In Orange County, there are a lot of things to love, but one of the most notable is the year-round warmth! In order to take advantage of this fact, many families choose to go to the beach and explore tide pools to spend time together.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best family friendly tide pools in Orange County and beyond that you and your family can visit so that your day at the beach will be filled with excitement and fun.
There are a few things you need to know about tide pools before we begin.
The tide pools are sand and rock formations that are formed where the land meets the ocean at low tides. Various species of marine life are found in these pockets that have adapted to the shallow conditions.
To ensure both your child’s safety as well as the safety of the marine life in the tide pools, it is extremely important not to touch any of the creatures in the tide pools, whatever they are, while visiting any of these tide pools.
The majority of tide pools are also classified as Marine Protected Areas, so you are not allowed to move any marine life around the tide pools or take any souvenirs home with you.
Best Family Friendly Tide Pools In OC
375 Cliff Drive., Laguna Beach, CA 92651
If you are looking for a place to hold a spring or summer picnic lunch before jumping into the ocean and exploring, Heisler park is the perfect choice. There are plenty of sea creatures hiding out for you and your kids to find, like hermit crabs, starfish, and even mussels!
There are a limited number of parking spaces at this attraction and many visitors have noted that arriving early in the day is the key to finding a good spot. Bonus: There are nearby restrooms here so you won’t have to call it a day when someone needs to go.
2700 Victoria Drive, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
There is no doubt that Victoria Beach is one of the well known treasures in Orange County; it is a place that is both beautiful and perfect for families with children of all ages. A man-made tide pool is located right next to the pirate tower and is perfect for kids to swim in during high tide when there is a lot of water.
Victoria Beach is tougher to get to than some other spots. Most people park along PCH and walk to the stairs on Victoria Drive and Sunset Terrace Drive that are found located between two houses. Another access point is via Dumond Drive. Walk to the end of the road and there is a paved emergency access ramp that leads to the sand.
Crystal Cove State Beach
Pacific Coast Highway between Corona Del Mar and Laguna Beach
Having a beach day with your kids at Crystal Cove is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. In addition to their tide pools, the state parks website has printable activity lists that you can download for your kids such as nature bingo, a plant scavenger hunt, and their junior ranger adventure guide!
There are restrooms located in the parking lots, and the Historic District has a beachside restaurant for grabbing breakfast or lunch after your excursion with historic beach bungalows.
Salt Creek Beach Park
33333 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, CA 92629
There are a lot of amazing tide pools to explore at Salt Creek Beach Park! Having a nearby café, a beach you can splash around in with your family, and plenty of tide pools to explore, there is no doubt that you could spend hours here!
There are public restrooms near the designated parking area and there is expansive lawn area to enjoy relaxing or playing games when you’re done on the sand.
Cliff Drive and Fairview Street, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
It’s safe to say that Shaw’s Cove has some of the most beautiful and incredible tide pools in the world for the kids to enjoy! Besides the anemones and mussels that live in the tide pools, some of them can also harbor eels that live in the pockets of their tide pools as well. In addition to tide pools, there’s a cool little sea cave here that can be accessed at low tide.
Parking is available along Cliff Drive and metered spots are along Pacific Coast Highway, and the stairs to get to the sand are north of the condos between Beverly and Myrtle Streets.
Corona del Mar State Beach
Iris Street and Ocean Boulevard, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
Aside from the wonderful tide pools that you can discover here, there’s also a fire pit in the area where you can toast marshmallows and make smores, a long stretch of beach to swim on, and a grassy area nearby where your kids can run and play.
Little Corona is the best spot for tide pooling, and can be accessed by a ramp down to the sand located at Ocean Blvd and Poppy Avenue. You can also try exploring the area below Inspiration Point at Ocean and Orchid. There is a path from the sidewalk that takes you right down to the sand, or you can walk from the Corona Del Mar Municipal Lot. Restrooms are located in this lot as well, plus there is one on the path down to Little Corona.
Pearl Street Tidepool
Pearl Street and PCH, Laguna Beach, 92651
If you are looking for a quieter area to explore the tide pools with your family, Pearl Street is a great choice! With swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling and scuba diving for the particularly brave, there is so much adventure you can find here.
