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What to do in Los Angeles: Leo Carrillo State Beach

Updated on August 16, 2013

Hanging out with a Starfish

"GP" with a starfish
"GP" with a starfish

Leo Carrillo State Beach

One of my favorite things to do in LA, is go to my favorite beach, Leo Carrillo State Beach. There are only a limited number of parking spaces, so it is not ever crowded.
I come here all the time as it is not only a great beach, it has tons of tide pools hidden within the rocks, as well as small caves which you can explore. They aren't very big caves, but it is still fun to go inside.
You can safely be down on the rocks during low tide, and it is filled with sea life including fish, sea anemones, sea urchins, mussels, clams, crabs, snails, and starfish. Often, you will see people having photo shoots as it is such a beautiful landscape. You need to be careful actually getting down to the tide pools though, as the most obvious looking place to get down is actually kind of frightening, and is not recommended for small children.

If you visit with kids, elderly, or anybody disabled, look around for the stairs, or go the long way instead of navigating the cliffy rocks. A fall from there is very easy, and will not be pretty. Sometimes, the lifeguards put signs up warning you to stay off the rocks. It is recommended that you follow these guidelines.

Parking is along PCH highway. This place is very easy to miss! It is right after the "Leo Carrillo" sign, and the cars are parked on the beach side of the road where it makes a slight curve. It is a little ways up from the campgrounds. This is pretty much the only guidelines I can give, so use a GPS!

When you park, place all valuables inside your trunk, or take them with you. Thieves love this place, and I had a $700 dollar camera, and my purse stolen the first time I came here. In broad daylight, they just smashed my window, and cleaned out my backseat (They even took the cooler). A man about 6 cars away had his laptop stolen. The sheriff said there had been over 15 window smashing thefts just that month. It is simple for thieves to do their business here as it is not a busy part of PCH, and cars aren't constantly passing by, and the side they smash the windows on is blocked by bushes. Better to put all valuables in your trunk that you don't intend to take with you even before you arrive. With such a beautiful place, it really is a shame to have something like that ruin your day.

FUN FACT: Did you know part of Leonardo DiCaprio's 2010 film Inception was filmed here?


Leo Carrillo State Beach:
Leo Carrillo State Beach, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California 90265, USA

get directions

Leo Carrillo State Beach

Little crab

This little guy was fiddling around the rocks just being a good 'ol crab. He wasn't much of a pincher either, and GP gained the confidence to pick him up and hold him. The crab didn't attack. Later, when he was set on the rock, he latched on to the starfish, which I took a picture of and posted it here for you to enjoy.
Remember if you pick up the starfish, be sure to give him frequent dips in the water so he doesn't dry out. I don't recommend you take any sea animals home with you. First of all, if you're caught, you will most likely be ticketed. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Wildlife Officers do show up here, as it is a popular fishing point. If you have a permit, great. If not, leave everything here. Besides, dead sea animals are smelly.


Leo Carrillo State beach

West of the rocks and caves..

If you travel west of the rocks and caves (Its actually North if we are being accurate.. Lets just say if your facing the beach, travel to your right.)
You will find a nice vast uncrowded open beach. Often, if you are lucky, there are huge rocks that go deep into the water, giving you a little mini private beach. It is pretty cool. If that space is already taken, you can travel a little but further down, and enjoy the beach there as well. The photograph was taken in July 2012. Prime beach season, yet there was only four people in sight. Almost every time I go here, I see dolphins. I have even seen a couple sea lions. This is why I love this place. If you travel through the caves to get to this part of the beach, remember that when high tide comes up, you're not going to be able to get back the way you came. It is not a good idea to try to go through the water while you are surrounded by rocks, so make sure you know how to get back, or you leave before high tide! High tide here is really truly high tide. I learned this the hard way.


It is not illegal, but actually encouraged to take tons of pictures, and have a great time. Be respectful, don't hurt the sea life, and take everything you bring to the beach back home with you. I once saw a couple teenagers collecting starfish and tossing them at the rocks. Why? I really can't come up with one good reason. Please don't be those people.


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