Here are some of the best spots for tidepooling in Orange County. One of the best things about Orange County is access to miles of beautiful coastline. OC has some of the best sandy beaches and waves that surfers crave. Many of the beaches offer rocky outcroppings that give beach-goers the opportunity to explore sea life up close in the tidepools. Please observe tidepool rules to protect and preserve our marine life.
8471 Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach
Crystal Cove State Park is one of the most beautiful beaches in OC. One of the best spots to access the tidepools is from the Reef Point parking area. At the south end of the parking lot you can get to the beach from a steep staircase. A ramp is located at the other end of the parking lot for visitors with wagons and strollers. Crystal Cove is an underwater protected area and tidepool rules are listed on signboards at the staircase.
Visit the Crystal Cove website for information and resources about tidepools. Don’t miss the Tidepool Creatures page to help you identify what you’ve spotted out in the rocks. Restrooms are available in the parking area but there are none down on the sand. Parking is $15 for day use. You may want to consider purchasing a California State Parks annual pass. With the pass, you get admission to Crystal Cove, Bolsa Chica, Huntington State, and many other beaches and parks throughout California for one year. A worthy investment.
Dana Point Marine Protected Area
24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point
The Dana Point tidepools can be accessed from the parking areas surrounding the Ocean Institute. There is plenty of space here to relax and enjoy the beach in addition to exploring the tidepools at low tide. Tidepool docents and volunteers are available here on the weekends. Please be sure to observe tidepool rules and make sure to pay a visit to the Ocean Institute while you’re here. Restrooms are available near the parking area.
Poppy Avenue & Ocean Boulevard, Corona Del Mar
Little Corona is Just down the street from Corona Del Mar State Beach. At the corner of Poppy and Ocean, take a moment to stand on the path and look out at the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the best views in OC. Follow the paved path from the corner down towards the beach. Halfway down the path is a public restroom and showers. Down on the beach beyond the sand, visitors will find plenty of rocks to explore in search of sea anemones, sea urchins, small fish, sea cucumbers, starfish, crabs, and more. On the north end of the beach, larger rocks and partial caves are exciting for kids to climb and explore. Check the tide charts for low tide for the best time to visit the tidepools. Parking is free on the street but can get crowded on the weekends and during the summer.
Shaw’s Cove Laguna Beach
Cliff Drive & Fairview Street, Laguna Beach
This beautiful, semi-secluded spot has tidepool areas on both ends of the beach. There are no restrooms here, so plan your visit accordingly. You have to descend a flight of stairs from the street to get down to the sand. Street parking can be difficult during summer months and weekends. The Laguna Beach Trolley has a drop off spot right in front of the Shaw’s Cove entrance. The rocky area at north end of Shaw’s Cove has deeper pockets and bigger pools with lots of mussel beds and barnacles. You’re likely to see more sea life on this end. The south end tidepools have shallower pockets and pools, but you’ll still see plenty of anemones, urchins, mussels, and barnacles here. Shaw’s Cove is also a popular spot for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Wesley Drive & Coast Highway, Laguna Beach
Located in front of the Montage Resort, a park overlooks the beach here at Treasure Island and the views are breathtaking. Truly one of the best locations for tidepooling and enjoying the beach. You can access the sand from the ramp and stairway. Down on the beach there is a rock arch and large tidepool area to explore. Parking is free on the street, and a small paid parking lot is available on Wesley Drive. There is also metered parking, or parking at the resort for a fee.
