Things to do in San Jose

Explore the Top Beaches in San Jose

Let San Jose's surrounding beaches wash away your worries with a splash of fun.

In and around San Jose, nature can be your own personal playground. One of the most popular things to do in San Jose is to visit the abundant beaches, where you'll discover a myriad of sights, sounds, and smells and delight in the warm California sun.

Whether you're interested in admiring panoramic views of the coastline, riding your surfboard, or taking in nature, there's a beach in San Jose, California, for you. Our top picks offer the perfect getaway when you need a break from the urban landscape and San Jose's landmarks.

Pack your beach bag, grab a friend or family member, and prepare to be wowed by the beauty of these beaches.

Santa Cruz County Beaches

Santa Cruz County has some of the most stunning beaches around San Jose. Whether you're heading out for a family-friendly affair or a peaceful nature experience, you'll find a beach you love.

1. Natural Bridges State Beach

At Natural Bridges State Beach, nature abounds. It's a prime location to visit if you want to watch wildlife in its natural habitat.

Bird watchers can observe shorebirds hopping about and pecking at the sand as they look for their next meal. If you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of whales migrating as they display their majesty by breaching.

You'll see sea life, such as sea stars, crabs, and anemones, as you explore the exposed, rocky shoreline of the tide pools. This beach is also home to the Monarch Grove, the only monarch butterfly preserve in the state.

Photographer: Robert Gourley

2. Santa Cruz Main Beach

Santa Cruz Main Beach is the polar opposite of Natural Bridges State Beach. Rather than admiring the pristine natural environment, people flock here for entertainment. The boardwalk and amusement park on the waterfront offer ample opportunities to play the day away.

The amusement park has rides for the whole family, ranging from a gentle carousel and speedboats to high-thrill rides that launch you six stories into the air. If you dare, hop onto the rides. They'll bring you up to dizzying heights for unforgettable views of the ocean backdrop.

When you've worn yourself out from all the adrenaline and excitement, make your way to the sandy shores, or enjoy a refreshing swim.

3. Seabright State Beach

Nestled between Santa Cruz Main Beach and Santa Cruz Harbor, you'll discover Seabright State Beach, where beach sports reign supreme. Surf, swim, or paddleboard to your heart's content while sailboats drift on the horizon.

The athletes in your group can play sand volleyball at the nets, or you can walk along the coastline and soak in the salty breeze. Gather some wood and build a bonfire to roast marshmallows or hot dogs as the sun sets for an unforgettable evening.

4. Twin Lakes State Beach

With about a mile of sandy shores to explore, Twin Lakes State Beach Twin Lakes State Beach sits next to Santa Cruz Harbor. It attracts a lot of daily attention from locals and tourists, but it's usually less crowded than the previously mentioned beaches.

It's perfect for surfing and swimming, and a few fire rings dot the sand, where you can set up a bonfire and enjoy a picnic.

Keep an eye out for local wildlife. All sorts of ocean mammals, including whales, seals, sea lions, and dolphins, are known to call this swath of sand and sea home. January, in particular, is a busy month for whales migrating through the area.

5. Capitola Beach

Capitola Beach is less than an hour's drive from San Jose. It has some of the most unique seaside vistas in the area, and benches line the shoreline. What sets it apart? The sand is lined with vibrantly painted condos reminiscent of something out of the Mediterranean, only much brighter.

The splash of color adds an element of fantasy. But remember, people live here, so try to keep the gawking to a minimum. If you need something that's just as lively to stare at, try checking out one of our shows instead!

Photographer: Beau Barnett

6. New Brighton State Beach

Little beats visiting the beaches near San Jose, but camping overnight at one definitely takes the cake. Also located in Capitola, New Brighton State Beach is a 93-acre park situated along the coast of Santa Cruz.

The walk from the campground to the beach transports you through a tranquil forested trail lined with eucalyptus and pine trees. This beach is the perfect escape from the urban world as you relax in a natural sanctuary.

Settle in to build massive sandcastles as the salt-kissed breeze cools you from the hot sun, or take a dip in the sea. Sports are popular here, and the California Beach Company offers equipment rentals and surfing and paddleboard lessons on the shore.

7. Rio Del Mar State Beach

Rio Del Mar State Beach offers everything you could ever want for a daytime trip to the beach. Fish, surf, and swim all day long, or enjoy a picturesque walk through soft sands.

This beach is pet-friendly, so you can bring your best furry friend, but dogs must be kept on a leash. Aptos Creek flows into the beach, and each summer, it creates a lagoon to explore.

If you enjoy history, you don't want to miss the ruins of the SS Palo Alto near the shore. The ship, built out of concrete in 1919 during a steel shortage, has a tale of its own. Initially designed for military service, it was eventually purchased and converted into a tourist attraction. Now, its remains serve as an artificial reef, housing local wildlife.

San Mateo County Beaches

Looking for more beaches near San Jose? San Mateo County's beaches stretch across the coast along Half Moon Bay, promising splendid sights and sounds.

8. Montara State Beach

The ocean and mountains collide at Montara State Beach. Located just outside Montara, it draws all sorts of visitors looking for coastal hikes, horseback rides, and excellent opportunities for surfing or fishing.

Here, you'll find an exclusive, undisturbed coastal mountain habitat, making the beach and its trails prime real estate for nature watching. If you time it right, exposed tide pools offer a glimpse into sea life as you watch crabs and starfish scuttle across the bottom.

If you love bird-watching, venture into the scrublands for stellar views of cinnamon teal, buffleheads, and more.

Secret Travel Guide

9. Half Moon Bay State Beach

Explore through four miles of sandy beaches surrounded by bluffs and fields at Half Moon Bay State Beach. The park comprises four protected beaches: Francis, Venice, Dunes, and Roosevelt. Each offers its own charm and deserves to be explored at least once.

