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San Diego's Tide Pools

Exploring life at the edge of the sea

Sprinkled along San Diego's stunning coastline, intertidal ecosystems can be found where the land greets the sea. Curious explorers can discover a variety of fascinating tide pool residents on walks along the beach during low tide when sea water recedes and the rocks and reefs are exposed.

Encounter Hidden Treasures When the Tide Rolls Out

November through March is the optimal time for tide pooling in San Diego when the tide is low during daylight hours. Remember, these protected tide pools are home to delicate ecosystems, so please tread lightly and never remove the creatures from their coastal habitat. Here's a guide to the best tide pools in San Diego County's beach communities and marine parks.

Cabrillo National Monument Tide Pools


At this national park, the site where Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first discovered the West Coast and San Diego Bay, excellent tide pools can be found below the sandstone cliffs. The southern end of Cabrillo has myriad depressions in the rocks and this intertidal zone is filled with plants, invertebrates and fish. Look for periwinkle snails, shore crabs, acorn barnacles, troglodyte chitons, limpets, California mussels, anemones, California sea hares, fishes, lobsters and even octopuses.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park


This gorgeous spot is famous as a perch for watching the sun drop into the Pacific, but good tide pools await during low tide. Here, you will find hundreds of sea anemones, little crabs and fish. Please keep in mind that the descent down the sandstone cliffs to Garbage Beach can be tricky as it's steep.

Dike Rock Tide Pools

Part of the La Jolla Underwater Marine Park, these tide pools can be found north of the Scripps Pier and La Jolla Shores Beach. Along this volcanic bench of rock, look for star fish, limpets, mussel, anemones and the occasional octopus.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps


In addition to offering incredible ocean views, the Preuss Tide Pool Plaza at the aquarium has an interactive pool filled with sea stars, sea anemones, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, lobsters, abalone and more. Birch also offers guided tide pool adventures on the beaches below with trained naturalists who offer an in-depth look at and lesson about the creatures that inhabit these natural wonders.

Cardiff State Beach/Seaside Beach Tide Pools


This stretch of sand that connects Cardiff and Solana Beach has easily accessible tide pools just south of Lifeguard Tower # 10. At low tide, kids can play on the flat rocks, part of Table Top reef, and discover myriad creatures tucked in the nooks and crannies. The rocks here are 45 million years old and contain clam fossils as well.

Swami's State Beach Tide Pools


At this local's favorite beach in Encinitas, you'll find tide pools north of the stairs. After looking for sea hares, brittle stars and hermit crabs, hang out for sunset and watch the surfers catch the day's last waves.

Map of San Diego's Best Tide Pools

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