Access to the sand is found where Pearl Street meets Ocean Way. Parking is available along PCH, but keep in mind that there are no restroom facilities here.
Thousand Steps Beach
9th Ave. and PCH, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
It is not surprising that Thousand steps beach is better suited for older kids due to the amount of steps you have to climb up and down (218 of them), but that doesn’t mean that this spot is any less amazing! These tide pools are perfect for finding some truly beautiful marine wildlife. Bonus: There’s a popular sea cave that can be accessed at low tide at the south end of the beach.
Parking is available along PCH and there are no restrooms at this location.
31131 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92652
Aliso Beach is a great place for a picnic or a family outing and there are tide pools nearby just a few minutes north of the parking lot. The beach also has a playground for the little ones so they can enjoy themselves while they’re there. There’s a café located nearby so you can grab lunch or dinner once everyone has had their fill of the waves.
Aliso Beach is operated by OC Parks so there is a designated parking lot here, and restrooms are available.
Treasure Island Beach
PCH and Wesley Drive, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Near the Montage Laguna Beach Resort
Treasure Island is the perfect place to visit during low tide, as the tide pools are absolutely gorgeous and make for an excellent experience spotting marine life. It should be noted that if you plan to swim at Treasure Island, make sure you keep an eye on your children, as the riptides and undertow are extremely strong.
There is a park on the bluff top for relaxing or enjoying a picnic after a day at the tidepools. Parking is available in the parking garage on Wesley Drive, there is a ramp down to the sand, and restrooms are available.
Dana Point Tide Pools
24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA 92629
Families with younger kids will enjoy the Dana Point Tide Pools since it’s not far from the parking lot. Located nearby is the Ocean Institute, which offers a variety of educational opportunities for both individuals and groups, whether you are interested in booking one of their guided tide pool hikes with an educational guide or taking part in one of their other educational programs, this place is worth a visit.
You can also see the Dana Point Sea Caves here, and Baby Beach is just a short walk away near Dana Cove Park on the other side of the Ocean Institute so little ones can swim without the big waves.
Parking is available in the lots and restrooms are available.
Diamond Street and PCH, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Wood’s Cove is the location of the only blow hole in Orange County, which is reason enough to visit! In Cactus Point’s tide pools, you will find some of the deepest tide pools you can find as well as plenty of gorgeous marine life to observe. It is important to note that you need to be mindful of the tides, as high tide can make the beach disappear completely.
Access to Woods Cove can be found at Diamond Street and Ocean Way. The home near the access point was once occupied by Bette Davis. Street parking is available in the neighborhood and along PCH, and there are no restrooms.
Regardless of the fact that Orange County has many gorgeous and family-friendly tide pools, the following honorable mentions located just outside of Orange County are equally beautiful and excellent places to visit with your family as well.
Tide Beach Park
302 Solana Vista Drive, Solana Beach, CA 92075
Tide beach park, located in San Diego, is a great place to spend a couple of hours exploring some of the best tide pools in the area. Mainly commonly found species in these tide pools are starfish, anemones, sea urchins, and plenty of hermit crabs! This is also known as the best stretch of sand in Solana Beach, which makes it perfect for sandcastles!
There is free street parking, but no restrooms are available at this location.
White Point Park
1801 W Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro, CA 90732
White Point Park is perfect for families located in Los Angeles, as the San Pedro beach is only a short drive away from the city. The rocky shoreline is ideal for searching the tidepools for sea life and it’s a great spot for beachcombing. Swimming is not recommended here due to the rocky bottom.
If you want to learn more about the marine life, visit the White Point Nature Preserve just across the street. You can also venture out for a hike along the trails here and see a Cold War Nike Missile Launch Pad and concrete military battery gun emplacements.
There is a designated parking lot for White Point shared with Royal Palms Park and restrooms are available.
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Morgan Mulac is a freelance writer who has spent years on the road as a nomad and now has settled back in California with her family. Some of her favorite spots to travel to in California are in Orange County and the many beaches along the coast. She’s an avid writer about her journeys and enjoys sharing the beauty California has to offer.