If you're up for a multi-day beach excursion, you can camp in tents or RVs on Francis Beach. This stretch of beaches is the perfect place to picnic, wander through nature, and let the ocean breeze blow away your worries.

If you're in the mood to explore, traverse the Coastside Trail, which takes you through all four beaches. Be sure to stop by the visitor center, where you can learn about the beach and its rich cultural history.

10. Poplar Beach

Poplar Beach also sits along Half Moon Bay. It's part of Blufftop Coastal Park, just half a mile from Half Moon Bay State Beach. Poplar Beach is incredibly popular, and dogs and horses are welcome. Marvel at the seas surrounded by green hills and golden sands, or hitch a ride on a surfboard.

To access the beach, you need to hike down a steep trail through the bluff, so it's a good idea to leave your sandals in your beach bag and put on your hiking boots. The paved Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail runs alongside the beach, offering a path for a stroller in tow or a nice seaside bike ride.

11. San Gregorio State Beach

San Gregorio State Beach invites exploration amid its rugged terrain and tranquil sands. Here, you can opt for a peaceful picnic on the beach or put on your hiking boots and traverse the sandstone cliffs—if you dare. The cliffs are dotted with caves, and if you're lucky, you may even find a few fossils.

Steep coastal bluffs create a stark border between land and sea. This beach is a haven for nature lovers, especially those who love to watch wildlife. The estuary, where San Gregorio Creek meets the sea, is loaded with driftwood and home to all sorts of birds.

12. Pescadero State Beach

Experience nature in all its untamed glory at Pescadero State Beach. The sandy and picturesque northern side of the beach is perfect for a family trip.

On the south side of the beach, you'll find several rocky coves with sand at the bottom. At high tide, the sea goes right up to the bluffs. You don't want to miss the natural rock arch. It's only accessible during low tide, and you can walk right through it.

13. Bean Hollow State Beach

Bean Hollow State Beach offers a unique beach experience. This mile-long stretch of coast consists of two smaller beaches, Pebble Beach and Bean Hollow Beach. Just like the name implies, Pebble Beach's shore is made up of small, ocean-polished rocks, while Bean Hollow Beach beckons with all sorts of rocky tide pools.

While these beaches aren't safe for swimming, there's so much more to do and see. The Arroyo de los Frijoles Trail connects the two, and panels are located along the trail to provide a self-guided nature tour.

Photographer: Jeremiah Ross

Monterey County Beaches

The beautiful beaches of Monterey County surround the iconic Monterey Bay, where preserving nature is the name of the game. If you have budding marine biologists, there's no shortage of family activities near San Jose.

14. Marina State Beach

Marina State Beach offers majesty rivaled by the stellar sunsets on the horizon.

Panoramic views from the shore overlook Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a federally protected sea where blue whales and dolphins play, and kelp forests ripple with sea life. While this beach isn't recommended for recreation due to riptides and strong currents, the steady winds make it a prime location for kite flying.

If you're more adventurous, launch off the bluffs and take to the skies for a spectacular hang-gliding or paragliding experience. You'll soar higher than our acrobats, and the views will not disappoint.

15. Monterey State Beach

If you want to see the sea from a whole new perspective, head over to Monterey State Beach, where scuba diving is one of the most popular activities.

If you're certified, you can snorkel and dive in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. You can watch schools of fish darting between the stunning kelp forests or visit the spectacular reefs that sponges, starfish, and crabs call home.

But you don't have to get wet to see the vibrant wildlife this region is known for. Peer into tide pools or go on a kayak adventure to watch harbor seals and sea otters play. In fall, winter, and early spring, migrating gray whales appear on the horizon.

16. Asilomar State Beach

With a nearby hotel, Asilomar State Beach is a prime location for a seaside getaway. It has numerous rocky coves and sandy shores to explore, and you'll spot surfers and kayakers enjoying a day under the sun.

Walking through the winding trails and along the boardwalk delights nature lovers. Side paths take you to tide pools filled with protected wildlife and grassy dunes. Keep your eyes peeled for all the animals teeming through the area. Otters dance near the shore, and birds flock here in spades.

Photographer: Mick Haupt

17. Moss Landing State Beach

Experienced surfers love Moss Landing State Beach, where phenomenal currents beckon to be tamed. The area is known for riptides and offshore drop-offs, so those with less experience should proceed with caution, and children should be watched carefully.

The panoramic views of Monterey Bay and the sand dunes make this beach popular among locals and tourists. The dunes block the afternoon winds just right, making this beach ideal for a picnic by the sea.

During the winter months, western snowy plovers use the beach as nesting grounds. These federally protected tiny shorebirds are a true treat to behold.

18. Lovers Point Park and Beach

This beach was formerly known as "Lovers of Jesus Point," back when it was a Methodist retreat camp. Nowadays, Lovers Point Park and Beach attracts anyone vying for fun in the sun.

The beach is safe for swimming and features a seaside children's pool, snack bar, and restaurant. It's also one of the only east-facing beaches on the West Coast. You don't want to miss the sunrise, when the skies take on pastel hues.

Exploring Coastal Retreats Near San Jose

There's no denying the beaches near San Jose are stunning. Each brings its own charm, inspiring dreams and inciting adventures in the hearts of those who set foot on their shores.

We like to believe our shows in San Jose are similar to the treks you take to these beaches. We bring you on an adventure where the possibilities are endless, just like the sea on the horizon.

Our shows transport you to fantastical new worlds, like those you discover when you enter new ecosystems or dive under the surface.

We revel in aesthetic grace with our choreography and costumes. Don't believe us? Dive on in to see one of our shows, and we'll do our best to prove it.

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