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The Best Tide Pools in California for Kids

Winter is fast approaching, and its the time of year when of California’s most popular beaches become deserted.   But here is a secret locals tend to keep to themselves- winter is one of the best times to spend a few hours at the beach.  There is no fighting for a spot lay your towel and many times, heat waves can bring 80 degree temperatures during a time where most of the country is shoveling snow.

Winter is also an optimal time to go tide pooling.  It is when the biggest minus tides occur, which reveal parts of the intertidal region that are usually under water.  Sea urchins, anemones, starfish, and even octopi are especially visible during these times when the moon’s pull is especially strong.  So where should families go to experience some great family friendly tide pooling in California?  Trekaroo co-founder, Liling Pang as put together an excellent list of fantastic spots to explore up and down the coast.  Here are some of my own personal favorites from the list, starting south and working my way north:

Cabrillo National Monument:

Come for the tide pools and stay for the amazing “ends of the earth” views.  Cabrillo NM sits on Point Loma, a peninsula with the wild and rugged Pacific Ocean on one side, and the metropolitan beauty of the San Diego Harbor on the other.  Be sure to make time to visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and the visitor center where kids can try on reproductions of 16th century armor.

La Jolla Cove:

Photo Courtesy David Oei of

Located just north of San Diego, La Jolla is a picture perfect community with one of the most family friendly beaches in all of California.  There is sparkling blue water to play in, seals to admire, and, of course, tide pools full of life just waiting to be explored.  This beach can be quite crowded on summer weekends, making parking especially difficult but in the off season, finding a spot quickly is much more realistic.

Crystal Cove State Beach:

A day at Crystal Cove is like stepping back in Southern California history.  Classic 1940′s cottages line the historic district, dramatic cliffs block the hillside filled with multi-million dollar homes from view, and rocky outcrops make for some terrific tide pooling.   Docent lead tide pool expeditions make for  wonderful educational family outings.

Little Corona Del Mar Beach:

This is my favorite place to go tide pooling in all of Orange County.  Large tide pools are filled with anemones, urchins, crabs, and star fish line this small stretch of beach tucked away off a residential street in uber exclusive Corona Del Mar.  As your kids walk further down the beach and climb up and over the rocks, they will be delighted to find a sea cave or two to play pirates in.

Leo Carrillo State Park

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Josstyk

Growing up north of LA, this is where we went in search of sea stars, crabs, and urchins.  This beautiful park with a funny name is located in world famous Malibu, home to the rich and famous.  Luckily, the glitz and glamor of Hollywood is nowhere to be found, and the only drama is created by the scenery with its crashing waves and rocky sea caves.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Beach:

Photo Courtesy of Flickr user kaiyen

This absolutely stunning state park is located along Central California’s dramatic Big Sur coastline.  In addition to some amazing views, the beach also offers some great tide pools. The only way to access the beach is on foot, so get ready for a bit of hike to reach this picturesque  gem.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve:

South of San Francisco, in the small town of Half Moon Bay, is an incredible stretch of protected coastline.  Dress warmly because unlike the beaches in the southern half of the state, it can be quite chilly up north.   These tide pools are teeming with marine life and docent led tours are available.

Muir Beach:

Come for the redwoods but stay for the tide pools. Muir Woods is a popular tourist destination (and rightly so) but far fewer make it just a little bit further down the coast to the beach.  Most of the beach is a lovely stretch of sand but there are also some nice tide pools on the northern end of the beach as well.  If you want to stay late, fire rings are available and the perfect spot for some marshmallow roasting.

Want to see what other beaches made the list? Check out the entire list of Kid-friendly Tide Pools in California.

Heading out to the tide pools and need tips on how to have a fun and safe time? Then check out 10 Tips for Exploring Tide Pools.

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Sharlene Earnshaw (aka doubleadventure) is Blogger-in-chief for Trekaroo and the blogger behind Double the Adventure.

Travel with kids to: CA | CO | DC | FL | HI | IL | MA | NC | NY | OR | PA | TN | TX | VA | WA



4 Responses to The Best Tide Pools in California for Kids

  1. ivan April 1, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    got to check out these beaches never been there before


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