Castaway Cove. Photo courtesy of Howard Johnson Hotel Anaheim
Castaway Cove. Photo courtesy of Howard Johnson Hotel Anaheim

LA's Best Swimming Pools with Play Areas and a Little More for Kids and Parents

Sure, there are miles of great beaches in SoCal, including a few hidden gem beaches, but sometimes you want to cool off without sand and waves. It can be worth going a little farther to find a swimming pool that’s open to the public for recreational swimming and offers something special: Think slides, water play features, extended shallow areas for the little ones to splash in, or even just a beautiful, peaceful setting with cocktails and wifi. Here’s our list of cool destination swimming pools worth a drive in LA and OC.

This post is being updated for 2021. Check back soon!

Please note: many local community pools are still just open for lap swim. Each pool will have a different requirement for determining if a child is ready for lap swim; some have tests, others just require parent assurances. Check with a pool before making a reservation.

Best Swimming Pools on LA's Westside and South Bay

Culver City Municipal Plunge—Culver City

Locals love this place for its Olympic-size swimming pool, heated competition pool, and diving board (open to kids who can pass the swim test and are at least 48 inches tall). Children under 48 inches anywhere in the pool area must be accompanied by an adult who is 18 years or older, and the adult-to-child ratio must be one-to-one. Discounted passes are available, but as a community pool it's pretty affordable even by the day (adults $4, kids $3). Reservations are required for a 50-minute swim period; up to 4 family members can make a reservations together.

Santa Monica Swim Center—Santa Monica

Note that as of May 15, 2021 the facility is open only for lap swim (kids under 18 must pass a swim test to be cleared to join lap swim) and classes (kids 4 and up). Family swim hours are still on hold. Reservations must be made online or by phone.
The facility at Santa Monica College has two large, heated swimming pools: one is 2.5 to 4.5 feet deep and is warmer, and the other ranges from 6.5 feet to 13 feet deep and has several swimming lanes and two diving boards. To swim in the deeper pool, kids need to show that they can swim an entire pool length. The pools are popular and do get a little crowded. Children under eight must be accompanied by an adult in the water. Discounted passes are available, and Santa Monica residents pay half price with proof of residency; see site for additional discounts.

Kids love the heated pool and turtle pond; parents love poolside cocktails. Photo courtesy of Fairmont Miramar Hotel

Fairmont Miramar—Santa Monica

If you're prepared to spend a little more for a special swimming experience, there are various hotel pools accessible via Resort Pass, a service hotels use to sell day passes to their swimming pools. The options change each season, but one participating hotel this summer is the beautiful Fairmont Miramar, set on 5 secluded acres across from Santa Monica Beach. The pool is heated, and while it doesn't specifically have special features for children (apart from the beautiful surroundings), the gardens include a natural pool populated with turtles kids love. Mom and Dad, meanwhile, love the poolside service from the delicious Fig bar and cafe, delivered to the relaxing lounge chairs. (Resort Pass price to visit this hotel pool: Adults $30; Children $20)

Hotel MdR—Marina del Rey

Another luxurious hotel pool available via Resort Pass this season is at the Hotel MdR Marina del Rey. Guests can enjoy the heated pool, free parking and wifi, ping pong tables, bike rentals, and hot fresh cookies upon arrival. Cabana rental is also available for an extra dollop of luxury. (Resort Pass price to visit this hotel pool: Adults $25; Children $10)

Begg Pool—Manhattan Beach

Families can make reservations for lap swim (for kids ages 7 and up) or recreational swim (for up to 5 family members) for 50 minute sessions. Reservations must be made online. Recreational swim is $3 for residents and $5 for non-residents; lap swim is $5 for residents and $7 for non-residents. While the pool doesn't have waterslides or anything fancy, it's an outdoor pool with grassy strips where families can set up camp, has super friendly staff, and is in beautiful Manhattan Beach.

