17 Sensational Beaches in Monterey You Shouldn’t Miss

Visiting the beaches in Monterey is a major US bucket list item!

The blue water, white sandy beaches, and views of the Monterey Bay and mountains in the distance is an experience that you shouldn’t miss when in town.

This is a town full of history, good food, and natural beauty. There is so much to see and do while you are exploring the area. Hands down though, enjoying the beautiful beaches is one of the top things to do in Monterey.

You can find dog-friendly beaches, kid-friendly beaches, hidden beaches, undisturbed beaches, and more. There truly is something for everyone. So, no matter who you are traveling with or what type of beach you are looking for, you are sure to have a good time in Monterey.

Ask yourself what to do in Monterey California no longer, the answer is beach-hopping! Let’s get started and learn about the top beaches in the idyllic Monterey County, California.

Monterey Beaches Map

Monterey Beach Clean Ups

If you are interested in doing a beach clean up while you are in Monterey, the Surfrider Foundation does monthly beach clean ups at various beaches in Monterey.

Each month, they are cleaning a different beach and they always meet at 10AM. So you can check their website for what days and beaches they will be cleaning. There’s no need to sign up ahead of time, just show up and they will provide bags, gloves, and anythings else you will need to participate in the clean up.

Top Dog Friendly Beaches in Monterey

Here are the top dog-friendly beaches in Monterey!

  • Monterey State Beach
  • Asilomar State Beach
  • Carmel River State Beach
  • Garrapata State Park

17 Best Beaches in Monterey to Visit

San Carlos Beach

Easily one of the best beaches on the Monterey Bay, San Carlos Beach can be found at Reeside Avenue and Cannery Row. Scuba divers and those looking to see wildlife favor this beach in Monterey.

Right next to the beach is the Coast Guard Pier. This pier is one of the most well known places in Monterey to see sea lions and seals. So, if the idea of sunbathing on a sandy beach while watching scuba divers and sea lions in the water, San Carlos is a must-visit!

Unfortunately, this is not one of the dog friendly beaches Monterey, so you doggos will have to skip visiting this bay gem. There is plenty of parking for this beach, but as you know, Monterey weather can be a little tricky with fog cover for days followed by a bright sunny day. On these sunny day, you can expect the parking lot to fill up pretty quickly.

When there are great weather days and you know others are going to want to be out enjoying the sunshine and pleasent temperatrues as well, head to San Carlos Beach earlier in the day to secure your parking spot. Parking is paid for by the hour.

If you haven’t already, download the Park Mobile app to pay for parking while you are at San Carlos Beach (like with most highly visited areas in the US, the Park Mobile app will be used for parking in the majority of Monterey.)

Beaches in Monterey are beautiful, there’s no doubt about that, but what makes this one so appealing, other than the obvious, is that there is also plenty of green space and picnic space. Picnic tables and a grass area make this a great place to have a picnic or throw a frisbee around.

beach with building on the coast, waves coming in gently with rocks in the water

Del Monte Beach

Del Monte Beach is among the best beaches in Monterey CA, it has vibrant blue water and an abundance of space so you aren’t likely to feel crowded here. This beach is sometimes listed as a hidden gem. This is only true for part of the beach! Either way, you should definitely check it out while in Monterey if you are wanting to get away from the beach going crowds.

This should also be on your radar if you are traveling with your doggos as this is one of the best dog friendly beaches in Monterey County. This beach has multiple access points with one of them being much busier and more touristy than others.

If you park at the Monterey Bay Parking Lot near Monterey Bay Kayaks you will have access to Del Monte Beach and a public restroom. You will also be able to see piers and the wharf from the beach. This is a good option if you want to walk to dinner afterwards or if you are traveling with little ones who need close access to a bathroom.

However, if you want something more secluded, park at the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail Parking. This is a free parking lot across from the entrance to the Naval Post Graduate School. From the parking lot you can take a long staircase up to the top of the sand dunes and then follow along the trail on the black top and then the sand trail.

