11 Best Tide Pools in San Diego

Tide pools offer an incredible view of coastal California’s marine life & an experience for all. Explore them with family at many of San Diego’s best beaches!
Todd Sarouhan
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Learn and Play at San Diego’s Tide Pools

Underwater View at the Tide Pools at Marine Street BeachLooking for Sea Creatures at Bird Rock

Many of the rockier San Diego beaches are home to tide pools, which catch the waves as the tide goes in. Rather than containing little more than seafoam, these tide pools are typically teeming with sea creatures of all sizes. You might see common marine life like snails and clams, or more unusual finds like lobsters and octopi.

Looking for Sea Creatures at the La Jolla Tide Pools
Looking for Sea Creatures at the La Jolla Tide Pools

Entertaining & Educational

Tide pools offer a great educational experience for kids while also being entertaining for adults. Thanks to San Diego’s consistent warm weather, it’s easy to spend the day alternating between peering into the tide pools and enjoying other beachside activities like surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and more.

If you’re planning on heading into the ocean for these activities, consider buying a Go City San Diego pass, which offers discounts on gear rentals and lessons. You can also save on nearby attractions like the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, where you can learn more about the sea creatures you find in the tide pools! Enjoy an additional discount when you buy your pass through our website.

Closeup of Sea Anemones with Sand Covering Part of them at the La Jolla Tide Pools
Closeup of Sea Anemones with Sand Covering Part of them at the La Jolla Tide Pools

Be Respectful of the Wildlife

While the tide pools offer a unique look into the lives of sea creatures, there are some important etiquette rules to keep in mind so you don’t disturb the ecosystem.

Leave everything as you found it, and never remove anything from the tide pools intending to take it home or transport it to another beach. Avoid pulling starfish and other creatures off rocks as you could damage them, but it’s okay to gently touch or hold free-floating animals as long as you are careful. Also, don’t step into the tide pools or leave garbage in the area.

As long as you observe these rules, you’re free to have a fun experience with kids of all ages at any of the following best tide pool beaches!

Dreaming of paradise on the beach? Take a trip to La Valencia Hotel steps from La Jolla Cove, and join Todd's tour of the “Pink Lady,” named for its colorful exterior and elegant atmosphere.

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The 11 Best Tide Pools in San Diego

La Jolla Tide Pools
Kids Looking at the Tide Pools at the La Jolla Tide Pools

1) La Jolla Tide Pools

La Jolla

The La Jolla Tide Pools are an excellent way to learn about marine life. Here, you can walk the shoreline and check out the pools of water formed by the rocky beach. Look inside and see if you can spot barnacles, starfish, clams, mussels, crabs, snails, anemones, and sometimes even small octopi!

When the tides are calm, you can also dive under the waves for some snorkeling and scuba diving. Don’t forget to save on gear rentals with a Go City San Diego pass before you hit the beach!

The La Jolla Tide Pools beach is less crowded than many other San Diego beaches, so you can take your time exploring the tide pools and the ocean floor.

Marine Street Beach
People Enjoying the Beach at Marine Street Beach

2) Marine Street Beach

La Jolla

Marine Street Beach tends to attract many marine life enthusiasts thanks to its kelp beds, but you can find just as much variety in sea life in its tide pools. Let young kids play in the shallows, while leaving the fairly challenging tides to older and more experienced surfers who can rent a board and navigate the waves.

This beach is also known for its gorgeous sunsets, which make it popular as both an ideal backdrop for a commemorative photo and a couples’ retreat.

If you’re planning a romantic getaway, consider staying at the nearby La Valencia Hotel, which is a luxury and boutique resort with its own business and fitness centers.

If it’s not quite what you’re looking for, you can also choose another of our top picks for the best hotels for couples in San Diego!

