One of the (many) perks of living in LA? You can hit the beach pretty much year-round—even in January. Plus, hanging by the shore during the “off-season” means dealing with far fewer tourists. Whether you’re looking for a destination that’s got all the amenities (like an onsite cafe plus splash pad) or a seaside setting that’s more tucked away (with cool rock caves and pristine water), here are LA’s 10 best beaches for kids. Cowabunga!
Malibu Lagoon State Beach
If you like your beach with nature trails, flower gardens, tide pools and bird watching, this spot's for you. It's located adjacent to Surfrider Beach, where you're sure to see some surfers hanging ten. For something different, you can also tour the Adamson House, a Spanish Colonial Revival home with plenty of charm, and the adjoining Malibu Lagoon Museum.
23200 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Will Roger’s State Beach
Just off PCH at Temescal Canyon, this huge sandy beach offers volleyball courts, a playground and convenient parking that stretches the whole length of the beach (extra-convenient when you’re schlepping lots). With a long and low break perfect for beginners, this is a great spot to practice those boogie boarding skills. In need of some sustenance? Gladstones is nearby, and their kid’s menu is one of the best dining deals by the beach.
17000 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Annenberg Community Beach House
With a playground, splash pad, pool, restaurant and tons of fun activities planned all summer long, a visit to the Annenberg Community Beach House is so much more than just a trip to the beach. The pool is only open on weekends through September, but you still have full access to the beach and splash pads, which little ones are sure to love.
One of our favorite things here is the ease factor: during the summer, you can reserve a parking spot online (1-3 days in advance of your visit) and grab grub at the Back On The Beach Cafe. The location also boasts beach bathrooms that are actually clean. Parking rates and activities schedule change throughout the year, so be sure to check their website for updated information before planning your visit.
415 Pacific Coast Hwy.
El Matador Beach
Kids can explore sea caves, tunnels and more rock formations at this off-the-beaten-path beach. You'll have to trek down some steep stairs to make it to the sand, so this location is probably better for older kids who can manage the steps. There is a fee to park in the lot or limited free parking on PCH.
Insider Tip: Check the tide levels before you go—during high tide, the water covers most of the beach, so you'll want to go when the tide's low.
32215 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Leo Carrillo State Park
Not only is this beach far from the crowds, you'll also find tidepools and sea caves for kids to play in. Added bonus: You’re not far from seafood favorite Neptune’s Net. Stop for a late lunch or early dinner on the way home to the delight of your vroom vroom loving kiddos who can try and count all the motorcycles out front. And if you’ve got a pup, the north beach here is one of the few beaches in the county where you won’t have to leave your four-legged friend behind, just don’t forget the leash.
35000 West Pacific Coast Hwy.
This lovely stretch of sand is private and picturesque. Often used for filming (you might recognize it in everything from Planet of the Apes to Iron Man), the large cliffs provide a stunning backdrop for your family’s beach day. Hike up the Point Dume path and you may catch a glimpse of body surfing dolphins or climbers repelling the rocky cliff.
There is a pay parking lot (closer) or free parking on the street (cheaper). Take note that the lifeguard tower is only manned during peak summer season. End the day at The Sunset Restaurant and you’ll miss PCH traffic too.
Tip for little swimmers: This north-facing beach’s surf breaks shallow and close to shore so make sure to keep an extra eye on beginning swimmers at the water’s edge.
Westward Beach Rd.
A surf-free, large salt-water lagoon, Seaside Lagoon has lifeguard supervision, playground equipment, a snack bar hosted by Ruby’s and a large grassy play area. It’s only open in the summer and there is a parking fee of $2/hour ($6 max) along with an entrance fee that varies depending on the season (it’s $6-$8 this summer, and free for the under 2 crowd).
200 Portofino Way
This is what the rest of the country thinks all of California looks like—miles and miles of clean white sand, punctuated by a picturesque pier. Try and park near the pier, so you’ll be close to bathrooms and snacks, plus the Roundhouse Aquarium located at the end of the pier. This small and intriguing place is free and kids who need a break from the sun and sand will love this hands-on aquarium-meets-marine studies lab.
2 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
The nickname for this spot? Mother's Beach, so you know it's kid-friendly. This is one of the best and safest options if you have small children and are the sole grown-up in your gang. The Long Beach destination is on a bay, fully staffed with safety personnel and has a great playground. It can be empty on early summer mornings and a complete zoo on weekend afternoons, so be cautious and crafty when planning your visit.
5839 East Appian Way
Bay Shore Beach
Just a hop, skip, and a jump from Mother’s Beach is the Bay Shore Peninsula. Almost guaranteed to be less crowded, the Bay Shore Beach is clean, safe and fun. If you’re looking for some solitude, try heading farther south down the peninsula where you can probably score a stretch of sand all to yourselves. Just a reminder, there is no surf on the Bayside beaches, so if you have a kiddo who wants to hang ten on the boogie boards, this is not the spot for you. They are, however, perfect for toddlers, beginning swimmers, and parents who are made nervous by big waves. There is free parking on Bay Shore Drive.
5415 E. Ocean Blvd.
Orange County Beaches: Totally Worth the Drive!
Seal Beach: The perfect spot to learn to surf, body board, or bodysurf.
Sea Bridge Park, Huntington Beach: Tough to find on your first try, but well worth it.
Strands, Dana Point: Puts the “fun” in Funicular!
Little Corona, Newport Beach: No steps and kids can watch the divers.
Aliso Beach Park, Aliso Viejo: As close to Caribbean blue seas as you get in SoCal.
Know Before You Go: Heal the Bay has a very easy to use website that frequently updates all Southern California beach conditions. As of publishing our picks had an A or A+ rating but check before going as conditions can change quickly due to rain and other reasons.
featured photo: Pixabay
—Kate Felton, Meghan Rose & Christina Montoya Fiedler