California’s coast has some of the best surfing in the continental US. Compared to Southern California and Northern California, California’s Central Coast offers amazing spots with less traffic and easier parking, fewer surfers, and a generally friendly environment for beginner and intermediate surfers.
Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo make up the three commonly-considered regions of the Central Coast. In these spots, you’ll find everything you expect from the California coast: miles of rocky shoreline, beaches ideal for swimming and surfing, and panoramic views out over the Pacific.
We’ve curated the top 7 surfing beaches along the Central Coast.
Port Hueneme (Ventura County)
Port Hueneme is next to a naval base, accessible from the 50-acre Port Hueneme Beach Park. There are many barrels during low tide, best with a south swell. There are often a lot of locals here, but there is enough beach to easily find a section of the beach that is not crowded. Surfing is good on either side of the pier.
Oxnard Shores (Ventura County)
Oxnard Shores is about 15 minutes north of Port Hueneme but offers a different profile for surfing. When the waves are smaller at Port Hueneme, the waves tend to be better at Oxnard Shores and vice-versa. This is a wide-open beach with plenty of room to find your favorite spot. South of Oxnard Beach Park, the waves tend to break a little closer to shore, while North of Oxnard Beach Park, waves break further from shore, and there are more surfers. Parking at Oxnard Beach Park is easy to find, or you can park in the neighborhood around Neptune Square Park.
Rincon Point (Santa Barbara County)
Rincon Point offers the best waves you’ll find on the coast of California and is perhaps one of the most famous spots in California, after Malibu in Southern California. Professionals like to surf the perfect right shoulder Rincon Point has to offer. The downside is the crowd: When the waves are really good, the spot is incredibly crowded, and it’s hard to get a wave, much less a parking spot. However, on an average weekday, parking is typically plentiful.
Jalama Beach (Santa Barbara County)
This out-of-the-way beach is a magical (and windy) spot along the coast and a popular campground right on the beach. You can often reserve a tent site on the beach. There’s plenty of (paid) parking for day use. This spot is best for intermediate to advanced surfers who can manage to get to Jalama early in the morning before the on-shore winds pick up. Be sure to grab a Jalama Burger at the Jalama Beach Store.
Morro Bay (San Luis Obispo County)
Morro Bay is a favorite for many San Luis Obispo locals. This is a huge, 3-mile-long beach, and the waves stretch as far as you can see. You will always have a peak to yourself. At times, the waves here can be powerful and can get big (10+ feet), but Morro Bay is at its best at 4-5 feet. If your partner or friends don’t surf, this is a great beach for them just to walk along and enjoy the inspiring scenery and Morro Bay Rock in the distance.
Cayucos (San Luis Obispo County)
Cayucos offers an easy paddle out with fun waves. The waves close out frequently, but when you can catch a wave, it’s very fun. It is also a south swell spot. You’ll need to park on residential streets and walk to the beach.
Sandspit, Montaña de Oro (San Luis Obispo County)
Sandspit is of the many spots on the stretching beach of Montana de Oro. It’s a bit of a drive and walk to get there. However, it yields bigger waves on the smaller days, and it’s one of the better summer surfing beaches.
Bonus: Pismo Beach (San Luis Obispo County)
Pismo Beach is the ultimate beginner surfer’s beach. It’s where we learned to surf. Waves are reliably in the 1-3 foot range and best for larger foam boards used by beginners. The best spots for beginners are South of the pier, and free parking is available at the Addie Street Surfer Parking Lot.
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