SoCal is known for its beautiful beaches and abundant sea life so it only makes sense that there would be prime spots for tide-pooling dotting the golden coast. But before you pack up your little sea urchins for a day of exploring with their water shoes and buckets, check-out our list of the kid-friendliest places to go (as some are a bit more tricky to navigate than others). And don’t forget to check the Tide Time Tables to optimize your experience.

photo: Stacey Z. via Yelp

Leo Carrillo State Beach: Malibu

Adored by families near and far, this Malibu beach at low tide really shows off its rocky underworld where sea stars, anemones, sea urchins and crabs delight sea-life seekers of all ages. Your small scallywags can really tap into their inner pirate while they climb under rock arches, through tunnels, and inside small coves. Make a weekend of it and take advantage of Leo Carrillo’s amazing campsites (but be sure to book these at least 6 months in advance). Park along PCH or call ahead to see if the day-use parking lot is open.

35000 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Malibu
310-457-8143
Online: parks.ca/gov/leocarrillo

photo: Mari P. via Yelp

White Point / Royal Palms Beach: San Pedro

The rocky shores and off-the-beaten-path feel make this beach ideal for traversing tide pools. Once a spot for natural sulfur hot springs, this space now gives life to vibrant sea stars, urchins, sea cucumbers and a large variety of marine life that show themselves when the tide is low. With a (paid) parking lot on site as well as clean public restrooms, picnic tables, a playground, and the stroller-friendly White Point Nature Preserve right across the street, this beach makes aquatic exploring a conveniently fun experience for the whole family.

1799 Paseo del Mar
San Pedro
Online: beaches.lacounty.gov/white-point-royal-palms-beach

photo: Haley T. via Yelp

Abalone Cove Shoreline Park: Rancho Palos Verdes

Access this beautiful beach via a scenic walk from the parking lot (the first 30 minutes are free, max $12 for the day). The payoff is a gorgeous strip of coastline with views for miles (look for Catalina Island in the distance) and tide pools crawling with ocean animals.

While the tide is out, your adventurers will feast their eyes on scurrying crabs, fish, colorful anemones and (luckily) get a glimpse or two of the abalone that gives the cove its name.

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Insider Details: Keep in mind the hike to these tidepools involves hills there and back (and the tide pools are quite rocky so grippy water shoes are a must). This outing might be better suited for the slightly older set and may not be as toddler-friendly as some…but the bonus is this beach tends to be less crowded than others which is certainly a peaceful plus!

Always check the website or call ahead as trails are often subject to closures so make sure you are in the know before making the trip.

5970 Palos Verdes Dr. South
Rancho Palos Verdes
310-544-5366
Online: rpvca.gov

photo: Jenifer Scott

El Matador State Beach: Malibu

This Malibu gem is a local favorite for photo shoots (you really can’t beat the scenery) but it’s also a fantastic place to explore ocean caves, pools and rock arches. During low tide, your mini Magellans will have plenty to discover between the tide pools full of colorful critters and the caves dripping with salty intrigue to the rocks blanketed in mussels, clams, and barnacles.

Park either along PCH or in the small metered lot at the top of the stairs (the lot fills up fast so best to get there early). The stairs down to the beach are a bit on the steep side so a good idea to hold onto little hands.

32200 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu
Online: californiabeaches.com/beach/el-matador-state-beach

photo: Jenifer Scott

Point Fermin Park Beach: San Pedro

Your nature lovers will be in sea creature heaven during low tide on this beach! It’s certainly rocky, but pretty flat for the most part making it easy to check out the treasures revealed when the tide is out. Beautiful green crabs, mussels, anemones, sea stars and even the occasional sea slug come out in full splendor in and around these tide pools!

Want to make a day of it? Take a short walk over to the small but incredibly charming and free entry (donations suggested) Cabrillo Marine Aquarium next to this beach and learn even more about the critters you and your little fish just discovered.

807 Paseo Del Mar
San Pedro
310-548-7705
Online: laparks.org/park/point-fermin

photo: Kate W. via Yelp

Crystal Cove State Park and Beach: Laguna Beach

For those who don’t mind a road trip to Laguna (um, yes please?), consider a tide pool trip to one of the best (and most breathtaking) places for spotting sea life in Orange County. There are a variety of tide pool options here with Pelican Point and Little Treasure Cove being two of the most popular (and gorgeous) places to check out.

Pay the $15 to park in one of the lots for the day (you are in the OC after all) and walk down beautifully scenic paths to the water’s edge where low tide has quite a bit to offer. Not only are marine animals plentiful here, but dolphin pods and the occasional whale spout are often observed just past the pools making this excursion truly one to remember. If you’re lucky, you might even time your visit with a guided tide pool tour given by one of the park rangers.

With restaurant options literally on the beach, you can easily feed the kids before they get crabby then head back up the Pacific with sand in your shoes and smiles on your faces.

8471 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach
949-494-3539
Online: crystalcovestatepark.org

Did we miss any secret spots tide pool spots? Let us know where else you like to go to explore the tide pools!

—Jenifer Scott

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