Location: North of Main Beach, Laguna Beach
For ages: Best for children 4 and older who can balance themselves among wet rocks. Each child 6 and under will probably need a parent nearby. This is a great activity for teens, too.
Hours: Hours for low tide vary by day
Cost: Free, except for parking, which is metered around Cliff Drive.
This is one of those activities your child will never forget. Don your sneakers and sweatshirts and head out to Laguna’s Main Beach, where you’ll follow the shoreline northward for a set of tidepools (easy to access in low tide).
(Several coves and tidepools extend farther north, and if the tide is low, you can try to hike around the next few cliffs to Shaw’s Cove, but this is not recommended if you have little ones. The tide can rise pretty quickly and it might be hard to get little kids back around the cliffs.)
Even if you’re staying at the easiest-access tidepools, be sure to know the tide on the day you go to visit the marine life. Don’t leave anything to chance if your child will be easily disappointed. Call ahead or log onto the Internet so you’ll know how long low tide lasts and how long you have to explore.
Once you hit a nice low tide, you can get exploring! Kids can peer down into crevices to find striped shore crabs, sea stars (“starfish”), sea anemones or chiton creeping across the rocks. Please use care when visiting – explain to your children that they should not disrupt the livelihoods of these creatures by exposing them to the sun or predators by moving rocks, picking up creatures or overturning anything in the tidepools. Tidepool etiquette is “look but don’t touch.” Also, plan to take away plenty of memories, but absolutely no mementos – leave rocks, creatures and shells for the next family to enjoy. Take lots of pictures to relive the event at home.
Public restrooms are up on Main Beach but are quite a trek from the tidepools, so make sure everyone uses the restroom before you trek out.
Where to park: Park as close to Main Beach, or the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Cliff Drive, as possible. Walk across Main Beach, then go north toward the tidepools.
What to bring: Quarters for parking meters, camera, sunscreen, sweatshirts. Tennis shoes are a must on slippery rocks. Bring towels for sandy feet and a change of clothes in case a wave creeps up on you!
Best time to go: Summer is crowded in Laguna, and parking can be a nightmare, so I recommend going at another time of year. Misty spring mornings can be quite beautiful. At any time of year, low tide is the only time to go! You can find out when low tide is by checking that morning’s weather page.
For more information about these marine areas, visit Orange County Marine Protected Areas.
How about you? Do you ever visit these tidepools? What are your favorite tips?