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Tide-Pooling: The Great San Diego Pastime

Any given day during low-tide in San Diego I can walk along the beach and see adults and children alike enjoying the wonders of the San Diego tide-pools. These delicate ecosystems thrive along the San Diego coastline in shallow pools and deep cavernous ravines. Organisms from anemones to sea-cucumbers make their homes among the reefs of San Diego and survive in the extreme environment of a tide-pool.

When most people think of ocean tides, they think of 'high' and 'low,' but what does this mean for tide-pools? The constant ebb and flow of the tides makes tide-pools a diverse and formidable ecosystem. Organisms in tide-pools have to adapt to survive in both wet and dry environments as well as salt and freshwater depending on the amount of rainfall any given day. The beauty that lies within tide-pools is unlike any other and each shallow pool creates a new environment for its living creatures and a window into their world for curious San Diego residents like me.

A common way to enjoy nature and the beauty of our surroundings is by taking a stroll near local tide-pools. A personal favorite San Diego pastime is walking the beach and tide-pools during a low-tide sunset. It’s a gift to capture the overwhelming beauty of a pristine beach, rocky reef, and beautiful sunset. The captivating green seaweed illuminates the water while the dark purple sea-cucumbers slink across the sand, orange starfish jumble the rocks, and fluorescent green sea anemones reach for the sun along the water’s edge.

If you're looking for a great way to spend a few hours at low-tide, here are a few of my favorite San Diego tide-pools:

  1. Seaside Beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea: With a large parking lot and gorgeous tall cliffs, Seaside Beach is home to my favorite tide-pools in San Diego County. Located just off Pacific Coast Highway, at the South end of Cardiff State Beach, these pools are easily accessible for a quick tide-pool trip or great for a long beach day, soaking up the sun and catching some surf. If you walk further South from Seaside, you reach the cliffs of Solana Beach and some beautiful caves in the cliffs. Please make sure to stay clear away from the cliffs as they are constantly eroding and can be very dangerous.
  2. Flat Rock in La Jolla: Flat Rock is located on the beach of the Torrey Pines State Reserve. This jetting flat rock protrusion cannot be missed on a walk along the beach or a hike down the cliffs from above. As you walk on the surface, tiny pools are filled with salt water organisms and the views up and down the coastline are breathtaking.
  3. Black’s Beach in La Jolla: For visitors and locals willing to venture down the beach at Black’s, be warned it is a nude beach and most likely, you will see naked individuals frolicking in the surf and lounging on the sand. If that doesn’t bother you, then take a walk down Black’s Beach and you’ll find some incredible tide-pools. They are located just South of the Black’s Beach elevator (not for public use, it is attached to a private residence) and usually these tide-pools are great for finding unique organisms since they are off the beaten path and not easily accessible.
  4. Cabrillo National Monument: If you are looking for a hidden gem, this is it. Cabrillo National Monument at the very tip of Point Loma is a vast tide-pooling area, hidden by tall cliffs and a bit of a hike to get to, these tide-pools are definitely a little San Diego secret. The unique formation of the reefs make this area especially pleasing and you’ll often find happy Ocean Beach and Point Loma locals walking their dogs or playing Frisbee on the beautiful Sunset Cliffs beaches. 

The tide-pools of San Diego are just another reason why I love this city so much. Their natural beauty is unwavering and there is so much to discover, it’s a never-ending adventure. Please keep in mind that the tide-pools are alive and to be cherished. Locals and visitors alike love this part of San Diego and spending time at the tide-pools is a lasting memory for most San Diego residents. Please be respectful of the beaches and pools and do not touch or remove any of their inhabitants. We all enjoy this beautiful city together and respect our wonderful neighbors along our coastline.