Which Beaches in California Have Sharks?

You might be planning to spend your yearly vacation on one of California’s beaches, but the thought of sharks is giving you anxiety.

Perhaps, you are a shark enthusiast looking for once in a lifetime experience swimming or surfing alongside this dreaded fish, or perhaps the mere thought of sharks is enough to keep you out of the water.

Whatever the case, a large percentage of Californian beaches are home to sharks.

Shark sightings and attacks have been reported from almost all Californian beaches since the year 2000.

Don’t be fooled by locations that lack a shark attack because most of them still fall within the danger zone.

Surf Beach, located next to the Vandenberg Airforce Base, is the most notorious, followed by Imperial Beach, close to the Mexico border and Oregon’s Klamath River Beach.

The California Pacific coast has warmer waters and sea forests, good breeding grounds for the smaller fish that sharks eat.

Shark sightings and tracking activities have been going on along this stretch for the last 22 years.

So, if you are looking for beaches in California without sharks, good luck with that!

Here is a list of top beaches with sharks in California:

1. Surf Beach at Vandenberg AFB in Lompoc, California

Lompoc, California

Using the Amtrak train parking area, you can access this public beach on Vandenberg Air Force Base next to Lompoc.

This beach has the highest number of recorded shark attack incidents in recent history, four of them being fatal.

Top activities here include bodyboarding and bird watching.

The period between October 1st and February 28th is the best for birdwatching because the areas south and north of the beach are closed for the rest of the year to protect bird nesting spots.

Be careful to read the signs and avoid going into the protected area because the whole beach will be closed for the rest of the nesting season if human violation exceeds the limits.

Snowy Plover birds usually gather in this area from the end of September to mate and raise their young.

The Surf Beach is only a small section of the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve. Leave your hook and line at home because no fishing is allowed.

During low tide, you can conduct three-mile beach walks and observe some spectacular sea caves on both sides of Surf Beach.

Too bad the walk is prohibited during the nesting season and high tides. Surf Beach is also accessible by foot from the Ocean Beach County Park between October and February every year.

Surf Beach has excellent bird watching spots and large parking. However, you need to look for alternatives during summer because the beach can fill up.

2. North Salmon Creek Beach in Bodega Bay, California

North Salmon Creek Beach

Both Salmon Creek beaches and many others nearby are part of Sonoma Coast State Park (State Beaches).

North Salmon Creek and the surrounding beaches are part of Sonoma Coast State Park or the more extensive State Beaches.

The beach is famous for bird watching and sand bathing, although you need to be careful because sharks roam these shorelines.

You must walk along short paths to access the sand, which is plentiful at the Salmon River mouth.

Following the sand will get you to Coleman and Miwok, narrow rock beaches next to the highway.

Despite the ever-present threat of shark attacks and the cold water, you’ll still find people surfing on the northern side of the river outlet.

On the southern side of the brook mouth, the South Creek Beach has a parking lot that people use to avoid trampling the dunes on the beach.

If you desire to walk along the coast, wait until the summer when the ocean tide is favorable.

Birdwatching is also possible in the lagoon behind the beach.

3. Samoa Dunes Recreation Area in Eureka, California

Humboldt Bay

At the Humboldt Bay entrance south of North Jetty, on the Samoa Peninsula, is a sandy recreational area labeled Samoa Dunes Recreation Area.

The property was formerly occupied by the US military, as evidenced by a Coast Guard Station nearby.

You are even likely to run into a collapsed lighthouse and broken ammunition bunkers if you walk around.

The Bureau of Land Management now runs the place, which is a recreational area.

The beach is next to the highway. Highway 255, which runs across Arcata Bay from Eureka, should get you there.

On the New Navy Base Road, turn south and drive to the peninsula’s edge. Be prepared for unique beach activities, including driving off-highway vehicles, off-road motorcycles, and ATVs.

Beachcombing and birdwatching along the expansive northern side of the beach are also popular.

North Jetty, the harbor entrance, and the surrounding area are suitable for surfing. Only remember to keep an eye out for some curious sharks.

Samoa Boat Ramp County Park, a boat launch area in the neighborhood, offers RV camping spaces for camping enthusiasts.

4. Morro Rock City Beach in Morro Bay, California

Morro Rock City Beach

Morro Rock Beach is the last beach with recorded fatalities from shark bites. It is located in California between the Morro Strand State Beach and the famous Morro Rock.

