Discover starfish, sea urchins, crabs, anemones and more at these tucked-away tide pools along the coast. Read on for everything you need to know about where to go, when to arrive and how to get there—some pools are a bit trickier to access than other.

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. Park along PCH or call ahead to see if the day-use parking lot is open.

Hint: Check the Tide Time Tables to know the best time to visit this spot and the others.

Covid-19 Update: This state-run beach is open. Visitors are required to maintain 6 feet of physical distancing, and wear a face covering when they cannot maintain that distance.

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

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.

Covid-19 Update: The LA county beach is open. For a full list of rules at county beaches, click here.

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

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.

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.

Covid-19 Update: Run by the city of Rancho Palos Verdes, the park and beach is open, though portions of it are closed because of unstable cliffs above. See the map online for details. 

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

El Matador Beach: Malibu

This Malibu gem (part of the trio of Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beaches) 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, the pools fill with colorful sea creatures and the rocks are blanketed in mussels, clams, and barnacles.

Plan to park either along PCH or in the small metered lot at the top of the stairs (the lot fills up fast so best to arrive early). The stairs down to the beach are a bit steep, so it's good idea to hold onto little hands.

Covid-19 Update: This state-run beach is open. Visitors are required to maintain 6 feet of physical distancing, and wear a face covering when they cannot maintain that distance.

32200 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu
Online: parks.ca.gov

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!

Covid-19 Update: The city-run beach is open, with limited parking available. Physical distancing must be maintained and face coverings are required when in close proximity to others.

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

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 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.

Covid-19 Update: The Orange County park and beach is open with physical distancing required.

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

–Jenifer Scott

featured photo: Beth Shea