Windansea Beach
Lifeguard Keeping Watch at Windansea

3) Windansea Beach

La Jolla

Windansea is one of the most popular surfing beaches in San Diego, offering both a picturesque beach-going experience and a close connection to SoCal’s thriving surf culture with the Surf Shack, a local and historical landmark. The waves can be fairly turbulent here, so it’s best to stick to surfing rather than trying to swim or snorkel.

Of course, that’s not all this beach offers. Just because you can’t scuba dive here doesn’t mean you can’t peek underwater. When the tide goes out, Windansea’s tide pools offer an excellent look into the area’s marine life.

There are plenty of hotels nearby too, so you’re sure to find somewhere to rest up after a long day in the sun. Try the Holiday Inn Express and Suites La Jolla Beach Area, which is a great choice hotel for families and has pet-friendly rooms too.

Point Loma Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Monument
Much Life in the Tide Pools at Cabrillo National Monument

4) Point Loma Tide Pools

Point Loma

The Point Loma Tide Pools are one of the most popular spots to connect with nature, especially given how close they are to the intersection of four different tidal zones. This results in a wide variety of marine creatures, including everything from anemones and limpets to shore crabs, California sea hares, and lobsters.

Nearby the beach is the Cabrillo National Monument, emphasizing just how strong the ties that connect San Diego to its past really are! If you’re looking for a convenient way to get to the beach, try one of the half-day tours offered by many local tour guides. This is another great opportunity to save with the Go City San Diego pass!

Nearby lodging includes the Kona Kai Resort & Spa, a family-friendly waterfront hotel, and The Pearl Hotel, a boutique bay-side resort, among many others.

Big Rock
Checking Out the Tide Pools at Big Rock Reef

5) Big Rock Reef

La Jolla

Big Rock Reef is best known for its large, consistent waves that are perfect for surfers. At high and mid-tide, rent a board and enjoy the swells created by the western winds and the protruding reef that gives the beach its name.

When the tide goes in, head back to dry land and check out the tide pools along the offshore reef. You can also scuba dive here when the waves are calmer and there’s no risk of running into a stray surfboard.

If the kids take an interest in marine life here, head to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps where they can learn more about the creatures they saw. The Go City San Diego pass can help you save on admission prices to the aquarium, as well as many other attractions in the area.

Casa Beach & Wipeout
People Walking Along the Beach at Wipeout Beach

6) Casa Beach & Wipeout

La Jolla

Casa Beach & Wipeout are a set of less well-known beaches in the popular neighborhood of La Jolla. South Casa Beach is a popular spot for snorkeling and scuba diving thanks to the kelp beds and reefs just offshore, but if you want to check out marine life without getting soaked, head to the tide pools at Wipeout Beach.

Low tide exposes the reef here, where you can see numerous sea creatures in the tide pools. This is a great beach for younger kids, as there’s a nearby boardwalk and lifeguards on duty. If you’re lucky, you may even see some seals and sea lions come ashore, though they’re much more common at the nearby Children’s Pool Beach.

Families will also enjoy La Jolla’s Empress Hotel, which offers accommodations not far from the beach. It’s great for kids and pet-friendly too!

Tourmaline Surf Park
Two Surfers Walking Along the Beach at Tourmaline

7) Tourmaline Surf Park

Pacific Beach

Tourmaline Surf Park is a fairly laid-back beach. As the name suggests, it’s most notable for its fairly calm and consistent waves good for longboarders and beginner surfers fresh from a surf school lesson.

You won’t want to swim at Tourmaline, but the tide pools offer plenty of entertainment, so you won’t miss it at all. At low tide, you may be able to spot starfish and Pacific octopi in the rocky dips along the shore.

Ocean Park Inn is a popular waterfront hotel nearby, offering a family-friendly experience and amenities like free WIFI and a heated pool and spa. You can rent out beach equipment directly from the hotel, or save on rentals from local vendors with a Go City San Diego pass!

Surfers Riding Waves at Swamis

8) Swami’s


Swami’s beach offers a pleasant tide pool experience, with plenty of convenient amenities such as outdoor showers, restrooms, and lifeguards. It’s easy to spend the whole day here, and there’s just as much to do at low tide as there is at high tide.

