With 840 miles of coastline*, the opportunity to find hidden beaches in California is very good. An easy way to do this is to drive down highway 1 (Coastal Highway, PCH, etc.) and look for signs marked “Coastal Access“. There is usually a symbol with the text, that looks like binoculars. Be wary of signs that seem to go over private property, or involve crossing any fences or gates. Usually they are only displayed when there is a public right-of-way to the coastline (it doesn’t always mean there will be a beach!), and some routes may have been eroded over time so please use caution. The signs don’t always pan out, but when they do it’s glorious.
When we were in Mendocino, we followed a trail through a forested area and across a muddy area from a small stream to a cliffy shoreline with the most remarkable sunset. We were the only ones out on the bluff and it was one of my better California ‘beach’ moments. We love to find the more secluded or off-the-beaten-path areas when we travel, not because we are thrill-seekers or very adventurous, but because I love the serenity that it provides.