Visiting the Tidepools
We hope you enjoy your visit to Cabrillo National Monument's tidepools. The following information will help you prepare for your visit.
Please note that a vehicle is required to get to the lower area of the park where the tidepools are located; once parked, it's a short walk and scramble down into the tidepools.
Please be aware that cell phone service is not available at the tidepools. If you use a driver for hire for transportation, make arrangements to pick you up at a certain time and location. Otherwise you will not be able to reach anyone, and you may have to hike up the road to the top of the park.
Please plan appropriate clothing and footwear. Shoes with good gripping soles are best, as rocky areas become slippery with water and algae.
Please keep small children close - a child's enthusiasm and excitement over being in this natural wonderland can quickly translate into a slip or tumble.
Best Time to Visit
Late fall and winter are the optimum times for a visit to the tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument: unlike the summer months, when low tides occur in the middle of the night, the good low tides - including the outstanding negative low tides - in fall and winter occur during daylight hours when the park is open. A general rule of thumb is that the tidepools can be visited approximately two hours before low tide time (when the tide is receding) and two hours after (when the tide is coming back in). Please keep in mind that the tidepool area closes at 4:30 p.m.
You can find information about the low tides at Cabrillo National Monument from the chart below, or from the following links from the Scripps Pier Webcam (courtesy of Ed Parnell at Scripps) which show the tide charts for 2019.
Protecting the Tidepools
To ensure that current and future visitors experience and enjoy the healthy and diverse tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument, guidelines are needed to minimize the human impacts on organisms. To protect tidepool inhabitants, the following guidelines have been prepared:
Collection of any natural item, including living and dead organisms, shells or rocks, is strictly prohibited in any areas within or under the administration of Cabrillo National Monument. Similarly, approaching or engaging with any marine mammal is prohibited by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Many tidepool animals can be safely touched as long as it is done with great care and respect. A general guideline is to only touch animals as gently as you would touch your own eyeball. For example, anemones should not be poked and sea hares should not be squeezed.
No organism attached to a surface should be removed by force, however slight. Many animals, such as limpets, chitons, barnacles, mussels, seastars, and urchins are attached directly to rocks (permanently or temporarily) and using force to remove them would be harmful to them.
Animals that are actively swimming, moving away from people, hiding under rocks, or that resist being handled, should not be pursued or picked up.
Rocks should not be moved and should be left in their original location and orientation. Organisms living under the rocks have adapted to a certain environment, and rock-turning can harm them.
Nothing, especially rocks, should be thrown in any area of the park. Rocks can do great damage when they land in the water, and continue to do damage as they are tossed by wave action.
The following should not be introduced into the tidepool area: Containers (such as buckets or cups); Scraping, probing, or prying instruments (such as spatulas, trowels, knives, screwdrivers or sticks).
With your help, the tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument will remain a healthy environment for marine life, and will continue to be a prime example of this precious ecosystem for generations to come.
Possible Temporary Closure of Road to Tidepools
On weekends, holidays, and when there is a good low tide, the road to the tidepools may be closed periodically when tidepool parking lots are filled to capacity. The road to the tidepool area will be closed (usually 30-45 minutes), until sufficient capacity in the parking areas becomes available. This temporary closure of the road allows for traffic to flow freely and allows a more pleasant experience for the visitor by reducing the number of people and reducing the damage to the fragile ecosystem. Please plan your trips to allow for this delay. Thanks for your patience with our staff when dealing with this issue.
Last updated: January 3, 2019