There’s a whole science to figuring out the best times to tidepool. What is the tidal range (difference between high and low tides)?
Is it a minus tide (super-duper low in comparison to the rest of the year)? Is it happening during daylight hours?
December and January tend to be the best times to tidepool with the highest range of tidal difference.
You might also know minus tides by the name King Tides. There are citizen science groups out there who now photograph the high tides and share on social media.
In this post, I’ll let you know:
- Tide Table Tools – to figure out low tides with apps or online.
- How to find the best beaches for tidepooling – ask me!
- Tidepooling tips – when to go and what to wear.
- What kind of animals live in tide pools – a photo guide.
- Tidepool rules – in place to protect the animals.
Tide Table Tools
Look for high tides at around 5 or 6 feet before low tides that are around 1 or even minus 1 or 2 — so there is quite a nice range between high and low for tidepooling.
I’m a fan of NOAA Buoy and Tide Data – Verona Solutions, LLC ($1.99) or Tide Graph – Brainware ($1.99) for the iPhone. Or you can check online at:
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association website
- The NOAA’s National Ocean Services education page with a Tides Roadmap to Resources
The weather page of the OC Register newspaper also has tide info.
Best Beaches for Tidepooling
If you don’t already know where to go, email me (play [at] funorangecountyparks [dot] com) and I can suggest some beaches for you.
Here are a couple that I’ve written about over the years:
What is the best time to see the tidepools? Arrive an hour before and plan to stay an hour after the low tide mark. Or a half hour if you don’t have tons of time. Just pad your visit on BOTH ends of the low tide for the best viewing.
The Good Tidepooler Rules to remember are: “Never remove animals, shells, or rocks; never pick up animals; walk gently; and never turn over rocks.” Tread lightly and don’t move stuff around! These animals and plants are alive and it would be nice if they stayed that way!!
Consider wearing water shoes or old tennies that can get wet. Those rocks can be sharp!
Always bring warm socks and a change of clothes for the ride home.
Remember, the tides vary based on location. I usually just go with a general tide table for Newport Beach. The times and ranges will change by location.
What Kind of Animals Live in a Tide Pool?
A limpet. This one has the animal living inside and is attached to the rock. Sometimes you’ll see the shell on the beach with a tell-tale hole in the center.
A shore crab. These guys are pretty common. You can look out for them when you are walking around boat harbors and rocky outcroppings by the beach, too. Can you spot him in there?
Gooseneck Barnacles. These guys fascinate me with their mother-of-pearl type iridescence and little “tongues” that flick in and out.
California Mussel used to be so prevalent and now I don’t even see as much of them anymore.
Chiton are positively prehistoric looking! Here is one among camouflaged and shell-covered anemones. Can you spot a few limpets here, too?
And here’s those sea stars I mentioned. Sea stars fought a new threat called Sea Star Wasting Syndrome where they basically disintegrated and disappeared, but they are starting to come back from it.
More tidepool guides:
- The Laguna Ocean Foundation has deeper scientific explanations of these sea creatures with a super interactive guide.
- Cabrillo National Monument offers an intertidal field guide with photos and more scientific descriptions.
Guided Tidepool Field Trips in Orange County
The Orange County Marine Protected Area Council is the best resource out there! You’ll find:
- A great video to watch BEFORE you go to the beach called Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
- A complete list of Tidepool field trips for K-12.
- A complete list of Tidepool public programs.
If you and your family would like to visit the tidepools, check LetsGoOutside.org for guided activity listings.
When I was young, there were no tidepool rules. I could run, play, and collect. Shells and ocean animals were plentiful. How come your kids can’t have the same experience? Why does there have to be rules?
Because you’ll be lucky to see a starfish nowadays! (Yes, I said “nowadays.” I’m officially OLD!)
If you want your children’s children to be able to tidepool in the future, then we need to have some pretty strict protections in place for our heavy foot-traffic Orange County beaches.
Of course, I’d always advise you to follow the signage at the beach.
I had one reader go into every post add these rules posted at all Marine Protected Areas:
All tidepools in Laguna Beach are in Marine Protected Areas. You’re not allowed to touch the tidepool animals – you can find the rules here:
1. Never remove animals, shells or rocks from the tidepools.
2. Never pick up animals…..observe them where they are.
3. Walk gently, taking care not to step on plants or animals.
4. Never turn over rocks.
Basically this means look don’t touch.
These rules are on the MPA signs at the entrances to all the beaches.
Originally posted in December 2011.
Friday 9th of December 2011
Leo Carillo was my favorite tidepooling beach growing up. I got to take our kids there in May and it was just as wonderful. It does pay to check the tide charts so everything isn't underwater when you get there.
Wednesday 7th of December 2011
It's so easy this time of year to stay bundled up indoors or get caught up in the holiday rush....this post is a great reminder of WHY we live in SoCal! Thanks for all the tidal tips!
Tuesday 6th of December 2011
"These animals and plants are alive and it would be nice if they stayed that way!!"
Let's not forget that! Tide pools aren't sandboxes to dig around it. Just enjoy the unique universe in each one.
Monday 5th of December 2011
All tidepools in Laguna Beach are in Marine Protected Areas. You're not allowed to touch the tidepool animals- you can find the rules here: http://www.ocmarineprotection.org/index.php 1. Never remove animals, shells or rocks from the tidepools. 2. Never pick up animals…..observe them where they are. 3. Walk gently, taking care not to step on plants or animals. 4. Never turn over rocks. Basically this means look don’t touch. These rules are on the MPA signs at the entrances to all the beaches.
Winter: The Best Time to Visit Southern California Tidepools
Monday 5th of December 2011
[...] at Fun Orange County Parks wrote a blog post Best Tidepooling and Beaches for Minus Tides (with Tide Table Highlights) which details daytime low tides during the month of December. Thanks Michele for doing this, [...]