I live 4 miles away from Salt Creek Beach, one of the most GORGEOUS places in the entire world. My kids grew up on the sandy shores of the Pacific Ocean. I saw no reason to go anywhere else. What could I possibly be missing, when paradise is right down the road?
But eek! It turns out I was missing A LOT!
I never really thought about it until a neighbor asked me about Santa Monica Beach. I had nothing to say except “I’ve never been there.” NOW THAT’S SAD. I immediately called my sister Colleen (my Partner-in-Crime and mommy bestie) to say we’d be doing something different this summer. Instead of hanging out at her San Clemente beaches or my Dana Point beaches, we would explore famous California beaches until we ran out of summer . What a great time. I got to discover new iconic beaches with my younger son, my sister and her 2 sons. It was epic (my eldest son, in his late teens was busy visiting grilled cheese festivals with his girlfriend, but that’s a story for another time).
We discovered that California offers a beach experience for every personality type:
Fun & Freaky? Venice.
Hellbent-on-Destruction Daredevil? Mavericks.
I’ve listed some of the best Southern California beaches below, starting at San Diego and going all the way to Los Angeles. Which one fits your family?
1. La Jolla Shores, San Diego
La Jolla Shores runs approximately 1 mile in north La Jolla and offers a little bit of almost everything. Your land-loving family members can frolic along tide pools or play all day at Kellog Park, complete with a climbing structure and lots of grass. Beginner surfers can learn to surf on the mild waves. with lifeguards nearby. Ocean adventurers can discover this location’s abundant aqua life with scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling or stand-up-paddle-boarding. Once the sun goes down, enjoy a bonfire in one of the fire pits (first come, first served). There is a large parking lot.
2. Coronado Central Beach, San Diego
San Diego’s Coronado Central Beach runs along Ocean Boulevard, with its breathtaking mansions and the Hotel del Coronado, one of our must-see California coast hotels. The flat sand stretches 1.5 miles, great for a day with little ones who may get tired on more inclined beach walks. The flat sand also makes it perfect for skim boarding. Surf or swim here with lifeguards on duty 9:00 AM – dusk. Visit tide pools or play in the sand. Fire pits are available. There is free parking on Ocean Blvd. although it fills up quickly on a hot summer day.
3. Mission Beach, San Diego
San Diego’s beach boardwalk is waiting to be enjoyed Mission Beach. More geared to tweens and teens than tiny tikes. Bike, skate or walk the nearly 2 mile boardwalk, but stop at Belmont Park to ride the 73-foot Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, play bumper cars and visit the arcade. Swim, surf, boogie board, kite board, fish or play volleyball.
4. Little Corona, Corona Del Mar
This little gem in Corona Del Mar is perfect for families with young children. Gentle capillary tides offer a less stressful beach experience for parents of little guys new to the ocean. Tide pools hold active ocean life. Street parking is available, but fills up quickly.
5. Baby Beach, Dana Point
Dana Point Harbor’s Baby Beach provides a great space for small children to acclimate to being in the ocean. Sand sculptures are frequently built and a great source of amusement for visitors. BBQ areas are available on the grassy area next to the sand. Lifeguards are on duty. Parking is free and close.
6. Zuma Beach, Malibu
Warning: Riptides. Experienced swimmers only!
Zuma Beach is more than just a pretty backdrop for blockbuster films. Zuma features clean water and exceptional surfing. Zuma frequently hosts surf contests, including kitesurfing at the northern end of the beach. Lifeguards keep an eye on visitors, but swimmers should be experienced because of dangerous rip tides. Volleyball, swing sets and bike paths are available.
7. Malibu Lagoon
Located where Malibu Creek and the Pacific Ocean meet, Malibu Lagoon not only offers premier surfing. It is a saltwater marsh, which houses a unique ecosystem. Discover tidepools, birdwatching and whale watching in the Lagoon’s wetlands. Add this to the surfing, swimming and sandy beaches, and you have something of interest for everyone in the family.
8. Santa Monica Pier
I couldn’t leave this pier off the list. Santa Monica Pier offers so much family fun, including a small amusement park with roller coasters, a ferris wheel, a shark teacup-style ride and many more just right for elementary age kids. You can also visit the arcade, ride the historic merry-go-round and take an acrobatics class. Wow! Lots of parking structures nearby.
So, whether you have little ones that are just getting used to the water or teenaged surfers in search of the perfect wave, California has you covered. Just don’t forget your sunblock!