Swami’s is also notable for being a popular surfing spot, with some fairly challenging waves off the point break. If you’re fresh from your first surfing lesson, you can still enjoy yourself watching other surfers, as many local professionals frequent the beach.

It’s also located near a self-realization center that overlooks the beach, which includes a large meditation garden full of unique flora. This is a great spot to snap a photo or just to walk around and enjoy the scenery.

Tide Beach
Looking South at the Surf at Tide Beach

9) Tide Beach Park

Solana Beach

Tide Beach Park offers both entertainment and education with its tide pools. The beach is a little difficult to access, but it’s worth the effort to see the anemones, crabs, mussels, clams, sea urchins, and more in the pools.

If you want to go for a swim here, you’ll be relieved to know there are lifeguards on duty, and the waves are fairly calm with minimal riptides. There are also outdoor showers available here for your convenience.

Looking to stay overnight nearby? Try the Winners Circle Resort. It’s family-friendly with plenty to keep your little ones busy, and it’s also close to the border of Del Mar. This means it won’t take you long at all to reach the world-famous Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Garbage Beach & AB's
Sunset Surf at Garbage Beach

10) Garbage Beach & AB’s

Sunset Cliffs

Even though the name may sound less than appealing, Garbage Beach & AB’s is an excellent place to spend the day! The beach is best suited to experienced surfers which makes it more of a ‘local beach’. This usually means fewer crowds than what you can expect at more touristy beaches.

Whether you’re taking advantage of the Go City San Diego pass’ cheap surfboard rental deals and hanging ten or checking out the wonders of shoreline, there’s something fun for everyone! Don’t forget to check out Sunset Cliffs National Park, which is right above the beach.

Of course, since we’re covering the best tide pools in San Diego, don’t miss the tide pools along the shore that are teaming with colorful ocean creatures such as sea slugs, sea anemones and starfish to name a few.

When you’ve had your fill at the beach, consider taking the entire family on a trip to SeaWorld San Diego which is less than 5-miles away to the north in Mission Bay Park. As one of the most popular attractions in San Diego, the park is part of the Go City San Diego pass. Purchase a pass in advance and if you purchase it through our website you will get an additional discount (use code GVSD5OFF) on top of the Go City pass’ already low rates!

Stay close at The Inn at Sunset Cliffs, which offers a boutique experience right on the waterfront and easy access to both the beach and the park!

Bird Rock Beach
Beautiful Sunset at Bird Rock

11) Bird Rock Beach

La Jolla

Bird Rock Beach is rocky both on the shore and off the coast, which makes it perfect for both looking at tide pools and surfing.

Rent a board and hit the waves at high tide, then return to dry land so you can see the marine life in the tide pools. As the name suggests, birds often gather on the large protruding rock in the ocean, which makes it a great place to birdwatch too!

Note that the reef here has many jagged rocks, so you should be careful around the water and avoid swimming and diving. The beach is much better suited to walking and exploring than it is sunbathing.

The Sheraton La Jolla is a great hotel in the area, especially for families. It’s conveniently close to both the University of California San Diego and the UTC Westfield Mall San Diego mall.

Go Snorkel with Go Pass!
La Jolla - Full Day Snorkel Rental
La Jolla Full Day Snorkel Rental
While visiting San Diego, discover the sea creatures of San Diego with a Full Day Snorkel Rental with your Go Pass in La Jolla. Take pictures of the areas marine life and coral. Snorkel, mask, wet suit and flippers are included in your rental.
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Local Tips
What is a Go City San Diego pass?

The Go City San Diego pass allows visitors to experience more attractions while simultaneously saving money.

With the pass, you can visit San Diego’s top attractions like the San Diego Zoo or LEGOLAND, all while saving up to 55% off on admissions. Plus, the pass gives you the ability to skip the line when visiting select attractions.

Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra

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