If you’re a California native lucky enough to live on the coast, then you know that tide pooling is an awesome way to enjoy the beach. We’ve put together a list of great Bay Area tide pools, so put on your best waterproof shoes and get ready to explore.
Tide pooling is a fun activity for kids and adults alike, but remember: you’re a guest in these critters’ habitat, so try not to disturb whatever you find, always watch your step, and leave no trace. Be sure to visit at low tide and watch out for sneaker waves — you can check the tide tables here.
Agate County Park in Bolinas is home to some of the best tide pools in the state, so this is a great place to start if you’re a beginner tidepooler. Here you’ll find the enormous Duxbury Reef, which extends out from Agate Beach. A huge part of the reef is exposed at low tide, so there’s no shortage of things to explore.
James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is located in Moss Beach, and it’s also considered one of California’s best tide pooling spots. Not only will you find plenty of critters in the pools, but you’re likely to see seals, birds, and many other animals at any given time of year. You can stop by the small Visitors Center to learn about the area and get some pointers for where to look.
This beach near Pescadero is home to several great tidepooling spots, including Pebble Beach to the north and Arroyo de los Frijoles Beach to the south. The two beaches are about a mile apart and easily walkable via a trail along the bluff. Pebble Beach is unique for its coarse, colorful pebbles and tafoni rocks, which are a type of sandstone with a honeycomb texture.
This park in Pescadero is home to some great tide pools at the base of the light house, which is 115 feet tall and nearly 150 years old. It’s common to see whales and seals pass by from the shore, and the historic light house provides a fun backdrop while you explore!
Natural Bridges State Beach is a unique spot in Santa Cruz named for a natural rock formation making a huge arch out in the water. It’s a popular spot for families to go tide pooling, and the park is home to a monarch butterfly migration preserve. You can also cruise around the walking trails through Moore Creek Wetlands Natural Preserve or make a day of it with a trip to nearby Capitola, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, or Long Marine Lab.
Davenport Beach in Davenport is a beautiful place to explore tidepools, rock formations, tunnels, and more. The San Vicente Creek was rerouted through a tunnel towards the north, which is totally worth checking out. While you’re at it, consider paying a visit to nearby Wilder Ranch State Park and Shark Fin Cove.
Davenport Beach is a popular place to hunt for sea glass because of its proximity to Lundberg Studios, whose discarded blown-glass trimmings were knocked into the sea during a storm many decades ago. As a result, thousands of pieces of colorful glass have tumbled in the waves for centuries, and you can catch professional beachcombers seeking the highly-coveted sea glass in full wetsuits.
7. China Beach
China Beach is a small cove in San Francisco is located between Baker Beach and Lands End, so named for the Chinese fishermen who once camped there. If you go at low tide you’ll see starfish, anemones, mussels, and more creatures on the rocky cliffs. This is a great option to get your tide pooling fix without having to travel far from SF.
8. Pacifica State Beach (Linda Mar)
The southern end of this crescent-shaped beach in Pacifica is known to have some nice kid-friendly tide pools beyond San Pedro Creek. It’s a popular destination for walkers and bikers who take advantage of the trails around Rockaway Point, but you can also stop off at nearby Devil’s Slide or Mori Point for even more beautiful coastal views.
Below Half Moon Bay’s famous Ritz-Carlton resort you’ll find the Half Moon Bay Tide Pools accessible via Pelican Point Beach and Redondo Beach. The area is famous for Mavericks, a big-wave surf spot off the coast of nearby Pillar Point (check it out from the Coastside Trail). Half Moon Bay’s isolated location on Highway 1 makes for a relatively unchanged landscape, with farms dating back to the 1800s and long stretches of raw coastline to explore.
If you can make the trip down to Pacific Grove you’re in for a treat when tide pooling at Asilomar State Beach. This rocky, narrow 1-mile beach is is part of the Asilomar State Marine Reserve located between Point Pinos and Point Joe. You can take the 3/4 mile Asilomar Coast Trail from Sunset Blvd for easy beach access and nice views.
Featured image: @honeyoats_adventure via Instagram