See Anemones! 8 San Diego Tide Pools to Explore with Kids

The ideal time to visit tide pools in San Diego is near (Nov.-Feb.), so we’ve put together a guide to the best tide pools in San Diego! Taking your kids to explore tide pools is a fantastic way to get outdoors and learn about sea life at the low tides (and minus tides) that occur during the day. Put on those ground-gripping shoes and head out to nimbly navigate our rocky shores to get close looks at crabs, sea stars and other ocean dwellers. Be sure to check the tide charts of the locale you’ll be visiting for the best time to go. Scroll on for eight of our fave spots to ‘see’ anemones… and so much more!
photo: The Bywaters via Flickr Point Loma Tide Pools

Come for the tide pools, stay for the photo ops. The Point Loma tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument surround you with breathtaking views. Located on the windy ocean-side of the point, little adventurers will spot a large and diverse amount of sea critters in this multi-leveled tidal zone area. Docents are available to answer questions; bathrooms are in the parking area. Late fall and winter are terrific times to venture to these tide pools. Timing is important, so watch for the super low tides that occur during the day.

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (park closes at 5 p.m.)
Cost: $10/per vehicle

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr.
San Diego, CA 92106


photo: Photos by Clark via Flickr Shell Beach

Grab the crew and head down to Shell Beach during the low or minus tides and you're 'shore' to find giant sea anemones and skittering crabs. Even more, you’ll see plenty of seals here too. Also, good to know that if low tide occurs near sunset, this is the spot to be to catch a magnificent view!

1000 Coast Blvd.
La Jolla, CA 92037

photo: Lena Y. via Yelp Swami’s State Beach

You’ll need to hike down a long set of stairs to access this beautiful beach––before finding tons of sea critters at low tides. Look for the 45 million year-old oyster fossils in the rocks (which is called tabletop by the locals). You’ll spot starfish and hermit crabs, sea hares and cucumbers. Head down at minus tide to explore! Note: there's a small parking lot that’s free and also street parking. 

1298 S. Coast Hwy.
Encinitas, CA 92024

photo: Kourtney B. via Yelp Dive Rock in La Jolla

New to tide pooling? Hook up with a naturalist through the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute to search for sea life at Dike Rock, or explore on your own. Crouch down and be still to see scampering hermit crabs and gently touch a sticky sea anemone. If your timing's right and you hit the extreme low tides, you may get a glimpse of sea stars and sea hares ensconced in the rocks. Park near El Paseo Grand St., then start walking north on the beach (just past the pier).

Know before you go: The closest bathrooms are at La Jolla Shores Beach parking lot.

Dike Rock
El Paseo Grande St. & La Jolla Shores Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92037
Tide pool tour:

photo: Bruno A. via Yelp False Point La Jolla

A quiet little gem in La Jolla to find sea anemones and other little creatures. To get to the rocks at low tide you’ll need to go down a steep staircase. You’ll see hermit crabs and sea anemones, sea urchins and lobsters (if lucky!). The best time to go is during a minus tide. The rocks are slippery, so remember to put the crew in the right shoes to navigate this terrain.

Sea Ridge Dr. & Linda Way
La Jolla, CA 92037

photo: Beth Shea Tourmaline Surf Park

You’ll love the fact that this small surf beach is easy to get to and has a laid back vibe. Your little sea stars can spy cute critters from snails and star fish to barnacles and limpets. The parking lot is a breeze to find, and there are basic beach bathrooms. Head north of the surfing area to find the tide pools, then, stay and watch the surfers and the sunset.

600 Tourmaline St.
La Jolla, CA 92037

photo: Rebecca T. via Yelp Cardiff State Beach

Although a pay parking lot, it’s just a few steps to this sandy shore that's full of treasures. Seaside Beach (the South end of Cardiff State Beach) is a sweet tide pool spot at low tides. So grab the stroller, pack a lunch, leash up the dog, and soak up the sunshine while exploring the creatures this coast reveals. This tide pool has quick and easy access, with restrooms in the parking lot.

Parking: Mon.-Thurs., $6 first hour; Fri.-Sun., $15/day

South Parking Lot
Pacific Coast Hwy.
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007

photo: Chris Hunkeler Carlsbad Tide Pools

Park along Pacific Coast Highway (just South of Cannon Rd.) and find the stairs past the last house. Go down the stairs and head one block north on the beach and you’ll find this hidden gem of a tide pool (only viewable at extreme low tides). Free to park, no restrooms, but worth the trip to find loads of hermit crabs, sea anemones, and other critters skittering around in the water.

Pacific Coast Hwy. & Shore Dr.
South Carlsbad, CA 92008

––Nikki Walsh


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