If you're curious about viewing local marine life in San Diego's many tide pools, please see our La Jolla Blue Book blog for some guidelines and ideas. Click here to link to our San Diego Tide Pool article.
Tide Pools are a must-see when visiting San Diego. Anyone can visit the tide pools. They're free, fun and a terrific way to learn about the marine life that inhabits the oceans and the rocky reefs. On any given day, you may stumble upon octopus, tube snails, hermit crabs, water slugs, sea hares, sea cucumbers, sea anemone and many types of odd looking vegetation. Some of the animals attach themselves to the rocks; other just swim or float. All wait patiently for the tide to return.
From a vantage point on the cliffs, San Diego's rocky shoreline may seem peaceful and still with the slow methodical motion of the waves. But don't be fooled. Just after the tide goes out, a host of thriving marine life is left behind, and exploring this vivid array of captivating contours, colors and patterns. Inhabitants of tide pools must be able to sustain themselves in a constantly changing environment. To survive, they must endure strong currents and waves, a fluctuation in water temperature, the strong midday sun and predators like the seagull.
As with all adventures, it is best to be prepared. Wear shoes and clothing that can get wet. Your shoes should be sturdy enough to withstand the sharp edges of rocks and shells. It's also a good idea to bring along a towel and a change of dry clothes.
The best times to explore the tide pools are from late fall to early spring. There are two high and low tides a day. Unfortunately, during the peak summer months, low tide occurs at night. Check the weather page of the local paper, look online or obtain a tide table from a bait and tackle shop, dive shop or lifeguard station to determine the best time to go. Surf shops, such as Mitch's Surf Shop in La Jolla, are also great spots to find tide information.
If this is your first tide pooling adventure, you might want to bring along a guide book to help in your quest. It is fascinating to observe the marine life, but even more satisfying to learn exactly what the plants and animals are and how they got there.
Don't forget to bring a camera. Tide pools and their inhabitants are very unique and colorful and don't mind posing for photos.
Finally, realize that you are going to get wet. Be aware of the incoming tide at all times, especially in the company of children. Warn them not to panic if a wave crashes in a little higher than expected. Standing still and maintaining your footing until the wave passes and then walking slowly toward shore will ensure a safe trip back to dry land.
Rules of Conservation
Creatures at Tide Pools in San Diego
At first, staring into a tide pool can seem confusing, but soon shapes and colors begin to shift. You'll spot hermit crabs fighting over an old snail shell. Sea anemones will look like colorful flowers swaying in the current. An octopus might spot you first and change colors to blend in with its surroundings. Spiny purple sea urchins look like discarded Christmas tree ornaments or pin cushions. Chitons and limpets make grooves in the rocks and often appear embedded in the rocky surfaces. On a really good day, you might be lucky enough to spot a lobster, sea hare or sea slug.
Local San Diego Tide Pools
Shell Beach La Jolla Beach - Shell Beach is located behind the Marine Room Restaurant in La Jolla Shores at the end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park, between Girard and Jenner Streets, at the bottom of a small cement stairway in La Jolla. Shell Beach's tide pool is best viewed at low tide, preferably a minus tide. Star fish and octopus are frequent visitors to this spot.
Dike Rock La Jolla Beach - Dike Rock is located at the base of Scripps Pier in La Jolla. It is located on UCSD property and is a part of the La Jolla Underwater Park marine reserve. The name, Dike Rock, refers to a volcanic bench of rock that has extruded through a large gap in the sedimentary rocks and runs perpendicular to the beach. The best tide pools are over the dike to the north side. You may see star fish or an octopus at a minus tide.
Tourmaline Surfing Park Pacific Beach - You can reach Tourmaline Surfing Park by walking north along the beach from the parking area west of La Jolla Boulevard at the north end of Pacific Beach. Tourmaline Surfing Park is a favorite tide pool among biology students. There are many tide pools here where you'll see hermit crabs, sea snails and other animals.
Cabrillo National Monument Point Loma - Located at the tip of Point Loma, south of Sunset Cliffs and west of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, this rocky shore has an abundance of hermit crabs and other marine life to see at a minus tide. Park rangers frequent this area and will explain the marine life and help you observe the animals.
Ocean Beach - There is a small tide pool area under the Ocean Beach Pier at the foot of Newport Avenue. During an average low tide there can be little to see, but if you're a careful observer, you may spot shore crabs, hermit crabs, sea anemones, and many small Chitons depressions.
Swami's Beach Encinitas - Swami's Beach is located at 1240 South Coast Highway. The tide pools are just north of the stairway and become visible as the tide recedes. It is an extensive reef formation and a popular spot for children's field trips. During a low tide, the tide pools are visible on a large flat area, and you have a good chance of seeing marine life such as sea hares, brittle stars, hermit crabs, shellfish and octopi.
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