The coast is clear as (low) daytime tides roll back San Diego beaches, which means it’s tide pool time! So put on those ground-gripping shoes and nimbly navigate these rocky shores to get up close (and personal) to the crustaceans, anemones and (if you’re really lucky) spot an octopus. Check the tide charts and head on out to one of these five-star San Diego tide pool spots.

tidepool_cc_thebywaters_via_ccphoto: The Bywaters via flickr

Cabrillo National Monument
Come for the tide pools, stay for the photo ops. The Point Loma tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument surrounds you with breathtaking views. Located on the windy ocean-side of the point, little adventurers will spot a large and diverse amount of sea critters in this multi-leveled tidal zone area. Docents are available to answer questions; bathrooms are in the parking area. Late fall and winter are terrific times to adventure to these tide pools. Timing is important, so watch for the super low tides that occur during the day.

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (park closes at 5 p.m.)
Cost: $10/per vehicle

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr.
San Diego, Ca
619-557-5450
Online: nps.gov/tidepools

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Dike Rock in La Jolla
New to tide pooling? Hook up with a naturalist through the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute to search for sea life at Dike Rock, or explore on your own. Crouch down and be still to see scampering hermit crabs and gently touch a sticky sea anemone. If you’re timings right and you hit the extreme low tides you may see sea stars and sea hares ensconced in the rocks. Park near El Paseo Grand Street then start walking North on the beach (just past the pier).

Know before your go: The closest bathrooms are at La Jolla Shores Beach parking lot.

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Tide pool tour: aquarium.edu/tidepooling

Dike Rock
El Paseo Grande Street & La Jolla Shores Drive
La Jolla, Ca

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Tourmaline Surf Park
You’ll love the fact that this small surf beach is easy to get to and has a laid back vibe, you’re little sea stars can dig up cute critters to see from snails and star fish to barnacles and limpets. The parking lot is a breeze to find, and there are basic beach bathrooms. Head North of the surfing area to find the tide pools, then, stay and watch the surfers and the sunset.

600 Tourmaline St.
La Jolla, Ca
Online: sandiego.gov/northpb

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Cardiff State Beach
Although a pay parking lot, it’s just a few steps to this sandy shore. Seaside Beach (the South end of Cardiff State Beach) is a sweet tide pool spot at low tides. So grab the stroller, pack a lunch, leash up the dog, and soak up the sunshine while exploring the creatures this coast reveals. This tide pool has quick and easy access, with restrooms in the parking lot.

Parking: Mon.-Thurs., $6 first hour; Fri.-Sun., $15/day

South Parking Lot
Pacific Coast Hwy
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Ca
760-753-5091

Carlsbad Tide Pools
Park along Pacific Coast Highway (just South of Cannon Rd.) and find the stairs past the last house. Go down the stairs and head one block North on the beach and you’ll find this hidden gem of a tide pool (only viewable at extreme low tides). Free to park, no restrooms, but worth the trip to find loads of hermit crabs, sea anemones, and other critters skittering around in the water.

Pacific Coast Highway & Shore Drive
South Carlsbad, Ca

What tide pools do you explore? Let us know in the comments below.

—all photos and copy by Nikki Walsh except where noted