The iconic Morro Rock is inside the protected Morro Rock State Park. This means visiting the area is more fun because you will see this iconic 581-foot-tall landform from afar along with potentially spotting sharks along the coast.

The beach is a popular destination with many parking lots, including on Coleman drive with restrooms and other utilities.

There are two more parking areas, one at 1700 Embarcadero and the second one at the beginning of Coleman Park.

These last two locations are less populated and therefore lack essential amenities. If you brought along your camper, there is a camping ground at Morro Strand State Beach.

5. Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach, California

Huntington Dog Beach

Huntington Dog Beach, owned by City Beach, is a dog-friendly recreational area in Huntington Beach, City Beach.

Popular activities here include running, biking, skating, dog walking, fishing, surfing, and beach walking. Amenities include a grass park, restrooms, an off-leash dog beach, showers, and picnic activities for pets.

With a 6-foot leash, you can walk your dogs between 21st Street and Seapoint Street.

Note that Bolsa Chica State Beach on the northern side of Seapoint Street is out of bounds for dogs.

Huntington Dog Beach has a lot of amenities. For instance, you can grab a meal in Park Bench Café, just a short drive from Goldenwest.

Several parking lots run along the eroding cliff next to the Pacific Coast Highway. Runners, bikers, and others who want to walk or walk their dogs can use the Huntington Beach Bike Trail, which runs on either side of the eroding bluff.

6. Mavericks Beach in Half Moon Bay, California

Mavericks Beach

Mavericks is not for you if you have a persistent fear of sharks. There is a greater safety risk associated with boating or surfing at this iconic surfing spot on the northern side of Half Moon Bay.

Waves can even reach five stories in height, and if that doesn’t make chills run down your spine, hundreds of great white sharks will.

The expansive surf area is just a quarter of a mile from cliff-top viewing spots just outside Air Force military facilities.

You can easily spot a huge white ball that encloses the aircraft telemetry tracking dish at Pillar point.

Mavericks is home to an iconic surfing competition started in 1999 and held annually when and if it’s safe to do so.

Popular activities on this beach include surfing, birdwatching, hiking, and whale watching.

You can sunbathe on the beach when the weather cooperates or walk your dogs with the locals.

Dogs are allowed to roam freely, provided that they don’t wander close to the Pillar Point Marsh.

Mavericks is accessible from Highway 1. Drive across the Half Moon Bay area, then turn onto West Point Avenue, which will lead you to a parking lot in Pillar Point Marsh.

Use a hiking trail that runs down the harbor, then turn right and continue with the trail until you see a dock extending from the shore.

Keep looking at the surf while walking because rogue waves often hit the beach. The walls on the eroding cliffs are also crumbling, especially outside the jetty, so avoid walking too close.

Sorry campers, no camping allowed at Mavericks. However, there are enough hotels with toilets and other amenities.

The parking lot near the beach is locked after dusk.

7. San Onofre State Beach – Surfing Beach (Old Man’s) in San Clemente, California

San Onofre State Beach

San Onofre state beach is a surfing beach located near Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.

Also known as Old Man’s and San O, you can drive from San Clemente and get to this public beach using the Old Pacific Highway.

The beach is on the northern side of a decommissioned nuclear power station, clearly visible from the road.

San Onofre State Beach stretches for 3 miles along the coastline adjacent to San Onofre Beach, located between San Mateo Creek and Camp Pendleton.

Note that people are not allowed to surf at San Onofre Beach, where the power plant is located.

If you enjoy surfing here, do so safely. The power plant, which includes 48 miles of decommissioned nuclear waste, is still highly irradiated.

If you want to watch surfers in action, there are two other beaches limited to swimming and surfing – one at Seaside and the other at Capistrano Beach.

Activities here include surfing, sunbathing, bonfires, fishing, and volleyball courts. You are only allowed into this beach area until dusk.

But unlike other beaches, dogs are out of bounds, whether leashed or unleashed. Campers and hikers can utilize the neighboring Bluffs Beach, which offers many trails and RV campgrounds.

8. Sandspit Beach – Montana de Oro State Park in Los Osos, California

Montana de Oro Beach

If you want to picnic at the beach, head to Montana de Oro Beach. The greatest and most famous attraction here is the promontory of cliffs, especially the southernmost point and a 4–mile-long stretch of beach between Ortega inland Highway 1.

Montana de Oro State Park is famous for its beautiful sandspit at the north end of the Baywood Park lagoon.

