The Best Family Beach Trips in California (Summer Beach Trips Part 1)

Aug 25, 2016

Summer is a time for having adventures, visiting new places, and spending time together with family. Follow Super Spinner across the country this summer as we cover the best family beach vacation spots!

To start off our journey with the best family beaches in California, we’ll highlight some family summer vacation ideas, including family-friendly activities, events, and sights to see. Whether your family is looking to escape everyday stress by venturing to pristine beaches or you’re searching for the iconic summer boardwalk beach, California has exactly what will keep every member of the family happy.

Carmel Beach

Scenic Carmel has one of the best family beaches in California. 
Carmel Beach is located on the Central California Coast right off Cabrillo Highway. It is one of the best family beaches in California, as it’s safe, dog-friendly, and has several scenic paths.

Visitors can take the well-maintained scenic bluff path to get down to the beach. With eight stairways leading to the sand below, the trail wanders through shady Monterey cypress groves and beautifully landscaped gardens.

A popular destination for many new surfers, the calm waters are perfect for beginner swimmers and surfers alike. The beach, with its soft, white sands, also regularly hosts volleyball games and tournaments. Whether you want to relax or play, these volleyball tournaments are a fun experience for everyone.While the beach is famous for its views from Pebble Beach to Point Lobos, there are several inland sights to see if you want to catch a glimpse of California’s historic past. Close by, along with many well-preserved colonial mission settlements, like San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, is the Carmel Mission Church Museum, a place that gives visitors a chance to experience California’s early colonial history.

Natural Bridges State Park

Natural Bridges is a beach near Santa Cruz that offers an abundance of natural beauty. In addition to the signature natural rock bridge just offshore, this beach is a great place to witness the migrations and interactions of shore birds, whales, seals, and otters. The beach also features numerous tidal pools where crabs, anemones, and sea stars serve as fascinating distractions for young children.

Natural Bridges State Park is also the winter home to thousands of monarch butterflies as they rest from their 2,000-mile migration. Over 150,000 butterflies take refuge in the eucalyptus groves from mid-October to the end of February. Since this part of California still has warm weather during the fall and winter months, visiting the beach and the park is still possible even when it’s not summer, making this site one of the best family beaches in California.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Santa Cruz’s famous boardwalk is another location for those looking for the best family beaches in California. It is a quintessential Californian destination for many families, as it is home one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the country, The Giant Dipper. Along with many other rides and entertainments, here, there is lots of music, games, cotton candy, and other amusement attractions for those looking for a classic carnival experience. Ride the Undertow and the Fireball before heading off to explore Neptune’s Kingdom or playing laser tag and mini golf.

In addition to the regular attractions and activities, Santa Cruz also hosts many events throughout the summer. If you’re looking for family summer vacation ideas, don’t miss out on Retro Night, movies on the beach, or free concerts on the boardwalk.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica, another one of the best family beaches in California,is home to the famous Santa Monica Pier. It’s the perfect place to include among your family summer vacation ideas, as it boasts classic seaside amusements with rides and games.

With over three miles of sprawling beachfront, Santa Monica State Beach has a lot to explore including Muscle beach, chess park, and the Annenberg Community Beach House. Just to the left of the pier is Muscle Beach, an outdoor gym that was established in the 1930’s, while chess park has tons of small tables for private games. The Annenberg Beach House is a space full of recreation programs, cultural events, and art exhibits right on the beach.California, is home to the famous Santa Monica Pier. It’s the perfect place to include among your family summer vacation ideas, as it boasts classic seaside amusements with rides and games.

The beaches of Malibu Lagoon State Beach are just off of the Pacific Coast Highway and encompass many celebrity homes. Many of these homes have direct access to private beaches all along the Malibu coast, but there are also some public beaches that provide amazing access to this world class area.


While some of these beaches are hard to find and don’t have many amenities, the beauty of the ocean and surrounding nature more than makes up for any difficulties you may have. Just remember to bring plenty of food, water, and supplies to ensure a fun trip.

Some of the best family beaches in California in Malibu include Big Rock, Carbon Beach, Malibu Road, Latigo, Escondido, Point Dume, Broad Beach, Lechuza Beach, Staircase, and Heavens. With nearly three dozen beaches to choose from, Malibu should definitely be on your list of family summer vacation ideas.

San Diego

Coronado Beach in San Diego is widely known to be one of the best family beaches in California and is also considered one of the best in the country. The mica mineral content of the sand makes it glitter in the strong California sun, creating a display to dazzle the eyes, and the waves are gentle, generally friendly to young children. Coronado gives you the feeling of a small beach town amidst the hustle and bustle San Diego.

San Diego is perfect for family vacations, as it is also home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and this year, the San Diego Zoo is celebrating 100 years with its Centennial Celebration. This includes longer hours, animal birthday parties on Saturdays, live music entertainment, and up close encounters with your favorite animal species. The San Diego Zoo houses over 3,700 animals of over 650 different species and subspecies, ensuring an exciting site of discovery for children and adults.