Complete List of Orange County Tidepools
- Dana Point
- Dana Point Headlands (24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, 92629)
- Salt Creek Beach (33333 Pacific Coast Hwy, Dana Point, 92629)
- Strand Beach (27 Strand Beach, Dana Point, 92629)
- Laguna Beach
- Crescent Bay Beach (100 Barranca Way, Laguna Beach 92651)
- Diver’s Cove (375 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach 92651)
- Main Beach (375 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach 92651)
- Rockpile Beach/Heisler Park Reserve (375 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach 92651)
- Shaw’s Cove (989 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, CA 92651)
- Thousand Steps (31955 Pacific Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach 92651)
- Treasure Island (30801 S Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach 92651)
- Victoria Beach (19 Lagunita Dr. Laguna Beach 92651)
- Woods Cove (1991 Ocean Way, Laguna Beach 92651)
- Newport Beach/Corona Del Mar
- Cameo Shores Beach (107 Milford Dr, Corona Del Mar, 92625)
- Little Corona Del Mar Beach (Ocean and Poppy, Corona Del Mar, 92625)
- Crystal Cove State Beach (8471 N Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach 92651)
- Pelican Point Beach (enter at the Pelican Point entrance)
- Reef Point Beach (enter at the Reef Point entrance)
- Rocky Bight (enter and park at the Los Trancos entrance)
- Treasure Cove Beach (enter at the Pelican Point entrance)
- Absolutely NO collecting!
- Never remove animals, rocks, or shells from the tidepool.
- Never pick up animals. Observe them where they are.
- Walk gently taking care not to step on animals or plants.
- Never turn over rocks.
- Leave the beach cleaner than you found it.
When is the best time to view tidepools?
Tidepools are only visible at low tide. When the water recedes at low tide rocks are revealed with pools of ocean water trapped along the shoreline. A general rule of thumb is that tidepools can be visited approximately two hours before low tide time (when the tide is receding) and two hours after (when the tide is coming back in). Tides go in and out twice every 24 hours and 50 minutes. Low tides are typically in the early morning and in the evening. Just like sunrise and sunset, the times vary day to day throughout the year.
Use a Tide Chart to identify the best time.
What to wear to the tidepools?
Shoes with grip such as tennis shoes or Tevas are ideal when visiting the tidepools. The rocks are VERY SLIPPERY and it is easy to slip and fall. Refrain from wearing sandals or flip flops on your visit. Barnacles and mussels are sharp and may cause injury to bare feet. It’s recommended to dress in layers as weather conditions may change throughout the day. Sunscreen and hats are also recommended as well as drinking water.
Animals, Organisms & Plant Life Found in Orange County Tidepools
A wide variety of underwater marine life can be found including but not limited to:
Animals/Oranisms: Abalone (Haliotis), Anemone (Aggregating, Solitary Green), Barnacles (Acorn, Gooseneck, Little Brown, Red-thatched, White Ribbed Red), Crabs (Hermit, Kelped, Masking, Striped Shore), Isopods (Kelp, Rock Lice, Scavenging), Limpets (Giant Keyhole, Lottia, Owl, Rough, Volcano), Lobsters (California Spiny), Molluscs (Chiton), Mussels (Blue, California, Olympia, Pacific), Nudibranchs (California Aglaja, California Blue Droid, Spanish Shawl, Hopkin’s Rose, Phidiana Hiltoni), Octopus (Two-spot), Oyster (Pacific), Sand Dollars (Eccentric), Scallops (Rock), Sea Cucumbers (Warty), Sea Hares (Aplysia), Sea Slugs (Black Sea Hare, Hopkin’s Rose), Sea Stars/Star Fish (Bat, Brittle, Giant Pink, Giant Spined, Ochre, Six Armed, Sunflower), Sea Snails (Black Turban, Chestnut Cowrie, Dog Whelk, Kellet’s Whelk, Kelp, Perwinkle, Scaly Tube, Wavy Top Turban, Unicorn Whelk), Shrimp (Broken Back, Ghost, Grass), Urchins (Purple, Red), Worms (Sandcastle, Spiral)
Plants: Brown Algae (Devil Weed, Feather Boa, Giant, Japanese Wireweed, Laminaria, Pod-weed, Rockweeds, Sea Cabbage, Sea Palm, Wakame), Green Algae (Caulerpa, Sea Lettuce, Dead Man’s Fingers), Red Algae (Encrusting Coralline, Red Comb Weed, Tidepool Coralline, Tar Spot), Flowering Plants (Picklewee, Eel Grass, Surf-Grass) Kelp, Porifera Sponges (Orange Encrusting, Purple Encrusting, Red Encrusting), Seaweed
Small Fish: Blennys, Kelp Fish, Gobies, Perch, Sculpins (Tidepool, Wooly)
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.