15 Beaches near San Jose, CA [+ Parking, Amenities, Local Tips]

15 Beaches near San Jose, CA [+ Parking, Amenities, Local Tips]

There are plenty of amazing options to choose from, whether you are planning a family vacation or going on a solo trip.

Every beach has its own unique charm, amenities, and unique characteristics that make the location worthy of a day playing in the sand and the crashing waves.

If you are unsure which beach near San Jose you should go to, here is our list covering all the details you need to know when selecting the perfect option for your next trip to the shore.

Best Beaches near San Jose, California

Santa Cruz Beach

Santa Cruz Beach is one of the best beaches in Northern California. The nearby boardwalk houses an amusement park and several seafood restaurants, making this a popular tourist spot.

This beach is popular, so expect to see large crowds in the summer and on holidays. Lifeguards are available year-round to ensure the safety of beachgoers.

If drive time is your primary concern, Santa Cruz beach is the closest beach to San Jose, CA making it a fast option for a short day trip.

If you are looking for a smaller and less crowded option for a beach in Santa Cruz, you can check out Mitchell’s Cove Beach.

This option is less than three miles from Santa Cruz’s main beach and offers a more natural setting with tide pools and beautiful rock formations in the water.

Local Tip: Check the beach’s water quality before you visit if you plan to go swimming. The water quality, at times, has received very poor ratings.

Capitola Beach

This adorable stretch of beach is lined with colorful townhomes called the “Capitola Venetians” that overlook the beach.

Capitola Beach is a charming sandy beach complete with a long pier, beachside restaurants, and boutique shops.

This beach gets tons of visitors, especially when the weather is warm and sunny.

If you’re looking for a warm beach near San Jose, then this is a good option. This beach is perfect for every kind of beachgoer.

If you want to go swimming, the water near the pier is calm and easy to navigate. If you are more of a thrill seeker, head to the east end to go surfing.

The wharf is a perfect spot for those who want to go fishing and sightseeing.

This beach offers a complete experience as you can spend the day at the beach and stay for drinks and food at one of the many great restaurants and bars in the area.

Local tip: Make sure to arrive before 10 am to secure a good parking spot because the parking lots near the beach fill up quickly.

Natural Bridges State Beach

  • Distance/Drive Time from San Jose, CA: 34.9 mi, 44 mins
  • Best For: Those who want to explore tidepools, those looking for picturesque landmarks, those looking for a quiet beach with free parking, and those who also want to go hiking
  • Amenities: Restrooms, picnic tables, hiking trails
  • Parking: $10, free parking available nearby
  • Pets Allowed: No
  • Accessibility: Drive-up

Natural Bridges State Beach is perfect for those looking for a stunning location for photography. The natural rock arch near the shore is one of California’s most photographed beach icons.

If you are visiting with your family, spend some time exploring the tidepools that appear during low tide.

You can also hike the Natural Bridges Monarch Trail to view the butterflies and birds that call this beach their home.

It can get crowded in the summer and on holidays, but it is quiet and peaceful the rest of the year.

If you are looking for a beach near San Jose that is a scenic destination and offers all the fun of a day at the beach, this may be your perfect option.

Local tip: There is plenty of free parking on the roads outside of the park if you don’t mind the walk.

💡 Do you plan on visiting other state beaches or state parks? Then it might be worth getting a Golden Poppy Pass. You can buy it here. Here is the list of the parks included.

New Brighton State Beach

  • Distance/Drive Time from San Jose, CA: 36.5 mi, 46 mins
  • Best For: Families with kids and those looking for a fun dog-friendly beach
  • Amenities: Restrooms, picnic tables, hiking trails
  • Parking: $10
  • Pets Allowed: Yes (on a leash)
  • Accessibility: Drive-up

What once was a Chinese fishing village is now a great beach for those who are looking to escape the hectic city life. Pack your bags and spend the night at New Brighton State Beach.

Camping at this beach is very comfortable because the campground is located on a hillside that is shaded by towering trees.

This beach is also perfect for swimming because the waters are calm and lifeguards are present in the summer.

If you hike towards the north end of the beach, you will be greeted by steep cliffs and a narrow and rocky shoreline.

