Plan Like a Park Ranger - Top 10 Tips Tidepool Edition!

A park ranger stands in the rocky intertidal at low tide.

NPS Photo/C. Aurrecoechea

#1. Dress the Part
Opt for the latest in tidepool chic. Close-toed shoes with good tread will help you grip the slip. Throw shade (over your eyes) with a trusty pair of sunglasses. Finally, don’t forget that basecoat of sunscreen to guard against the harsh rays. Now you’re ready to safely sashay through the shallow sea!

#2. Safety First, Second, and Third
Know the activities you plan to do beforehand so you can prepare accordingly. Check park alerts located on the main website for Cabrillo National Monument, or in the NPS app, so that you can stay informed about current closures, hazards, and other important information.

#3. Be a Looker
Tidepool critters may seem indestructible, but they are very sensitive to disturbances. When observing wildlife, look but please don’t touch.

#4. Can You Hear Me Now?!
There is no cell service or WiFi in the coastal area. Be sure to plan ahead when organizing drop offs or pick-ups.

#5. Be Wave Wise
Never turn your back on the waves. Fluctuating tides, inconsistent swells, and the occasional sneaker wave, make the coastal area very unpredictable. Up your odds of staying vertical by always keeping an eye on the sea.

#6. Know the High and the Low of It
The best time to see tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument is December through March. The tides change daily though, so be sure to check out this tide calendar when deciding what time to come. A tide of 0.7 or below should expose the tidepools. An hour before and an hour after the peak of the low tide is a great timeframe to explore.

#7. Follow the Beaten Path
Sticking to designated trails and paths will help you stay safe, reduce the impact on fragile ecosystems, and protect resources. We love trailblazers, but only in the figurative sense!

#8. Pack Your Patience
This is one of the most popular areas in the park during a low tide! If parking fills up, the road down to the tidepools will be temporarily closed and access cut off to alleviate congestion. Be patient and check with the ranger at the visitor center for updates regarding road closures.

#9. Know Your Limits
If you don’t feel comfortable scrambling down rocks or standing on uneven surfaces for extended periods of time, then consider skipping this activity. A nice alternate activity might be to catch the tidepool film in the park auditorium or take a stroll up to the lighthouse.

#10. Keep it Wild
The tidepools are home to some spectacular wildlife, from octopus to urchins! Help keep this place wild by not disturbing or touching wildlife. Take only photographs and leave no trace!

Cabrillo National Monument

Last updated: February 3, 2024