With over 100-miles of shoreline, there is no shortage of incredible beaches in Southern California. Hitting the beach with kids (and all the gear that comes with them) isn’t always easy, but with plenty to explore, calm lagoons, and easy access to bathrooms and parking, some SoCal beaches make visiting with kids like a day at the, well, you know! Pack your sunscreen and towels, and get ready to enjoy some fun in the sun at the best beaches for families in Southern California.
Best Beaches for Families in Southern California
From San Diego to Malibu and all the sandy sun-soaked stretches of the South Bay and Santa Monica in between. These are some of the very best beaches for families to explore and enjoy.
Los Angeles Beaches
Santa Monica Beach is an iconic example of the legendary Southern California beaches. Besides the wide stretches of sandy coastline, Santa Monica Beach offers more than just surf and sand. It is also home to the world famous Santa Monica Pier, which provides plenty of family fun, including Pacific Park and the Heal the Bay Aquarium, against a stunning ocean view. The beach also features several playgrounds, an extensive bike path, dining on the sand, The Annenberg Community Beach House, and plenty of public restrooms and parking, making it the quintessential family-friendly beach in Los Angeles.
Locals call Marina Beach in Marina Del Rey “Mother’s Beach” because it features a roped-off swimming and wading area on the calm waters of the Marina Del Rey Harbor. Because lifeguards patrol the beach and waves can’t get in, it’s one of the best beaches for families with small kids who may not be strong swimmers. However, because this is a marina, check with the lifeguards regarding water quality and avoid swimming after a strong rainstorm because storm runoff might contaminate the water.
Families and outdoor lovers flock to Manhattan Beach, a laid-back South Bay town. Between contemporary houses and broad areas of sand studded with volleyball courts, the Strand bike route goes along the seashore. You can also explore a small aquarium and check out views of surfers at the low-key Manhattan Beach Pier.
Redondo Beach stretches for more than a mile and a half, from the Redondo Beach Pier to Torrance Beach. The pier has a parking structure as well as street parking. Showers, bathrooms, and volleyball nets are among the amenities. Swimming, surfing, and windsurfing are all popular activities on the beach. The horseshoe-shaped pier, which also serves as a fishing pier, contains a variety of restaurants and stores.
In Redondo Beach’s King Harbor, Seaside Lagoon is located on the southwest corner of Harbor Drive and Portofino Way. Another one of the best beaches for families with young kids is the vast saltwater lagoon supervised by qualified lifeguards and features water slides. The Lagoon has a huge beach area which includes a playground, picnic tables, and restrooms. The Lagoon is open throughout the summer from May to September, and there is a daily entry fee ($8/ adults, $6/ children, 2 and under free), or you can purchase a season pass for the family.
Swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing, and beachcombing are all available at Leo Carrillo State Park’s 1.5-mile beach. There are also tide pools, coastal caves, and reefs to explore on the shore. You can visit the beach for the day or book a campsite and make it a vacation. It’s no wonder Leo Carrillo is always at the top of the list for best beaches in Southern California.
Situated where Malibu Creek meets the Pacific Ocean, Malibu Lagoon is the home of the world-famous Surfrider beach. From the wonders of nature to the historic SoCal surfing tradition, this beach offers so much for families to do and see. On any given day, you can catch a glimpse of surfers riding the waves among the occasional dolphin pod. Back on the beach, you’ll find a nature trail, tidal wetlands, and rocky tide pools to explore when you time it right.
With a nearly two-mile stretch of beach frontage, you’ll never feel cramped for space at Zuma. Offering food stands, volleyball nets, surfing, easy access to restrooms, and plenty of parking, this is the perfect spot to camp out for a full day at the beach. The beach transforms with sand dunes during the winter, making it one of the best spots for sand sledding.
Orange County Beaches
This 62-acre beach is California’s first state beach and remains one of its most popular and best beaches for families. It is located in the community of Dana Point, California. At its northern end, Doheny includes a day-use surfing beach and a sprawling grass area with picnic tables and volleyball courts. There are tide pools at the beach and a tourist center with aquarium exhibits and Junior Ranger and campfire programs offered in the summer. On the south end, you’ll find a beachfront campground.
Surfers, swimmers, sunbathers, campers, kayakers, birders, fishers, and bikers use San Onofre State Beach, one of California’s most popular beaches. In addition to the long stretch of sand and surf, San Onofre is teeming with natural wildlife to explore, including ten endangered species. Occasionally, whales, dolphins, and sea lions can be spotted off the coast. The paved Old Highway 101 offers the perfect bike path to take in the view.
Huntington Beach, dubbed “Surf City USA” by surfers, has consistently good surfing throughout the year. Huntington State Beach offers a variety of outdoor activities and nightly bonfires in the form of fire pits. Bolsa Chica has outstanding surf and waves thanks to its shallow seas, while the historically significant Huntington Beach Pier and the vast and stretched sandy beaches give you a lot of options to spend the day.
San Diego Beaches
Coronado Beach is a nearly two-mile stretch of award-winning beach that provides family-friendly swimming, beach volleyball, firepits, a dedicated dog beach, and some of the most breathtaking sunsets you’ll ever see.
Imperial Beach provides a tranquil retreat for anyone looking to get away from the crowd, with miles upon miles of some of Southern California’s most enormous and unspoiled beachfront land. Imperial Beach’s City Beach, being the most southwestern city in the country, proudly holds the U.S. Open Sand Castle Building Contest each year, only to be swept clean by the tide at the end of the day. The Imperial Beach Pier is also a popular tourist attraction and one of the greatest bird-watching spots in the area. There are several parks, restaurants, and stores nearby.
With nearly two miles of oceanfront boardwalk, numerous rental shops, and Belmont Park, a boardwalk amusement park, Mission Beach is San Diego’s lively take on the classic boardwalk beach town. Biking, beach volleyball, boogie boarding, surfing, whale watching, sport fishing, and scuba diving are just a few of the activities available to the whole family.
Whether you’re looking for a place to relax or have an adventure, one of these beaches will be just what you’re looking for. Do you have a favorite spot we missed? Share it with us in our Local Anchor Facebook Group.