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What are tide pools?
One of the best parts about living in Orange County with kids is the abundance of kid-friendly beaches. 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 with kids, you will want to check these out! 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Crystal Cove State Beach
Another great spot between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach is Crystal Cove. This is a bit more popular than the others I’m mentioning, so keep that in mind! 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.
Heisler Park, Laguna Beach
Heisler Park is one of our favorite beaches in all of Orange County. 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.
Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach
Not far from Heisler Park is Shaw’s Cove, a hidden gem in Laguna. 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!
These 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.
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. And check out our other post if you want more tips for visiting Orange County with kids.