This path takes you to a better stretch of beach that is wide and much less packed. Here, dogs are running free, people are scuba diving, sunbathers are lounging against the dunes, and you can have much more space to yourself to enjoy the beach.

walking path along beach, waves rolling in on the left, a hotel sits on the beach

Monterey State Beach

Monterey State Beach is among the nice beaches in Monterey CA that you should visit while you are in Monterey County. The beach stretches from Monterey to Seaside and is popular with paragliders.

If you drive along the stretch of Highway 1 that runs along the beach, you will see gliders in the air above the sand dunes. This beach can be seen from a part of the highway as well and it absolutely breathtaking when you see it for the first time. (Especially on a sunny day when the water looks translucent blue!)

Like with most beaches in Monterey Bay, parking can fill up pretty quick on good weather days. You can find parking off of the Cabrillo Highway on San Dunes Drive. The parking lot if called Seaside State Beach Parking Lot. From here, it is a short walk to the beach.

The Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail runs alongside the beach. You can follow it one direction and you will pass another beach or you can take it the other direction and it will take you to the Portola-Crespi Monument and more views of the monument.

a long sandy beach, water on the right, mountains in the background, green coastal plants in fore ground

Asilomar State Beach

Asilomar State Beach makes its way into the race for best beach near Monterey effortlessly as its white sandy beaches are in between lines of intense rocky coastline. Around the rocks are tidepools and on the sand, sea lions visit. This dreamy beach is something you won’t want to miss while on the Monterey Peninsula.

Undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Monterey to visit on your next visit, Asilomar State Beach is a great place to see these stunning natural features and wildlife up close. Even referred to as the Refuge By The Sea, Asilomar is a celebrated area on the Monterey Bay that is known for its dune ecosystem as well as its architectural significance.

Asilomar State Park was used as a young woman’s leadership camp in the early 1900s where many of its buildings were built by architect Julia Morgan. You can find parking all along Sunset Drive which runs alongside the beach. There’s also a lovely walking trail called the Asilomar Coastal Trail that you to follow as you explore the area and take in the sights along the beach.

Keep your eye out for the quaint little gazebo along the pathway. It is a great place to sit and rest while you enjoy the remarkable blue water and marine life playing below. The trail is a mixture of sand, wooden steps, and wooden boardwalks. You will see people of all ages and abilities along the trail.

rocky coastline with waves on the right and a road on the left that has cars parked alongside of it, beaches in monterey

Lovers Point Beach

Home to a top beach in the city and a beautiful rocky coastline, Lovers Point Park is among the best swimming beaches in Monterey. While this location is actually in Pacific Grove, it is only a few minutes’ drive away and well worth the visit.

This beach has soft sand, perfect coastal and bay views, seal and sea lion watching, crystal clear waters near the beach, and deep blue water further out into the bay.

Around the beach, there is a walking and biking trail that is very popular. You can also walk out to the water’s edge on strips of land that reach out into the bay from the trail. You are almost guaranteed to see either seals or sea lions so keep an eye out while you are relaxing on the beach.

lovers point beach,transparent water and sandy beach with kayaks parked on it, one kayak is in the water

McAbee Beach

Are you looking for beaches near Monterey Bay Aquarium? McAbee Beach can be reached a couple of ways. One is via a skinny alleyway on Cannery Row near Lalla Grill and a staircase that drops off into the sand will make you feel like you are accessing a secret beach that not everyone knows about.

You can also reach it from the other side of Lalla where you will see an old concrete wall with a painting of two fishermen. At this famous Cannery Row mural, start walking down to the water and you will find yourself on McAbee beach in front of the buildings on Cannery Row.

Beaches in Monterey genuinely come in every shape and size. McAbee Beach is not a huge beach; it is actually quite small, but the crystal blue water and beautiful views draw heaps of tourists and locals down to the water from Cannery Row every day.

water to the left, beach on the right, the waves are super gentle, one of the best beaches in monterey

Carmel Beach

If bold briny blue waters and wide sandy beaches is something that appeals to you, you need to make your way to Carmel Beach. One of the best beaches in Monterey area by a mile, Carmel Beach can be seen from down on the sand or from Scenic Road.

