Point Lobos State Reserve
Point Lobos State Reserve - Point Lobos is truly one of the most gorgeous sections of California coast, and it's very accessible for kids. It's also a nature reserve, where the unique plant and animal life are allowed to flourish undisturbed. From December to May, look for gray whales offshore, and all year round there are sea otters in residence. This is the perfect spot to bring a picnic and hiking shoes, and spend the whole day.
Tip: In summer, get there early in the day, as there are limits on numbers of visitors to the reserve.
Whalers Cove and Cabin - In the 19th century, Point Lobos was a whaling station and abalone cannery. Stop into the weather-beaten Whalers Cabin to see exhibits about whaling, including 10 ft. blubber forks and knives, harpoons, large cauldrons for melting blubber, samples of whale oil, and bleached whale bones, plus a video about the flora and fauna of Point Lobos.
China Cove and Bird Island - China Cove is perfect for kids - it's sheltered, a stairway leads down to a white sand beach, there are rock arches to explore at low tide, and it's just the place to swing a big piece of seaweed around your head like a big lasso. We also saw amazing snowy egrets, resting on pieces of driftwood, gently bobbing in the water. Bird Island is a pelican city - the rocks are covered with pelicans hanging out. If you watch for a little while, you can see the pelicans take flight, swooping above the waves, looking for something to eat. Bring your binoculars to see the birds close-up.
Tip: This is a great beach, but don't wade or swim - the waves and currents are unpredictable.
Hiking trails - Point Lobos has miles of largely-level hiking trails, which are wide and fenced with wire rails. The scenery on these trails is spectacular, but also, this is an area where just sitting in one spot and watching the waves break on the rocks is incredible. Once you've parked, you could hike all around the edges of Point Lobos, as well as through the pine groves in the interior of the reserve. Pick up your trail map at the entrance to Point Lobos.
Bring a picnic and plenty of water, and eat your lunch in the picnic table areas (not on the beach - this is to protect the wildlife, people food is bad for their health.)