Best Beaches in California for Kids

Living in California, I’m lucky to be in close proximity to some of the most amazing beaches in the world. Even after living most of my life near the Pacific Coast, my breath is still taken away every time I round a bend and get that first glimpse of the ocean. Because I have lived in and explored both Northern and Southern California, I have grown to especially love the diversity that our coast holds. Here are five of best beaches in California for kids, each with vibe and landscape all its own.

Santa Monica Beach & Pier in California
Santa Monica Beach & Pier near Los Angeles in Southern California (Photo credit: oneinchpunch,

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Santa Monica Beach & Pier

You’ll find the prototypical Southern California beach scene at Santa Monica Beach. Think palm trees swaying, wide expanses of sand, and surfers searching for the perfect wave. Santa Monica ups the ante and includes the picture perfect Santa Monica Pier, complete with Ferris wheel, surf-side dining, and sunglass-sporting salesmen hawking photo ops with a cutout version of your favorite star. It’s one of the best beaches in California for you and the kids to get active, too, whether you rent a bike for a ride or bring a volley ball and hit the courts. Feeling lazy? Pick your preferred parcel of sand and catch some rays while the kids perfect their castle-making skills.

Gold Bluffs Beach in Northern California
Gold Bluffs Beach in Northern California (Photo credit: mkopka,

Gold Bluffs Beach in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

The scenic Gold Bluffs Beach is not what comes to mind when people think of California. Way up in Humbolt County, here California takes on a new identity. The beach itself is wide and sandy, but it’s often shrouded by fog and the temperature of its waters can be described as bone-chilling at best. Elk can be spotted on the beach and there’s an amazing fern and Redwood filled hike right near the shore.

Point Reyes National Seashore Coastline in California
Point Reyes National Seashore Coastline (Photo credit:,

Beaches of Point Reyes

The beaches on Point Reyes are so rugged and remote, it’s hard to believe they are less than thirty miles from San Francisco. Kayaking, hiking, and wildlife-viewing are just some of the activities families can enjoy while on this incredible stretch of beach. During one visit we saw both elephant seals and Tule elk. On one side of the point, thunderous waves crash down onto the sandy shores. On the other, the calm water of Tomales Bay provide the perfect place to get out and paddle.

Crystal Cove Beach, California
Crystal Cove Beach at sunset (Photo credit: focqus,

Crystal Cove State Park

To get a glimpse of what Southern California beaches looked like a century ago, head to Crystal Cove State Park. Most of the park is still wild. Better yet, you won’t find a single multi-million dollar home occupying the bluffs above the ocean. There are only a few beach bungalows on one section of the beach. Crystal Cove Beach Cottages are historic properties from the 1930s and ‘40s, which are available for rent through the State Park system at a very reasonable rate.

There’s also a fun restaurant right on the sand and a shake shack at the top of the hill. That means you don’t have to leave the beach or pack a meal while you are there. Although there is no surfing at Crystal Cove, there is plenty of scuba diving, water play, and tide pooling. My kids love searching for sea stars and hermit crabs in the pools that gather around the rocks.

Gibson Beach, at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, in Carmel, California
Gibson Beach at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in Carmel, California (Photo credit: appalachianview,

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Magic happens on a point near where Monterey Bay ends and Big Sur begins. Cypress trees reveal their enchanting, twisted beauty as they cling to rocky cliffs above the sea. The ocean produces the most amazing blues and greens before it rears back and crashes into the shore. Children will love spotting the seals, sea lions, sea otters, and countless birds that call Point Lobos home. Fantastical coastal walks will lead your family along some of the most breathtaking coast California has to offer. It is said that Point Lobos is the “greatest meeting of land and water in the world.” After spending the day at this beach, it’s hard to disagree.

Best Beaches in California for Kids

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If you’re dreaming of a California family vacation, be sure to take a look at the best destinations in California for kids!

What is your favorite California beach? Let us know in the comments below!

Sharlene Earnshaw is an Orange County, California based writer who loves nothing more than to travel with her husband and twins. You can find her on Trekaroo where she is editor-in-chief. 

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  1. Hands down, at least in my opinion, the best beach in all of California for kids and family is at the Portuguese Bend Beach Club. This is a community of california ocean front homes which actually OWN THEIR OWN BEACH! There’s maybe just a few miles of the thousands of miles of beaches in California where you can own your own beach. It’s a private community yet residents of Rancho Palos Verdes can apply for a “license” to use the Portuguese Bend Beach Club beach and with firepits, paddletennis, swings, climbers full bathrooms and more, it’s a treasure. I know as my wife and I have practically raised our kids here.