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Guide to the Best Tide Pools in Orange County

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With so many beautiful, rocky shorelines in Orange County, tide pools are abundant. Our family loves spending summer days exploring these little ecosystems. The children are always fascinated by the spiny sea urchins, keyhole limpets, hermit crabs, small fish, mussels, sea stars, and colorful anemones.

The diversity of life in these marine protected areas vary based on the amount of time they are covered by water. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you take a step further and realize there’s a whole new world to explore. This creates hours of fun for all ages.

Safety tips: Be sure you are aware of the tides at all times. Try to go as the tides are going out rather than coming in. Even at low tide, waves can come in quickly. Feel free to ask lifeguards and docents about dangerous areas.

Here is a list of our the best tide pools in Orange County for your family to visit this summer:

Dana Point Marine Protected Area
24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629

This tide pool is located right behind the Ocean Institute in Dana Point at 24200 Dana Point Drive. Just walk behind the building and you will see a staircase which goes down to the beach. Docents are often available and are very friendly. Parking is easy and accessible. You will see a jetty dividing the harbor from the ocean which has a fun sandbar for the kids to swim during low-tide.

Corona Del Mar (Little Corona)
Ocean and Poppy
Corona del Mar, 92625

This is a favorite spot of local universities to hold marine biology and oceanography classes. It is located in Corona Del Mar at the intersection of Ocean and Poppy. There is a paved path that goes down the hill to the beach. Going back up the hill can be challenging for some small children. You can park along the neighborhood streets. There is also parking at the Big Corona parking lot; however, this would be a bit of a walk.

Crystal Cove State Park
8471 N Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

There are four main areas for tide pooling within this park, Pelican Point (our favorite), Reef Point, Rocky Bright and the north end of Treasure Cove. California State Park is not only great for tide pooling but also for hiking, camping, snorkeling, scuba and other beach activities. The day use/parking fee is $15. This beach is 3.5 miles long and known for it’s historic cottages. It’s located along the PCH south of Corona Del Mar and North of Laguna. We usually park at the Pelican Point Entrance right by Newport Coast Drive when tide pooling. Crystal Cove also has wonderful tide pool walks for families with very informative docents.

Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach
989 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

The marine life is exceptional at this local spot creating a world of exploration for local tide poolers, divers and snorkelers. You can get here by turning off of Pacific Coast Highway at Wave Street. Wave Street will end at Cliff Drive. The beach access is to the right. Try to park on Cliff Drive if you can. It is a residential area, so watch out for red zones, fire hydrants and driveways.

Treasure Island, Laguna Beach
30801 S Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Exquisite views make this a very popular beach for families and tourists. It is located just south of the Montage Resort. Paid parking is available off of Wesley. Metered parking is also available in the area.

Heisler Park Ecological Reserve, Laguna Beach
375 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Located north of Main Beach, these tide pools can get crowded during peak season. Park as close to Main Beach as you can; then walk to the north of Main Beach. The parking may be a bit of a hassle but the reward is worth it. Bring plenty of coins for timed machines.

It’s important to keep in mind that tide pools are marine protected areas and it is illegal to remove animals, shells or rocks. These ecosystems are very fragile so remind children to walk gently and never turn over rocks.

So as the kids say, ”when the tide is low…it’s time to go”. Just don’t forget your water shoes.

An Orange County mother of four, Tonya Goodbrand, loves exploring the world and sharing it with her family. She has a passion for travel which is quite contagious. Tonya hopes to inspire families to venture out of their comfort zone and see the world through their children’s eyes.

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  2. I have mobility issues. I can walk short distances on flat surfaces for 50 yards, but any standing, incline or sustained walking I use a walking aid. What would be the best tide pool for my husband and I to take our children to see?

  3. Awesome!!!

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