Scenic Road is a famous road on the Monterey Peninsula that gives you sensational views of the Carmel Bay. You can walk or drive this route to see the beach and surrounding areas. Or head on down to the beach where you can sunbathe, do some wildlife viewing, walk your dog, or simply enjoy the remarkable beauty of the area.

If you are looking for dog-friendly beaches in Monterey, it doesn’t get much better than Carmel Beach. Your dogs can be walked on a leash or if they are under voice-control, you can let them off the leash. This makes this beach one of the best things to do in Carmel if you are going to take a day trip to Carmel-By-The-Sea from Monterey.

If you choose to walk Scenic Road, there are benches along the path were you can rest. Parking can be found at the end of Ocean Avenue. Additional parking can be found along the street on Scenic Drive. One visit here, it is easy to see why this is widely considered to be one of the best beaches on the Monterey Peninsula.

a sandy walking path on the right, and beach with gentle rolling waves on the left, carmel beach, top beach in monterey

Salinas River State Beach

Among the good beaches in Monterey CA is Salinas River State Beach. This Monterey County beach has what hidden-gem hunters all long for. The isolation and beauty in this area are idyllic for those looking for undisturbed coastal beauty.

Other than finding solitude and natural beauty here on the beach, you will also find what appears to be a ship wreck. It is actually not a ship wreck, but a barge that washed ashore. This beached barge can be reached after a several mile walk on the Salinas River State Beach.

The barge washed ashore during a storm in December of 1983 and has been there ever since, despite initial efforts to remove it. If you like finding secret spots while traveling, this is probably the perfect beach for you!

a camera on a tripod on a beach taking a picture of waves and a shipwreck

Spanish Bay Beach

Spanish Bay Beach has a lovely wooden boardwalk that takes you through the sand dunes near along the beach that you can walk from north to south. If you head south, you will reach Moss Beach which is similar to Spanish Bay Beach. If you head north, you will reach the rugged coastline of Asilomar State Beach.

Like with other Monterey beaches, you get a bit of variety when you visit Spanish Bay Beach. You will find rocky portions, sandy sections, and boardwalk-lined parts as well.

If you are looking for beaches in Monterey for swimming, Spanish Bay Beach isn’t the best for it; its more popular with surfers.

To find parking here, you can go via Sunset Drive and park there to avoid paying the entry fee to Pebble Beach. Parking here will also keep you from having to make the long walk from the closest public lot in Pebble Beach at Moss Beach along 17 Mile Drive.

This beach is in front of the Spanish Bay Golf Course and close to the popular 17 Mile Drive. (A drive that you should totally check out if you haven’t yet!) Keep in mind that this isn’t a dog-friendly beach.

beach on the right in a semi-circle shape, rocks along the coast with coastal vegetation

Sand City Beach

Sand City Beach is a nice beach in California that is sandwiched between the water and a series of sand dunes. Sand City is a small community of just over three hundred people near Monterey. This area used to be quite industrial but now it is mostly residential behind the protected dunes.

The Monterey Bay Coastal Trail runs along the Sand City Beach. Renting a bike to explore this trail is a popular pass time for locals and visitors, so if you have this on your itinerary, consider peddling down to Sand City Beach to check it out for yourself.

Beach combing is fantastic here. Sea glass can be found all along this long beach making it one of the best sea glass beaches in Monterey. You might not want to walk barefoot here due to all of the glass along the beach.

Sand City Beach isn’t one of the best beaches in the county for swimming, but if you are looking for a place to walk or a place to sit and read on the beach, Sand City Beach is a great place for it!

someone parasailing over a beach and waves, sand dunes on the right, waves and ocean on the left

Carmel River State Beach

Carmel River State Beach offers some of the best views in Monterey. The beach is in a state park near the start of the Carmel Valley. It is highly protected and stretches on for one mile. Bird watchers will love this beach as it has a lagoon that draw migratory birds to the area.

