Top Ten Best San Diego Tide Pools

With over 70 miles of coastline, San Diego tide pools are less common than expected. You see, it all depends on the topography of the shore. Here I would like to present the top 10 San Diego tidepools. I will start in North County, San Diego, and end at the most southern location in Point Loma.

San Diego County Google Map San Diego Tide Pools

I have linked each address to a Google Map to make it easier for you. Also, please click on each photo to see a larger version.

As a rule, you should always check the tidal chart before heading to the beach. The best time to experience the tide pools is during low tide, and anything below a +1 is an opportune time to visit. Now that would be far superior if you could go during an adverse tide, but most of those only happen in winter.

I have also included a pamphlet, courtesy of the Cabrillo National Monument, which will help you identify some of the tide pool specimens. Please have a look and print it out!

San Diego Tide Pools

Terramar Beach

Terramar Beach San Diego Tide Pools

Cerezo Dr & Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008

 There are two possible ways to reach Terramar Beach. Above I have linked the address of Terramar Beach proper, but you may also enter this location via Warm Water Jetty Beach and then walk a bit south. The truth is that the tide pools are about halfway between these two beaches.

What I liked about these particular San Diego tide pools is that you can examine what is below in the water and watch all the surfers in the waves simultaneously.

Parking is limited and is found off the street or in the residential neighborhood, and there are no restrooms available here.Terramar Tide Pools San Diego Tide Pools

Terramar Beach Panoramic San Diego Tide Pools

Terramar Ide Pools 6 San Diego Tide Pools

Swami’s State Beach
Swamis Tide Pools San Diego Tide Pools

1298 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

Swami’s State Beach has always been one of my favorite places to go and check out the San Diego tide pools. This beach is unique because the reef near the shore is almost always exposed to every low tide. Here you can see many California mussels and the Gooseneck barnacles up close.

There is a small parking lot with about 25 spaces, a restroom, picnic tables, and a grassy lawn at Swami’s Seaside Park.

California Mussels Swamis San Diego Tide Pools
California Mussels

Swamis Reef on Beach San Diego Tide Pools

Swamis Tide Pools 2 San Diego Tide Pools

San Elijo State Beach

San Elijo State Beach Tide Pools north view

2050 S Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007

San Elijo State Beach is located just south of Swami’s State Beach, so you can reach this beach from Swami’s and park up on top of the bluffs at the San Elijo Campground. Here the reef is right onshore rather than, say, up against a bluff. You may encounter small fish as well as local invertebrates.

Restrooms and showers are available at the campground and Swami’s State Beach.

San Elijo State Beach San Diego Tide Pools

San Elijo Tide Pools close up view

South Cardiff State Beach-Seaside Beach

South Cardiff State Beach San Diego

2504 S Coast Hwy 101, Solana Beach, CA 92075

Here we have what is called the Table-Top reef that is located between here and Solana Beach right near Lifeguard Tower 10. It is estimated that this sedimentary reef is over 45 million years old! If you look closely, you will find clam and oyster fossils.

There is a large paid parking lot here, restrooms, and showers.

Seaside State Beach Tide Pools

South Cardiff State Beach Tide pools woman dog

Scripps Beach-Dike Rock

Dike Rock San Diego Tide Pool

El Paseo Grande & La Jolla Shores Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037

Dike Rock is another excellent place to go and check out the tide pools! The Scripps Aquarium offers curated tours at this location in the winter and spring. If you would like more information, go here.

Dike Rock 1 La Jolla San Diego Tide Pools

Scripps Beach After Pier San Diego Tide Pools

South La Jolla Shores-La Jolla Underwater Park

South La Jolla Shores San Diego Tide Pools

Calle Frescota & Camino Del Oro, La Jolla, CA 92037

South La Jolla Shores Beach has some incredible tide pools. Located just south of the La Jolla Shores Beach Hotel, these tidepools are enormous. They are tricky to maneuver through, so caution is given.

Tide Pools South La Jolla Shores San Diego Tide Pools

Sea Anemones South La Jolla Shores Tide Pools
Sea Anemones

Bird Rock-La Jolla

Bird Rock 1 31 22 low tide pools
King Low Tide on January 31, 2022

Dolphin Pl & Bird Rock Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037

Bird Rock is by far one of the best San Diego tide pools! When I was in college, this was the beach we went to on an extremely low tide for my Marine Invertebrate Zoology class, which was simply amazing. Again, as you can see from the photos, this beach is only accessible during extremely low tide.

Bird Rock beach is located in a residential neighborhood, so parking and no restroom or shower are limited.

