Published March 29, 2013
Miles of soft sand, swaying palm trees, and the lure of the sparkling ocean make the City of Angels a magnet for surf-and-sun devotees. Yet with over 90 beaches and 75 miles of shoreline in Los Angeles County, it can be difficult for visiting families to know where to begin.
When compiling this go-to list of great kid-friendly beaches, we gave top priority to cleanliness. Each of our picks consistently makes the A-list from Heal the Bay, an organization that measures and tracks pollution at 475 California beaches. We also considered location, amenities, and family-fun vibe. These five beaches get top marks on all fronts, so lather on the sunscreen and bring the kids.
1Manhattan Beach at 40th Street
With its photogenic pier and tony neighborhood, this South Bay classic has a certain star quality. Pristine waters invite swimming, boogie boarding and surfing, but the beach is perhaps most famous for what happens on the sand. More than 50 beach volleyball nets make this the volleyball capital of SoCal. There’s also a children’s play area, coastline bike path, restrooms, and showers. At the end of the 928-foot pier is the free Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, where kids can touch starfish, ogle seahorses, and learn about sea life. Fishing along the pier is allowed year-round.
2Venice Beach at Windward Avenue
Welcome to people-watching heaven. Venice is famous for its funky boardwalk and constant parade of street performers, jugglers, musicians, and bikini-clad roller-skaters. There is always a good crowd, yet thanks to the wide stretches of sand, there’s also plenty of room for picnics or tossing a Frisbee. Lifeguards are stationed during daylight hours. Splash in the waves or hang ten at the Venice Breakwater, a popular surf spot located north of the Venice Pier. The boardwalk is packed with shops selling skim boards and beach clothing, and there’s also a smorgasbord of tasty eateries.
3Zuma Beach, Malibu
One of the largest stretches of sand in Los Angeles County, this perennial family beach delivers a quintessential California beach experience, with waves that beg for body surfing and a vast expanse of silky white sand. (Parents will be equally grateful for lifeguards, ample parking, and two food huts that serve tasty food and drinks.)
Zuma is also a wonderful place to watch whales make their winter migration, from late December to March. For the best vantage, hike to the lookout atop nearby Point Dume. Note that Zuma lies beyond Santa Monica Bay and receives heavy breakers, so be alert for strong currents and riptide warnings posted by lifeguards.
4Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, Palos Verdes
If you’ve got nature-loving kids, this state ecological preserve is a blast to explore. Wear sturdy shoes to trek down relatively easy trails from scenic bluff tops to tide pools teeming with sea urchins, starfish, anemones and other marine life. This is an outstanding picnic spot, with spectacular views of Catalina Island. Lifeguards are on duty during summer hours and weekends only.
5Dockweiler Beach at Imperial Avenue
Situated right beneath the LAX flight path (the jets are noisy but fun for kids to watch), this is a surprisingly great place to swim, bask in the sun, fish by the jetties, or play volleyball. Plan to stay later in the day, so you can gather around a fire pit and watch the sunset. As L.A.’s only beach with fire pits and an oceanfront RV Park, Dockweiler is always bustling. Happily, its 288 acres ensures there’s plenty of room for everyone.
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