Win a Winner!
Writers & Photographers
Berlitz Summer Camp
Iconic Zuma Beach in Malibu is a popular summer spot for families. PHOTO BY MIMI SLAWOFF
by Mimi Slawoff
Southern California has no shortage of beautiful beaches, but some are more conducive to family fun – and safety – than others. The following beaches offer many ways for families to enjoy a summer afternoon, and they all scored an “A” on Heal the Bay’s most recent annual Beach Report Card, which measures the level of bacterial pollution at more than 500 California beaches. This makes it more likely that all you’ll bring back home with you after your beach day are some happy memories.
For more information on the following beaches, visit http://beaches.lacounty.gov.
Pick any spot along The Strand to enjoy swimming and playing on 40 acres of beach. With more than 50 volleyball courts, it’s no surprise this stretch of coastline is considered the volleyball capital of SoCal. But you don’t have to be a volleyball player to embrace this section of beach.
The ocean is ideal for boogie boarding or surfing at El Porto. There’s also a children’s play area, restrooms, showers and a bike path that follows the coast north to Will Rogers State Beach. A walk along the scenic 928-foot-long pier leads to the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium ($2 donation suggested, www.roundhouseaquarium.org), where visitors can learn about sea life. Fishing along the pier is allowed year-round. A rental shop provides all the gear you need
Famous for its funky boardwalk, Venice Beach also has good water quality and wide, sandy beaches ideal for picnics, tossing a Frisbee or catching rays. Watch or join surfers at the Venice Breakwater, a popular local surf spot located north of the Venice Pier and Lifeguard Headquarters, and south of the Santa Monica Pier. Lifeguards are on hand during daylight hours.
Beyond the surf, people watching remains a main attraction. Stroll the boardwalk or dine at an eatery with a front-row view of street performers, jugglers, musicians, tarot card readers and roller-bladers.
After years of poor water quality, the city of Santa Monica staged a clean-up near the iconic pier that houses Pacific Park, a seaside amusement park. If you’re looking for a super-sized, action-packed beach, this is the place. The sound of the waves is somewhat muffled by music and people shrieking from the nearby Ferris wheel, coasters and other rides – but all that just adds to the festive ambiance at this iconic California beach. Salty ocean air mixes pleasantly with the aroma of grilled burgers and hot dogs.
Rent a bike from the shop on the pier or bring your own to cruise along the bike path. Learn about marine life and ocean ecoloty at the Santa Monica Heal the Bay Aquarium, located at sea level beneath the pier ($2-$4 donation, www.healthebay.org/santa-monica-pier-aquarium). Feel a sea star or sticky anemone, and find rockfish in a kelp forest exhibit. The jellyfish exhibit shows why plastic debris is deadly for sea creatures.
This quintessential California beach has lots of open space, good waves for body surfing, lifeguards and ample parking, making it a popular summer spot for families. To park in the larger lots and get close to food huts, turn right from Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Before setting up beach chairs and umbrellas, make sure you find a place 100 yards away from the Zuma creek outfall.
Amenities at Zuma include two food huts serving rather tasty grilled burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, chips, candy and drinks. There are also restrooms and outdoor showers (with cold water).
At nearby Point Dume, you can take an easy hike to the newly created marine protected areas (www.healthebay.org/about-bay/current-issues/marine-protected-areas). In spring, you get great views of migrating whales.
Royal Palms State Beach, San Pedro
Pack a picnic and wear sturdy shoes for scampering over the rocky shoreline and tidepools teeming with sea urchins, starfish, anemones and other marine life at this Palos Verdes Peninsula spot (located at 1799 Paseo del Mar, San Pedro). Staffed by lifeguards, this unique beach is San Pedro’s hidden gem and is revered for its beauty and views of Catalina Island. Amenities include a picnic area, restrooms and showers. A children’s play area and a small park are nestled at the top of the bluff.
Heal the Bay Beach Safety Tips
• Stay 100 yards from storm drains.
• Avoid enclosed beaches with names like Mother’s Beach. The lack of waves may be reassuring, but the lack of circulation creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
• Download Heal the Bay’s mobile Beach Report Card app at www.healthebay.org so you can check the latest water quality before you hit the sand. Grades are updated weekly.
Let’s Go Columnist Mimi Slawoff is a California native and a beach lover. Follow Mimi’s travel stories on Twitter @mimitravelz.
Let’s Go: On a Quiet Adventure|
Adventures don’t need to be adrenaline-pumping to be fun. A stroll through a lavender farm or a historic olive orchard followed by zesty tastings can be relaxing yet exhilarating. Or how about a scenic ride aboard Amtrak to Santa Barbara?
Let's Go: Stand Up Paddle Boarding|
Stand up paddle boarding, the ancient Hawaiian form of surfing with a paddle, has made a big splash with kids and adults for many reasons.
Let's Go: Camping|
Camping has a way of connecting families with each other and nature. From the moment you set up camp, you work as a team to build a cozy nest and cook outdoor meals. With silenced electronics you can hear birds sing, owls hoot and leaves rustle.
Let’s Go: To a Water Park|
Water parks offer an oasis of themed pools and slides where you can chill out with family and friends. Families on a budget should note that admission rates drop in late afternoon at most parks.