Crystal Cove State Park at Laguna Beach

This gorgeous beach is located between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. It’s one of the best family beaches in California, as it allows both tent and trailer camping.

Tent campsites are located three miles down from the beach, so if you’re looking for a beach theme getaway with some real seclusion, definitely consider Crystal Cove. Trailer camping is much closer to the beach and has all the modern comforts of home. With four different beaches and tons of hiking, Crystal Cove is a popular family summer vacation idea.

Hiking in the park includes over 18 miles of trails and over 2,400 acres of native wilderness. The high elevation trails feature lots of sage scrub brush, while the lower elevation trails are riparian woodlands.

The four different beaches, Reef Point, Moro Beach, Pelican Point and Los Trancos, include beaches that close early and late. Los Trancos, for example, closes at 10 pm if you would like to spend some time on the beach under the stars.

One of the most interesting parts of Crystal Cove is the historic district. The 12.3-acre coastal portion of the 2,791-acre Crystal Cove State Park features 46 vintage cottages built in the 1930’s and 1940’s. These cottages are one of the last remaining examples of Southern California’s early coastal development. Cottages can be rented for overnight accommodations so that visitors can experience this historic part of California’s beach culture.

Arroyo Burro Beach

This beach is one of the best for surfing and swimming. With lots of grassy picnic areas and grills with picnic tables, this location is perfect for a day out on one of the best family beaches in California. Located at the foot of the Santa Barbara bluff, views are beautiful and the beach is also dog-friendly!

The area is secluded by tall bluffs towering around the curving coastline and makes the beach ideal for surfers, children, and dogs to play among the waves. Due to the high bluffs, there are also hang gliders constantly launching into the air, fun entertainment in lieu of the standard beach volleyball courts and crowds.

Locals call this area Hendry’s Beach because of its original 19th-century settlers, William Nicol and Anne Stronach Hendry, who hailed from Scotland and lived in the area from 1890-1918.

Silver Strand State Beach

Designated as a state park, Silver Strand State Beach opens at 7 AM and closes after sunset. Since park closure varies, it’s best to take the park shuttle, available for free throughout the summer. The park also allows camping, boating, water skiing, and much more on its sunny shores.

Silver Strand boasts beaches on both the Pacific Ocean and the San Diego Bay. The beach is popular among fisherman for its frequently biting fish, like perch, grunion, and yellowfin croaker. To make it one of the best family beaches in California, surf lessons are provided all year round by Coronado Surfing Academy.

Newport Beach

Newport Beach is regarded as a luxury beach destination and another one of the best family beaches in California. It includes high-end shopping, elegant spas, world class restaurants, magnificent hotels, golf courses, and yacht racing. The summer brings with it lots of events in this area, including concerts, art walks, and wine tasting tours.

Newport Beach is also home to the Orange County Museum of Art, the Newport Beach Arts Commission, and ExplorOcean. These organizations hold Shakespeare performances, monthly exhibitions, and educates young people on oceanography.

Dana Point

Dana Point, in Orange County near San Juan Capistrano, offers seven miles of beachfront with majestic views of the California rolling hills. This is absolutely one of the best family beaches in California, as it is famous for it’s “baby beach” which is perfect for the tiniest members of your family. A roped-off section of the beach gives the little ones exclusive access to water that is only a few feet deep. As such, this beach is especially suited for kids ages four and under.

With plenty of recreational activities, such as Whale Walk and Talk and Living with Coyotes, visiting Dana Point is a great family summer vacation idea, as children get to learn about the history of the region and the animals that live there.

Heart’s Desire Beach at Tomales State Park

As viewed from the Tomales Point Trail, Heart’s Desire is a great hidden gem.
The Heart’s Desire Beach is a hidden gem with warm, shallow water which makes it perfect for family swimming and other activities. It is sheltered by a cove, softening the waves and making it ideal for leisurely water sports, like relaxing paddle boarding experiences. The beach is completely surf-free, allowing younger children to swim freely without worrying about dangerous rip tides, even in deeper water.

Heart’s Desire is located within Tomales State Park, first inhabited by the coastal Miwok people, about 55 miles north of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway. This place is great for barbecuing, kayaking, swimming and is famous for its oysters. If your family has shellfish lovers, this location is ideal for family summer vacations, as you’ll be able to go hunting for these delicacies along the shore and cook them up at one of the park’s fire rings for an unforgettable Northern California summer cookout.

Time to Explore

Before the summer ends, make it a priority to spend quality time with your family as you explore various beaches along the California coast. Here at Super Spinner, we strive to inspire you with new ways to make priceless summer memories. Stay tuned for another installment of The Best Family Beach Trips. For now, get out there and have some fun at the best family beaches in California!