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Tide Pools & More at Leo Carrillo State Park

Leo Carrillo State Park Malibu California

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?

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.

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.

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

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.

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