Bird Rock Beach North View San DIego Tide Pools

Bird Rock South View San Diego Tide Pools

False Point-North Pacific Beach/ La Jolla

Linda Way Beach Access Ocean View rocky shore cove

341 Sea Ridge Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037

I came upon this beach access site while exploring North Pacific Beach and was taken aback by the sheer number of rocks on this shoreline. Though I have yet to study the area in detail, I can safely say that False Point is one of the best San Diego tide pools. Scripps Aquarium offers curated tours in the winter and spring here as well!

Again, this spot is located in a residential neighborhood, so parking is limited, and there are no restrooms or showers.

Beach View Linda way beach access rocky shore

Rocky Shore Linda Way Pacific Beach

Santa Cruz Beach Access-Ocean Beach

Santa Cruz Ave Tide Pools Ocean Beach Pier

5030 Santa Cruz Ave, San Diego, CA 92107

Ocean Beach Pier has some fabulous reefs just south of it that stretch out quite a bit and is an incredible place to explore on a negative tide. What makes this site unique is a small walkway parallel to the bluffs that give you access to an otherwise remote location.

A little caution, though, as these bluffs can be slippery when wet. Make sure that you have appropriate footwear! The above address I have linked will take you right to these stairs, or you can reach this site by following the cement walkway south of the pier.

Parking may be limited, as this location is in a residential neighborhood, but you may park at the Ocean Beach Pier parking lot and follow the path south. There are restrooms on the pier, which is always a plus!

Santa Cruz Ave Beach San Diego Tide Pools

Ocean Beach Tide Pools San Diego Tide Pools

Santa Cruz Walkway San Diego Tide Pools

Cabrillo National Monument-Point Loma

Cabrillo National Monument Upper View

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

So I have saved the best for last! The Cabrillo National Monument tidepools are honestly the best San Diego tide pools. Situated on Point Loma Peninsula, Cabrillo National Monument is the go-to place to experience the wonders of the Rocky Intertidal Zone.

My family and I came here on January 1, 2018, on the lowest tide of the year, called a Spring Tide. As you can see in the photos, so much of the shore was exposed. If you want to read about our adventures, I have linked the post here.

It is also important to mention that this is a National Park, so there is a 15-dollar fee to enter. Seriously, if you have a chance to go here, do it! You will not be disappointed.

Cabrillo National Monument North View tide pools people

Low Intertidal Zone Cabrillo San Diego Tide Pools

End of the List

So there you have my Top 10 best San Diego tide pools! To sum it up, the best time to visit a tide pool is when the tide is low; ideally, a negative tide is best. Also, remember that these beautiful negative tides only happen during the day in the winter or spring.

I hope that this list has helped you out, but if you may have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section!

Until next time! Happy tide pooling to you!



12 Replies to “Top Ten Best San Diego Tide Pools”

  1. Absolutely gorgeous photos and very informative post. I would love to visit San Diego. My little girl loves exploring in tide pools but we are a bit more limited where we live! Which pool would you say is the top of your list – terramar beach?

    1. Hi Amy! Thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes, I would have to say that Terramar Beach is the easiest to get to, but Cabrillo National Monument is the best. All in all, each spot has something special 🙂

  2. That was quite informative! I’ll have to put some of these places on my list and visit them when I’m in the area. Thank you for the convenient list of locations!

  3. These are great tips for beautiful beaches. I appreciate that you also included information about parking and restrooms, especially . I don’t get to area often, but I have a very good friend that lives across the street from Solana Beach. The next time I come and see her, I am bringing your list along with me. Great information.

    1. Thank you for commenting Marla! How lucky that your friend lives in Solana Beach! It is so gorgeous, as well as laid back there…a real beach town. I hope you have a marvelous time on your next visit down here.

  4. Wonderful information! My little family lives in California and we’d do very well to take advantage of this type of knowledge. Maybe the next time we go on a road trip, we’ll wind around through San Diego and then we can go to some of the tide pools! Thank you for putting together such a beautiful website.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting Jessica. I hope you can make it down here soon! Do not forget to check the tide chart before setting out.

  5. You live in a beautiful part of the country! I have been to San Diego so many times and was never aware that these tide pools existed – I will definitely reference your site next time I’m in town. Can you fish for the mussels at Swami State Park?

    1. Hi Tiffany! Please make sure to check the Tide Chart to make sure the tide is low enough. Swami’s State Beach is a Marine Conservation Area, so no you may not take any mussels, but you are allowed to fish from shore. I hope you can make it to San Diego soon. Thank you for your comment.

  6. Beautiful pictures!! I honestly had not heard of the term “tide pool” until this post, so always love finding out about new things :). Your photos are breathtaking btw – I’ve been planning to go back to San Diego for some time and this is yet another reason to return!

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Christen! I am glad to help you out 😉 I hope you can make it to San Diego sooner than later!

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