There are no waves here but plenty of wind that can reach up to 50 miles per hour or more.

The northernmost point provides a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore or cycle along the cliffs, parallel to Ortega inland Highway 1.

Getting here is not very difficult as there are plenty of nearby roads. You can find access by way of Santiago Canyon Road, which you will find south of Oso Avenue.

There is a parking lot at the western end of the sandbar and a few picnic tables near the cliffs where you can grab a bite.

Activities include hiking, surfing, fishing, beach walking, and beachcombing. Amenities include dunes, restrooms, trails, and picnic areas.

You should avoid bringing your dogs along because they aren’t allowed on the trails or the beach.

Fortunately, free parking is provided while you grab a meal at the restaurants.

9. Marina State Beach in Marina, California

Marina State beach

On Monterey Bay, in Marina City, lies a protected area known as Marina State beach, which you can access if you go westwards on Reservation Road.

The sandy beach sits below rugged dunes, and you’ll often see hang gliders doing their thing, assisted by the high-speed winds.

You also get a nice view of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

While the chances of being attacked by a shark are almost nill, the danger is real, and you never know.

Previous incidents have proven that these feared fishes roam these waters. For instance, a 27-year-old surfer was ferociously attacked in 2011, sustaining life-threatening neck and arm injuries.

Activities at this beach include whale watching, hiking, surfing, beachcombing, and biking. Amenities include trails, a campground, and restrooms.

Additionally, you can walk your leashed furry friends on beaches 1 and 6. The best times to go here are early in the morning, late afternoon, or Tuesday to Sunday evenings when a small pier opens for fishing.

10. Dillon Beach in Dillon Beach, California

Dillon Beach

Dillon Beach is located in the town of Dillon Beach. It’s a narrow beach between two rocky coastlines and a 0.5-mile-long stretch of sand perfect for wading or surfing, although it gets busy during weekends.

The town is famous for its cranberries, which you can buy at the local market just beside Main Street.

The Tandori Indian Cuisine restaurant is where you can get authentic curry dishes served at affordable prices.

Dillon Beach is privately owned but open to the public. There are plenty of services available here, including restrooms, picnic tables, tide pools, fire pits, and cabins.

Dogs are only allowed on leash, and parking fees apply.

To get to Dillon Beach from Tomales town, drive westwards on Dillon Beach Road. The nearest major highway is Route 1, which you’ll find at the beach’s western end.

There are plenty of campsites available so that those who want to spend more time on the beach can do so comfortably.

Activities include surfing, tide pooling, bonfires, and bodyboarding. The area is open to the public with free parking.

11. Gaviota State Park Beach in Goleta, California

Gaviota State Park Beach

Gaviota State Park Beach is located in the beach town of Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara. It’s one of the best surfing beaches in Southern California.

The town is situated in a valley between the granite bluffs and sandy beaches, which reach out to Hwy 192 and Hwy 150.

North of the pier, there are two separate stretches of sandy beach. If you’re surfing, these are the places where you’ll find more waves and the best surfing.

The southernmost stretch of beach has a narrow strip of land with a small camping area located to the west.

At Northside Beach, a larger parking lot is located to the east, allowing more people to enjoy this stretch of beach.

There are small bars for those who want to enjoy drinks.

There is a campground, restrooms, outdoor showers, and a camping store. You can swim and play in the tidepools located in the rocks by the ocean.

If you love surfing, this is the place to go.

Activities include fishing, swimming, boating, geocaching, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, camping, and beach walking.

There are picnic areas near each end of the beach and plenty of parking spaces available nearby.

12. Davenport Landing Beach in Davenport, California

Davenport Landing Beach

Davenport Landing Beach is a 2-mile-long stretch of granite that is wide open and relatively flat.

The waves here are pretty powerful, making them suitable for surfing, bodyboarding, and longboarding.

The water here is usually cold and the weather cool and windy.

Davenport Landing Beach was created as part of a sand-filled breakwater built back in 1934. The purpose of this breakwater was to prevent waves from wrecking the beach.

This area is located at the entrance to the harbor, and you may spot some marine life like great white sharks.

Activities include surfing, whale watching, windsurfing, tide pooling, and sunbathing. There are 3.5 miles of trails that are open to the public by parking at either end of the beach or at Davenport Landing Park.

Davenport Landing Beach is located at the southern end of Davenport Cove, which connects with Davenport Harbor.

Amenities include restrooms, a kids’ play area, tide pools, accessible features, and picnic tables.