alcohol on California beaches

2020 Guide To Alcohol On California Beaches

(I may earn a small commission on the products mentioned in this post.)

Locals and tourists alike are always asking about alcohol on California beaches.  Can you have alcohol on California beaches? Can you have wine or beers on California beaches?

Can you drink alcohol out of a red solo cup on California beaches? Can you have a keg on California beaches?

I get these questions all the time. In this article, we’ll review whether it’s permitted and we’ll share 6 beaches you can drink alcohol on the beach in California.

If you’d like to skip ahead, we’ve created a handy spreadsheet below with every beach in California.  But before we get to it I’ll share how things once were in California and why the rules have changed.

California Beaches, Beer, Wine, and Liquor

It wasn’t long ago that many beaches in California allowed alcohol.  Alcohol was synonymous with the beach because who doesn’t love a cold beer in the heat and who doesn’t love a glass of wine as the sun goes down over the ocean.

Beach rental house

It wasn’t until the 1990’s did the State, Counties, and Cities begin cracking down on alcohol.  The first thing most people think about is young people who drink and fight.

Sure these people are the worst, but there were additional factors why alcohol was banned.

  1. Alcohol and swimming isn’t a good mix: Whether it’s a pool party or at the beach, there are 1000’s of drowning deaths each year due to alcohol.  One drink in between swimming won’t be a problem but when people are having a good time – as people do when at the beach – they tend to have a few beers.  Waves, currents, and rip tides can overwhelm the most seasoned swimmer when he/she is drunk.
  2. Packed Beaches and Few Lifeguards: Lifeguards are relatively few compared to the masses at California beaches.  Alcohol creates a lot more work for lifeguards, plus it contributes to much more work out of the water.  While lifeguards are well trained to deal with inebriated beachgoers, they should be more focused on saving lives in the water.  Police do patrol at city beaches but compared to the number of people on the beach there aren’t much.
  3. Cans and Glass:  Leftovers.  People have always had a hard time cleaning up after themselves.  Add alcohol to the mix and people become extra clumsy and extra forgetful. California has taken a tough stance on protecting beaches and ocean life.  Plastic cups can last a century in the ocean and broken bottles on the beach can injure people looking to enjoy the beach.

San Diego Bans Alcohol On All Beaches, Beach Boardwalks, and Beach Parks

I happened to live in San Diego in the early 2000’s.  It was a great place to be a college student.  During summer, the beach would turn into one massive college party with students from 4-5 local universities converging on the beach.

>> read our essential list for best beach gear

In the 2000’s San Diego was one of the last California counties to allow alcohol on the beach.  It was great for businesses and fun for tourists.

I remember seeing kegs on the beach and ice chests filled with beers.  Friends even hosted an annual beer pong tournament on the beach, complete with tables and solo cups!

That all ended after a drunken riot on Pacific Beach in San Diego, where beachgoers actually fought the police (imagine that).  Shortly after that event, San Diego banned alcohol on beaches, boardwalks, and beach parks (such as Mission Bay).

California Beach Laws and Rules

California establishes it’s beach alcohol rules through the State, Counties, and Cities.  You might be wondering why?  Well, many of the most popular beaches in California are “State Parks” and run by the State.

Other beaches are run on a more local level like the county or city.

Depending on what beach you’re headed to, be aware if it’s a State beach or local beach.  They will have different rules and regulations.

California beaches and beer

Some California State Beaches allow camping and you can have alcohol in the campground area but never on the beach.

There are 5 beaches in California that still allow alcohol on the beach.  They are:

  • Doheny State Beach, Orange County (waiver and fee required, and off the beach by 11pm)
  • Carmel Beach, Monterey County (until 10pm)
  • Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County (Kehoe Beach only)
  • Paradise Cove, Malibu, Los Angeles County
  • Descanso Beach Club, Catalina Island, Los Angeles County

Who Enforces California Beach Laws

Depending on which jurisdiction you’re in you might be dealing with local police or the State Park service (rangers).  In San Diego I usually see police patrolling the beach on ATVs.

They focus on the beach, not in the water like lifeguards do.

In State Parks, rangers will patrol the beaches looking for illegal fisherman and people drinking alcohol.  Park rangers have the authority to issue tickets and won’t hesitate.

I’ve commonly heard people say “I’ll brink alcohol in a water bottle and dump it out if the police approach.  On California beaches, police and rangers can use the “sniff test” and can use breathalyzers to discover if you’ve been drinking.

The risk isn’t worth the reward so I recommend not trying to be clever.  Counties, cities, and parks may have different fines.

For example, San Diego charges $250 dollars for the first offense and over $500 for the second offense (per person).  Most other counties in California have similar fines, though probably not as steep.

