Some of the best tidepools in Point Reyes can be found at Sculptured or Palomarin beaches. Duxbury Reef (near Agate Beach in Bolinas), outside of park boundaries, is another wonderful place to tidepool.
Tidepools exist in the intertidal zones, an area that is above water at low tide and under water at high tide, At the Seashore, these zones are typically found between the beaches and the ocean waters and can be tricky areas to navigate. Tidepool areas and organisms are influenced by the rising and ebbing of ocean waters (tides) that are caused by the pull of the moon. These zones are submerged by the sea at high tides and during storms, and may receive spray from wave action and at other times the rocks may undergo other extreme conditions, including baking in the sun or exposed to cold winds. Few organisms can survive such harsh conditions.
When tidepooling it is important to note, not only are you in in a slippery, wet environment, you're walking around on many animals home! When exploring tidepool areas, remember that the inhabitants can be damaged or destroyed by a simple act like turning over a rock and exposing the animals below to the sun. Also be mindful of your own safety—be careful of the slippery footing, watch for rogue waves, and don’t turn your back on the ocean. Lastly, be aware that even though there might up to two low tides in a day, you need a minus tides (-0.5 to .-1.5) to have a successful tidepool adventure. Always check the tides in advance and arrive at least an hour before low tide and leave no more than an hour after the tide begins to rise. See additional information and safety tips below.
Learn more about the intertidal zone.
Check the Tide Table
Check the Weather
Check Park Alerts
Intertidal Organisms of Point Reyes National Seashore
National Park Service Tidepooling Brochure
Common Seaweeds of Point Reyes (Photos)
San Francisco Bay Area National Parks Science and Learning: Marine Plants and Algae
Algae and Marine Plants of Point Reyes
Places to Tidepool
From Bear Valley Visitor Center, 20 minutes driving plus 1 hour walking.
To get there: Turn left (north) at the Red Barn onto Bear Valley Road. One mile down, turn left onto Limantour Road. Drive to the end of Limantour and park near the beach in either lot. Walk down the trail to the beach and turn left (south) on the beach. Sculptured Beach is approximately 2 miles south of Limantour Beach and is about one mile south of Coast Camp. Do not go past the rocks if the tide is coming in. At high tide, there is no way out!
From the Bear Valley Visitors Center, 35 minutes driving, plus 15 minutes walking.
This beach is best for tidepooling at a minus low tide. Trail may seasonally wash out. Make sure to check at a Visitor Center for trail conditions.
To get there: Turn right (south) at the Red Barn onto Bear Valley Road. Make a right at the next stop sign onto Highway 1 South, also called Shoreline Highway. Continue on Hwy 1 until you see Bolinas Lagoon in front of you. When you see the lagoon you should also see a large white ranch house on your left, and at that point make an immediate right turn onto the Olema-Bolinas Road. You will come to a stop sign and will continue left onto Horseshoe Hill Road. Turn right on Mesa Road and follow it to the Palomarin trailhead. Start oﬀ on Coast Trail, follow the juncture leading to Palomarin Beach. There is a steep half mile descent down to this rocky beach. Look for jellyﬁsh washed up on shore and chitons in the water.
From Bear Valley Visitor Center, 25 minutes driving plus 5 minutes walking.
This is the most extensive tidepool area near Point Reyes National Seashore, and has the most gentle return of the high tide. This is a good spot if you are tidepooling with children.
To get there: Turn right (south) at the Red Barn onto Bear Valley Road, then make a right at the next stop sign onto Highway 1 South. When you see the lagoon ahead of you, turn right to take the turnoﬀ to Bolinas (this is not well marked, look for a small street sign ‘Olema-Bolinas Road’ across from a large white ranch house). Turn left at the stop sigh onto Horseshoe Hill Rd. Bolinas Lagoon will now be on your left side. Turn right on Mesa Road, turn left on Overlook, then right on Elm. Follow Elm to the end and look for signs to Agate Beach.
- Note that not all low tides are minus tides and some low tides are not low enough for successful tidepooling.
- Use the buddy system. Don't go out alone and tell someone else where you're going.
- Be at the tidepool area at least an hour before low tide so that you have plenty of time to explore safely while the water is receding.
- Return no later than an hour after the tide has begun to rise.
- Always keep an open eye on the ocean for incoming waves and sneaker waves.
- Dress Appropriately. Remember that the wind is often strong at Point Reyes National Seashore, and the water is cold. Wear warm clothing and comfortable shoes that can get wet and still give good traction. Take along an extra pair of socks and shoes in case your feet do get wet.
- Tread Lightly: Please do not remove or disturb any of the organisms in a tidepool. Marine animals such as the brightly colored bat star may appear dead, while often they are merely awaiting the incoming high tide to become active. Be respectful of how these organisms live. If an animal is tightly clinging to a rock, do not attempt to remove or pull it oﬀ as you may injure the organism. If you choose to handle an organism for closer examination, put it back in the exact location and position that it was found. If you turn a rock over to inspect the creatures living below it, replace the rock exactly as you found it. Marine animals have adapted precisely to the environment in which they live. Most that are returned to the wrong environment or are otherwise disturbed are unable to survive and die needlessly.