The Best Beaches In California For A Perfect Late-Night Summer Bonfire, According To Reviews

California has a reputation for having some of the best beaches in the world, from a vibrant coastal park with sunset views to a unique glittering glass beach. Still, if you want to have a relaxing night sitting around a bonfire and listening to the crashing of the Pacific Ocean waves, you might have to look a little harder. San Diego, for example, forbids visitors from starting fires on beaches outside designated fire pits. Given the limited number of these sites, you'll want to pick your spot and stake it out in advance to make sure you have the perfect place for your night on the sand.


To help you choose the best location for your picturesque evening by the water this summer, we've sorted through thousands of reviews to find the options people reported loving the most and narrowed that down to just the locations that allow fires. Don't get discouraged by the restrictions — some of the most beautiful beaches in the state have designated fire rings for you to use.

La Jolla Shores

San Diego has banned fires outside designated fire rings so that hot embers from unauthorized fires don't drift around the beach, burning people walking barefoot. Fortunately, those looking to have a picturesque fire on the sand this summer can still relax on some of the most beautiful beaches in the area by heading over to La Jolla Cove, considered one of the best things to do in San Diego.


You could easily spend an entire day in La Jolla, admiring sea lion colonies and their adorable pups (from a respectful distance) and peering into tide pools. In the evening, make your way to one of the multiple fire rings available for visitors. "Simply heavenly! Great spot for families to enjoy the beach! The view is always perfect and they have fire pits on the beach," one reviewer on Tripadvisor raved. They weren't alone. With average ratings of 4.4-4.5 on review platforms like Yelp and Tripadvisor, visitors clearly favor the area.

Aliso Beach

While you can find many lesser-known California beaches for dodging crowds, Laguna Beach does not appear on that list. The beautiful Aliso Beach, found in south Laguna Beach, has long enticed swimmers and surfers despite the current, and many love walking along the shore and keeping an eye out for whales in the water. It also serves as a beloved bonfire spot.


You'll find it a little more challenging to enjoy a classic California beach bonfire at Aliso Beach than a few years ago, but you can still do so if you plan ahead. It once had fire rings, but the city of Laguna Beach stated that Orange County removed some of them while others were destroyed by storms (though they may get reinstalled.) Fortunately, you can still rent a portable fire pit from the nearby Lost Pier Cafe.

In the summer, this popular spot fills with people — but if you hope to make new friends, you might see that as an advantage. Across several review platforms like Google Reviews, ecstatic users have rated Aliso Beach between 4.4 and 4.7 stars. A Tripadvisor review said it best: "One of the gems of the California coastline, with a wide sandy beach and lots of parking. what's not to love?"


Fiesta Island

Fiesta Island Beaches on Mission Bay presents a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the rest of San Diego. Well-regarded across platforms, users have rated it between 4.3 and 4.6 stars on Google Reviews, Yelp, and Tripadvisor. "I love coming here on Friday night with a good group of friend around a fire and good conversation," an individual on Yelp shared.


Visitors and California locals alike love Fiesta Island because of its pet-friendly nature. Not only does it allow dogs to explore the park off-leash, you'll also encounter people riding their horses. However, bear in mind that fireworks often go off in this area, so you may want to avoid bringing your animals after dark if loud noises frighten them.

In addition to nearby easy hiking trails, the area boasts calm waters where people swim, jet ski, and boat. If you hope to relax and enjoy a summer bonfire with your family, pets included, Fiesta Island has 35 fire rings to choose from — just make sure you arrive early to snag one. One reviewer reported that on a night they were determined to celebrate around the fire, one of their friends claimed their spot almost 12 hours early.


Playa Pacifica Park

This little park on San Diego's Mission Bay can get crowded in the summertime, but reviews on platforms like Google Reviews, Tripadvisor, and Yelp consistently rank Playa Pacifica an average of 4.5 stars. Visitors pack the beach on hot summer nights. However, it would seem that for most, watching the sunset over the huge waves makes it worth fighting the crowds.


One Yelp reviewer stated: "It's a great park to go to and enjoy some family fun. We had a great time barbecuing and sitting back relaxing watching the wood is burning in our bonfire." The beach at Playa Pacifica Park only has 11 fire rings, but if you manage to claim one, you'll likely have a great night. As a bonus, the area sits right across from fellow bonfire spot Fiesta Island, so you might see some other flames winking back at you over the waves.

West Mission Bay beaches

"This is a great spot to enjoy a quiet little beach ... They have scarce firepits on the beach and a few grills in the park. It's a short walk to the ocean view. I think it is perfect," one Google reviewer stated of Mission Point Beach, one of the popular locales on West Mission Bay. If you want a relaxing night by the fire with friends in the San Diego area, you can't go wrong with the beaches of West Mission Bay, like Ventura Cove, Mariner's Point, Bonita Cove, and Mission Point.


Each spot on West Mission Bay only has a few fire pits available (ranging from nine choices at Ventura and one at Mission Point), but all of these popular options have an average rating of 4.6-4.7 stars on Google Reviews. If you can get to any of the beaches early enough to snag a fire ring on a summer night, it will likely be worth it. While the beaches might fill up with visitors, the bay tends to remain calm. Its shallow, mostly waveless water makes it an excellent place for families looking to have a great evening on the sand without worrying too much about large waves unsuitable for little ones.

How we chose the best beaches in California for bonfires

We chose these beach spots by combing through thousands of reviews from visitors who shared their experiences on sites like Google Reviews, Yelp, and Tripadvisor. We paid particular attention to those who had recently enjoyed bonfires on the beaches. To ensure that our readers head out to spots that permit bonfires, we primarily focused on areas with their own fire rings. Aliso Beach, where the debate about whether or not to add new fire pits continues, stands out as the only exception.


Beach fires remain controversial in California, to the point that many communities have considered banning them altogether. For the safety of other beachgoers, the California Department of Parks and Recreation (pdf) has dictated that all visitors must limit their beach fires to a self-contained raised container like a barbecue or an established fire pit maintained by the park or beach.