Hanging Out at San Diego’s Tide Pools

Swami's Tidepools - Encinitas

Mild ocean breezes and rolling waves are always in season at San Diego beaches.  In the fall, the weather is still warm enough to hit the surf, and even better, a great time to discover the secret world of tide pools. There’s no telling what tiny creatures you’ll encounter in these incredible little ecosystems teeming with life along San Diego’s shoreline. It all happens when the tide rolls out – shallow pools form around the rocks and become a home to tiny octopuses, colorful sea stars, hardy Hermit crabs and other remarkable critters. And that’s just what’s visible to the naked eye.

When my own kids were very young, exploring the tide pools was one of our favorite weekend adventures. Their favorite discoveries: The slimy looking sea cucumbers and prickly sea urchins. Now teenagers, they still love to go, so this activity is good for nature-lovers of all ages.

Fall kicks-off the best viewing season and runs through winter. Before you visit, check the surf report to make sure it’s low or minus tide, so the tide pools are out in the open. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Cabrillo National Monument

Tidepools of Cabrillo National Monument

The Intertidal Area – Cabrillo National Monument

Walk down the scenic path where land and sea meet to a large rocky area. These tide pools offers some of San Diego’s best protected examples of periwinkle snails, tiny crabs and other unique organisms.

Shell Beach, La Jolla

Minus tide is the best time to see the tide pool here.  It is at the south end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park in La Jolla at the bottom of the small cement stairway.  This beach is also home to Seal Rock Reserve, where you can watch seals and sea lions playing and sunning themselves.

Tourmaline Surfing Park, Pacific Beach

This is a surfing-only beach that’s also popular with biology students. To get to the tide pools walk north along the beach from the parking area west of La Jolla Boulevard at the north end of Pacific Beach.

Swami’s, Encinitas

Swami's Tidepools - Encinitas

Swami’s Tidepools – Encinitas

North on Pacific Coast Highway from Cardiff State Beach is Swami’s. Once you’re on the beach, walk north to the rocky areas. Hidden in the hard sedimentary rock are old fossils shells, and during low tide, you have a good chance of seeing sea hares, brittle stars and octopuses.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

She sees Sea Hares down by the sea shore!

For something more organized, Birch Aquarium offers guided visits to La Jolla tide pool to learn how these amazing habitats and their inhabitants truly survive “between a rock and a hard place.”

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Denise

About Denise

How would you describe your ideal San Diego day?

I'm a native Southern Californian and grew up spending lots of time on the beach. Not much has changed. My ideal San Diego day involves spending time with my family, soaking in the sun and watching my kids boogie board at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Afterward, we head down to Old Town for fish tacos!

If you were invisible, where would you go?

This would sort of be like having a Harry Potter invisibility cloak. I would probably head over to the San Diego Convention Center during Comic-Con, bypass the long lines and meander into the famed Hall H. Hall H is the place where the hottest stars talk about their new films and the most anticipated panels of the event usually occur. (Including a Harry Potter panel a few years ago.)

What's your favorite outdoor activity?

Hands down, hiking at Lake Poway. It's close to my home in North County and is surrounded by rolling hills and acres and acres of the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve. We usually do the 2.7 mile trail, and I somehow manage to keep up with my two teenagers knowing that each turn holds a spectacular view. We picnic, watch the ducks or sometimes take a spin around the lake on the pedal boats.

Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguine and red wine?

I'm definitely a burgers and beer kind of girl. Karl Strauss is my favorite downtown place for craft brews, and their burgers aren't bad either.

Latest music purchases for my iPod/MP3 player are…

Island in the Sun, Weezer and Bennie and the Jets, Elton John

6 thoughts on “Hanging Out at San Diego’s Tide Pools

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  6. The tide pools are great, if you have a chance stop by the Childrens pool in La Jolla as well. Great views of beautiful Southern California, good food and drink and the kids will love the Seals and Pups. 🙂

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