San Diego’s coastline boasts some expansive soft and sandy beaches, but there are also quite a few rocky areas that offer a great opportunity to explore tide pools. Depending on the location, a variety of marine life can be found hiding within the crevices, including mussles, hermit crabs, sea anemones, shore crabs, sea slugs and more. Tidepooling offers a fantastic family-oriented activity that best of all, is free and easy for everyone to enjoy!
The best time of year to explore tide pools tends to be between late fall and early spring, though some spots offer something to see at any time of year. Make sure to check the surf before you go—most of these spots are only exposed during low tide. Check out these beach locales for a top-notch tidepooling adventure:
San Diego Metro Area Beaches
Ocean Beach. There are some small tidepools just beneath the Ocean Beach Pier and though not as substantial as some other local spots, you can find shore crabs, hermit crabs and sea anemones all inhabiting rock depressions.
Cabrillo National Monument. The rocky shore of this park in offers an expansive hideout for marine life, particularly hermit crabs. You will need to pay an entrance fee to get into the park, but it’s definitely worth it.
Tourmaline Surfing Park. Located on the very north end of Pacific Beach, this spot offers many tide pools nestled in the sandstone that house a variety of sea life, from hermit crabs and sea snails to sea urchins and possibly even small octopus on a good day.
Flat Rock. Located on the beach of the Torrey Pines State Reserve, this spot offers great wildlife and spectacular views of the coastline.
Shell Beach. This smaller beach in La Jolla offers up some beautiful tidepooling, but only when the tide is exceptionally low (minus tide). In addition to smaller sea life, adjacent Seal Rock Reserve draws in seals and sea lions that sun themselves on the rocks.
Dike Rock. Located just north of the Scripps Pier in La Jolla, this is a favorite of local biology students and part of the La Jolla Underwater Park Marine Reserve. In a good minus tide, you can see starfish, sea urchins and even small octopi.
North County Beaches
Tide Park. Located in Solana Beach at Vista Drive just off the 101, these smaller pools are accessed by a steep stairway and are more hidden away so as to avoid crowds.
Cardiff State Beach. This is one of the best spots for tidepooling in San Diego, offering a very accessible location near the bluffs and close to the parking lot. In addition to diverse wildlife, if you walk farther south you can also see some amazing fossils embedded in the bluffs and rocks, as well as small caves within the cliffs.
Swami’s. Moving a bit farther north to Encinitas, Swami’s Beach has a great rocky tidepool area. During low tide there are some wider pools that house sea hares, brittle stars and even octopi.
San Onofre State Park. Located off Interstate 5 at Baseline Road (just north of the checkpoint), you’ll frequently find mussel beds and hermit crabs nestled in the tilted formations.