If you’re planning on spending a couple of days in LA then you may choose to position yourself at Universal Studios Hollywood to maximise the amount of time you get to spend in the park.
However, a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood doesn’t mean you’ll have to miss out on a visit to the beach. There are ten incredible beaches all within 40 miles of the park, some of which can be driven to in as little as 30 minutes.
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1. Santa Monica Beach
18.8 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood is Santa Monica beach. This beach is famous all around the world.
The North beach conjures up the image that you have in your head of beautiful white sand but the south part offers the contrast with grassy parks. In those parks, you will find plenty of benches and even human chess boards as people play all day.
Santa Monica beach can be quite busy with people bustling up and down the paved paths but that just adds to the atmosphere and its active nature with walkers, joggers, skateboarders, rollerblades and cyclists all taking in their amazing surroundings especially as it is part of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail system which stretches 22 miles long around Southern California’s coast.
One of the most famous attractions at Santa Monica is the original and world-famous muscle beach. It might not be your cup of tea but it will still be worth a visit.
However, if bulging biceps is not what you want then there are plenty of sports on offer with volleyball courts all up the beach and an abundance of bike trails.
The pier obviously dominates the beach with the amusement park which has a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel and a drop tower.
The pier also has an arcade, restaurants, shops and even an aquarium which hosts 100 different species that are local to South California. There is plenty going on at the pier and you will find something you will enjoy.
2. Sorrento Beach
Just next to Santa Monica beach is Sorrento beach that follows the theme of white sand and sports. Sorrento Beach is 24.4 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood and takes around 30 minutes in a car. The beach is famous for having more volleyball courts than any other beach in California.
If you head to the beach on a Monday and Wednesday, by 6pm all 14 of the courts will be taken up by competitive mixed groups aiming to beat their opponents. There are also spring and summer leagues that take place. It is a real spectacle to observe.
However, this part of the beach, just north of the California incline, is not just about volleyball but is also a great spot to catch some rays. With many people heading to the busier part of Santa Monica, they miss out on some perfect sports on Sorrento beach where you can sit down, read a book or just listen to some music.
3. Mother’s Beach
A little over 26 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood is Mother’s beach. Situated in Long Beach in the southern part of California in the neighbourhood of Naples this beach is very family orientated and a very safe place for children to enjoy their time in the sun.
It offers a large swimming area that is well protected meaning kids can play in the pool without any worries. They will also be able to swim in the ocean because the water does not create too much motion and make it unsafe.
It is also the ideal spot for children because of the adventure playground that is on offer. With modern play equipment children can spend hours crawling, running or climbing around the park.
However, parents need not worry as they can watch over their children quite easily with the pool and park just steps away from each other.
With the current low on Mother’s beach, you can rent kayaks or paddleboards to enjoy some time on the ocean. So jump in a kayak and set off along the ocean waters. When you are done, swing by the pier to grab some lunch in the idyllic California sun.
As this is a family orientated beach, it can fill up quite quickly so if you are planning on going to Mother’s beach you might want to get there as early as you can.
4. Venice Beach
Just over 23 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood is the world-famous Venice Beach. This beach is situated in the highly popular and upper-class Venice district and it stretches from Venice Pier all the way to Santa Monica.
The area is incredibly popular and is densely populated with locals and tourists. It is also very free-spirited with a bohemian feel around the beach.
Just like its neighbour Santa Monica, there is a humdrum of activity with the paved paths filled with people who are doing their daily business. One of the main things to do is to hire bikes and head up to the beach. This can be beautiful when the sun is setting.
Despite the original muscle beach being on Santa Monica beach, Venice beach has stolen the title. Hundreds of iron pumpers can be seen on the beach showing off their muscles and wearing Gold’s Gym vests whilst onlookers gaze at them on the outdoor facilities.
Venice Beach is also well known for attracting surfers to the area. The Venice breakwater is the major challenge for them as the waves break in both directions meaning the waves can rise to about five feet high.
Cycling is also prominent on Venice beach and it is also part of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail system. The beach is somewhere that does not stop with constant hustle and bustle alongside street entertainment, there are the self-named “freaks” who pose for pictures.
If you want to buy your friends cheap souvenirs from California then this is the place to go as you can find all sorts at the copious amounts of stalls on the beach.
5. Will Rogers State Beach
One of the less populated beaches in California but one that is not to be overlooked is Will Rogers State Beach. Located 23.5 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood, the beach is over 100 acres in size, and perfect for relaxing and chilling out with friends.
Much like Sorrento beach, Will Rogers State Beach is also very popular with volleyball players who frequently visit the quieter parts of California to play.
