Your Complete Guide To San Diego Tide Pools (All 21 of Them!)

all the best tide pooling spots for kids in san diego la jolla cabrillo

Tide pooling is one of the best outings you can take the kids on. It's free, there's plenty of beach for the kids to run around and you'll breathe in some fresh ocean air. Oh and sea creatures & water are involved; which pretty much makes this is the perfect combination for a great outing with the kids.

This list has e-v-e-r-y single tide pooling spot in San Diego + how to get there! You'll find out which ones are best for kids, easiest to get to, the holy grail of tide pools that even long-time residents have never seen...and of course where to grab coffee and eat nearby. As usual, I've got you covered.

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Table of Contents

What Is Tide Pooling

When To Go

Tide Chart

What You Should Bring

Etiquette & Tips

👉 Where To Go Tide Pooling in San Diego



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 left behind. Only a few places where underwater rock formations are exposed during low tide create these perfect little swimming pools for snails, crabs, anemones, starfish, limpets, mussels, barnacles, chitons and sometimes octopi. Every time you go will be different, so give it a try and see what you find.

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Only Go At Low Tide

Look up the tide charts to make sure it'll be a low tide when you get there. You can usually catch tide pools about 2 hours before (better) and an hour after the low tide. There are two low tides every day, generally about 11-13 hours apart.

When it comes to tide pools, you will always want to go when the ocean’s tides are at their lowest. Negative low tides are ideal, found in the mornings during the spring and during the afternoons come late fall/winter.


Winter Is The Best Time

The lowest tides are generally from November-March with a lot of minus tide levels during daylight hours. If you time it right, you could even get out there during a "King Tide"; which is a very low minus tide level! This is when the water will be waaaay out, leaving much more tide pools exposed than usual.

After A Winter Storm

The storm will blow extra sand out of the tide pools so more sea creatures will get left behind in them during the tides. ;)

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Be prepared when you go tide pooling and you're more likely to end up having a better time. If you don't have the right shoes or sun protection, you won't be able to see or enjoy it as much.

Wear shorts & rain boots

The rain boots will protect your kids' feet and toes if they step on something sharp and will allow them to climb over rocks and slippery seaweed easily. At the very least they should wear water sandals like Tevas with straps over their feet so they don't slide out easily. Old sneakers are perfect if you don't mind getting them wet. Flip flops and bare feet aren't recommended.

Wear sunscreen, sunglasses & hats

Bring water with you onto the beach

Put these in the car: towels, a gallon of water, a change of clothes and shoes

You don't need to lug these to the beach with you so leave them in the car and change when you get back. The gallon of water is to rinse the sand off your legs. Use an old milk/water jug and keep it as your refill bottle to leave in the car for beach days.

Bring a First Aid Kit

There are lots of things to cut your feet on at the tide pools (hence the closed-toed shoes) and lots of germs and bacteria that could get into those cuts. Have some water to flush it out, antiseptic cleanser to kill any germs, antibiotic ointment to treat the cut and bandaids or gauze & tape to protect it.

Oh and don't forget a lollipop or small toy to distract the kids while you're cleaning them up. ;)

Bring a Trash Bag

If you find garbage on the beach or near the tide pools, clean it up and pack it out. Trash can hurt the creatures and marine life and it doesn't belong in their home. 

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