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Local: Exploring Tide Pools in Dana Point with kids

We will go over what to wear, look for, & how to get to this location in Orange County, Ca.

Today we decided to go visit some sea life. It was a June Gloom day so I knew it wouldn't be too crowded and got the kids ready and went on our adventure.

Before we left, I checked the tides to make sure it was low. We were about an hour early so it wasn't super low but we were still able to see some creatures.


What to wear and bring?

Best to wear shorts, even when its cold. Nothing worse than walking around in wet pants. Water shoes are ideal. We use Natives but the kids like to be barefoot. Be mindful of slippery rocks! We wore sweatshirts but next time we will bring swimsuits since it's getting warmer here in Southern California. Always bring a change of clothes! My kids like to change as soon as we get in the car and my three year old fell in the water so that would have been an uncomfortable drive home for her.

Quick List of what to bring:

Water Shoes


A towel to wipe sand and dry off



Extra Clothes

Bucket & Shovel

Camping Shower (optional- there is no shower nearby to rinse off so this makes it easy to keep clean)

What to look for

My kids are really into nature and animals. We go to the library weekly and end up with 15 books about animals, so they are extremely familiar with sea creatures. If you aren't, picking up some books before you go would be super helpful so you know what to look for.

Today we saw 4 different types of creatures.

Sea Snails, Crabs, Mussles, and Sea Anemones.

Even if you don't see any, its still a really fun experience! They had fun finding kelp and rocks.

We gently touched the animals but please dont pick up any rocks, disturb the creatures homes, or take any items with you home. This area is protected and there is a sign there for more detailed directions.

Since the tide wasn't that low we weren't able to see too much but there are a lot more things we could have seen. For example; barancles, octopus, sea cucumber, fish, and sea stars.

Also, the most important part of going to the beach is to "Never turn your back on the ocean". There are waves at this beach and if you have little kids, it would be easy to get swept away.

Sea Anemone (below)

Sea Snail (below)

How to get here

This location is down in Dana Point Harbor. It is the beach behind the Ocean Institute, which is another fun trip with kids. You park in a nearby parking lot and can view the harbor, the old sunken peices of the Pilgrim, a little pier, and botanical gardens. Once you head behind the institute you have choices to sit at benches to stare at the ocean or have a meal. Walk down stairs to the beach and as soon as you get down you can start looking for creatures. But as I mentioned before, please check the tides because if it's high it is not safe to go down.

A fun and free adventure! Can't beat that. These pools are full of magic and we're lucky to have them so close.

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