Having grown up along the shores of the Puget Sound, we were always looking for sea creatures left behind from the tide. I just never knew there was a name for it until I moved to San Diego. Apparently it's called Tide Pooling.
WHAT IS TIDE POOLING:
Head to the beach when the tide is out and see for yourself what kinds of cool creatures are left in the shallow pools of water. There are only a few places where there are underwater rock formations that are exposed during low tide that create these perfect little swimming pools for snails, crabs, anemones, starfish, limpets, mussels, barnacles, chitons and such.
WHY WE LIKE THIS SPOT:
We like the Scripps Pier tide pools because it never seems to be crowded. Maybe because the beaches are so wide and the stretch of tidepools is pretty long that we always seem to find some quiet tide pools all to ourselves. From the access point, you'll walk on the beach toward the Scripps Pier and keep going north of it a little ways until you see the tide pools. Along the beach you'll see thousands and thousands of little shells in the sand that my kids love to look at.
There's a classic California picture waiting for you directly under the pier, if you can get your kids to stay still long enough for a photo!
HOW TO GET THERE:
This spot is just west of the Birch Aquarium. Get on La Jolla Shores Dr. and head towards the Scripps Pier. Look for the intersection at El Paseo Grande and then you'll have to drive around to find street parking in the residential neighborhood. The beach access point is a little walkway right next to the last house (photo below) on El Paseo Grande just as the road curves around. Look at the map and you'll see what I mean. It's also right next to the parking lot entrance for Caroline's Seaside Cafe; which is a great place to eat before or after your tide pooling adventures.
WHAT TO BRING:
Although it's at the beach and you'll probably want to throw on your flip flops....sturdy footwear is important at the tide pools, especially for kids. There will be slippery seaweed and wet uneven rocks covered with barnacles to cross and you don't want to ruin a fun day by getting hurt. Wear sturdy supportive shoes with closed toes like water sandals or old tennis shoes that you don't mind getting wet. And don't forget the usuals....water, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, towels, change of clothes, beach blanket if you want to hang out for a bit.
WHERE TO EAT:
Caroline's Seaside Cafe is right at the beach access point to the tide pools and you should definitely grab a bite there. No wait, you should definitely sit and linger over brunch. Either way, their food is so good and the views are amazing. They have a true California Cuisine menu and the kids are sure to find something good to eat; which is always a concern of mine whenever we eat out. Hours: 8am-3pm everyday
TIDEPOOL ETTIQUETTE & TIPS:
1) Touch Gently
Use the 2 finger touch rule and be gentle with these delicate creatures.
2) Don't Pick Anything Up
They're usually attached to the rocks and you could rip off their little suctions. Other animals live in a very small radius and return to the same spots everyday, if you take them away they may not be able to find their way back to their homes. If you do pick something up, be sure to put it back exactly where you found it.
3) Leave It There
Tide pools are a delicate ecosystem and these creatures help keep it balanced.
4) Watch Your Step and Watch the Ocean
Algae covered rocks and seaweed are slippery and there may be sea creatures on the ground next to your feet. Lots of the rocks are unstable and can twist when you step on them, so be sure to step lightly and make sure you're stepping on a solid rock. Always keep an eye on what the ocean is doing. Is the tide coming in? Are the waves getting bigger? Stay away from the water line to be sure you and your kids don't get swept up in an unassuming wave.
5) Look Outside of the Pools
You'll see lots of sea life and interesting things on the sides and around the rocks as well. Gently flip over rocks and you'll likely find crabs scattering about.
As you approach a tide pool, the creatures sense your shadows and usually scurry away and they tuck themselves up so it doesn't look like much at first glance. Wait a minute, patiently and calmly and then you'll see these creatures slowly open up and come out of their shells.
7) Put Your Phone Down
Take a few pictures and then put your phone away. Just enjoy the beauty of these creatures who live in such a unique environment.
8) Stay Close to Your Kids
If you're with little kids they will need your full attention and assistance. You'll need both of your hands free to help them balance and cross over the slippery uneven rocks. They could slip and fall in the blink of an eye and cut themselves up pretty good. I'll show you my barnacle scars someday if you'd like.
9) Bring a Trash Bag
If you find garbage on the beach or near the tidepools, clean it up and pack it out. Trash can hurt the creatures and marine life and it doesn't belong in their home.