10 Small Beach Towns In California That You'll Choose Over Venice – TheTravel

These cozy California towns may not be famous, but they do offer the perfect getaways for vacationers looking for tranquil, small-town escapes.
California has no shortage of charming beach communities with spectacular oceanfront scenery; adventurous outdoor recreation; hip eateries, eclectic boutiques, and chic resorts. However, even California’s coziest towns are not always the great escapes vacationers are looking for. Think famed beach towns like Laguna Beach and Venice, which tend to attract tons of tourists and parades would-be beachgoers, turning a tranquil retreat into crowded chaos.
However, California’s long, scenic coastline means that there are plenty of other small-town gems dotted along the Pacific. And these charming hideaways are perfect getaways for travelers looking for the ultimate beach retreat—offering plenty of recreation, attractions, and natural beauty, all without sacrificing those tranquil small-town Cali vibes.
A lovely Estero Bay resort town about halfway between L.A. and San Francisco, the Pacific Coast gem Cayucos might as well be a million miles away. Complete with charming coastal vibes and a small-town Americana feel, this beachy beauty has plenty of quaint spots to explore—including a historic pier dotted with shops, restaurants, and stellar sea views.
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Located on beautiful Humboldt Bay, Arcata’s laidback beach town vibes are low-key enough to make any vacationer feel like they scored the R&R retreat of a lifetime. Often referred to as a “hippie haven,” Arcata’s artsy air only adds to its charm and natural beauty.
A bustling burg whose “panorama perfect” vibes are the epitome of California (small town) cool, Oxnard’s location close to L.A. and Santa Barbara gives it a distinctly metropolitan vibe. Think plenty of historic buildings; top-notch dining; hip, eclectic shops; and, of course, a ton of beautiful beaches—the perfect spot for visitors to do some California dreamin’.
Road trippers could easily miss the sleepy town of Davenport while traveling along CA’s Highway 1; however, this laidback charmer is definitely worth a stop. Once a whaling village, today, the low-key Davenport is known for its scenic beaches and delish local wineries, in addition to its off-the-beaten-track vibes.
With a location off the Cali mainland, the Santa Catalina Island treasure of Avalon has no shortage of breathtaking views and beautiful beaches—making it a longtime seaside haunt for A-listers. However, despite its fame and reputation, Avalon has not lost any of its small-town charm and remote, relaxing appeal that makes it one of Cali’s coolest coastal gems.
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A cozy coastal town with chill vibes and breathtaking beachy beauty, Fort Bragg is the perfect escape for those who want to get lost in nature. A cozy Cali retreat, Fort Bragg is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who will love its stunning state parks, while laidback vacationers seeking R&R will bask in the area’s plethora of scenic beaches.
Picture-perfect Capitola is a Santa Cruz stunner whose sandy beaches and bay views make the “oldest Pacific Coast resort” a popular tourist destination. However, the popular spot still keeps much of its small town due to its laidback, surfer-friendly vibes and chill, friendly eateries, wineries, and tasting rooms.
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A seaside village known for its casual, relaxed luxury, La Jolla has no shortage of scenic coastal beauty and low-key, luxe charm. Outdoor enthusiasts will bask in the outdoor opportunities, while R&R seekers will love the elevated eateries, upscale shops, and sumptuous spas—the perfect Cali combo.
The aptly named Shelter Cove is a hidden gem whose location on the Lost Coast undoubtedly makes it one of Cali’s best small towns. Tranquil, scenic, and picturesque, the pedestrian-friendly town is made for strolling and exploring—and for those who love the great outdoors, there’s no shortage of outdoor recreation, too.
Travelers looking for the ultimate laidback vacay vibes will find their zen in the cozy beach town of Carpinteria. Complete with breathtaking beaches, an eclectic, bustling downtown, and a quirky, offbeat tourist attraction (Tar Pit Park), there’s something for everyone in this tiny town that’s a cool day (or weekend!) trip from Santa Barbara.
Lisa fell in love with travel from the first minute she ever stepped foot on a plane (though it took awhile!) Ever since, she has had a passion for learning, exploring, and discovering new places, and loves the opportunity to write about so many amazing spots all over the world. Though she doesn’t have any recent stamps on her passport, she hopes to be able to get back on a plane sometime (very) soon. In lieu of international travel, Lisa enjoys finding little adventures everyday in her own backyard that often involve the outdoors; and one of her favorite places to go is the Catskills and upstate New York. She also enjoys photography and nature is one of her favorite subjects (especially trees!) Lisa has been lucky enough to visit Costa Rica, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden and hopes that there is much more travel in her future–until then, she is happy to act as a guide to travelers everywhere who love to learn about the world as much as she does.