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Best beaches in LA for families: a complete guide

Published

9 August, 2023

Edited

6 March, 2024

There is no feeling quite like a family day out at the beach. California is home to some of the best beaches in the USA, where golden sand, warm, sunny weather, and the chilled-out, boho-surfer lifestyle bring a smile to everyone’s face. There are so many to choose from that it can be difficult to narrow it down to the best beaches in Los Angeles for families.

To help you make the most of your stay in sunny SoCal, we've compiled a guide to the best family beaches near Los Angeles. This guide will examine which beaches to choose and explore what amenities and activities are on offer. We'll also give you a few essential tips on how to turn every trip to the beach into one to remember for all the right reasons.

When you’ve soaked up your fill of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and you're all shopped out, there's always one thing you can rely on for a great family holiday: the beach.

Why choose a family-friendly beach in LA?

While there are many fabulous beaches along the coast of southern California, not all of them are suitable for a family day out. Some may have a more ‘relaxed’ approach to beachwear that may not be suitable for young children. Others may be ideal if you want to surf big breaks but may have dangerous currents and rocky shorelines that make them unsafe for younger swimmers or surfers.

When you’re looking for the best family beach near Los Angeles, it’s best to keep the following in mind:

  • Excellent facilities – including ensuring there are clean toilets within easy reach.
  • Easy parking – you're going to be carrying a lot of gear, so being able to park your car close by is essential.
  • Safe water – look for beaches that have a gentle slope to them rather than a sudden and deep drop away so that the waters are safe for paddling and swimming.
  • Lifeguards – the best beaches in Los Angeles for families have qualified and experienced lifeguards on duty for total peace of mind.
  • Attractions – after a while, paddling and making sandcastles can get a bit dull for older kids. Look for beaches that have extra attractions such as rides or fun fairs.
  • Food and drink – ensure there are food and drink outlets around, just in case you run out of water, fancy an ice cream or need to top up on your snacks.

Our List of Top Family-Friendly Beaches in Los Angeles

The are hundreds of beaches up and down the coast of southern California and around LA, but to make it easier, we’ve narrowed it down to our top five. These are the best beaches in Los Angeles for families, providing a safe and welcoming beach experience that's ideal for all ages.

Zuma Beach

The pride of Malibu, this two-mile stretch of powder-soft sand is lapped by blue surf and super-clean water. It has a reputation as one of the cleanest beaches in California, a big plus if you’re looking for the best family beaches in LA. The flat terrain means there are no steep hills to walk up and down to get to the beach, so it's kinder on little legs. There is plenty of parking all along the coast, with over 2,000 spaces available, 43 of which are for disabled users. If you've hired an electric car, there are charging points too.

Zuma Beach has lots of amenities for all ages, and as well as bodyboarding and surfing, you can try your hand at kiteboarding, windsurfing and swimming. The beach has lifeguards during daylight hours. Older visitors can play a game of beach volleyball or go fishing. Scuba schools take people offshore, and the diving is good here, with excellent visibility. A wheelchair-accessible walkway makes Zuma Beach open to everyone, regardless of mobility.

And don’t be surprised if you see the occasional film crew here too – Zuma Beach has been used as a location for famous films like the original Planet of the Apes, the thrilling Indecent Proposal, and even a movie named after the beach itself.

Leo Carrillo State Beach

The early-morning fog quickly burns away to reveal the stunning Leo Carrillo State Beach, one of the best beaches in Los Angeles for families. Sitting on the gorgeous Malibu coastline, it’s part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and offers visitors a fabulous 1.5-mile-long beach of golden sand.

While there may not be the extensive facilities you'll find at Zuma, this is an excellent choice for families who love exploring the great outdoors. Activities include swimming, surfing, surf fishing and beachcombing, with plenty of tidal pools to explore. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Leo Carrillo State Beach is the place to be.

Manhattan Beach

With real old-world charm and a wonderfully laid-back atmosphere, Manhattan Beach is a favourite among locals. Tucked away on the Pacific coast south of El Segundo, it’s famous for its fabulous sunsets, gentle surf and an iconic pier with the Roundhouse Aquarium at the end. Home to the International Surf Festival, Manhattan Beach has a fabulous sandy beach and easy breaks close to the shore, with more challenging breaks further out.

