Although I have been a Los Angeles County resident for the majority of my life, I hadn’t been to Leo Carrillo since I was a child. I have been to many beaches in and around Malibu. However, Leo Carrillo has a nostalgic quality to it. Thus, one warm winter day, our family packed up the car and headed southwest to soak up the sun and see what creatures were in the tidepools. Here are some tips from a Southern California girl on how to make the most out of your visit to Leo Carrillo State Park.
Since we had a lot of gear and small children, we paid the $12 to park inside the lot. You can, however, park along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and walk in. I don’t mind paying for the parking because I know it goes to help maintain the beach and grounds. Also, the gate is locked from 10pm to 8am.
The Tide Pools
For me, this is one of the main reasons to come to Leo Carrillo. I was amazed at all the amazing starfish, crabs and little fish I was able to see. There were huge purple and orange starfish. A crab, hidden in the sand, began to move around. My kids really liked this. There are tons of sea anemones and hermit crabs too. However, although it is tempting, remember not to remove any creatures from their habitat. We went when the tide was low. It’s important to check the tides or else you might not be able to see much. Also, when the tides are low, it’s easier and safer to check out the coastal caves. Before getting closer to the water and the tide pools, there are a lot of rocks that you have to walk over. Thus, bring rubber soled shoes with a good grip.
When to Go
I would suggest going here in the fall or winter on a nice sunny day. Even on a Monday in the winter, a decent amount of people were there. However, it was far from crowded. Still, you don’t want to be bumping into people while you check out the tide pools.
I have not been camping here. However, we are planning a trip later in the year, thus we checked out the camping site and my husband talked to a ranger. The camping site is not directly on the water. However, it is a short walk to the beach. There are a lot of trees and some of the camping spots are up against the mountain. Personally, I liked the sites in the center because there were more trees. When I was there, (in December of 2013) it cost $45 to camp overnight, but fees may vary. Bathrooms are decent and make sure to bring one dollar bills so you can get tokens for a hot shower. Also, before your trip, check out reserveamerica.com, for policy changes, rules and availability.
I have two dogs so I am always looking for dog-friendly beaches. According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, “dogs are not allowed on backcountry trails or south beach (south of lifeguard tower 3).” However, leashed dogs are allowed north of lifeguard tower three and also in the campground.
If you are looking for sand, you can go north or south from the tide pools. Here, there are stretches of beach that aren’t so rocky. So, make sure to bring sand toys for the kids. However, be aware that there is a rip current so be careful with your little ones. If you like hiking, there are several trails with great views. Finally, if you are coming here for the day, leave before traffic (by 3:00) or you may get stuck in commuter traffic. Since it’s Los Angeles, you may hit traffic anyways. Or, you can always head into Malibu, eat dinner at Duke’s Malibu (or one of the other amazing restaurants) and watch the sun go down.
More from Melissa:
Vacationing Along the Southern California Coast in the Winter: Tips From a SoCal Resident
Hidden Gems to Visit in San Diego, California
5 Day Trips from Los Angeles, California with Kids