Towards the south, you can walk for miles and eventually reach Seacliff State Beach.

Local tip: Bring a lot of quarters. The campground has showers that you can use for 50 cents per two minutes.

Seacliff State Beach

Seacliff State Beach has everything you could ask for in a beach, including a long sandy shore, picnic areas, a campground, a Pier, and even a concrete ship from World War I.

Known for its gentle surf, which is perfect for swimming, this beach is a favorite among beachgoers, especially during the warmer months.

If you want to spend the night here, multiple campsites can accommodate tents, RVs, and trailers.

After enjoying the water, head to the end of the pier to take a closer look at the USS Palo Alto, which is now home to hundreds of birds.

Local tip: If you don’t mind walking for a few minutes to reach the beach, there is a large parking lot nearby where you can park for free.

Four Mile Beach

Located four miles from western Santa Cruz via Highway 1, Four Mile Beach is the largest and most accessible beach at Wilder Ranch State Park.

To reach the beach from the parking lot, you will need to hike the Ohlone Bluffs Trail to reach the beach from the parking lot.

Take this time to enjoy your surroundings as you pass by railroad tracks and wetlands.

This beach is hidden from Highway 1 and does not get many visitors, giving it a very private feel.

Surfers love this area as well. If you are going with your kids, check the tide charts before your visit so that you can go tide pooling.

Local tip: Three Mile Beach and Strawberry Beach are also accessible by taking the trail that runs along the top of the bluffs. These beaches are more secluded, and both are clothing-optional.

Manresa State Beach

Popular beaches on both sides of Manresa State Beach leave this expansive beach free from crowds. This, along with its well-maintained facilities, make this location a local favorite.

This simple beach is perfect for families who want to spend the day near the ocean. The wide shores are perfect for walking, sunbathing, kite flying, and building sand castles.

You can also bring your dog with you as long as you keep them on a leash.

If you decide to go swimming, be extra cautious of sneaker waves and rip currents. The water is cold as well.

Local tip: Wildlife viewing is amazing here. Migrating gray whales, bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, seals, and sea otters often make an appearance.

Panther Beach (Hole in the Wall Beach)

Panther Beach is not home to any kind of wild cat despite its name. Instead, you will find a nice patch of sand nestled up against golden sandstone cliffs.

The hike down to this beach may be a bit challenging, but it is worth it.

Wait for the tide to fall to know this beach’s secret. During low tides, a hole in the golden cliffs becomes visible and forms an archway to a more secluded area.

This spot is clothing-optional and a great place to go tide-pooling.

Before you leave, make sure not to leave anything behind aside from your footprints in the sand.

Local tip: Pack your camera. From the amazing geological features to the crashing waves and breathtaking sunsets, this beach is a photographer’s heaven.

Shark Fin Cove

  • Distance/Drive Time from San Jose, CA: 42.2 mi, 53 mins
  • Best For: Those looking for a quiet beach with free parking, those looking for a quiet beach away from the crowds with breathtaking views
  • Amenities: Hiking trails
  • Parking: Free
  • Pets Allowed: No
  • Accessibility: Hike-in (steep trail)

Named after the colossal rock formation located off the shore, Shark Fin Cove is a hidden gem surrounded by green cliffs and crashing waves.

After viewing the fin from above, head down to the beach and explore everything it has to offer.

The cove is small, but this does not diminish its beauty. Since this beach is not crowded, it is perfect for lazy afternoons in the sand while listening to the sounds of the ocean.

It also has a sea cave that you can explore during low tide.

Make sure to pack your camera to capture the amazing geological features of Shark Fin Cove.

Local tip: The trail to the beach is steep and has no handrails. Wear sturdy shoes with traction to easily and safely hike down to the cove.

Gray Whale Cove State Beach

Despite being located in an area known as the “Devil’s Slide”’, Gray Whale Cove State Beach is a heavenly place tucked at the foot of a small valley.

This beach is a great place to catch a glimpse of migrating gray whales.

After admiring the view from above, make your way down the wooden stairwell and lounge at the tranquil beach.

Spend some time enjoying the sun while listening to the crashing waves.

