Southern California locals are blessed with more than our fair share of beautiful beaches. Some boast wide expanses of soft white sand while others feature rocky crags containing tiny sea life worlds just waiting to be explored. Southern California’s tide pools are fragile ecosystems best explored with our eyes, not our hands, and most visible at low tide. Check the tide tables, grab an identification chart, and head to one of these beaches for a couple hours of tide pool fun!
Leo Carillo State Park
35000 W. Pacific Coast HighwayMalibu, CA 90265
Any day spent on a beach in Malibu is a great day whether it is spent surfing, swimming, or combing the rocky tidal regions. Leo Carillo’s pools are filled with marine life from barnacles to starfish. Before you say farewell to this slice of Southern California paradise, be sure to embrace your inner pirate and explore the sea caves.
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
5970 Palos Verdes Drive SouthRancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
This beach and its protected tide pools in Rancho Palos Verdes may not be the easiest to get to (a short but very steep trail leads to the beach) but the effort required means this beach is almost never crowded, leaving you with plenty of space to spread out and enjoy yourself. Parents will be happy to find a small playground and a lifeguard on duty on weekends.
Royal Palms State Beach
1799 Paseo Del MarSan Pedro, CA 90732
Below the bluffs sits San Pedro’s Royal Palms State Beach. Walk past the pools closest to the parking lot and ignore the feral cats that call this strip of coast home to find another set of pools teeming with scurrying crabs, tiny translucent shrimp, and even the occasional octopus. Parking is metered so bring those quarters.
Little Corona Del Mar Beach
Pacific Coast Highway & Poppy Ave.Corona del Mar, CA 92625
Visitors to this beach park in a posh residential neighborhood filled with stunning oceanfront homes before walking down the hill to a little beach that seems cut off from the world. The tide pooling here is some of the best in all of Southern California and at low tide huge limpets, several sea stars, loads of purple sea urchins, and more anemones that one can count are often visible. Tiny fish, masses of mussels, and dozens of hermit crabs are also waiting to be discovered.
Crystal Cove State Park
8471 N. Coast HighwayLaguna Beach, CA 92651
This state park is one of California’s gems. Volunteers lead tide pool walks at this pristine beach reminiscent of the California beaches of yesteryear. All the usual tide pool suspects call this place home and brown pelicans in V formation are often spotted soaring overhead. If you work an appetite with all that exploration stop by Beachcomber Café which offers sit-down dining on the sand or Ruby’s Shake Shack at the top of the cliff which serves burgers, sandwiches, and shakes.
89 Cliff DriveLaguna Beach, CA 92651
This local spot is popular with divers, snorkelers, and tide poolers. There are no bathroom facilities here so make sure you have emptied your bladder before heading down the 58-step staircase. Those who have made the journey down to this scenic cove will be rewarded with large tide pools filled with anemones, urchins, sea stars, and more.
Sharlene Earnshaw is Editor in Chief of the family travel website Trekaroo.