The Top 10 Beach Locations in LA
We looked at a decade of FilmLA permit data to compile a list of the most popular beach locations in Los Angeles. Here’s what we found.
With beautiful skylines, glowing sunsets, and a quintessential California vibe, beach locations are consistently among the most popular filming locations in LA county. Over the past 10 years LA’s 34 beach locations were permitted 9,152 times, which works out to an average of 2.5 beach-based productions everyday. Venice Beach alone makes up 30% of all film permits in the county, with 2,720 permits issued in the last decade.
While big city beaches like Venice and Santa Monica have a lot to offer, there are tons of other incredible coast locations within the Thirty Mile Zone. To make finding your next beach location a little bit easier we’ve put together a list of the top ten most popular beach locations with Pros and Cons and location links for each.
10. Nicholas Canyon Beach
Average Film Permits per year: 15
Pros: Quiet and remote, Not crowded
Cons: Hard to access, Nearly impossible to transport heavy equipment
Nicholas Canyon Beach is a County beach that runs for about a mile south of Leo Carillo South Beach. The narrow strip of sand sits at the foot of a steep bluff and is a bit of a trek from both the upper and lower parking lots, so it doesn’t get as crowded as some of the other Malibu beaches. At the southeast end, the beach runs into a rocky bluff topped by Malibu mansions. There are stairs and trails down to the beach. There are several picnic tables at a viewpoint just below the parking lot and a few more at the bottom of the beach ramp near the restrooms. There is limited free street parking on Pacific Coast Highway and a County pay lot on the beach side of PCH on top of the bluff.
9. White Point/Royal Palms Beach
Average Film Permits per year: 18
Pros: Not a typical California Beach, Marine life, Rocky scenery
Cons: Swimming is not recommended, Can be difficult to get around
With over a mile and a half of rocky beach, 30-acres of park area, and plenty of parking, this White Point Park is one of LA County’s hidden gems. Located in San Pedro, the bluff portion of this beach has metered parking, ample restrooms, children’s play area, picnic tables, and outstanding panoramic views that include Catalina Island. The paved road below leads to the actual beach and more parking below.
8. Topanga Beach
Average Film Permits per year: 20
Pros: Lots of Surfers, Beautiful homes right next to beach
Cons: Parking, Lots of Surfers
Referred to as, “The first real beach in Malibu”, Topanga Beach offers over a mile of ocean frontage and 21.5 acres of property. It’s one of the most popular surfing spots in the area and you can usually expect to find more people in the water than on the beach. This beach offers 96 parking spaces and there are also restrooms, a picnic area, and showers on site.
7. Malibu Surfrider Beach
Average Film Permits per year: 25
Pros: Good surf/waves
Cons: Limited Parking, Can be overly crowded
Malibu Surfrider Beach is the popular sandy beach and surfing spot between the Malibu Pier and the Malibu Lagoon. Surfrider Beach is part of Malibu Lagoon State Beach which has another parking lot next to the lagoon just west on Pacific Coast Highway.
6. Santa Monica Beach (Excluding Pier)
Average Film Permits per year: 35
Pros: Conveniently located, Near lots of restaurants, Easy access to pier
Cons: Can be filled with tourists, parking
Santa Monica State Beach is an iconic destination that draws visitors from around the globe. It is 3 miles long, covers 245 acres of sand and is managed by the City of Santa Monica in cooperation with California State Parks. The section of the beach north of ipier
5. Zuma Beach
Average Film Permits per year: 60
Pros: Interesting people, Near beautiful coastline
Cons: Limited Parking, Crowded on Weekends
The northern half of Zuma County Beach, Zuma Beach tends to have more crowds and sports-goers playing beach volleyball or getting a workout in. Zuma beach is one of the most beautiful and classic California beaches.
4. Dockweiler Beach
Average Film Permits per year: 90
Pros: Limited Crowds, BBQ fire pits, Air Traffic from LAX
Cons: No street parking, Air Traffic from LAX
Dockweiler is a wide, uncrowded 4 mile stretch of beach south of Playa Del Rey. It’s famous for it’s proximity to LAX and the numerous BBQ Fire Pits. It’s one of the few beaches in the county where it is legal to start a fire, so if you’re looking shoot scenes involving smores, Dockweiler’s probably your best bet.
3. Westward Beach
Average Film Permits per year: 102
Pros: Remote vibe, Lots of beach to work with
Cons: Lack of people, Difficult to find parking
Westward Beach, the southern half of Zuma County Beach, is one of the longest and widest stretches of beach in all of California. Because of that, it’s relatively easy to find a quiet and isolated space to film or take photos. If you are looking to shoot crowds, volleyball courts and beach activities you’re better to stick to the main section of Zuma Beach further north.
2. Will Rogers State Beach
Average Film Permits per year: 112
Pros: Athletic areas, Very clean
Cons: Lack of people, Must fly cables over bike path
Will Rogers State Beach, located in the Pacific Palisades is a wide, relatively quiet beach, just north of Santa Monica. The main parking lot is decently sized, but it can fill up quickly especially on the weekends. If you park on the streets across the PCH you can take a pedestrian tunnel to the sand but it’s a long way to carry heavy film equipment. The beach itself has a little bit of everything, blending features from both the Malibu and city beaches. A bike path, walkway, volleyball courts, playgrounds, and gymnastic equipment are all available for filming. The lifeguard towers are also available for shoots (Note: There is no filming at Lifeguard tower #4 due to its position on a private beach at Bel-Air Bay Club).
1. Venice Beach
Average Film Permits per Year: 272
Pros: Diversity of Locations, Interesting People
Cons: Often very crowded, Tough to find parking for large crews
Venice Beach is not only the most popular beach location for filming in LA County, it’s also the second most permitted filming location overall (second only to Griffith Park). In many ways, it’s ultimate California backdrop providing a diverse mix of people, places, and scenery. If you’re looking to film crowds, Venice has you covered with approximately 28,000 to 30,000 people visiting the Venice Beach on a daily basis. The Venice Boardwalk stretches over two miles and hosts hundreds of vendors, performers, and homeless vagrants. The beach also offers various filming landmarks including the basketball and handball courts, the fishing pier, the skatepark and graffiti wall, and of course, the bodybuilding mecca at Muscle Beach.