Tide pools are some of the most popular attractions for kids and families on the California Coast. We are lucky to have so many to choose from. It is fun to watch children as they discover the unique creatures that are exposed when the water recedes. Adults enjoy tidepools too as you never know what new species will be spotted.
To make the best of your outing, check tide tables and make sure you go at low tide. All of these excellent tidepooling spots are better at low tide when it’s safer and easier to see the treasures. While marine life can be visible in the splash zone at high tide, most of the good stuff is only reachable at low tides.
Always take your time and be careful where you step as you investigate tide pools. If you don’t see a good place to step without harming the sea life then turn back and look for another path. Tidepooling is a slow process and requires a sharp eye to spot things that blend in with their surroundings. This includes things like mussels, snails, small crabs, limpets and even barnacles which are living beings.
Some of the creatures are quite colorful and make great subjects for photographs. Things to take pictures of include urchins, sea stars, anemones, and seashells.
See the best tidepools list below
1. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Moss Beach
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve might have the best tide pools in California. There are many others, but this one is large and the marine life is abundant. It’s easy to get here from San Francisco and San Jose.
2. Point Loma Tide Pools at Cabrillo Nat’l Monument, San Diego
These tide pools can be found below the sandstone cliffs of Point Loma on the ocean side of the park. Ask for directions when you stop at the entrance booth. Look for fossils in the rocks while you are exploring the shoreline.
3. Duxbury Reef at Agate County Park, Bolinas
The only area on this list that is north of San Francisco is one of our favorites. Try to hit an extra low tide when planning your trip out to Duxbury Reef. More of the reef will be exposed and it’s quite a sight to see from the trails on the bluff. After you get down to the water level, you’ll see why this is considered one of the top tide pools in the state.
Half Moon Bay is known for the many long sandy beaches including those in Half Moon Bay State Beach. However, a little-known tidepooling area can be found below the Ritz-Carlton Resort. Access is from either of the two beaches next to the resort.
5. Little Corona Del Mar, Newport Beach
South of Little Corona Beach there is a rock arch standing tall in the surf. Walk toward that arch at low tide and you’ll be rewarded with some top notch tide pools.
There are so many different areas for tidepooling in La Jolla that we created a map to show them all.
7. Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, Palos Verdes
The best tide pools in this park are on the southern end of the main beach below the tall point. There are other tidepooling areas on Palos Verdes Peninsula between LA and Long Beach, but these are the best.
8. Weston Beach at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel
This state park is loaded with nooks and crannies full of marine life. Weston Beach is the largest and best known of the beaches at Point Lobos.
9. Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu
The tide pools at Leo Carrillo State Park are located below Sequit Point between North Beach and South Beach. In addition to abundant marine life, this area of the shoreline has caves and rock arches to duck into. It’s a fun place for kids.
10. Hazard Reef at Montana de Oro State Park, Los Osos
This hidden reef is a gem of the central coast. At low tide the pools open up for exploration. It’s just a short hike down Hazard Canyon to this point south of Morro Bay.
11. North Point Beach, Morro Bay
North Point Natural Area has some magical tide pools. They are located north of Morro Strand State Beach between the towns of Morro Bay and Cayucos.
12. Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz
This is a busy place. It has a picturesque rock arch in the surf and an excellent sandy beach. Come here at low tide and you’ll also get tide pools that are exposed on the western shoreline.
13. Spyglass Beach in Shell Beach, Pismo Beach
The Shell Beach area has many tidepool areas along its rugged shoreline. Head to just about any of the beaches here at low tide and you’ll find excellent tide pools. Our favorite access point for tide pools is the one at Spyglass Park, but others can be found at Eldwayen Park, Margo Dodd Park, and South Palisades Park.
14. Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove
The entire Monterey Peninsula has fabulous tide pools at low tides. The many small coves of Asilomar State Beach are a good place to focus. A trail meanders along the bluff with easy access to most of the coves.