Quick Guide to the Tide Pools Near Pismo Beach

Cliff at Margo Dodd Park during sunset

Pismo Beach hosts the annual Clam Festival.

But there’s just more than clams lurking along the shore. The tide pools of Pismo beach are home to a wide variety of marine animals, which you can check out (without touching!). Let’s revisit our 4 favorite tide pools near Pismo Beach.

Map overview

This map shows you our favorite tide pools near Pismo beach:

Great news! You can reach them all within 5 minutes, so you can visit them all in a day!

1. Dinosaur Caves Park

Dinosaur Caves Park is an 11-acre park situated on top of bluffs overlooking the scenic ocean. It is the best place for a family outing day in Pismo Beach. The park features a large field and grassy area to do sports, a dinosaur-theme playground for kids, hiking trails through colorful flowers, and picnic tables with barbeque spots.

The water is calm, making it excellent for non-casual swimmers and kids to swim. Many rock formations are nestled at the base of the cliff. They are located in a flat area and are generally easy to access. These rock formations reveal some tide pools during low tide. 

Animals and plants you can spot here

  • Sea anemones
  • Crabs
  • Limpets
  • Sea Urchins
  • Snails

You may encounter some seals and pelican birds sitting on rocks. If lucky, you may spot some whales migrating. 

Amenities

  • Off-street parking
  • Restrooms available
  • Gazebo
  • Wedding location
  • Amphitheater
  • Grassy reception area
  • Playground
  • Picnic tables
  • Staircase

Additional info

  • Dogs are allowed but need to be on a leash
  • Amphitheater available to rent on an hourly basis
  • No shades on the beach

Other recommended activities

  • Hiking on the trails
  • Visit shops and restaurants along the way
  • Join a yoga class on the beach

Getting there

The beach is beside Highway 101, just south of San Louis Obispo. From North 101, exit Mattie Road then turn left under the Freeway. From South 101, exit Price Street then turn right onto Shell Beach Road.  The beach is at the corner of Shell Beach Road and Cliff Street. Parking is located right in front of the beach. It is free and large, so you don’t have to worry about not finding parking. 

From there, you can easily access the grassy area and the playground. To get to the lower part of the beach and the tide pools, walk south toward the hotel. There are long stairs that lead you down the beach. Numerous tide pools are located at the northern end of the beach.

2. Margo Dodd Park

Margo Dodd Park is a stunning small park situated on a cliff above the ocean. It is surrounded by gorgeous properties, numerous benches, and a fancy gazebo. The beach is perfect for sunbathing, picnicking, watching wildlife, and tide pooling. Swimming here can be dangerous. The bottom of the ocean is rocky, and the currents are strong.

The left side of the beach offers an excellent opportunity for watching birds. However, the real treasure is on the right side, below the cliffs. You can find many tide pools teeming with marine life in the area. Exploring is them fun, as each rock and crevice is home to a different kind of animal

Animals and plants you can spot here

  • Hermit crabs
  • Starfish
  • Sea slugs
  • Octopus
  • Chitons
  • Barnacles
  • Colorful algae

Many birds call this beach home, such as pelicans, seagulls, and coots, sharing a rock in harmony. You may also spot some seals basking in the sun!

Amenities

  • Free parking
  • Picnic tables available
  • No restrooms on the beach
  • Drinking water fountain available
  • Trash bins
  • Stairs to the beach

Additional info

  • Dogs are allowed but need to be on a leash
  • Dress in layers; it can get windy
  • Wear swimming shoes if necessary
  • A hotspot for a wedding proposal and wedding photographers

Other recommended activities

  • Visit local shops nearby
  • Watch the sunset
  • Kayak along the caves and rocks

Getting there

Located on Ocean Blvd, Margo Dodd Park is adjacent to Dinosaur Cave Park. Free parking is located along the corner of Ocean Blvd and Cliff Ave. 

You can easily go to the pavilion to relax and enjoy the view. If you want to get to the water, take the stairs on the right side of the beach. Watch your step! The stairs are slippery. The tidepools are located below the cliffs.

3. Eldwayen Ocean Park

Eldwayen Ocean Park is an underrated local secret. Like any other beach nearby, it is situated on top of a cliff. Compared to most beaches on the Pacific Coast, this one doesn’t have soft white sand, but coarse black sand. Wear proper shoes to avoid getting cuts. There is a large grassy area with several benches on top of the cliff. It is an excellent spot for a picnic or relaxing, overlooking the stunning views. 

There is a section of unique rock formations on the beach’s southern end. During low tide, you will find tide pools here. Many families with kids enjoy playing in the tide pools while exploring marine life.

Animals and plants you can spot here

  • Hermit crabs
  • Starfish
  • Sea urchins
  • Abalone

If lucky, you may spot some whales or dolphins leaping over the horizon.

Amenities

  • Free ample parking
  • Picnic tables with BBQ grills
  • Large grassy area
  • Garbage cans
  • Rental shop
  • Staircase
  • No restrooms available

Additional info

  • Dogs are allowed but need to be on a leash
  • Dress in layers. It can get windy
  • Wear swimming shoes if necessary

Other recommended activities

  • Rent a kayak
  • Visit local shops nearby
  • Watch the sunset
  • Volleyball
  • Beachcombing

Getting there

The beach is located in the heart of Pismo Beach. Exit Spyglass Drive from the Highway, then turn left to Shell Beach Road. Follow the road until you reach Vista Del Mar Street. Free parking is located along Ocean Blvd.

The tide pools are located on the southern end of the beach. Walk down the stairs to access them.

4. Spyglass Park

Spyglass Park is a secluded 4.5-acre park nestled on a cliff, offering a panoramic ocean view. The park features a large grassy area with picnic tables and a playground. The surf is high, making it a favorite amongst seasoned surfers! Swimming here is not recommended.

The beach is impossible to access during high tide. However, the rock formations turn into little tide pools during low tide. You must scramble down a steep, rocky trail to get to the tide pools. Unfortunately, it might be difficult for kids. There are also some little caves nearby that are worth checking out!

Amenities

  • Free, ample parking
  • Handicapped parking
  • Playground
  • Grassy area
  • Picnic tables and benches
  • Restrooms available
  • Drinking water fountain
  • Showers available
  • Gift shop

Additional info

  • Dogs are allowed, but need to be on a leash.
  • Dress in layers, it can get windy
  • Wear swimming shoes if necessary

Other recommended activities

  • Visit the gift shop
  • Fly a kite on the beach
  • Watch the sunset

Getting there

The beach is easy to access. Take the Spyglass exit from the Freeway. Then, take Shell Beach Road to Spyglass Drive. From there, just drive along the road until you reach the park. The parking lot is located right at the front of the beach. Walk down the stairs to reach the beach and you will see the tide pools right away. (except during high tide!)

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