The Best Tide Pools in Orange County California

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What are tide pools?

One of the best parts about living in Orange County California with kids is the abundance of kid-friendly beaches. Orange County, California, is known for its beautiful coastline and offers several excellent tide pools for exploration. Many of our beaches have tide pools, which are shallow pools of seawater filled with an abundance of sea life you can explore and view. If you are visiting Orange County California with kids, you will want to check these out!

Some of the best tide pools in California are in Orange County! They are best viewed at low tide and can provide an amazing educational experience for your kids. Many of the Orange County tide pool locations have docents on site, who will happily answer any questions your kids may have and point out sea life you may otherwise have missed. On our last visit, Milana was given this laminated, waterproof tide pool guide which she now brings every time we visit local tide pools.

tide pools orange county
Reading her tide pool guide

Tips for visiting tide pools

The best time to visit tide pools will be at low tide, when the pools are visible and it’s safe to explore. There are many apps that will show tide times, or you can simply go to this California tide tables site. Be sure to check tide schedules before heading out on your Orange County tide pool adventure!

Since most tide pools are on rocky shores, water shoes are recommended so that kids don’t cut their feet on the rocks. Also remember to look and not touch. Don’t lift out the creatures out of the water and don’t turn over any rocks that are in the water. You are there to enjoy the abundant sea life without disrupting their delicate ecosystem. Remember that tide pools are fragile ecosystems, so it’s essential to tread lightly, avoid stepping on marine life, and follow any posted guidelines to protect these sensitive environments.

Best tide pools in Orange County

There are many beaches in Orange County with tide pools, most being in South Orange County. I will list our personal favorites, ones we go to on a regular basis. Here are the best tide pools in Orange County and the best tide pools to visit with kids in Southern California.

Little Corona, Newport Beach

Little Corona is a beach in Newport Beach, in a residential area. It’s located at the end of Poppy Street. To get here, you will turn onto Poppy from PCH and take it to the end. Once you reach the end of the street, you’ll see a little path on your left. Park anywhere on the street and walk down the hill. Keep in mind that while the path is paved, it’s fairly steep and coming back may be difficult for younger kids. That said, this is the most popular tide pool location in Orange County and one where field trips often happen because of the abundance of sea life. It’s definitely worth the trek down! You’ll most likely see other wildlife on your way down as well. On our last visit, we saw a snake and several lizards just lounging in the sun. This is one of the best tide pools in Orange County California.

Best Tide pools in orange county
Best Tide pools in orange county
Best Tide pools in orange county

Crystal Cove State Beach

Another awesome tide pool between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach is Crystal Cove. This is one of the best tide pools in Orange County, so expect crowds! Since this is a state beach, you’ll have to pay a parking fee ($15 at the time of our visit). Crystal Cove is not only great for viewing tide pools, but also hiking (lots of hiking trails here!), hanging out at the beach or even staying overnight. They have beach cottages they rent that are right on the beach, though you have to reserve well in advance as they are rented as soon as they become available! There’s also a restaurant right on the sand, but you have to make reservations most of the time if you want to dine there. But it’s worth it, as this is one of the best ocean front restaurants in Orange County and it’s truly steps to the water. This is also one of the best beaches near Disneyland so bring your family for a day of fun in the sun.

best family beaches in orange county

Heisler Park, Laguna Beach

Heisler Park is one of our favorite beaches in all of Orange County and the best tide pool in Orange County is right here. Many people park and walk down the staircase that’s in the center of the street. However we find that part to always be super crowded, so we go the other way. To get here, put 361 Cliff Drive Laguna Beach into your GPS. Once you find street parking, go towards Las Brisas restaurant. There is a path behind the restaurant and when you get to the staircase, go down. Make a right when you get down the stairs and walk as far as you can til you reach the cliff. The tide pools here are amazing and from all the times we have been here, there have only been a handful of other families. This is our favorite Orange County tide pool.

Best Tide pools in orange county
Best Tide pools in orange county
Best Tide pools in orange county

Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach

Not far from Heisler Park is Shaw’s Cove, a hidden gem in Laguna. Shaw’s Cove has some beautiful tide pools in Orange County. To get here, you will park on the street, put 999 Cliff Drive into your GPS. Keep an eye out for a staircase, it’s easy to miss since it’s such a residential street. You have to walk down quite a few stairs to get here but it’s so worth it! The beach is quieter than many others and at low tide, the tide pools are amazing.

Treasure Island Beach, Laguna Beach

Located right below the Montage Resort is Treasure Island Beach. To park, turn onto Wesley from PCH and head down to the public parking lot. Keep in mind that this lot is tiny and you may need to park across the street and walk over.

At low tide, you will see a ton of sea life here. We even saw seals during our visit! The beach here is also really nice and the water crystal clear, perfect for kids to play in. This is a top choice for tide pools in Orange County!

Best tide pool Orange County
Best tide pool Orange County
Crystal clear water, filled with a ton of sea life!
Best tide pool Orange County

Dana Point

These Orange County tide pools are located behind the Ocean Institute, just put their address into your GPS. There are several parking lots here however on weekends, they fill up quickly given the proximity to baby beach. Once you park, walk behind the Ocean Institute building and down the steps. There you will find a rocky beach with lots of sea life.

This area is great for an outing with kids because there is lots to do besides the tide pools. You can rent kayaks and paddle boards and paddle around the calm waters that make up baby beach. Baby beach got its name because there are no waves and the water is shallow, it’s a very popular spot for families with young kids.

Best tide pools orange county
Best tide pools orange county
Best tide pools orange county

Table Rock Beach

A local hot spot, one of the best tide pools in Orange County is at Table Rock Beach in Laguna Beach. Explore sea caves and abundant sea life at this Orange County tide pool. Be sure to check tide charts as some of this area can only be accessed during low tide.

And there you have it, these are our favorite tide pools to explore in Orange County. If you are visiting Orange County with kids, make sure to stop at at least one of the tide pools during your visit. Orange County has some of the best beaches in all of California and they are definitely worth a stop on your next trip to Orange County with kids. And check out our other post if you want more tips for visiting Orange County with kids.

Best tide pools in orange county
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