Tide Pools & More at Leo Carrillo State Park

July 10, 2018 Hilary

Tide Pools & More at Leo Carrillo State Park

Leo Carrillo State Park Malibu California

I’m perched on a rock peering into the water, did something move? The sun shines brightly overhead, and the water is still for the moment, but it won’t be for long, the next wave will arrive soon. What is it? A crab, a fish, an anemone? My son calls out from his nearby rock, “I see something!” It’s so exciting! We hop from rock to rock exploring the  magical world under the sea. Occasionally we reach in to touch, “OUCH!” what was that thing?

Leo Carrillo Tide Pools Malibu California

This is how we spent most of a glorious summer day out at Leo Carrillo State Park, located on the Pacific Coast Highway (HWY 1) in beautiful Malibu, California. Even my teen loved our visit here, and that’s saying something these days.

Leo Carrillo Tide Pools Malibu California

Named for Leo Carrillo, an actor, preservationist and conservationist, activities at the park are many and include, tide pools, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing, and beach combing. There are also caves and reefs for exploring, hiking trails, picnic tables and camping.

Tide Pooling

The Leo Carrillo tide pools were teeming with sea life and we spent the majority of our time peering into the water. Among the many creatures we saw were striped shore crabs, a baby sea star, sunburst anemone, a black sea hare (slug), mossy chiton, blue banded hermit crabs, and black tegula sea snails.

The black sea hare, a type of sea slug, was a creature unlike any we’d ever seen in the wild. Its texture was hard to describe, squishy comes to mind. The woman holding this one was kind enough to let me take a photo before she released it back into the water. Unsure exactly what it was, we later learned, that these are gilled creatures and need water to breath. Amazingly they can grow as large as 33 pounds. Thats one big slug!

A bucket is the perfect way to safely examine the sea creatures you find before gently returning them back to the sea where they belong. Remember Nemo…

While I don’t think there is a perfect shoe for tide pooling, I can say with some certainty it’s not flip flops. A few cuts and scrapes later we wished we’d at least worn our wellies, or a shoe with more stability. An old pair of athletic shoes maybe?


Leo Carrillo appears to be a fabulous spot for surfing, though on the more advanced side. Watching others brave the waves was enough for us, as we explored closer to the shore.

The North beach with its smoother shoreline will appeal to those looking to go for a swim.

Leo Carrillo State Park Malibu California

Swimming at Leo Carrillo State Park

Neptune’s Net

I love the beach, but I don’t love eating in the sand, which makes Neptune’s Net, located just a few miles north of Leo Carrillo State Park, a great place to grab a bite to eat prior to hitting the beach. Since 1956 it’s been a favorite of motorcyclists, surfers, locals and anyone else looking for a delicious basket of golden fish and chips. Expect a crowd, especially on weekends.

Neptune’s Net is located at 42505 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu.

Summer Hours: (May-Sept) Monday – Thursday 10:30 am – 8:00 pm (8:30 pm in July & August) Friday 10:30 am – 9:00 pm, and Saturday – Sunday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm.

Winter Hours (November – May Monday – Thursday 10:30 am – 7:00 pm, Friday 10:30 am – 8:00 pm, and Saturday – Sunday 10:00 am – 7:00 pm.

Alternatively, if you do like picnicking, Vintage Grocers, located in the Trancas Country Market, is a great place to pick up some delicious supplies.

Vintage Grocers is located at 30745 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. They are open 6:30 am – 10:00 pm 7 days a week. 

Leo Carrillo State Park Information

Leo Carrillo State Park

Keep an eye out for those seagulls, they aren’t shy!

Leo Carrillo is located at 35000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu and is open from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm, after which the gate is locked. The entrance to the park is on the East side of the Pacific Coast Highway. There are bathroom and pay showers on site. Camping is available via the Park’s online reservation system.

Parking Fees: All day – $12.00 per car, per day, 3 hours – $9.00 per car, 2 hours – $6.00 per car, 1 hour – $3.00 per car.

