Tidepooling in San Diego

This is something we’ve never done, but can’t wait to check out in the coming months. Thank you to my playgroup buddy, Kathy, for submitting this fun article on tidepooling!

As a teen and young adult without kids I never once thought about the tidepools of San Diego. It wasn’t until I moved back here after 10 years away and with kids that the thought of them entered my brain. On a warm sunny day my friends and I headed out to the Cabrillo National Monument to explore this little gem in our city. As we entered the park, we were greeted by a very friendly and informative park ranger, who was very happy to collect $5 per car as an entrance fee. He also explained that I could upgrade that for $10 more and get a whole year of visits to the park. I decided to do this after our first visit and have made use of it regularly during the warmer months.

To get to the tidepools, after you enter the park, you turn right and go down a very steep road. What a view. You will want to stop, but unfortunately you can’t. As you near the bottom of the hill there will be a driveway into the parking lot on the left. After parking your car, your adventure begins!


As you stroll the path toward the tidepools notice the spectacular views even as your kids distract you with critter sightings, rocks, and plants. Enjoy these as well.

The path is rocky and there are stairs. Strollers are NOT recommended, so be prepared to carry little ones. As you near the end of the sandy path you will have to climb down rocks to reach the tidepools. Once down, the fun begins.

You and your child will get wet so dress appropriately. The kids love looking into all the crevices and pools of water for sea creatures. We have seen crabs, anemones, sea stars, fish, and the occasional baby octopus. Creatures can be touched, and picked up, but use a bucket to keep them in water. Do not forcibly pick up or chase any creature or remove ones that are attached, and remember to use the gentle 1-2 finger touch.

Kids also have a blast splashing in the water, climbing the rocks and playing in the sand finding shells.

After about an hour, maybe two, the kids are about ready to go. Grab a towel, wrap them up, and head back to the car to change them out, but don’t leave the park yet. Once warm and dry, drive up to the visitors’ center, grab your picnic and sit around the visitors’ center or at Statue Plaza overlooking Point Loma. Here you and your kids can watch ships come and go from the bay, you may even get lucky and see a submarine returning to the Navy’s Submarine Base.

Afterwards spend a few moments in the little museum, and watch the show, then walk up to the Pt. Loma Lighthouse for another fabulous tour.

If you are looking for a fantastic and inexpensive day trip, I highly recommend the Cabrillo National Monument tidepools and park in Point Loma!

Things you should know before you go:

1. Cell Phones DO NOT work at the tidepools, and roam from Mexico if used at the visitor center.
2. There is only a portable-potty at the tidepools. The visitor center has regular bathrooms.
3. Bring sunscreen, buckets, shovels, snacks/lunch and a change of clothes (at least for kids).
4. Wear walking shoes or water shoes- something with a grip and can get wet, bring a change of shoes for afterwards.
5. Bring baby powder- this will remove sand from feet and body before entering car.

For more information, check out these links:

San Diego Tide Chart

Birch Aquarium Tidepooling Adventures
http://www.nps.gov/cabr/naturescience/tidepools.htm
http://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm
http://www.nps.gov/cabr/planyourvisit/things2do.htm

P.S. Did you know that the tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument are one of the last and best-preserved rocky Intertidal (the area that is above water at low tide and under water at high tide) areas open to the public in Southern California?

P.S.S. The best time of year to experience the tidepools is late summer through the winter when there are more low tides.

P.S.S.S. Military and their dependents can visit national parks like Cabrillo for free!

Click here for more information about discounts and passes for seniors, military and frequent visitors to Cabrillo and other national parks.

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