Complete Guide For Drinking Alcohol On California Beaches

County (South to North)BeachDrinking Allowed
San DiegoTorrey PInes State BeachNo
La Jolla (Torrey Pines City Beach, Blacks Beach, La Jolla Shores, La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Shell Beach, Children's Pool Beach / Casa Beach, Wipeout Beach, Hospitals Beach, Whispering Sands Beach, Marine Street Beach, Windansea BeachNo
Pacific Beach (Tourmaline Surf Park, North Pacific Beach, Pacific Beach)No
Mission Beach (Mission Beach, Mission Bay, South Mission Beach)No
Ocean Beach (Ocean Beach, Dog Beach)No
Sunset Cliffs No
Point Loma (Cabrillo National Monument, Kellogg Beach)No
Coronado (Coronado Central Beach, North Beach, Glorietta Bay, Silver Strand State Beach, Ferry Landing Marketplace)No
Imperial Beach (Imperial Beach, Border Field State Park)No
San Diego - North CountySan Onofre State BeachNot on beach (can drink at campground)
Camp Pendleton (military access only)No
Oceanside (Harbor Beach, Buccaneer Beach, South Oceanside Beach, Oceanside Beach)No
Carlsbad (North Carlsbad Beaches, Carlsbad State Beach, South Carlsbad State Beach including Ponto BeachNo
Leucadia (Grandview Beach, Beacons Beach / Leucadia State Beach, Stone Steps BeachNo
Encinitas (Moonlight State Beach, D Street Beach / Boneyards, Swami's BeachNo
Cardiff (Pipes Beach, San Elij Beach, Cardiff Reef, George's, Cardiff State Beach, Seaside Beach, Tabletop Beach)No
Solana Beach (Tide Park, Fletcher Cove Park / Pillbox, Seascape Surf, Del Mar Shores)No
Del Mar (Dog Beach / The River Mouth, Del Mar City Beach, Powerhouse Park)No
Orange CountySeal BeachNo
Surfside BeachNo
Sunset BeachNo
Bolsa Chica State BeachNo
Huntington State Beach, Huntington City BeachNo
Santa Ana River County BeachNo
Newport Municipal BeachNo
Balboa BeachNo
West Jetty View ParkNo
Bayside Drive County BeachNo
China Cove BeachNo
Rocky PointNo
Corona del Mar Sate Beach, Little Corona del Mar BeachNo
Crystal Cover State ParkNo
Crescent Bay Point ParkNo
Shaw's CoveNo
Diver's CoveNo
Rockpile BeachNo
Picnic BeachNo
Main BeachNo
Brooks BeachNo
Victoria BeachNo
Laguna BeachNo
Aliso Creek County BeachNo
West Street BeachNo
1,000 Steps BeachNo
Salt Creek County BeachNo
Doheny State BeachYes (waiver form and fee required and off the beach by 11pm)
Capistrano BeachNo
Poche BeachNo
Komo BeachNo
San Clemente City BeachNo
San Clemente State BeachNo
Los AngelesLeo Carrillo State ParkNo
Rober Meyer Memorial State BeachNo
El Pescador State BeachNo
La Piedra State BeachNo
El Matador State BeachNo
Lechuza BeachNo
Broad BeachNo
Zuma Beach County ParkNo
Paradise CoveYes (no liquor, beach closes just after sunset)
Point Dume State BeachNo
Malibu Lagoon State BeachNo
Topanga State BeachNo
Will Rogers State BeachNo
Santa Monica State BeachNo
Venice City BeachNo
Playa Del ReyNo
Dockweiler State BeachNo
El Sugundo BeachNo
El Porto BeachNo
Manhattan Beach County ParkNo
Hermosa City BeachNo
Descanso Beach Club, Catalina IslandYes, at the club (small beach)
Redondo Beach State ParkNo
RAT BeachNo
Torrance County BeachNo
Royal Palms State BeachNo
Cabrillo Beach ParkNo
Long Beach City BeachNo
VenturaEmma Wood State BeachNo
San Buenaventura State BeachNo
McGrath State BeachNo
Mandalay State BeachNo
Oxnard Beach ParkNo
Channel Islands BeachNo
Silver Strand BeachNo
Port Hueneme Beach ParkNo
Point Mugu State ParkNo
County Line BeachNo
Santa BarbaraButterfly BeachNo
Point Sal State BeachNo
Surf BeachNo
Jalama Beach County ParkNo
Gaviota State ParkNo
Refugio State ParkNo
Gaviota State ParkNo
Refugio State BeachNo
El Capitan State BeachNo
Santa Barbara Shores County ParkNo
Goleta Beach ParkNo
Arroyo Burro BeachNo
Santa Barbara East BeachNo
Lookout County ParkNo
Carpinteria State BeachNo
Rincon Beach ParkNo
San Luis ObispoWilliam Randolph Hearst Memorial State BeachNo
Estero Bluffs State ParkNo
Cayucos State BeachNo
Morro Strand State BeachNo
Morrow Rock Beach / Morrow Bay State ParkNo
