Last summer, my family set out to visit tide pools in the San Diego area and ended up at Cabrillo National Monument. We saw amazing scenery and learned that we should have planned a little better to enjoy the tide pools.
If you want to visit the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument, or any of the other wonderful tide pool locations in Southern California, here are some tips to make your experience better.
1. Visit at low tide
You want to visit during negative low tide, which is most often during the daylight hours in the winter months. The warm, sunny August afternoon that we went the tides were high, and we weren’t able to see many tide pools. Check a tide predictor or call Cabrillo National Monument directly at (619) 557-5450, extension 0, and they will tell you the best time to visit. In the winter months, a ranger is often available at the Cabrillo tide pools to help you identify marine animals. The best time to see the tide pools at Cabrillo are mid-December to mid-February.
2. Wear appropriate shoes
As you can see, we headed out in flip flops and crocs, which is the wrong footwear for tide pooling. The rocks were wet and slippery, and unexpected waves are dangerous. We found out just how dangerous earlier in the day at La Jolla Shores when my son was scampering over rocks and a large wave crashed into him, knocking him down and gashing his shin on a sharp rock. He needed stitches. Wear study-soled water shoes and watch out for waves.
3. Watch young children carefully
I spent the entire afternoon keeping an eagle-eye on my two-year-old son, and constantly reminding my seven-year-old son with the gashed knee and flip flops that the rocks were dangerous and slippery. Bring an extra adult or two if you have young children in tow. There are many cliffs and slippery rocks that could be dangerous to adventurous little ones so keep a close eye on them.
4. Be gentle with marine life
Do not forget that you are a guest visiting a wildlife habitat. Do not remove anything from a tidepool. If you decide to touch something, use a soft, gentle touch. Do not remove attached animals or do anything else that could harm the animals you came to admire.
Many marine animals hide under rocks. Lift rocks with care so you do not damage the fragile habitat of the tide pool.
5. Leave time to explore Cabrillo National Monument
We came in the late afternoon and spent most of our time near the tidal pools. There is much more to see and do at Cabrillo National Monument. Check out Old Point Loma Lighthouse, see the monument to explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, and hike one of the many trails that give you spectacular views of San Diego Bay and the city. In winter months, watch the Pacific Gray whales as they migrate south, passing Cabrillo National Monument on their journey.
Good to Know
Location: At the tip of Point Loma Peninsula, just west of San Diego. About 25 minutes outside of downtown San Diego.
Hours: Cabrillo National Monument is open 9:00-5:00, but the entrance gate and the tide pools close at 4:30. All visitors must exit the park by 5:00 p.m. Closed Christmas Day.
Amenities: Small visitor’s center, bookstore, and restrooms. Vending machines.
Cost: $5 per vehicle
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