Best Beaches for Kids and Families in Los Angeles & Orange County
Beach is what SoCal is all about, but with so much sea and sand around it can actually be hard to choose which is the best beach for kids and the whole family. In the years when sand-filled diapers and tired little legs feel challenging, you want to be sure you've chosen a beach that will pay off with great summer memories.
You could head for a beach with a playground (we know some good ones), but for just enjoying the wonderful Pacific Ocean with easy parking, bathrooms, snacks, or other amenities, we love to return to the dozen beaches below. Gather the shovels, sandwiches, and sunscreen, and go west, young families!
The Beaches Are Open in 2021
Los Angeles and OC beaches are open this summer, and the rules are pretty simple! All the usual beach activities are allowed: swimming, picnicking, surfing, swimming, beach volleyball, fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and body surfing.
The only things that are not allowed this summer are using fire pits at the beach and gatherings of more than 15 people from more than 3 households.
Face coverings (for people over 2) are required when not in the water, and social distancing is still beach policy. Restrooms are open—and they’re now getting cleaned more frequently, which is a plus!
Malibu Family Beaches
Leo Carrillo is one of the Southland's most beloved family beach spots, and it's no wonder. With easy parking, a tunnel that walks you under the PCH to the beach (that alone can be exciting), and plenty of sand and tidepools once you get there, this destination is a repeat favorite. Don't forget to explore the rocks and caves, too! Plan ahead, and you can even make a weekend of it at the adjacent Leo Carrillo Campground. Note: parking payment is by automated pay machines or pay-by-phone app (no cash). The app saves guests $1 on all-day parking.
Having fun at Leo Carillo State Beach. Photo by Connar L'Ecuyer/National Park Service
Feel like splurging? No, we mean really splurging. Then make a day of it at Paradise Cove. It's a private beach, and there's no surfing allowed, so the rolling waves are just for the swimmers. Many a movie and TV show were filmed here (Baywatch, Gidget, Sponge Bob Square Pants: The Movie) so the backdrop may look familiar. Rent a beach chair, rent an umbrella, or occupy your own little hut. No luxury is spared (including valet parking at no extra charge!). Grab some lunch at the Beach Cafe (a $30 purchase cuts the parking rate from $35 weekdays and $50 on weekends to $8 weekdays and $10 on weekends for 4 hours). It's all there for you and your little gang.
3. Zuma Beach
Sure it gets crowded in the summer, but that's because beachgoers know a good thing when they see it. Picturesque, with a familiar rock face you may recognize from a movie or two, Zuma Beach is just that beach you want to plop down on for the day. The little ones can glide on their boogie boards, build a sandcastle or two, and watch the daring rock climbers. The width of this beach means plenty of parking that's close to the sand—but if you're meeting someone, be specific about which parking lot/lifeguard stand you're heading for!
Located between Leo Carrillo and Point Dume, El Matador is one of three "pocket beaches" at Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. While it's a steep path from the street parking above (leave the stroller at home), the rock formations make for amazing views. Because the beach is narrow, get here early to get a good spot—and bring your own food (there's no food service here)—but portable toilets are located in the upper parking area. Note: parking payment is by automated pay machines or pay-by-phone app (no cash). The app saves guests $1 on all-day parking.
This secluded, hidden gem (which is a public beach) near El Matador Beach is hard to find, but that means it can be a quiet retreat with tide pools and a chance to soak (you won't bump into surfers here due to the gentle waves and underwater rocks). This beach has an accessible entrance off of Broad Beach Road and Bunnie Lane. Access to Lechuza Beach is available through a residential neighborhood with on-street parking, so just park your car, walk down one of the two paths, and head to the beach. But be warned: secluded also means no restrooms or cafe.
Photo courtesy of Annenberg Beach House
Santa Monica Bay Beaches
A personal favorite because, really, what's not to like? You get the double delight of both a pool ($10 for adults, $4 kids 1-17) with beach house (read: clean bathrooms, indoor showers, and spin dryers), splash pad, volleyball, and a wide beach just steps away. Plus there's a snack bar and a playground. Final bonus: the boardwalk down to the shore makes it easy to bring a stroller.
Note: The pool and splash pad remain closed as of May 20, 2021. Stay tuned, as we will update this information as it changes. However, Back on the Beach, outdoor restrooms, and the playground are all open.
Want a simple no-frills beach with free parking? Head west on Culver Blvd. until it dead-ends at the ocean, and there you have it. The Del Rey Lagoon is just across the street, complete with playground and wetland birds (and BBQs on the grass). Stop off at Tanner's Coffee for java and a treat.
Okay, this is not one of those cozy, tucked away beaches where civilization recedes into the background. But, if you and the kids are in the mood for a beach with commotion and activity, check out Redondo Beach. Just steps from the Pier is the beach, and (of course) just steps from the beach is the Pier, bustling with ice cream shops, kite shops, restaurants, and pterodactyl-like pelicans swooping down for a rest.
Family Beaches in Palos Verdes and Long Beach
9. Abalone Cove
This beach is fabulous, but (disclaimer) it involves a lengthy walk down a trail to get there. If your little troopers can keep their eye on the prize, rewarded they will be. Sand, surf, and bountiful tidepools (with plenty of starfish), plus more trails to explore if the spirit moves you to move. Grassy lawns and picnic tables abound near the parking lot for a post-beach picnic.
Note: Portions of the beach and tide pool area at Portuguese Point are closed due to falling rocks and unstable cliffs above.
10. Cabrillo Beach
Here's another beach with more than just sand and surf. Check out the tide pools, as well as nearby Cabrillo Marine Aquarium for a well-rounded outing. There are two beach options: one with larger waves beyond the breakwater, and one in the harbor with gentler wave action, both within the same walking vicinity. There is some free street parking available.
Note: The aquarium remains closed as of May 20, 2021. Stay tuned, as we will update this information as it changes.
Little Corona Del Mar Beach is another great place for tidepooling. Photo by Michele & Tom Grimm courtesy of Visit Newport Beach
Orange County Family Beaches
Hands down, this is one of the better beaches to hit with kids in tow. Park for free in the nearby neighborhood, take a short walk down a ramp, and you arrive at a little oasis where it's easy to watch the kids, the tide is gentle, and hermit crabs shuffle through the tide pools. Restrooms and showers are also available.
The name of this beach about says it all. Babies (and toddlers and those a bit bigger) can frolic in the calm waters of this little cove. Showers and bathrooms are available. The only note of caution: it often gets crowded on weekends. But also on the weekends, the nearby Ocean Institute is open to the public. Parking is free for the first 4 hours.
Some photos were taken prior to the pandemic.
Originally published June 1, 2013
Places featured in this article:
Playa Del Rey Beach
Little Corona del Mar Beach
Baby Beach in Dana Point Harbor
Leo Carrillo State Beach
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
Redondo Beach Pier
El Matador Beach