I’ve mentioned before that one of our favorite things to do at the beach is to go tide pooling. Lucky for us, there are quite a few great spots to do that in Los Angeles. We especially love exploring tide pools at El Matador State Beach.
Located about 25 miles north of Santa Monica, El Matador is one of three “pocket” beaches that make up the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach area (the other two being El Pescador and La Piedra, both a little farther north). This place is beyond picturesque. In fact, it’s more common to see professional photographers here than not.
With kids in tow, just getting to the shore is an adventure. There’s a short, steep path leading from the parking area to the beach. Use extreme caution here: The trail isn’t very wide and there are no handrails to prevent a fall if a little one wanders to the edge. You’ll also need to maneuver your way down a few sets of staircases before reaching the bottom.
Visit during low tide to explore the tide pools; if you come during high tide, the beach will be inaccessible. That happened to us on our first visit and we still had fun. (You can read more about that experience here.)
We’ve made many interesting discoveries at these tide pools, including giant green anemones, ochre sea stars, hermit crabs, chiton, sea mussels, lined shore crabs – not to mention all kinds of plants and algae. The Explorers also enjoy playing in and around the sea caves accessible only at low tide.
Tips for exploring tide pools at El Matador State Beach
- Check the tides before you leave home. Time your visit for the hour before and the hour after the low tide. You can check the tides here, then plan accordingly.
- Leave the flip flops at home and wear water sandals instead – you and the kids will need them for the trek to and from the beach.
- Bring a picnic or snacks and a few favorite beach toys but keep it light – it’ll make your return trip up the steep trail a little more bearable.
- Pack a towel and spare clothes. The kids will get wet and sandy so a towel and a change of clothes is a must.
- El Matador State Beach is 25 miles northeast of Santa Monica
- Signs and parking turnout might be hard to spot, so keep your eyes peeled once you pass Zuma (if you reach Leo Carillo, you’ve gone too far)
- There is limited self-pay parking, which costs $8 for the day, free with a California State Parks Pass; free parking is available on Pacific Coast Highway
- Portable toilets are located in the parking area; no facilities on the beach
- No food is available on site; a few picnic tables are located adjacent to the parking lot above the beach
- A short, steep trail leads to a set of stairs that take you down to the beach, making it inaccessible to strollers and wheelchairs
- No pets allowed
El Matador State Beach is located at:
32215 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265