How to make the most out of your California Tide Pool Visit

Do’s & Don’ts to make the most of your California Tidepool Visit


Plan ahead

– Check tidal charts (local paper or online) and go when the tide is the lowest for that month (our low tide was almost -2 feet & we arrived late & still saw plenty)

– Talk to you child(ren) about tide pool safety (always stay near an adult, respect nature & do not remove wildlife or disturb the ecosystem).

-PRINT OUT my downloadable Booklist and make a trip to the library (before or after) the tide pool & pick up some books for the location you will be visiting. I picked up general ocean books & it made it harder to identify what we were seeing. If you can’t find any resources for the specific location you’ll be visiting just take pictures & Google it.

– Buy or Make a field guide fo the beach/ state park you plan on visiting. Check Tidal Charts here.

– Look for beaches that are kid-friendly (have smaller waves or less occurrences of sneaker waves & have a restroom). Toddlers may not be a good fit for certain beaches. Do your Due Dillegence on the location before bringing a young child to the tidepools and make sure there is one adult per child under 5 for safety.

– Wear comfortable (layered for warmth) clothing & sturdy shoes you can get wet/ sandy


  • a magnifying glass
  • camera
  • buy or make a field guide (I recommend reading about Tidal Animals your guide BEFORE you explore
    • Take photos while you’re there and then identify the animals & plant life that you don’t recognize when you get home.)
  • a change of clothes (& possibly a towel). We went to the library and checked out several books on ocean creatures (none on plants) & half of the wildlife we saw was very well camouflaged we missed a lot.
  • Sturdy shoes (as you’ll see from photos we wore flip flops & even went barefoot. We were ok but I have had other trips where jellies washed up onshore. Sturdy shoes are recommended)

Respect Nature

It’s really hard for little kids to look but not touch. Because I have been on guided tours and the local docents are very clear about protecting the natural environment from distrubances we didn’t touch much of anything out of respect for nature.

We “looked with our eyes” at mussel, barnacle and anemone beds.  We saw the most wildlife in the crevasses of the rocks like Starfish, Anemones, crabs & other creatures.   We resisted the urge to pick them up to help support their survival after we talked about what these plants and animals need to life.

IMPORTANT Tidpooling TIP: Explore the lowest part of the beach FIRST!

The lowest part of the low tide zone often has the most sea life but as the tide comes up you will have less time to explore it. We didn’t arrive at the exact time of the lowest tide (it’s best if you do).  But we made the most of the time we had and went all the way down to the end of the cove and worked our way back up.


Remove creatures from where they are. They most likely are there because that spot provides exactly what they need to survive. Moving them to a different location may jeopardize that and hinder their survival.

Bring home any animals & limit the amount of shells your bring home. I didn’t think about this one until last year when I went on a guided tour of the tide pools (which I highly recommend) and they discussed the nature of the ecosystem and how nature wastes nothing.

Leave trash behind… There was some random trash on the beach today but the most obscure was this engine.

Turn your back on the ocean-ever!

I specifically picked our location because it is known to be kid-friendly (minimal waves AND has a bathroom) but there were still signs posted to never turn your back on the ocean, be careful of the rocks & that no beach is safe from waves.

Lose track of time

I forgot that we were on a time schedule because the tide was moving back in when we got there. I lost myself in the moment and we made it back just in time to not have to wade through water to get back to our car (not the end of the world but I didn’t bring extra clothes for me).  Above is the image of the cove we explored (after the tide came back up). I didn’t think to take a before photo but the rock jetty on the left is where we were looking, it was about 3/4 of the way down when we arrived and nearly covered when we left (about an hour and a half).

Tidal Zones-

We made a map of what we saw and organized it using the tidal zones.

Tidal Zones:

  1. Spray Zone-Sea Gulls,  Rock Louse, Periwinkle, Limpet
  2. High Tide Zone- Buckshot Barnacles, Chiton
  3. Middle Tide Zone-Mussels, Sea Lettuce, Hermit Crab, Rockweed, Acron Barnacles, Sea Star
  4. Low Tide Zone-Sea Anemones, Sea Cucumber, Brittle Star, Sea Star, Kelp/ Sea Algae

Not going to be in California any time soon?

No worries! Google Search Tide Pools near me to find the nearest tide pool locations.

Ocean Activity Calendar

To support our Ocean Homeschool Curriculum I decided to make and activity calendar to support our tidepool field trip.

Download Activity Calendar HERE

Tide Pool Photos & Fun Facts

Sea Life:

Crabs (were the hardest to photograph!) & sea snails

Ochre Sea Stars

Sorry for the grainy photos- I have a newfound respect for nature photographers. are the most common of all sea stars. They eat mussels and barnacles by pulling the shells apart with their strong tube feet.. Sea Stars Predators are sea gulls and sea otters.

Sea Stars & Anenomes

Anemones protect themselves from the air (low tide conditions) by closing up. Sciencts believe they reflect the suns light which helps them stay cool.

Closed Anenomes can often be found with bits of shells sticking out. Scientists think this helps to reflect the animals cool by reflecting the sunlight.

Sea Anenomes main predators are nudibranchs, sea stars and some fish.

A closed Giant Green Anemone


Various Sea Plants:



Underground Creatures:

Ghost Shrimp

ghost shrimp

Clams & Other Wildlife:

This type of trip is really amazing & is totally worth getting up early for (in the winter months low tides are generally occur later in the day. Summer low tides occur early in the AM often at unreasonable hours even if you live at the beach).



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