People also like to swim in the quiet ocean and also ride their bikes up on down the beach. It is the most Northern part of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail system.
At the Will Rogers State Beach, you can also hire beach wheelchairs so that you are able to enjoy the beach with the whole family and be able to go on the sand with not as much effort.
The beach takes its name from the former actor Will Rogers, who some have cited changed the film industry in America.
So it was only appropriate that the beach has been used as a set for some TV shows and films including the famous monster horror film Creature from the Black Lagoon which was filmed in 1954.
6. Dockweiler Beach
South of Los Angeles Airport, 27 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood is Dockweiler Beach. This beach has a similar vibe to Will Rogers State, this 3-mile long beach is not so densely populated.
Being so close to Los Angeles International Airport this beach is the perfect place for you to set up for the day and watch the planes fly over you from sunrise to sunset.
Dockweiler Beach is very popular with hang gliders. In the 1960s it was used as an ideal practice place for hang gliders but in 1986 it was banned due to public safety concerns. However, in 2000 it was brought back and has been ever prevalent since.
The beach is actually one of few that allow bonfires on the beach so it is a perfect place to have a campfire or a BBQ whilst the sun is beaming or as it begins to set.
7. Las Tunas Beach
Situated in East Malibu just 28 miles from Universal Studios this beach is very different to others on the coast as it is rocky.
There are major concerns for the area with erosion happening at a rapid pace which has led to extreme measures being taken to protect Pacific Coast Highway and the homes below it.
This stretch of beach is mainly used as a fishing spot with local enthusiasts on the hunt for the freshest South California fish. With bluegill, California yellowtail and three different types of bass to be found in the area. It is a great place to fish.
It is also a great place to swim as the beach is often rather quiet. Many scuba divers also frequent Las Tunas beach as they explore the ocean.
This stretch of beach is not for the sunbather as there is not enough sand but it is a fantastic view to see all the anglers setting their rods out into the North Pacific Ocean.
8. Sunset Beach
Located 26 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood is Sunset Beach. Many still consider this beach to be the perfect area of California.
It is one of the smaller beaches as it stretches just 1.5 miles long but at the same time, it is one of the widest in California with plenty of sandy space for people to enjoy their time on.
It is a throwback to how life moved a little slower and it still follows that feel today. There is not the busy atmosphere you find at Venice beach but a more tranquil feel as people enjoy the glistening sun and the soft crashing of the waves.
As oppose to street entertainers’ people are more inclined to take a walking tour around this historical area which has seen plenty of history pass through its area.
That is not to say that people do not use the beach for sports because in 2011 it became part of Surf City USA. On particularly windy days people will take their kiteboard into the ocean and enjoy dancing about on the water aided by the wind.
There is an extensive amount of restaurants from Mexican to Greek to Italian. There are also plenty of fancy bars which serve some of the best wine in California.
9. Malibu Surfrider Beach
Situated 32 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood halfway between the Malibu Pier and the Malibu Lagoon you’ll find Malibu Surfrider Beach.
The name suggests that it is good for surfing and that is exactly the case with surfers dominating the beach. It gained its name by featuring in popular surfing movies from the 50s and 60s.
The area is full of nature with more than 200 different types of birds spotted throughout the year. These could be local birds or migrating ones. So if you are a bird enthusiast you should make time to come to Surfrider beach.
In the area is Adamson House and the Malibu Lagoon museum where you can find out all the local history and also explore the birth of surfing.
With the area being in Malibu, you will want to keep your eyes out for any celebrities who might be venturing around especially if they have just come from Carbon Beach.
The Malibu sportfishing pier is also intriguing, as enthusiasts from all over come and check out the fresh saltwater catch of the day.
Swimming is also popular at this part of the beach and during peak times there are spate areas where people can swim and spate areas where people can surf.
10. Manhattan County Beach
29 miles from Universal Studios Hollywood and south of LAX is Manhattan County beach. This is the main beach that runs through the city of Manhattan Beach and is one of the places to be on a weekend.
The place comes alive on the weekend with hundreds of tourists wanting to get a spot on the gorgeous white beach. If you are looking to sunbathe then you need to get yourself in early because this place fills up.
The pier is also another highlight of the beach and has an old-time feel to it. It is by no means the biggest one in California but it is one of the nicest as it dates back to 1920.
You will also be able to get that famous Instagram shot of Manhattan Beach and pier from Manhattan Avenue and Manhattan Beach Boulevard. It is such a beautiful view, especially at night with the pier lights on.
Manhattan County beach is also another place on the Marvin Braude Bike Trail system as it stretches 22 miles in total.