Hopefully, the slide will reopen soon. Until then, it's time to swim! Photo courtesy of Pleasant Valley Aquatic Center

Best Swimming Pools in the Valleys

Hilton Universal—Universal City

A heated pool, a hot tub, and poolside food and beverage should be enough to make a staycation day for most people, but feel free to kick it up a notch with a cabana that includes a fridge, ceiling fan, and TV. Hot tip: If you bring more than 4 people, the cabana actually works out to be a better deal. All that plus the view is lovely, and the cocktails have that whole straw coming out of a coconut thing that cries vacation. (Resort Pass price to visit this hotel pool: $30)

Rose Bowl Aquatics Center—Pasadena

Note that as of May 15, 2021 the facility is open only for lap swim (kids 8 and up), classes (kids 2.5 and up), and other organized programs; watch the RBAC Facebook page for more reopening info. Family swim hours are still on hold. Locker rooms are for restroom use only, not for changing.
Among this public aquatic center’s many nice attributes is that there's one swimming pool for serious lap swimmers and a recreation pool for families. Recreational Family Swim hours and fees are for the use of the shallow end of the dive and recreation pool and do not include the use of lap lanes, hydro spas, or weight room. The beautiful setting in Arroyo Seco is another plus, and there’s a pirate-themed playground nearby for water-logged kids. The facility is open year-round, but Family Swim hours change seasonally; check the website for a current schedule. Kids ages seven and younger must be accompanied by an adult in the pool with a one-to-one ratio.

Verdugo Aquatic Facility Activity Pool—Burbank  

Note that as of May 15, 2021 the facility is open only for lap swim (a guardian must be present for kids), classes (kids 3 and up), and other organized programs. The waterslide is not open at this time. Lap swim lanes are currently shared lanes; we recommend reserving both sides of the lane for you and your kiddo, so they don't have to lap share with a stranger! Lap swim reservations are $5 per swimmer and can be made online.
The activity pool at this facility, with its open and enclosed water slides and aquatic playground, is such a bevy of activity you may just find yourself splashing right along with your kids. The activity pool is $2 more than the recreation pool, and wristbands are given out in limited quantities for each two-hour activity session. On certain hot days, the line can begin well before the activity session. Kids must be 47 inches or taller to ride the water slide. There's half-price admission for Burbank residents with proof of residency.

Pleasant Valley Aquatic Center—Camarillo

Note that as of May 15, 2021 the facility is open only for lap swim (a guardian must be present for kids under 14), classes (kids 3 and up), and other organized programs. The waterslide is not open at this time. Lap swim lanes are currently shared lanes; we recommend reserving both sides of the lane for you and your kiddo, so they don't have to lap share with a stranger! Lap swim reservations are $4 per swimmer and can be made online.
Some folks will be drawn here by the heated pool, others by the outdoor patio / indoor pool combination. But kids are all about the 65-foot spiral water slide. The diving board is a nice touch as well, but seriously, it's all about the slide.

Santa Clarita Aquatics Center—Santa Clarita  

Note that as of May 15, 2021 the facility is open only for lap swim (minors must be accompanied by a guardian) and classes (kids 3 and up). Family swim hours are still on hold. Reservations for lap swim are available online.
The aquatic center boasts three swimming pools, two of which offer recreational swimming hours. The one sure to catch your kids’ eyes is the activity pool, with a large, long water slide (for kids 48 inches and taller), spray fountain, and other water play features. It’s a safe space to play, with a gradual entry and decent-sized shallow end as well as a roped-off deep end. With so much to keep the little ones busy, the drive north is worth it. Season passes are available.

Photo courtesy of Aliso Viejo Aquatic Center

Best Swimming Pools in Orange County

Aliso Viejo Aquatic Center—Aliso Viejo

Aliso Viejo Aquatic Center features an outdoor pool and splash pad, both of which are open for summer of 2021 at 50% capacity, on a first come, first served basis. Monday through Thursday, from 3:30pm to 6pm, no lap swim is available; there is a designated zone in the lap pool open for recreational swimming in addition to the splash pad and kid pool. The entry fee is $4 for kids and $ for adults for residents and only $2 more per person for non-residents. Note that all guests must set up a free recreation account online before using the facilities.