Pin for later:

Explore family friendly Leo Carrillo State Park Malibu California #thingstodoinmalibu #tidepools #leocarrillotidepools #thingstodowithkidsinLA #familybeachdayLA

Explore family friendly Leo Carrillo State Park Malibu California #thingstodoinmalibu #tidepools #leocarrillotidepools #thingstodowithkidsinLA #familybeachdayLA




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I love to travel & explore the world both near and far! I do my best to make the most out of life each and everyday! I have two boys and they are, at the ages of 13 and 18, world travelers and all around go along guys. There isnt anywhere I cant take them. It is my hope this blog will be a way to share the fun things Ive learned while on our many adventures together!

Comments (28)

  1. I love looking into rock pools, discovering which marine animals are making their home there – although you get some more exciting inhabitants in those tide pools than the UK. Not sure I would want to come face to face with a full size slug! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • Hilary

      Thank you for hosting all these years! I’ve loved getting to know everyone!!

    • Hilary

      It’s a fabulous park! Make sure you give yourself to time to Stay awhile!

  2. Wow, what a variety of marine life! And it looks like you had the pools all to yourselves (apart from the lady with the squishy black sea hare). My kids would love to explore these pools. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hilary

      It was pretty exciting to see all the creatures! I think this is our new favorite activity!

  3. Ah, rockpooling rocks! Great to get wild kids engaged in nature. Love that giant slug, and from here in the north UK I love that you ended the day with good old British fish and chips! #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      We LOVE fish and chips! The slug was cool
      And gross all at the same time! Glad someone else was holding it!!

  4. Eck! I couldn’t do it! No way could I pick up the sea slug! Everything else looks interesting though and reminds me of the La Jolla tide pools there! That’s also really beautiful and I recommend a visit if you haven’t already been! #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      Oh! That wasn’t me picking up the slug! I just inspected it. Someone else was holding it! Too squishy! Will check out La Jolla for sure!

  5. Clare Thomson

    This would be a dream day trip for us! We haven’t gone rock pooling in ages and it’s so much fun – especially when you get to see gigantic sea slugs like that! I’m always up for fish and chips too. #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      It was such a fabulous day! Who knew that after writing this list we’d be visiting rock pools and the way up the West Coast?!

  6. This post brings back memories of my childhood, I used to do this with my parents when we lived on the Isle of Wight, although, we didn’t find anything quite as exotic or large a sea slug.

    Great fun, thanks for sharing #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      The slug was so squishy and I’ve definitely never seen one in person! A real find!

  7. What a fun place to be outdoors and learn about nature, with the sounds of waves all around. We love the tide pools in Point Loma and La Jolla in the San Diego area. I’m impressed that they have nature guides employed by the National Parks to tell the kids about the different sea creatures. Tide pools are happy places for kids!

    • Hilary

      Will definitely have to come down and check those out! I think we’ve found our new favorite family activity!

  8. annette @afrenchcollection

    Tide pools, sand and fish ‘n’ chips = perfect day

  9. I love to go tide pooling with children. I have never seen a sea slug when tide pooling and, if I did, I wouldn’t be brave enough pick it up.

    • Hilary

      Oh! I wasn’t brave enough to pick it up!! That’s someone else… I did poke it lightly though. Haha

  10. Beth

    Such lovely photos of your boys exploring and those amazing sea creatures! I love tidal pools but have rarely encountered them. Sounds like an excellent day at the beach. California is the best. x

    • Hilary

      Thank you! We do love exploring tide pools. California is pretty awesome! 😘

  11. The California coastline really reminds me of our Great Ocean Road. I’d love to spend an hour watching the surfers catch these breaks and potter in the rock pools. Back in the day we did terrible things to colonies of crabs we discovered on the beaches.. thankfully we’re a bit more aware of our impact these days – cheers Nemo! #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      Funny you should mention Nemo! I was just telling a boy we met at the beach he couldn’t take a sea star home because of Nemo… Nothing like a day at the beach!

  12. Love the beach!!!Sea creatures do creep me out though (I’m odd!) bit my youngest would love it.
    Congratulations someone chose you as their #blogcrush this week.

    • Hilary

      Thanks! I get what you’re saying they’re very alien looking aren’t they?! What is #blogcrush

  13. What a great family day out! So interesting to see the sea life up close. I can’t believe the size of that sea slug though! Well done to that woman because I don’t think I’d have fancied holding it! Thanks for linking #citytripping

    • Hilary

      It was a very fun day out! Little did we know we’d be visiting tide pools all the way up the west coast these past few weeks!

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