Dana Point tidepool area

Dana Point Tide Pools

The tide pools at Dana Point is a vast stretch of large boulders and rocks that extend for several hundred yards. This area sits at the foot of huge cliffs that overlook the ocean. The tidepool area starts just north of the small beach behind the Ocean Institute in Dana Harbor. They boulders provide small pools of seawater that are trapped as the water recedes during low tide. These small pools provide a habitat for a variety of sea life including anemones, crabs, snails, fish, mussels, barnacles and a variety of algae. The boulders are mostly covered by algae that make the rocks particularly slippery. There are a few larger bench areas in the more distant areas that provide a different set of marine life to see.
Dana Point tidepool area Large rock with sea life accessible at low tide Mussels covering portions of rock Mussels and sand castle worm colony Sea star in pool of water Sea grass exposed at low tide Tube worms in tidal area Limpets and small barnacles cling to rocks in upper tidal zone Sea Anemone in pool of water Mussels covering upper part of rock Rock with top part covered with mussels and barnacles

Location and Parking

The tide pools are located at the northern end of Dana Harbor near the Ocean Institute. Follow Dana Point Harbor drive north all the way until it ends. Parking is available in several parking lots near this area. There is no fee to park and parking is generally available. The parking area can get extremely crowded during summer weekends and holidays. There are public restroom facilities at this location.

Tide Pool Access

To access the tidepool area from the parking lot, follow the service road that starts from the Ocean Institute to the beach. Once at the beach, walk toward the cliffs and follow a narrow trail closest to the cliff face. This is not much of a trail but is easier to walk on than traversing the boulder fields in the tidepool area.

Points of Interest

There are several large boulders near the beach area covered with mussels. The mussels however only cover the top sections or mid sections of the boulders. These boulders also are teaming with a variety of limpets. There is also a much larger rock just to the south of the beach that harbors a variety of marine life. This however is only available at very low tides and low swell but worth exploring if the timing is right. The tidepool area provides a variety of marine life. A few of the larger boulders near the lower part of the tidal area have large colonies of sand castle worms. These animals create huge colonies of tubes in the more protected areas of the lower tidal area. Large areas of mussels and barnacles can also be seen on these larger rocks in the lower tide zone. There are several areas with large areas of sea grass and algae that cover entire rocks.

There are several more sandy areas that have large numbers of sea anemones that look like they are in the sand but are attached to rocks just underneath. These areas are also great for viewing the many hermit crabs and snails that inhabit these areas. Do not expect to see too many urchins or sea stars. There are a few but very limited.

Most of the mussels and barnacles live on the more exposed larger rocks. There are plenty of sea life to see by taking time and exploring the smaller pools surrounding rocks. The tidepool area is vast and extends all the way around the cliff face.
Part of Treasure Island tidepool area

Aliso Beach ( Treasure Island ) Tide Pools

The tide pool area is composed of two distinct areas. The southern part is known as Treasure Island that has is a rocky bench with a separate small island. This smaller island is only accessible at very low tides and is covered by water entirely at high tide. The northern part of the tidepool area is Goff Island. Goff bay separates the two locations. This area has a large island that remains dry even at the highest tides and surrounded by gently sloping rock bench. Both areas are covered by mussel and barnacle beds with lots of seaweed at the lower tidal zones. There are also plenty of sea stars, urchins and very good pools of water making this area one of the best tidepool locations in the area.
Looking north toward Goff Island Looking south toward Aliso Beach Part of Treasure Island tidepool area Goff Island from upper pathway Large Owl Limpet with smaller Acorn Barnacles Large pool with hundreds of urchins Bright orange sponge Various seaweed and mussels Gooseneck Barnacles and red algae Orange, Brown and Purple sea stars on mussel bed Ochre sea stars in tidepool Thousands of mussel shells Recent lobster shell molt Tube snails and red algae Sea Stars, Urchins and anemones in tidepool

Location and Parking

The tide pools at Aliso Beach are located at the very north section of the beach right under the Montage resort. There is a large parking lot available at Aliso Beach. There is a fee to park in this parking lot. The tide pool area can also be reached from a footpath that follows the cliff line around the Montage Resort. The footpath can be reached by parking on the street adjacent to the resort. Note that the parking is metered in this area.

Tide pool Access

The tide pools can be accessed by a moderate walk from the parking area at Aliso Beach. The tidepool area can also be reached by one of two pathways that lead down to the beach from the footpath at the top of the cliff. The tidepool area is located right at the base of these pathways.

Points of Interest

This area is a very popular photography area and it is common to see ten or more photography sessions going on at the same time. This area is also very popular with tourist visiting the beach and area.

The Aliso Beach tide pools are extraordinary in their diversity and amount of marine life. Both locations have extensive mussel and barnacle beds with sea stars eating away at the edges. The Treasure Island area is a flat rocky bench area with several large and small channels in the rock where seawater can rush in and out. The edges are covered by mussel beds and red algae at the lower tidal zones. There are also several large seagrass beds on the less exposed edges. There is a large tidepool located in the middle of this area that has hundreds of urchins, anemones and many small juvenile fish.

Treasure Island is a smaller island separated from the main rocky area. This is only accessible at very low tide with small waves. Along with mussels and Gooseneck Barnacles, many other snails, limpets, sponges, clams, tube worms and several species of algae can be found. There is even more abundant life due to the limited exposure to visitors on this island.

A short walk across a small bay ( Goff bay ) leads to Goff Island. This area has a larger island in the middle that is surrounded by a rock bench that gradually meets the ocean. These rock bench areas provide ideal surface area and water coverage to encourage lots of mussels and barnacles. There are also several channels where seaweed is attached to the sides of the rocks. Several of these channels have thousands of mussel shells littering the bottom. This area is a bit less crowded than the Treasure Island.

Both of these locations provide a great opportunity to view a wide abundance of tidepool life. The area is easy to walk on and explore. There are areas of slippery algae covered rocks but overall provides a good area to walk on. Together with the stunning beaches and easy access, this tidepool area is one of the best in the area.