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Tide Pooling in San Diego

Visiting San Diego’s tide pools is fast becoming a favorite family activity.
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The first time we went, the tide wasn’t quite low enough. So we only saw a little bit of wildlife. We did a little research and learned the best time to go is when there is a negative tide.  So with a low tide of -1.04 feet one recent afternoon, we headed to Tourmaline Surfing Park.

We spent about an hour walking over rocks and carefully searching pools of water for wildlife.  Quite a few people were out, and we shared with each other our findings.  Some had white buckets they would put the sea life in for observing (and of course put back before heading home. Although you are encouraged not to touch the wildlife with your hands.) We saw brittle stars, hermit crabs, sea snails, a sea hair, sea anemones, shrimp, a crab, chiton and more.  My favorite, though, was the octopus.  He was so small and so cute. He blended in against the rocks and tried to hide from us.  Amazing.  Here he is when he was poking his head out of the water.

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If you have not visited the tide pools, I highly recommend a trip on the next negative low tide!  You can show up empty-handed, but here are a few tips to help enhance your experience:

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1.Check the tide charts. Watch for at least a negative 1 foot tide or more. And get there a good hour before that low tide.  Low tides during convenient daylight hours are most common in the winter during full and new moons.

2.Wear shoes with good traction.  I had on tennis shoes and it was okay. A sturdy sandal would have been nice to not worry about getting wet.  And they are great for kids. My kids sneakers were covered in wet sand.  The rocks can be slippery, so be careful. Also wear pants you don’t mind getting wet.  We brought extra pants for the kids since they tend to get wet and then roll around in the sand.

3.Gently lifting rocks is a great way to find wildlife. They are often hiding or attached on the under sides of rocks. Again, be careful and respectful of this awesome, but delicate, natural ecosystem. Put the rock back where you found it.

4.Don’t tell your 5-year-old to be careful of sea anemones or he might freak out the whole walk across the rocks that if he falls he will be attacked by a sea anemone.  Lesson learned.

5.A pocket guide to sea life would be great to help identify what you are seeing.

San Diego has a number of tide pools you can visit including Cabrillo National Monument, Birch Aquarium, Cardiff State Beach and more. Find one close to you and go see some cool wildlife!


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