The park has 1.5 miles of beach for swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing and beachcombing. The beach also has tide pools, coastal caves and reefs for exploring. Giant sycamores shade the main campgrounds. The park also features back-country hiking.
Nature walks and campfire programs are offered and a small visitor center has interpretive displays. During the summer, children's programs are available.
The park was named after Leo Carrillo (1880-1961), actor, preservationist and conservationist, served on the California Beach and Parks commission for eighteen years, and was instrumental in the state's acquisition of the Hearst property at San Simeon. He was related by blood and marriage to a long line of distinguished original Californians. Leo's greatest fame came from his portrayal of Pancho, the sidekick to Duncan Renaldo's Cisco Kid, an early 1950's TV series.
Leo Carrillo offers up a family-friendly blend of beach fun – think tide pools, coastal caves, views to die for and water exploring galore – with campgrounds and hiking trails to boot.
Plan your visit for low tides and you won’t be disappointed. During our winter visit to the tide pools, we got a lot more than we bargained for. We easily spotted sea anemones, sea stars, sea urchins, mussels, barnacles and crabs. Bring water sandals or other shoes that are sturdy but can get wet.
In addition to the tide pools, my kids also enjoyed exploring the sea caves, which create “tunnels” my 2.5-year-old absolutely loved. For my 6-year-old, there were all kinds of rocky outcroppings exposed during the low tide. Climb your way to the top and you are rewarded with even more hidden pools teaming with marine life.
If sitting in one spot along the beach is more your style, no problem. During our visit, the main beach area featured a stream running in from Arroyo Sequit Creek, which formed a small pool just perfect for the under 10 crowd. (Note: The water quality here, as in most Los Angeles-area beaches, is awful; this spot rated a “D” during our visit.) We saw kids trying to build a dam across the stream with rocks and others building sandcastles. It felt like one big nature playground.
Bring a towel & spare clothes. The kids will get wet and sandy so a change of clothes is a must. A towel and sand toys may come in handy, too.
We went here on a camping trip with a group. So we stayed at the group camping site. We really liked the group site. The group site is more tucked away that the regular camping area. The only draw back is that you have to walk all of your stuff to the site. Cars are not allowed past a certain point. It doesn’t feel that far on the first trip…but on your 7th…it seems like a much longer walk. There was plenty of nature around to see, including rattle snakes. We went during rattle snake season…so watch yourselves in the tall grass;) or heck any grass for that matter.
Believe it or not we didn’t spend all that much time on the beach. The low tides were at times that the kids were done with exploring and were hungry and tired. Maybe next time we should bring a picnic with us to low tide;)
I tool my 5 year-old daughter to meet a friend and her 8 year-old son. We chose Leo Carillo beacuse the tide pools would hold both their interest. We found great anenomes and even a well-camoflauged small sea star and octopus. South of the entrance is a small area where there is more sand where the waves wash up so my daughter could chase the waves a bit. The rest of the beach is pretty rocky - which is why the tide pools are everywhere - but closer to the point there are bigger rocks and pools. The smaller area was easier for us to navigate. I loved that you feel a million miles from LA, with no houses or development anywhere nearby. We brought towels and a picnic and had a lovely day. There are bathrooms and a sink near the entrance.
As we left, my daughter said, "Why don't we come here more often, Mom?"
There's free parking along PCH, so all it costs you is the gas to get there.