Take a wander along the Strand and watch the board jockeys riding the waves, or head into the delightful town just a couple of blocks from the oceanfront to explore high-end boutiques, fine restaurants and open-air bars. Look out for regular events such as farmer’s markets and live music.

Paradise Cove

Another Malibu beach is Paradise Cove, which, thanks to its palm trees and thatched umbrellas, almost has a Hawaiian feel. The beach is popular with surfers, but it doesn’t get as crowded in the water as some other surf beaches along the coast, making it just right for learners and young bodyboarders. There is parking available onsite for a fee.

Cafés and family-friendly restaurants line the beach, so there are plenty of places to grab lunch if you haven't brought a picnic. Paradise Cove is a friendly place to spend a day, making it one of the best family beaches near Los Angeles for a chilled-out, relaxed day in the sun.

Malibu Lagoon Beach

Last, but not least, the utterly gorgeous Malibu Lagoon Beach is the final pick in our list of the best beaches in Los Angeles for families. You'll find this sweep of golden sand where Malibu Creek finally reaches the ocean. While it has all the facilities you want on a family-friendly beach, such as restrooms, lifeguards and picnic spots, this is more of a beach for enjoying the natural wonders of this part of SoCal.

Also known as Surfrider Beach, Malibu Lagoon is simply outstanding for surfing and bodyboarding, and there are areas safe for both beginners and more advanced boarders alike. If you prefer to stay on dry land, several easy trails wind their way between the dunes, and the beach is a fantastic spot for birdwatching. This is a get-away-from-it-all beach, and the sunsets here are simply magnificent.

Beach Tips

Once you’ve picked your favourite beach, it’s time to plan a day out that’s stress-free and fun for everyone. Here are our top five tips to help you make the most of your day at one of the best family beaches in Los Angeles.

Packing – get it done the night before

This is an excellent opportunity to involve the kids and ensure they feel included in the day's plans. They may seem obvious but are often easy to forget. We recommend writing a checklist to make sure you pack essentials such as:

  • Sun cream – a high SPF (50+) is essential for kids’ delicate skin. Pick one that also doesn’t damage the environment, as some suncreams can do real harm to fragile coral reefs.
  • Flip-flops – don't underestimate how hot the sand can get. If you're going in the water, a pair of flip-flops or neoprene beach shoes will stop burnt toes or scratched feet if you go rock pooling.
  • Changes of clothes – sand gets everywhere, so make sure you bring a change of clothes, especially if you want to eat at a restaurant. Some beachside restaurants have strict dress codes and won’t let diners in if they are inappropriately dressed.
  • Plenty of water – it's very easy to get dehydrated without realising it, so take lots of water.
  • Towels – for drying off after that dip or after using a beach shower
  • Sun hats and sunglasses – the glare from the sun can damage little eyes, so give them a respite with a pair of UV protection sunglasses and a shady hat.

Entertainment

  • Not everyone wants to spend the day swimming or surfing. If you have young children with you, make sure you plan some entertainment to keep them happy.
  • Rock pooling is always fascinating for little ones, who love finding all kinds of creatures in the shallow pools.
  • A sandcastle competition is a great way to get everyone involved in a fun activity, with ice creams all around for the winners.
  • Water activities such as bodyboarding are a safe and fun way to introduce young children to the water. Look for surf schools specialising in teaching future surfers how to pop up and hang ten.

Beach safety

While a day at the beach is meant to be fun, there are some safety aspects you need to take into consideration.

The best family beaches in Los Angeles have lifeguards on duty during daylight hours. Find out where the lifeguard station is when you arrive and that your children also know where to go if they need help.

Flags denote where to swim and when not to go into the water. It's essential to understand the flag system and not venture into a 'red flag' area.

Never let your children wade out deeper than waist-deep into the ocean without supervision.

If you feel a strong current pulling away from the beach, you may have wandered into a rip current. If you can touch the bottom, walk diagonally to the shoreline until you're out of the current, and then get back to shore. Rip currents are powerful and can be very dangerous.

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