3 Tide Pools to Visit In Orange County

Orange County and beaches have a somewhat harmonious relationship.

Huntington Beach. Laguna Beach. Newport Beach.

If we’re being totally honest, the original plan for OCExplore was mostly an excuse to go out and take lots of pictures at the beach and/or of delicious food. If you follow us on Instagram (which, by the way, you totally should), you can see that it’s mostly working.

Along the County’s 42 miles of coastline traveling through six beach cities, there are plenty of coves, hidden spots, rocky points, beachfront cafes and boardwalks.

After tanning your lean bod, surfing, body boarding, having a bonfire or taking a picture of your feet buried in the sand for Instagram on our beautiful beaches, you might want to think about adding another to-do item the next time you head down to the ocean.

Check out a tide pool.

Wait, what exactly is a tide pool?

According to the most reliable source on the internet–Wikipedia–, tide pools are “rocky pools on the sea shore which are filled with seawater” which “provide a home for organisms such as starfish, mussels, clams, urchins” as well as other forms of marine life.

According to a reliable internet authority on California tide pools, Orange County has the most identified, protected tide pools (nine) in the entire state of California. 

You may have even seen the tide pools but not recognized it as as anything more than a small rocky pool.

Here are three of our favorite tide pools to check out in Orange County.

1) Crystal Cove State Park


8471 Pacific Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

You’ll have several tide pools to choose from here (Reef Point, Rocky Bright, Pelican Point, North End Treasure Cove). We recommend checking out Pelican Point if you want to see some smaller fish, sea anemones and hundreds of crabs crawling about.

Free tours offered? Yes.

Where to Park: To head to the Pelican Point tide pools, park at the Pelican Point Entrance near Newport Coast Drive. There are four bluff top parking lots here, each with access points to the beach. Next to each parking lot are restrooms and outdoor showers. Like other state beaches, parking is $15 for the day or you can purchase an annual pass online.

Crystal Cove State Park website

Check today’s tide times at Crystal Cove

2) Dana Point

Elena Omelchenko
Elena Omelchenko

24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629

While Dana Point may often gets overlooked by Laguna Beach, the tide pools along a stretch of its 7.5 miles of coastline are by no means any less stunning. After all, tide pools don’t discriminate, they don’t gravitate towards ZIP codes with higher real estate values, am I right? The tide pools are unique here because they expand across a vast stretch of enormous boulders and rocks for about a few hundred yards. Be ready to wear some sturdy shoes as most of the boulders are engrossed by algae which make the rocks extra slippery.

Free tour offered? Yes.

The Dana Point Tide Pool Interpretive Program is sponsored by the Ocean Institute and the City of Dana Point.

Get the details.

Where to Park: To visit this stretch of tide pools, you’ll want to park at the Ocean Institute. The tide pool area begins just north of the small beach behind the institute in Dana Point Harbor. Parking is free.

Check today’s tide times at Dana Point.

3) Little Corona Del Mar Beach

Mike Girod | Flickr
Mike Girod | Flickr

3100 Ocean Blvd
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

Don’t let the name deceive you. While it may be “little”, this much more secluded and quiet beach (compared to Newport Beach at least), features some of the best tide pools in the County. Instead of having to maneuver your way through a crowd of people as you would at other beaches, Little Corona provides a chance to explore some incredibly fascinating tide pools in peace.

Just don’t tell too many people about this place.

Free tour offered? Yes.

Where to Park: Another great aspect is the free parking, which you can find along the main street and throughout the neighborhood side streets. Be sure to watch for street signs though. The paved trail from the street level down to the beach is a bit steep as well.

Get the details.

Check today’s tide times at Corona Del Mar.

Things to Keep in Mind for Any Tide Pool Visit

1) Check the Tides Before Visiting

The ideal time for tide pooling is low tide.

2) Don’t Take Anything Home With You

As cool as a starfish looks, just take a picture and don’t bring it back home. If you do touch something, do it gently, with wet hands, and then put it back right where you found it.

3) Don’t Go Barefoot

The area near a tide pool can be full of slippery seaweed and rocks, so sturdy shoes are a must. Plus, you don’t want be the person who steps directly on a sharp-edged piece of coral or barnacle–cuts and scrapes from these scratchy surfaces can take weeks to heal properly.

4) Don’t Actually Step In The Tide Pools

Don’t mistake a tide pool for a swimming pool. Although some tide pools can be large and deep, others are often just a few feet in length. If you do feel the urge to get a better look, be extremely careful to watch your step and avoid taking more than a few steps in. Crouch down and observe? Yes. Jump in and attempt to work on your backstroke? No.

5) Bring a Small Trash Bag With You

There have reportedly been some issues with people leaving behind trash at some tide pools (and the beaches in general for that matter) throughout Orange County. If you see any trash left behind like bottle caps, plastic debris or plastic straws, do your part and pick it up.

Our guide to visiting the delicate tidepools in Orange County