William Woollett, Jr. Aquatics Center—Irvine

Note that as of May 15, 2021 the facility is closed for recreational swimming until further notice. However, as Orange County is reopening, this pool has plans to reopen for summer. We will update this information soon as possible.
While the facilities are used extensively for lap swimming and professional events, swimmers of all stripes can visit during limited recreational swim times. Of interest to bigger kids is a water slide and diving area in the two seven-foot-deep Olympic pools. Smaller kids can enjoy a more shallow pool with a gradual depth of 4.5 feet. Anyone who wants to use the deep end, water slide, diving pool, and diving boards must first pass a swim test. Children ages 5 and younger must be accompanied by an adult, one-on-one, in the water at all times. The center also holds occasional special events such as Dive-In Movies; check the website for more information.

San Clemente Aquatics Center—San Clemente

Note that as of May 15, 2021 this facility is only open for lap swim. Regular lap swim is for kids 13 and up, while Junior Lap Swim hours (Friday-Sunday) are for kids 8-12. The water play structure remains closed. For younger kids, contact the Ole Hanson Beach Club facility for family recreation swim hours. All swim sessions require online reservations.
Another destination pool in the Orange County parks and recreation department is the San Clemente Aquatics Center complex at Vista Hermosa Sports Park. Swimmers can enjoy both a competition pool and an activity pool, while younger kids can splash the day away in the water play structure in a sizable wading pool. The surrounding park offers plenty of greenery for a picnic (more than half hour before getting back in the water, of course).

Newport Beach Marriott—Newport Beach

With so many public swimming pools only offering lap swims, thank goodness local hotels are sharing. The Newport Beach Marriott doesn't offer flashy slides or playgrounds, but it has two lovely pools plus a jacuzzi with plenty of greenery, lounge chairs and cabanas, and poolside food and beverage service. It's worth the price to watch your kids splash and play while you get in a little lounging. (Resort Pass price to visit this hotel pool: Adults $25; Children $20)

Other Resort Pools with Day Passes

There are more hotels and resorts in Los Angeles and Orange County that offer day passes to their pool areas. Often these are easiest to find via apps or websites like Resort Pass, especially in a season when openings and closures change so quickly. It's a good idea to double check whether the pool is kid-friendly.

Finally, while it's not a swimming pool, the beach area at Newport Dunes Resort is a fun day of swimming that's totally worth the drive; its beach-front waterpark, with inflatables in a protected cove, offers day use passes, while the beach and playground area are always free.

Photo courtesy of Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort Spa 

Resort Pools Where You Gotta Book a Night

While these pools don't offer day passes, they are all such amazing hotel pools that they're worth a mention. For pretty much the same price as watepark admission, you could spend the night at the hotel, and the day by these amazing pools, for a mini staycation.

Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel Water Playground— Anaheim, CA

Ahoy, Mateys! There's plenty of fun to be had at ​Castaway Cove, a watery pirate playground featuring slides, water cannons, and a pirate ship geared toward toddlers and big kids. A 200-gallon drench bucket, toddler wading pool with beach-style entry, and s-curvy slide keep little ones busy for hours. The spacious rooms can accommodate families of five.

Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort Spa — Palm Springs, CA

With 444 guest rooms, including 22 suites, this stunning Palm Springs resort includes Splashtopia, an on-site water park is fun for adults and kids. In addition to rafting down the 425-foot lazy river, guests can enjoy two 100-foot water slides and a cliff-side hot tub. Splash Grill serves up delicious burgers and cool, tropical drinks to savor poolside.

Cambria Hotel & Suites—Anaheim

The outdoor pool area at this hotel features multiple water slides and splash pads. By the time you're done shelling out for a day pass at another hotel, it may be more worth your while to book a night at the Cambria and enjoy the extreme delights of this pool area along with a little overnight pampering.

Originally published July 27, 2017 and updated annually

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