“The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it.” – Richard Bach
After spending three glorious days in San Diego, it was time for us to head up the coast and check out LA. I haven’t been to LA in years and thought it would be good place for our children to experience. Unfortunately our timing couldn’t have been worse as it was New Year’s Eve weekend meaning everyone was off enjoying all the sights and beaches. Traffic was horrendous, the crowds at Santa Monica Pier and Beach were insane and even our excursion to the stunning Griffith Observatory ended up being stressful due to the swarming crowds and congestion.
After the relaxing, serendipitous past few days watching sunsets and playing on the wide open beaches in San Diego, LA felt like a madhouse for the kids. They were both cranky and miserable, seeming to take after their mother in not liking crowds. Everything we did ended up being filled with complaints and irritation but I guess I couldn’t blame my children. As a LA rookie, I had no idea that traffic could be so bad and that the city was so spread out. It took hours to cut across and there was nothing worse than sitting in wall to wall traffic when one of the kids was hungry, grouchy or had to use the bathroom.
It took two days to realize that we would need to come up with a better system for navigating the city and also find a little bit of peace and solitude for me and the kids. That meant finding a beautiful, relatively uncrowded area where we could relax but did not take hours to reach. At first, I thought I was dreaming that we could truly find such a place but after a little research on Google maps, I realized that our hotel in Agoura Hills was not far from several amazing State Parks. In fact, the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach in northern Malibu was only about a twenty-five minute drive away without traffic. We were in luck!
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and set off early to explore El Matador Beach, one of three separate but distinct beaches that make up the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. Our drive took us through the winding, lush valley which ended at Pacific Highway 1 along the coast.
We arrived at the small parking lot atop the bluffs of El Matador State Park a little past ten o’clock and gratefully got one of the handful of parking spots in the tiny lot. At first sight, I knew we were in for a very special morning. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was warm and bright and best of all, the tide was rolling in. Soon it would be low tide and we would get the added bonus of seeing El Matador’s tide pools!
We gathered our stuff, and headed down the dirt path to the beach. At first sight, I was in love! It was utterly breathtaking and there was hardly anyone there save a few couples and another family.
Given its stunning beauty, El Matador Beach is one of the most photographed beaches along the coast of California. The beach is a collection of 3 small cliff-foot beaches known as “pocket beaches” and is most famous for its large monoliths (large rock formations with shear sides that are perpendicular to the beach), sea caves and tide pools.
If you time it right and arrive around low tide (we lucked out!), you are in for a very special treat. As the waves come and go, you can walk around the rocks and see all sorts of fascinating things. Most of the rocks are covered in black mussels, and have sea anemones and even brightly colored red starfish hanging on at the bottom. There are also tons of sea birds and if you are fortunate, you may even see a dolphin off in the distance.
We were very careful not to disturb the marine life. I sadly saw a few people standing on the rocks and had to shoo them away. If you touch or stand on them, you could injure or kill them. They are an important part of the ecosystem so it is best to look but never touch.
The kids found a leftover plastic shovel and bucket and went to work building giant sand castles. Meanwhile, I explored the short distance of the beach on foot. It is very small but has a lot to offer! I especially liked the sea caves and the birds.
We ended up spending the entire morning at the beach, relaxing and enjoying the ocean breeze and sound of the waves. It did start to become more and more crowded as the morning went by, however, most people simply came to take pictures and didn’t linger long. I secretly devised a plan to come back somehow at sunset as I could only imagine what a paradise it would be! However, our luck ran out and on our way back to the beach that evening a thick coastal fog swept over the entire coast of LA. The flip side of the coin is that means I now have a reason to come back someday.
El Matador Beach ended up being one of our most favorite places we visited in LA. It was hard to believe that in a city of so many people, there are pockets of paradise like this beach. Next time, we will be sure to pack a snack and stay for sunset.
Want to go?
Visit Robert Meyer Memorial State Beach website here for directions and hours. There are three different beaches: El Pescador Beach, La Piedra Beach and El Matador Beach. We only visited El Matador. The Beach is generally open 8 am to sunset. Beware that the parking lot at El Matador State Beach is very small and only accommodates about 20 cars. Therefore, plan to arrive early to guarantee a spot.
To see the Tide Pools, you must visit during low tide if you come during high tide, the beach will be inaccessible. Check out Surf-forecast.com here for tide schedule.