Visiting the Tidepools

It’s summer! Time to hit up the tidepools, right?

Well, yes and no. You can still visit our tidepool areas in the summertime, but you might not see too many tidepool creatures! Extreme low tides in the summertime happen in the middle of the night, making it impossible to see without any sunlight. Extreme low tides in the winter tend to happen in daylight hours! This means your best chance to see critters out and about in the tide pools is in the wintertime. While we still have low tides during the summertime, they are generally still too high for us to be able to see much else besides water. At Cabrillo, a 0.7 tide or lower will give you the best ability to explore the actual tidepools.

Don’t fret! You can still explore the coastal area along the tidepools in the summer and enjoy the beautiful ocean views and blooming flowers along the Coastal Trail. Just save the tidepool critter searches for the winter.

Keep in mind that parking can fill up on the weekends at the tidepools. If parking fills up, Park Rangers will start to manage the road for ease of traffic. Simply come back towards the middle or end of your visit to Cabrillo National Monument to see if there is parking available. Another option: come early to avoid any crowds! The park opens at 9 am every day.

Boots in the Tidepools

Prepare For Your Visit

  • 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.
  • The road to the tidepools may be closed if the area hits capacity in order to maintain conditions appropriate for social distancing. The road to the tidepool area will be closed (usually around 30 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, and thank you for your patience.
  • 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 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.

Tidepool Permit May Be Required

In order to protect this distinct and delicate ecosystem, Tidepool Permits are required for groups of ten or more to visit the tidepools at Cabrillo National Monument during low tides of 0.7' and lower. If your group numbers less than ten, no permit is required.

Tidepool Permits

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 2020.

Please note that the following charts are predictions for the Scripps Pier in La Jolla. Tide predictions are based on the charts you are using. They should all be used as guidelines.

2020 Tide Charts
2021 Tide Charts
2022 Tide Charts

2020 Aug Tides

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.


Last updated: July 31, 2020

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Mailing Address:

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego, CA 92106


(619) 523-4285

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