Tide pools are like Whoville—small, unreal, and worlds unto themselves.
We're fortunate enough to live in a metropolis moated by the krill-dense waters of the northern Pacific. When our foam-churned tides, alive with micro and macroscopic life, ebb into the Bay Area horizon, what's left are pockets of biodiversity unmatched by even a hectare of Amazon Rainforest (don't fact-check that).
Tide pooling is an eco-cool (and budget-friendly) activity, as long as you're not harassing the marine life (put those sticks down!). Forego the expensive aquarium experience this once, and check out these six Bay Area maritime spots.
Palmorian Beach and Sculptured Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore includes a bevy of pristine beaches and semi-permanent tide pools. Palmorian Beach and Sculptured Beach Reef are some of the best spans of shore to partake in tide pooling. Both, however, require some effort to get to, with Sculpture Beach requiring an hour's hike from the parking lot at Bear Valley Visitor Center. Palmorian is just a 15-minute hike from the same visitor's center. Whichever beach you choose, you'll be rewarded with sea creatures so vivid and awe-inspiring, you'd be remiss not to tile your IG with #nofilter photos. // 1 Bear Valley Visitor Center Access Rd. (Point Reyes Station), nps.gov
Agate Beach and Duxbury Point, Bolinas
Agate Beach and Duxbury Point are located within a stone's throw from one another, so tide pooling here is a twofer. Be on the lookout for spiny red starfish that frequent the intertidal zones, and the occasional two-spotted octopus, which can be found taking respite inside a coral burrow. // 350 Ocean Pkwy (Bolinas), marincounty.org
Seal Cove, Fitzgerald Marine Preserve
The seashore stewards at Fitzgerald Marine Preserve conduct group tours of Seal Cove throughout the year, highlighting the natural splendor of the tide pools. For the honorary selkies among us, find solace in the fact that harbor seals can be seen pupping their offspring along the cove from early spring to late summer. // 200 Nevada Ave. (Moss Beach), fitzgeraldreserve.org
Muir Beach, Golden Gate Recreation Area
One of the more accessible areas to explore tide pools, Muir Beach is just a 30-minute drive from the city. Take the Muir Beach trail for a quarter-mile before taking a sharp right on the Coastal Trail, where you'll find the sandy, pitted beach. Whale watchers, too, will be pleased with this location; both gray and humpback whales migrate through the cold waters during the summer months. // 100 Pacific Way (Muir Beach), parkconservancy.org
Remember—look, but don't touch. The marine life present in these tide pools exist on federally protected parks and preserves. Be sure to practice proper tide pooling etiquette when conducting your oceanside odysseys.