Easy enough for toddlers to maneuver, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve offers tide pools that reveal a world of sea creatures at low tide. A ranger's building near the parking lot also offers books and exhibits to enhance your visit.
Address: California Avenue, Half Moon Bay, CA 94038
Phone: 650-363-4021 for reservations for groups of 10 or more
The tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument are filled with crabs and other sea life, while the visitor's center, a small museum, the auditorium, and the Point Loma Lighthouse offer programs and exhibits geared towards families of all ages.
Address: 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, San Diego, CA 92106
Also see: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
The tide pools can be found at Little Corona Marine Life Refuge in a protected area, so shells, sea life, and rocks must not be disturbed. While you're there, enjoy the rest of this family-friendly beach, equipped with a large parking lot, fire rings, and sand volleyball courts.
Address: Poppy and PCH, Corona del Mar, CA 92625
The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park's main feature is a natural water fall that drops into the Pacific Ocean. Other natural sites, including gray whales, sea otters, sea lions, and birds offer plenty to see during the day.
Address: Big Sur Station #1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Rates: Parking along the road is free to access nature walk, Julia Pfeiffer Burns monuments, and to view the waterfall; contact the park for entrance fee.
Bridges take you through bird-filled nature preserve to the beach where the rocks offer a trove of sea life, from sea cucumbers to sea stars. Just down the beach is the Malibu pier where older kids can discover kayaking.
Address: 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Los Angeles, CA 90265
The calm waters at Carpinteria offer the beach's youngest swimmers a safe place to swim, play in the sand, explore tide pools, and fish. Complete with restrooms, picnic areas, and camping facilities, this family-friendly beach is a Santa Barbara must-see.
Address: 5361 6th St, Linden Ave and 6th St, Carpinteria, CA 93013
Paths for walking and bicycling, exhibition hall, ranger-lead tours and programs, and more offers a day filled with fun. Picnic areas, a pond inhabited by hundreds of birds, and a playground are all family-friendly. Or, head on over to the Baker Beach for some sunning and sand fun, but the water is unsafe for swimming.
Address: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Building 201, San Francisco, CA 94123
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