If a family vacation to Maui is not in the cards this summer, you should check out the swimming lagoon at Don Castro Regional Recreation Area in Hayward. The clear blue water, sandy toddler-friendly beach and shallows, and affordable price all make for the perfect East Bay daycation with your family. I recently took my four kids, ages 3-9, and we all lived our best summer lives at this Hayward gem.
Don Castro Swimming Lagoon for Families
The chlorinated and filtered water at Don Castro swimming lagoon is lovely, inviting, and clear blue. The roped-off shallow area is ideal for young children to wade, play, and feel comfortable. My younger children loved the shallows and played happily for hours. My older children also enjoyed the shallows, splashing around and playing endlessly all day long. Just remember to reapply sunscreen!
If your kid is an adept swimmer they can take a swim test and then gain access to the deeper section. Or, they can borrow a life jacket for free from the parks department and enter the deep area with an adult. While we were there, most everyone stuck to the shallow area because the water is warmer there.
What to Bring to Don Castro
Treat this as your typical beach day. Bring all your usual beach must-haves:
- Beach blanket and chairs
- Half tent (though they have a bunch of beach umbrellas if you get there early enough to grab one)
- Sunscreen, hats
- Sand Toys
- Swim gear, goggles, etc.
- Snacks, lunch, water
- Swim diapers for non-potty trained kids
Pro-Tip: Put away your food while playing or else the friendly but enterprising ducks will gobble up your crackers (as they did ours!)
Don Castro Swimming Lagoon Details
Location: 22400 Woodroe Avenue, Hayward, CA 94541
Hours: 11 am – 6 pm Open every day Memorial Day Weekend through September.
Price: $3 age 16-61; $2 age 1-15; $2 seniors 62+ or disabled; FREE under 1 year; $5 Parking Fee when kiosk is attended.
Reservations: Not required, but if you’re worried about capacity limits you can make a reservation here.
Extras: Beach volleyball court, shaded tables for lunch, clean bathrooms with changing area, shower to rinse, some beach umbrellas, free life jackets to borrow.
The Bottom Line on Don Castro Swimming Lagoon
We had a wonderful day relaxing and playing at Don Castro. It was a bit foggy and overcast at first, but like most summer days in the Bay Area, it burned off and was a lovely day by late morning. Weekdays are far less busy, so if you can swing it, try to come mid-week. Otherwise, show up early on a weekend to make sure you get in (they do have capacity limits), or show up later in the afternoon once the early crowds leave. Overall, Don Castro is clean, close, and cheap; the perfect family summer daycation.