10 Dreamy Beaches for Kids in California
Kids, plus sand, and water are a natural equation for hours of fun for everyone! This list has it all for the water babes in your life: from picnicking to exploring or carnival rides and cotton candy! Choose your favorites and set a plan to visit one, or all of them! Plan ahead by checking the seasonal openings of each before hitting the road… Many of these are California state parks!
Hearts Desire Beach, Point Reyes Cove, San Francisco Bay Area-
On the eastern side of the Point Reyes National Seashore, Hearts Desire faces gentle Tomales Bay and the hills of Marin County. Your kids will enjoy the freshwater stream running along the shore and into the bay, and the walk down through the beautiful trees to get there. While not warm waters, the lack of waves make for great wading and swimming and certainly warmer waters than the nearby Pacific! Easily find a hiking trail that leads to a neighboring beach. Parking can be tricky on weekends and holidays, carpool with family or friends when possible. Cellphone service isn’t reliable, so make plans ahead of time to meet and coordinate.
Carmel Beach, Carmel, California, Monterey Peninsula-
Carmel Beach offers up its gorgeous, soft sand in an enchanting setting. The abundant cypress trees frame the adorable downtown district perfect for strolling, grabbing an artisan pastry from a local bakery, and shopping too! Your kids will love to build sandcastles and splash in the surf that is typically tame along the one mile crescent-shaped beach. Bring your canine- Carmel Beach is great for dogs and kiddos alike! Hours of fun can be had with your furry pal and kids tossing a ball and chasing waves. Be sure to check the local weather- during the summer, you will sometimes find fog during the day that burns off into the afternoon.
Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach, Orange County-
Feel free to stretch out and explore along the 3.2 miles of oceanfront sprinkled with tide pools and secret coves! Fly a kite, play in the friendly surf and beach comb for natural treasures. Hike along a network of trails that head inland but offer sweeping views of the pacific. There are popular routes for biking, hiking and horseback riding! Hungry after all of that activity? Head to the Beachcomber restaurant that sits on the sand and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or, check out Ruby’s Shake Shack on PCH overlooking Crystal Cove for a delectable milkshake that will have you returning on your next visit!
Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz-
With its namesake natural rock bridge that sits just offshore, Natural Bridges Beach offers an abundance of unique features that make it a must see! Make a point to visit during October through February to view the 100,000 Monarch Butterflies that are naturally attracted each year to the milkweed plants off a nearby grassland trail. Your junior naturalist will be captivated by the fascinating finds in the tide pools, in the Monarch preserve and by the dozens of pelicans making their perch on the rocks. Picnic on the sand or tucked away in the pine and eucalyptus trees. Also a great breezy spot for flying kites and catching a colorful sunset on the right day.
Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Barbara-
Come for the safe swimming, amateur surfing, and the opportunity to cast a line here at the spot also known as Hendry’s Beach. Play around on the sunny sand, break at the shady picnic area and enjoy the playground. You and your kids will want to explore trails and stop at the Watershed Resource Center which offers educational highlights about the importance of protecting California’s beaches and shores.
Crissy Field, San Francisco-
Just like the kids, the action at Crissy Field is always ON. Bring the family dog, they can romp off leash here. The inviting waters edge of the San Francisco Bay offers Golden Gate views, picnic space on grassy open spaces, and room to romp. Check out the expert surfers as they ride waves under the bridge or kite surfers catching a breeze. An ideal spot for views of Alcatraz, watching sailboats and freight liners, and admiring California’s most iconic bridge. Bring a thermos with hot cocoa, sit back and enjoy the national parkland that was once a paved-over airfield for The Presidio.
Coronado, San Diego-
An island getaway that is easy to reach, Coronado Beach is easy to explore and enjoy in an ultra-family-friendly environment. The small island feels like a private enclave wrapped with soft sand beaches and a historic hotel- the Hotel Del Coronado. Enjoy a delicious Sunday brunch, and views of the pacific, and then explore by rented bike. Pedal past mansions with tended gardens, or visit Orange Avenue dotted with shops, theaters, restaurants and galleries.
Silver Strand State Beach, San Diego County-
Why not try surfing in the friendly breakers with the Coronado Surfing Academy? Kids will love splashing around on the calm waters on the San Diego Bay side, or learning to hang ten on the Pacific side. The side known as Crown Cove offers sand around warmer waters conducive to running around and building a bon fire on the beach with the family. The heart-pounding, wide blue surf of the Pacific side, is the perfect opportunity to have the best of both. To access the bay side, you will access pedestrian tunnels- be prepared to carry your gear from the parking area to your chosen spot. Pavilions, picnic tables, grills and fire pits are available.
Santa Monica Pier & Beach-
Catch the sunset while strolling on the iconic Santa Monica Pier as the twinkling lights of the amusement park create a nostalgic feeling against a pastel sky! Pacific park offers the perfect setting perched on the edge of the pier to make lasting memories of fun for the whole family! Not too-scary rides and coasters will have the kids grinning and giggling with delight. Don't forget to dazzle your senses with the incomparable views while riding the pier’s solar powered ferris wheel. Check out some 100 species of fish and aquatic life at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium under the pier. Lastly, but certainly not least, the broad expanse of yellow sand will beckon the entire family to its 3.5 miles of coastal greatness. Rent a paddle board to explore off the shore and get a VIP experience with your own Perry’s on the Beach Butler Service.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk-
A popular beach stop for California families since the 20’s, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a smorgasbord of entertainment options for the entire family. Add to that a perfectly splashable shoreline, rides, food galore, beach volleyball and arcades, you may never get the family to leave for home! Within the countless attractions, the Big Dipper, a giant, burly, wooden roller coaster has been drawing thrill seekers since it’s first days. When the squealing fun has become too much to tolerate, relax high above it all on the overhead Sky Glider, offering drone worthy views of all the action, surf, and nearby mountains. In the summer, make a plan to catch a free outdoor movie on the sand- Wednesdays or free concerts- Fridays on the beach! Be sure to make the short walk to the wharf for fresh seafood, clam chowder in a bread bowl and salt water taffy!