Beach going in Malibu is an adventure. While the endless other beach goers and seas of towels and umbrellas can distract, remember that nature is really why you made the trip. So keep this in mind when you encounter wildlife – remember don’t freak out and for goodness sake don’t touch the animals or try and take pics near them. Seals and Sea Lions sometimes beach themselves to rest. So please let them do that, and don’t bother them. If you see one in distress, alert a lifeguard or park ranger. You can also call The California Wildlife Center to rescue animals here in Malibu. Most importantly, take out what you bring in! DO NOT leave your trash. These beaches are our opportunity to enjoy nature, so let’s respect it. Animals also can get caught up or get sick from our trash. Plus, who wants to go to a dirty beach?
After moving to Malibu a few years ago from Los Angeles, my LA friends would always ask which is the best beach to take their kiddos. We have a lot to chose from and each beach has something different to offer families. So here is my breakdown of which beaches work best and why:
“My Kids are freaking out in the car and there is too much traffic on PCH Beach”: Will Rogers Beach
Technically not in Malibu, but if the traffic on PCH is ridiculous and you need to get the kids out of the car this is the beach for you. Not only is it conveniently located in Pacific Palisades at Temescal Canyon, but there is plenty of parking in the lot along the beach that makes taking all your gear to the beach easy-peasey. A playground, volleyball courts and public restrooms makes this a nice beach to get away to and your kids will give you the best parent of the day award!!!
“I am the cool parent that takes my kid to watch the surfers in action Beach”: Surfrider Beach and Pier
OK, this is the quintessential SoCal surfer beach. This nostalgic point break is divided into two sections: a surf only and a swim only area. Parents can let the kiddos play without worrying about them getting in the way of surfers and vice versa. There is a board rental across street with super friendly services and families can sign up for lessons. One of the reasons I love coming here is the delicious restaurant at the end of the pier, Malibu Farm. They serve organic dishes from local sustainable farms in Malibu. This beach and restaurant would also be a good place to take out-of-town guests. The restaurants are good, plus the historic Adamson house offers tours, as well as, access to the Malibu Lagoon and wetland tours make for a fun day. Alot of Malibu history in one spot. Parking along PCH is usually taken early, but public and private lots are alternatives.
“Yeah I can get us into a private beach, Beach”: Paradise Cove
Paradise Cove is a famous cafe on the sand located on a private beach community. They offer breakfast, lunch & dinner, as well as, chair and cabana rentals. This is a calm cove with breathtaking views and the perfect beach for walking. The one downside is that it costs a small fortune to park unless you eat in the cafe then you will receive validation. We like to go for breakfast, the kiddos can run around the beach while we can lounge on the patio with our coffee. We follow-up with a nice family walk down the cove. I can’t reiterate enough, get here early because parking can be a hassle and the beach fills up quickly. Also surfing isn’t allowed.
“I need lots of space for my pack of kids and their friends and all their gear Beach”: Zuma Beach
With two miles of white sand beach, Zuma is the beach for the entire family. Play a game of volleyball (there are a bunch of courts), enjoy lunch at the food shacks and there are restrooms. Families will have plenty of room to spread out, get some lounging time in while your kids are splashing around in the surf. I spend a lot of time on this beach. I drop my kiddos at school and walk the full beach up and back. LIfeguards are on duty and there is plenty of parking in the lot or on PCH.
Zuma is great but there is a much cooler beach – Westward Beach (adjacent to Zuma)
On the west end of Zuma Beach is Westward Beach. Take the left turn before Zuma parking and you can park your car for free along the sand or go further down into the lot. At the end of Westward Road is the beginning of Point Dume Natural Preserve. This is a great backdrop for relaxing in the sand while watching Grey Whales go by. Walking trails are located at the end of the beach that take you up to the Point for amazing views up and down the coast on both sides of the Point.
“I want the best beach for a family picture” beach: El Matador Beach
Hands down the most photographed/filmed beach in Malibu for its gorgeous rock formations and secluded feel. This is where I had my family portraits done, so I know a bit about this. In addition to capturing those photo moments, kids love running around and under the tunnel. One down side is the long walk/hike down to the beach. It is a bit treacherous, so pack light and be prepared to help or carry the little ones. Parking lot, but some attempt to park on the PCH. I would advise against that especially with young children. The speed limit on this stretch is 55 mph which means everyone is usually traveling even faster. The only bathroom is a portable one in the parking lot.
“Let’s Camp on the Beach”: Leo Carillo
Now this is a trek up the coast a full 28 miles from Santa Monica, but so worth it. With 1.5 miles of beach this is an ideal beach for swimming, surfing and all around beach fun. Leo Carillo is known for the tide pools, caves and reef that kids will love to explore. And you can CAMP here! Reservations are required, so check the State Park website. There are also back country trails for hiking. This is one of the few beaches in the area where you can bring your dog. Please check the designated areas that allow your family pets. Parking for day visits are available. Take your chances parking on the PCH parking as well. Not as sketchy as the stretch near El Matador, but certainly use caution.