Montana de Oro State ParkNo
Avila BeachNo
Pismo State BeachNo
Montery CountyZmudowski State BeachNo
Salinas River State ParkNo
Marina State BeachNo
Monterey State BeachNo
Del Monte BeachYes (6am-10pm)
Asilomar State BeachNo
Carmel Beach City ParkYes (until 10pm and no kegs)
Carmel River State BeachNo
Point Lobos State ReserveNo
Point Sur Lightsation State Historic ParkNo
John Little State ReserveNo
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State ParkNo
Santa CruzNatural Bridges State BeachNo
Light House State BeachNo
Santa Cruz BeachNo
Twin Lakes State BeachNo
Capitola State BeachNo
Seacliff State BeachNo
Manresa State BeachNo
Sunset State BeachNo
San Mateo CountyPoppie Town BeachNo
Palisades ParkNo
Northridge ParkNo
Mussel Rock ParkNo
Long View ParkNo
Beach State ParkNo
Rockaway BeachNo
Tuntis BeachNo
Gray Whale Cove State BeachNo
Montara State BeachNo
El Grandada BeachNo
Vallejo BeachNo
Miramar BeachNo
Half Moon Bay State Park (Roosevelt Beach, Dunes Beach, Venice Beach, Francis Beach)No
Poplar BeachNo
Redondo State BeachNo
Pelican Point BeachNo
Cowell Ranch BeachNo
Martin's State BeachNo
Santa Cruz BeachNo
San Gregorio Private BeachNo
San Gregorio State BeachNo
Pomponio State BeachNo
Pescadero State BeachNo
Pebble BeachNo
Bean Hollow State BeachNo
Pigeon Point BeachNo
Gazos Creek State BeachNo
Scaroni Road BeachNo
San FranciscoSan Francisco Bay (Aquatic Park, Golden Gate Park, East Beach)No
Pacific Ocean (Marshall's Beach, Baker Beach, China Beach, Lands End Beach, Ocean Beach, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Fort Funston BeachNo
AlamedaAlbany BeachNo
Radio BeachNo
Crown Memorial State BeachNo
Contra CostaMiller or Knox BeachNo
Marin CountyTomales Bay State ParkNo
Point Reyes National SeashoreYes (Kehoe Beach only)
Mount Tamalpais State ParkNo
Stinson Beach ParkNo
Golden Gate National Recreation AreaNo
Dillon BeachNo
SonomaGualala Point Regional ParkNo
Kruse Rhododendron State ReserveNo
Salt Point State ParkNo
Stillwater State ParkNo
Clam BeachNo
Fort Ross (Goat Rock Beach, Blind Beach, Shell Beach, Wrights Beach, Gleason Beach, Schoolhouse Beach, Carmet Beach, Arched Rock Beach, Coleman Beach, Miwok Beach, North Salmon Creek Beach, South Salmon Creek Beach)No
Sonoma Coast State Beach (Doran Beach)No
Doran Regional ParkNo
Mendocino CountyWestport-Union Landing State BeachNo
Mackerricher State ParkNo
Caspar Headlands State BeachNo
Russian Gulch State ParkNo
Manchester State ParkNo
Schooner Gulch State BeachNo
Humboldt CountyHumboldt Lagoons State ParkNo
Patricks Point State ParkNo
Trinidad State BeachNo
Little River State BeachNo
Clam Beach County ParkNo
Sinkyone Wilderness State ParkNo
Del NortePelican State BeachNo
Crescent BeachNo
Redwood National ParkNo
Prairie Creek Redwoods State ParkNo

Conclusion

In this article we discussed whether alcohol is allowed on California beaches.  Alcohol is permitted on 6 beaches but that’s not much considering how many beaches cover the California coast.

Alcohol is still allowed on most beaches outside of California but sadly, California has taken the steps needed to reduce alcohol-related crime and disturbances, drownings, and littering.

Just a decade ago people in San Diego could drink at the beach, even party at the beach!  Now, people must stick with sodas and water to have a good time (it’s not that bad).

The 6 beaches that allow drinking are:

  • Doheny State Beach, Orange County
  • Carmel Beach, Monterey County
  • Del Monte Beach, Monterey County
  • Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County
  • Paradise Cove, Malibu, Los Angeles County
  • Descanso Beach Club, Catalina Island, Los Angeles County

If you really need your alcohol fix, visit one of these beaches for fun in the sun and cocktails during sunset.  If you can handle the heat without an alcoholic beverage there are hundreds of beautiful beaches to choose from on the California Coast.  Enjoy!