This beach is just 7-8 minutes south of Carmel Beach. Here at Carmel River State Beach has public restrooms and is just north of some incredible Carmel walking trails. These trails are the Carmel Meadows Trail and they offer incredible views of the coastal landscape.

This is one of the dog-friendly beaches in Monterey, so if you are traveling with their furry friends, you and your doggo are welcome at Carmel River State Beach! Just stay aware of those around you, especially of families with small children and other dogs.

Like with most areas in Monterey, the weather can be unpredictable around this beach. You can have a foggy and chilly afternoon and then find yourself sweating in the bright sun in the evening. So, be sure to dress in layers and carry sunscreen or a hat with you so you can enjoy the beach without worry of the weather.

two people standing on beach in front of river, mountains in background, one of the best beaches in monterey

Garrapata Beach

Garrapata is one of the most seriously underrated Monterey beaches. It is a stunning beach off the iconic Highway 1. It got its name from the Spanish word for tick which can be found in the Garrapata State Park, along with mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and other wildlife.

There are no entry fees for Garrapata State Park and parking is easily accessible from the road. If you are wanting to do some swimming, head to the north end of the beach which a calmer area. If you head to the south side, there are large rocky areas that create a lovely environment for wave watching or taking pictures.

The beach is right across from the beautiful Calla Lily Valley. Here, white Calla Lily’s bloom from January to April. This is a popular attraction off of the Cabrillo Highway and worth a visit, especially if you are visiting during peak bloom time.

Garrapata Beach is also among the best beaches in Monterey for watching the sunset!

vegetation in fore ground, beach in background, very few waves, a couple people standing in the sand

Marina State Beach

Sticking the landing on the list of Monterey Bay best beaches is the blissful Marina State Beach. Hang gliders, sunbathers, beach walkers, and photographers rejoice, this is a beach that keeps on giving. While dogs are not welcome on this beach, it still worth a visit for those who are able to go.

The beach winds through Marina Dunes Natural Preserve giving visitors a scenic panoramic view of the Monterey Bay. This beach has a swimming area for kids or anyone for that matter. This area is protected by a breakwater that starts at the Ventura Harbor entrance.

Here you will also find picnic tables, volleyball courts, pubic restrooms, grills, and more that make this one of the most family-friendly beaches in Monterey. On top of all these amenities there is also a playground and a grassy area for picnic, sunbathing, or throwing a ball or frisbee around.

The beach is just a few minutes from a Starbucks, McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, and several Asian restaurants, making it really easy to run out for a quick lunch or dinner after time spent on the beach. There’s also a Walmart and other grocery stores just a few minutes drive from the beach if you need to pick up anything for your beach day.

Monastery Beach

Monastery Beach is consistently considered one of the best Monterey beaches, one of the best beaches in California actually! Also sometimes called San Jose Creek Beach, it is a third of a mile long and is mega popular with scuba divers.

Parking is kind of limited here but you can find extra parking along Highway 1 as well. There’s a restroom on the south end of the beach and there’s also a lifeguard tower that is staffed during the summer months. While this is a really pretty beach that is well worth the visit, it isn’t the best for swimming due to a steep slope and rough waves.

The beach is actually a small section of the Carmel State Beach, north of Point lobos State Natural Reserve. It gets its name from the monastery across from it on Highway 1. If you decide to visit during your trip to Monterey, this is a lovely option for those wanting to stay out late as it is open until 10pm everyday.

One of the things that make this one of the top beaches in Monterey is the nearby Carmel Meadows Trail. Surrounded by wildflowers and the sounds of waves crashing make for a fantastic place to stay active while you are exploring the area.

view of monastery beach from a car window, red flags on the beach saying high surf warning

Fort Ord Dunes State Park Beach

Fort Ord Dunes State Park Beach is among the top Monterey hidden gems. The top beaches in Monterey are often packed which can make it difficult to enjoy the blue water and vibe on the beach. At Fort Ord Dunes State Park, there is plenty of room on the beach for hundreds of visitors to stretch out and have their own space.