Explore the area more by hiking the Gray Whale Cove trail. You can also visit the swing set on top of the bluff and view an old WWII bunker.

Local tip: Despite being a state park, the north end of the beach is a clothing-optional area. Check it out if you are feeling adventurous.

San Gregorio State Beach

If you are looking for a scenic spot where you can enjoy a picnic with your family and friends, head over to San Gregorio State Beach.

Located on the bluff above the beach is a picnic area with an amazing birds-eye view of the shore, ocean, and surrounding cliffs.

The best time to visit this location is during the summer when the sandy beach is at its fullest.

A sandbar also forms at the mouth of San Gregorio Creek during this season and remains until fall.

If you venture north of the creek, you will be able to find caves to explore and fossils to investigate in the sandstone cliffs.

Local tip: Wear warm clothing when you visit this beach because it can be cold and foggy, especially during summer mornings.

Pescadero State Beach

Are you looking for a beach close to San Jose, CA, with long sandy shores and less crowded?

Take a stroll on Pescadero State Beach’s mile-long shoreline while checking out its tide pools and enjoying the fresh ocean breezes.

You can also take a hike in the Pescadero Marsh, which is visited by over 230 species of birds.

Leave your mark on this beach by building a driftwood sculpture and end your day by watching a glorious golden sunset.

Local tip: Make sure to stop by Duarte’s Tavern, which is a 2-minute drive from the beach, for the famous Olallieberry pie.

Pomponio State Beach

There are a lot of beaches close to San Jose that are beautiful, serene, and, most importantly, not crowded.

Pomponio State Beach is no exception, as it is a quiet and peaceful place that is surrounded by lush hillsides and towering cliffs.

The best activity you can do here is going on long beach walks. Walking northward will lead you to San Gregorio State Beach, and the south route will take you to Pescadero State Beach.

The best time to visit here is when the tide is low. The shores are on the narrow side, which is why it is best to go exploring when the water levels have gone down.

Local tip: There are caves in the area that are only visible during low tide. Check the tide charts before your visit if you want to check them out.

Waddell Beach

If you are looking for beaches close to San Jose where they can enjoy extreme water sports, you should head to Waddell Beach.

The steady winds blowing in this area make this spot a perfect location for wind and kite surfers.

This beach is also a popular surfing spot. If you are not interested in trying these extreme sports, watching the colorful kites from the shore is also a worthwhile activity.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is located across the highway, where you can enjoy hikes and birdwatching in the wetlands of Waddell Creek.

Local tip: This beach is exposed to strong winds. Pitching tents and umbrellas are not impossible, but it will be very challenging.

Año Nuevo State Park

If you enjoy wildlife viewing, you should plan a trip to Ano Nuevo State Park to catch a glimpse of the largest mainland breeding colony of northern elephant seals.

The dunes and sandy beaches of the park are the perfect breeding locations for these giant mammals.

The park boasts a diverse ecosystem serving as the habitat for numerous plant and animal species.

If you are an avid birdwatcher, you will also love this location because it is part of a major bird migratory route.

Instead of a swimsuit, the recommended outfit for this beach is layered clothing, hiking shoes, and a water bottle so that you can hike the Atkinson Bluff and Whitehouse Creek Trail loop.

Local tip: If you want to view the northern elephant seals during their breeding season (December to March), book your tour tickets in advance because slots are limited. Reserve here!

How far is San Jose, CA from the beach?

The nearest beach to San Jose is Santa Cruz Beach which is about 45 minutes away, depending on traffic.

If you are hunting for more secluded beaches, the travel time from the city should be around an hour.

Are there any beaches in San Jose, CA?

There are no beaches in San Jose, California. If you are a beach lover, you have nothing to worry about because there are a lot of beautiful beaches near the city that are less than an hour’s drive away.

Wrap-Up: Beaches near San Jose, CA

Even though the city is located inland, beach lovers don’t have anything to worry about because there are a lot of beaches near San Jose, CA.

Whether you are going on a planned beach trip with your family or a spontaneous excursion with your friends in the capital of Silicon Valley, the sandy shores and crashing waves are less than an hour away.

So grab your swimsuit and pack your bags; it’s time to go to the beach!

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