, although this post was written with photography in mind, if you're not big on snapping photos and are just looking for some great beaches to explore in LA, you'll still enjoy this list..
From Malibu to Palos Verdes here are 9 of the most photogenic beaches in Los Angeles California (in no particular order).
1. El Matador State Beach
Located right off the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, El Matador Beach is known for its dramatic rock formations, sea arches, and all-around rugged beauty. Not too long ago El Matador was considered to be a hidden gem in Malibu, but that's not the case anymore. Word of its beauty has gotten out amongst the masses and it's now one of Malibu's most popular beaches. Of course if you are strategic about it (i.e. don't visit on weekends) you can avoid the crowds.
A distinguishing feature of El Matador is its keyhole sea arch [see first image]. It might be a little tough (although not impossible) to capture the arch without people walking into your shot, especially on weekends during sunset. There are also some lesser-known sea caves on the north end of the beach that are accessible during low tide. Read more about this section of the beach here.
The best time to photograph El Matador Beach is at sunset during low tide. If you come during high tide there won't be much beach left for you to shoot.
Extra Photo Tip: El Matador is a perfect setting to capture those dreamy long exposure shots so be sure to bring a tripod and Neutral Density filter.
2. Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach: a.k.a. the ritzy beach town in the South Bay. Manhattan Beach features two miles of sandy beach but the focal point is the Manhattan Beach Pier. Fun Fact: the Manhattan Beach Pier is the oldest pier on the entire west coast. Aside from that, it happens to be a stellar and quite popular photography location. Come here at sunset and you'll see a good amount of photogs with their tripods shooting around the pier. Surfers can often be spotted catching waves near the pier as well.
Sunset is a particularly beautiful time, especially at low tide when you can capture a clear reflection of the pier off the wet sand as the tide goes out.
Extra Photo Tip: You can capture a pretty epic shot directly underneath the pier during low tide at sunset [see first image]. I would recommend using a long-exposure setting.
3. Venice Beach
Now I may be biased because I lived here for 6 years, but Venice Beach just might be my favorite location on this list. There is always something to do, see, and of course photograph in eccentric Venice Beach. From surfers and skateboarders to the iconic Venice Beach Boardwalk and Venice Sign; you'll never be short on inspiration here. The landscape of Venice Beach really pops at sunset and I would highly recommend shooting at that time.
Extra Photo Tip: A great lens for shooting Venice Beach is a zoom lens as it offers versatility. You'll be able to get tight shots of surfers in the distance while also being able to go wide and capture all the letters in Venice Sign. Some great choices are the Tamron 24-70mm and the less expensive Tamron 28-300mm.
For more fun visuals of Venice Beach check out my post 15 Inspiring Sunset Photos of Venice Beach California.
4. Malibu Surfrider Beach
Like the name infers, Surfrider Beach in Malibu is a surfing hotspot. It also happens to be a very picturesque location. Surfrider Beach rests at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains and is home to the Malibu Pier.
Sunrise is a great time to shoot this beach as you will encounter plenty of surfers at this time. And as the sun rises over the Santa Monica Mountains, it casts a magical glow over the entire beach.
Extra Photo Tip: When shooting surfers it's always a good idea to use a zoom lens. Otherwise, they will look tiny in your shots. You can go for a super long lens, such as a 600mm (like many pro-surf-photographers do), but a 70-300mm will achieve nice results as well.
5. Leo Carrillo State Beach
Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu is only a couple of miles north of the earlier mentioned El Matador State Beach. Similarly, it features a rugged coastline with tidepools and sea caves that are accessible during low tide. Leo Carrillo, however, is much less crowded than El Matador. It's also a haven for surfers and features numerous hiking trails around the beach.
Sunset at low tide is a great time to photograph Leo Carrillo. Not only are the sea caves accessible, but you can also capture some beautiful shots of the sunset sky reflecting off the tidepools. This beach is also a popular spot for astrophotography.
6. Torrance Beach
Somewhat overlooked by the more popular beaches in the South Bay (e.g. Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo), Torrance is arguably more scenic, resting at the base of the Palos Verdes hillside. As you look south, the view is almost reminiscent of Hawaii, with green hills and rolling fog framing the beach. Looking north however, it's a different story. Unfortunately, when you look north, you get a not so pretty view of the water plant in the distance. But hey that's ok, the picturesque views towards the south more than make up for it. What also makes up for it is the fact that this beach is pretty much devoid of tourists making it a much less crowded location than some of the other beaches on this list.
7. Santa Monica Beach
Santa Monica Beach is probably the most popular location on this list, especially amongst tourists. It features the iconic Santa Monica Pier, which despite being a busy tourist attraction, is tons of fun to photograph! My favorite place to shoot from is the beach on the south side of the pier (see the first image). This is a great angle to capture the iconic Santa Monica Ferris Wheel with the Santa Monica Mountains in the background.
There's plenty more to shoot than just the pier. The bike path along Santa Monica Beach provides some fun and (unpredictable) photo opportunities as well.
Extra Photo Tip: You can get some pretty epic shots at sunset during low tide when the lights of the ferris wheel are reflected onto the wet sand.
8. Hermosa Beach
Along with Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach is part of the trio of beach towns in the South Bay. Compared to its neighbor, Hermosa Beach has a more laid-back party vibe with its string of rowdy bars and restaurants lining the Pier Plaza and the surrounding area.
The Hermosa Pier and the famous Strand provide some nice opportunities to capture the essence of the SoCal lifestyle with its share of surfers, skateboarders, and rollerbladers whizzing by.
9. Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park in Ranchos Palos Verdes is known for its rugged beaches, tide pools, sea caves, and numerous trails along the bluffs. Hike up any of the trails and you will be greeted with spectacular ocean views. Hike down to the water and you'll find tons of tide pools and caves to explore. The water around Abalone Cove is quite pristine (hence the turquoise color) making it a favored spot for snorkeling and spotting marine life.
Be sure to check out Inspiration Point, one of the most stunning oceanside vistas in Ranchos Palos Verdes.
There you have it, The Most Instagrammable Beaches in Los Angeles California. L.A is full of beautiful beaches and I'm sure I missed a few. I'd love to know what some of your favorite beach spots are in the Los Angeles area. Please share in the comments!
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