There is a parking lot where around thirty cars can park at the main parking lot. From there, you will follow the paved walking path in the state park until you reach a sandy off shoot from the trail. Take this little sandy trail and it will take you down to the beach.

The trail to the beach goes through the sand dunes before reaching a final sand dune canyon as the trail opens up to the beach. This alluring and expansive beach is one of the most underestimated places to watch the sunset in Monterey.

Whether you are watching the sunset, taking a walk, or just looking for a place to enjoy a classic undisturbed California beach, a trip to the Fort Ord Dunes State Park Beach is in order. The trail in the park is also a nice place to go biking or walking.

If you are traveling with your dogs, they are welcome on the paved trails, but not on the beach. If you want more information about the park or other California state parks, you can download the Outer Spatial app for maps and information about each of the state parks in California.

sunset on beach, sand dunes on the left, ocean on the right, many foot print paths along the sand, one of top beaches in monterey

Seal Rock Creek Beach

Monterey beaches like Seal Rock Creek Beach are known for their dramatic appearance. In fact, millions of people come to visit the beaches in the CA each year. Seal Rock Creek Beach is in Pebble Beach along the beautiful 17 mile. The white sand at the mouth of Seal Rock Creek is something you will want to see for yourself.

You can find parking behind the beach where there is pull-through parking or at the Seal Rock Overlook area. While you are there, you can expect to see seals, sea lions, sea birds, and other wildlife. Seal Rock and Bird Rock are both near this beach and offer visitors excellent wildlife viewing.

Tide pools are here as well! Sea anemones, star fish, crabs, snails, and other marine life call these tide pools home. Outdoor enthusiasts, nature-lovers, and families will love checking out the tide pools at Seal Rock Beach on 17 Mile Drive.

There are picnic tables, restrooms, and fire rings here as well. This is perfect for those looking to stay on the beach for a good amount of time. Pack your cooler or picnic basket and enjoy lunch with the sounds of the waves in the background and the salty breeze on your cheeks.

Keep in mind that there is a fee to get into the Pebble Beach community and Seal Rock Creek Beach isn’t one of the dog-friendly beaches in Monterey. If you can’t find parking at Seal Rock Beach, you can drive right down the road on 17 Mile Drive to Fanshell Beach which is one of the top pupping grounds for Harbor Seals on the central coats!

This beach is fairly flat and has some small tide pool areas. They’re not as good as Seal Rock Beach, but you may be able to see some small creatures chilling in the water around the rocks here as well.

China Cove Beach

China Cove Beach is one of the best beaches near Monterey CA! Located in the envy-inducing Point Lobos State Nature Reserve, China Cove Beach has pristine emerald water in a photo-worthy setting. The striking color of the water, sandy beach where seals like to lounge, and the rock tunnels around the cove make this one of the most mind blowing beaches in California.

To reach this beach, you will need to pay the entry fee for Point Lobos then head to the parking lot for the Bird Island Trail. The trail is pretty easy and takes you to a long stair case that leads down to China Cove Beach. The stairs are pretty steep so if you have mobility issues, you should have a look at the stairs before choosing to visit this beach.

Seals love to lay on the beach here. If you see seals resting on the beach once you arrive, be sure to keep your distance! You also have a chance to see wild flowers, sea otters, black cormorants and other sea birds here as well.

This is a great beach for nature and wildlife photography. If you are looking for a place to take an Insta-worthy shot, China Cove is perfect for it as it is one of the prettiest beaches in Monterey!

beautiful beach with rock formation on it in monterey

These Monterey County beaches showcase the world-famous Monterey coast and the effortless natural beauty that it graciously gifts visitors.

From the rocky and turbulent sections of the coast to the white sandy beaches that stretch into the varying shades of blue water, there’s nothing like the beaches of central coast California and the ones in Monterey are no different.

Now that you have learned about some of the prettiest beaches in Monterey, which ones will you check out first? Are you more of an adventurer looking for beaches off the beaten path or do you like to check out the most highly visited beaches that were made popular for a reason?

No matter what type of traveler you are and which beaches you choose to visit, Monterey rarely disappoints!

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