Skip to main content
Diamond Head towers over Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii

Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California

5 Stunning Pacific Ocean Beaches You Won’t Want to Miss

By: Terry Ward

1 of 1
  • States:
    Hawaii
    Washington
    Oregon
    California

There’s no shortage of beautiful beaches on the Pacific.

From the rugged coastlines of Oregon and Washington state in the north to the bustling shores of California in the south to the sugary sands of the Hawaiian Islands to the west, there’s a beach for every taste. To experience some of the most stunning among them, here are five beaches you won’t want to miss.

Carmel Beach – Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Follow Pacific Coast Highway (California Route 1) about 205 kilometers south of San Francisco and you’ll be treated to fantastic views of the coast, with its plunging cliffs and pounding surf. This scenic route passes through idyllic oceanfront towns like Carmel-by-the-Sea, replete with restaurants, wine bars and shops. The town center sits just above Carmel Beach, a stretch of white sand lined with windblown cypress trees. If you plan on swimming or surfing, you’ll likely want a wetsuit. The water is fairly cold.

Enjoy a picnic on the beach with wine and cheese sourced from local shops, catch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean or walk to the sparkling tidal pools on the beach’s south end to spot starfish and crabs.

STAY: When you’re not exploring the beach, relax in the heated outdoor pool or enjoy yoga classes and complimentary mountain bikes at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands.

Waikiki Beach – Oahu, Hawaii

You can land at Honolulu International Airport on the island of Oahu and some 20 minutes later find yourself on one of Hawaii’s most legendary beaches. Just a 14-kilometer drive from the airport, Waikiki Beach is famous for its golden sands, calm waters and coveted views of Diamond Head crater, one of the island’s most recognized natural landmarks.

This urban beach is lined with hotels in all price ranges as well as a variety of shops and restaurants. Rent surfboards or bodyboards to ride the waves in the clear waters, sidle up to a beach bar for a mai tai or hike to the top of Diamond Head for incredible views.

STAY: The luxurious Halekulani hotel, a short walk from Waikiki Beach, offers oceanfront rooms with Diamond Head views.

Waikiki Beach surrounded by stylish hotels, restaurant, shops and Diamond Head

Waikiki Beach surrounded by stylish hotels, restaurant, shops and Diamond Head
View more
Tor Johnson/Hawaii Tourism Authority
More information

Bandon Beach – Bandon, Oregon

Bandon Beach epitomizes the coastal grandeur for which the Pacific Northwest is known. This rugged stretch of southern Oregon coastline can be found roughly 140 kilometers north of the California-Oregon border (about a four-plus-hour drive from Portland, Oregon, and eight hours from San Francisco, California).

Backed by high dunes, Bandon Beach is known for its dramatically shaped rock formations like Table Rock and Elephant Rock that are sculpted by the extreme weather. Although Bandon Beach isn’t ideal for swimming – the water is cold and the current is strong – you won’t want to miss a walk or horseback ride on the shore to admire the view.

In addition to strolling along the beach, you can go deep sea fishing, hang lines to catch Dungeness crabs on Bandon’s crabbing dock or hit the fairways at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, considered one of the most scenic courses in the USA.

STAY: At Windermere on the Beach, all rooms and cottages have ocean views and some have decks and fireplaces.

Striking rock formations and gorgeous views at Bandon Beach

Striking rock formations and gorgeous views at Bandon Beach
View more

Rialto Beach – Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park in northwest Washington state encompasses a swath of awe-inspiring coastline. Driftwood washes onto a rocky shoreline that gets pounded by Pacific Ocean swells. Rialto Beach, which is about a four-hour drive northwest of Seattle, Washington, is a perfect spot to take it all in. Such a wild coastline doesn’t invite swimming, but it does invite hiking, beachcombing and exploring the tidal pools. Sea stacks washed with waves add drama to the vistas.

Wear sturdy shoes to stroll comfortably along the rocky shoreline, and pack a picnic to enjoy by the tree-lined beach. If you have extra time, hike about 2.5 kilometers north of Rialto Beach to Hole-in-the-Wall, a spectacular arch along the shore.

STAY: Stay about seven kilometers east of Rialto Beach at Quillayute River Resort, where five suites have fireplaces and covered porches overlooking the Quillayute River.

Stunning, wild vistas at Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park

Stunning, wild vistas at Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park
View more

Venice Beach – Los Angeles, California

You can beat the crowds by securing your spot on Venice Beach’s soft sand early in the morning.

Quintessential Southern California beach culture greets visitors at Venice Beach, which is roughly 30 kilometers west of downtown Los Angeles. Bodybuilders work out in an open-air gym near the shore while families splash and skimboard at the water’s edge, and locals in-line skate along the boardwalk.

For a true California beach experience, sign up for a lesson at the Venice Beach Surf School. When you need a break from the beach, you’ll find a variety of restaurants, bars and boutique shops within steps of the sand. Tourist crowds swell on hot summer days, but you can enjoy a decidedly mellow local scene if you arrive early enough.

STAY: Santa Monica, just north of Venice Beach, has many classy hotels including Shutters on the Beach, a luxury oceanfront property that’s a short walk from the Santa Monica Pier.

Secure a spot on the sand in early morning at bustling Venice Beach

Secure a spot on the sand in early morning at bustling Venice Beach
View more

Related Topics:

Explore more