The 6 Best Beach Boardwalks in California

There’s nothing quite like a beachside boardwalk!

Whether you grew up on the East Coast and miss the charm of going “down the shore” in Atlantic City, have dreams of a Coney Island-style place with rides and games, or are just looking for a fun summer activity with kids, California’s boardwalks are a great option.

The great news is that California has a wide variety of boardwalks for every type of person. There are classic boardwalks with salt water taffy and amusement rides, as well as secluded boardwalks where wild birds will be your only companions.

As a professional photographer and traveler, here are some of the best boardwalks in California.

1. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz, the “Coney Island of the West”

Fondly referred to as the “Coney Island of the West,” the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a must-visit.

This is your classic boardwalk experience. Santa Cruz’s boardwalk has entertained visitors since the early 1900s, and its mix of iconic food (think ice cream cones and saltwater taffy), carnival games and rides is still awesome today.

There aren’t technically any boards on this boardwalk–the walk part is concrete. But if you’re looking for the iconic boardwalk experience (or you’re missing Atla


  • A classic amusement park featuring thrilling rides like the historic Giant Dipper roller coaster and the Looff Carousel.
  • Plenty of games, food stands, and even free beach concerts during the summer.
  • The stunning Monterey Bay serves as the boardwalk’s backdrop, offering opportunities for whale watching.

2. San Diego’s Mission Beach Boardwalk

If you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, head down to San Diego’s Mission Beach Boardwalk.


  • A two-mile-long path perfect for leisurely walks, bike rides, and rollerblading.
  • Belmont Park, a small amusement park with a vintage roller coaster and modern rides.
  • The vibrant nightlife scene with beachfront bars and restaurants.

3. Venice Beach Boardwalk

Venice Beach is a happening place, especially at night

A trip to California wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the eclectic charm of the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

Unique Attractions:

  • Street performers, vendors, and artists providing a carnival-like atmosphere.
  • The world-famous Muscle Beach outdoor gym.
  • The Venice Skate Park, where you can watch talented skateboarders perform daring tricks.

4. Newport Beach Boardwalk

Checking out Newport Beach from the water

Nestled in Orange County, the Newport Beach Boardwalk provides a more tranquil getaway.

What to Expect:

  • A three-mile trail ideal for biking, walking, or jogging.
  • Balboa Fun Zone, featuring a Ferris wheel with a view, arcade games, and boat rentals.
  • Pristine beaches and surf spots.

5. Santa Monica Pier

Another iconic CA spot, Santa Monica Pier

No list of California boardwalks would be complete without the inclusion of the iconic Santa Monica Pier. Synonymous with the spirit of the California coast, this boardwalk blends timeless charm with modern amenities.

Key Features:

  • Home to Pacific Park, an amusement park boasting the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel and a classic roller coaster.
  • A vibrant array of food stands, souvenir shops, and street performers that capture the heart and soul of local culture.
  • The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, located beneath the pier, features more than 100 species of marine animals and plants.
  • The end of the historic Route 66, which started in Chicago and spans over 2,400 miles.
  • Offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and California coastline, making it a favored spot for photographers and nature lovers alike.

6. Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, Cambria

California’s most secluded boardwalk?

Escape from the crowds and immerse yourself in nature at the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria, a hidden gem on California’s Central Coast. This boardwalk offers a tranquil and enchanting experience away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Unique Experiences:

  • The wooden boardwalk winds along the coastline for approximately a mile, offering spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Wildlife spotting opportunities abound, with frequent sightings of sea otters, seals, and a variety of birds.
  • A beach strewn with colorful moonstones, making for a unique beachcombing experience.
  • Breathtaking sunset views and the sound of waves crashing against the shore providing a serene backdrop.
  • Proximity to charming Cambria, a small town known for its artistic vibe, quaint shops, and local wineries.

How Big Are California’s Boardwalks?

BoardwalkLengthKey Attractions
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk1 mileAmusement park, free concerts
Mission Beach Boardwalk2 milesBelmont Park, nightlife
Venice Beach Boardwalk1.5 milesStreet performances, Muscle Beach, Skate Park
Newport Beach Boardwalk3 milesBalboa Fun Zone, beaches
Santa Monica Pier1,080 feetPacific Park, Aquarium, end of Route 66
Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, Cambria1 mileWildlife spotting, moonstone beachcombing, sunsets


While the East Coast can claim some of the most iconic beach boardwalks in the world, the West Coast (and California in particular) has some of the most unique and eclectic.

From the traditional Santa Cruz boardwalk to the secluded wonders of Moonstone Beach, you can find some amazing beachside hangouts in CA.

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Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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