Parents often go out of their way to plan grandiose family trips with all the bells and whistles; but sometimes it’s the simplest, impromptu outings that create the fondest memories. Such is the case with a low-key trip to Malibu Lagoon State Beach, which promises to be a relaxing retreat into nature that the whole family will enjoy. This majestic backdrop offers the opportunity to ditch the lines and the admission fees at the local aquarium, and to observe and appreciate sea life in its natural habitat. In the tide pool, kids can discover plenty of crabs as they scamper by right next to their toes, or ooh and ahh over the bright orange hue of a real live sea star. Plus, there’s 22 acres of wetlands where you can spot an abundance of bird species who call the lagoon home.

Getting There & Parking: Malibu Lagoon State Beach is located at 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265. Look for the entrance for parking and the nature area at Cross Creek Road off the Pacific Coast Highway. This is directly across from the famed Malibu Country Mart, where you can pick up a picnic to go (see below). The state beach parking lot is located on the west side of the Malibu Creek Bridge. Parking costs $12. Be sure to pay the fee, as the area is heavily patrolled!

Picnic to Go: En route to the beach, stop and pick up food at John’s Garden at the Malibu Country Mart. They offer an extensive sandwich and salad menu, as well as smoothies, milk shakes and snacks that are all easy to tote on the go. While you wait for your food to be prepared, the kiddos can blow off some steam from the drive at the fun playground located just outside the order pick-up window.


Parking 411:
After you park, you’ll have a beautifully scenic, yet somewhat lengthy stroll along a wildflower lined dirt path to the beach — so be mindful of how much you need to lug with you to set up shop.

Fun in the tide pool: A tide pool offers an adventurous departure from a smooth sandy shore. Swap out the lounging and building of sand castles for the fun of exploring! At Malibu Lagoon State Beach, you’ll find a rocky, shallow pool of water that’s teeming with ocean life peeking out from the crevices and creeping among the rocks. Expect to see black crabs scurrying by and perhaps a starfish or two basking in its natural habitat. Bring your camera because there will be many photo-worthy moments of your kids’ delight in this amazing backdrop.

all photos courtesy of Beth Shea

Tide Pool Exploration Tip: Outfit your kiddos in water shoes because they’ll be climbing around in rocky terrain, and you’ll want to protect their fragile tootsies from sharp edges and maybe even a crab’s claw or two.

Surf’s Up: This setting is also a great place to watch surfers hang ten, as it is home to Surfrider Beach, a world famous locale that’s a popular destination for catching waves, and one of the birthplaces of SoCal surfing culture.

Bird’s Eye View: Malibu Lagoon is an amazing place to go bird watching. Here you’ll find a large assortment of birds to behold. For a glimpse at some of the beautiful feathered creatures you may be lucky enough to spy, visit this page of the Santa Monica Bay Audobon Society’s website. Don’t forget to pack binoculars for your little bird watchers in training!

Online: parks.ca.gov/malibulagoon

— Beth Shea