Top 3 Tide Pools to Explore in Cambria

Algae-covered Tide Pools by the Bluff Trail in the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

Have you been to the Cambria Aquarium? No? That’s because it doesn’t exist. It would go bankrupt as mother nature is fierce competition! 

The tide pools in Cambria are a fantastic showcase into the local marine wildlife, and best of all: Unlike human aquariums, there is no entrance fee for these 3 locations

Our 3 favorite tide pools

The following 3 beaches have the best tide pools if you consider accessibility, biodiversity and their vicinity to downtown Cambria.

1. Moonstone Beach

Moonstone beach has chocolaty almost-black sand dotted with millions of colored “moonstone” pebbles. The beach offers an incredible opportunity for beachcombing. If lucky, you might find some gems, such as moonstones, jade, agates, sea glass, and other semi-precious stones! Whether you want to stroll along the beach, catch a glimpse of marine life, surf, or explore tide pools, the beach has something for everyone.

The beach is surrounded by cliffs and has a mile-long wooden walkway that gives you a scenic view of the rugged coastline and the majestic mountains behind as a backdrop. This boardwalk goes from Santa Rosa Creek to Leffingwell Landing. It is popular for those looking for tranquility. You often find people sitting, relaxing, and reading books all afternoon!

Tide pooling is one of the most popular activities on this beach. The tide pools are located in the Leffingwell Landing on the north end of the boardwalk.

Animals and plants you can spot here

  • Anemones
  • Snails
  • Crabs
  • Sea urchins
  • Mussels

Some seals and birds are usually hanging out on the beach. If lucky, you may see some whales and dolphins breaching in the distance.

Amenities

  • Free parking
  • Handicapped parking available
  • Restrooms
  • Picnic benches available
  • Shops and restaurants

Additional info

  • Kids-friendly
  • Dogs are not allowed, but it’s rarely enforced
  • The boardwalk is lined with restaurants and shops
  • Bicycles are not allowed on the boardwalk
  • Bring a jacket, it could get windy

Other recommended activities

  • Flying kites
  • Searching for sea glass
  • Carving driftwood
  • Visit the local shops and restaurants nearby

Getting there

Moonstone Beach is situated in the heart of Cambria. The best way to get to the beach is by heading Highway 1 to Cambria. Then, turn onto Windsor and a quick right to Moonstone Beach Drive.

The official free parking lot is on the left, or you can also park in the Santa Rosa Creek parking lot. However, it gets packed, especially on weekends. Many people park along the road. 

From there, just walk along the boardwalk to the beach. The tidepool is located on the northern end of the boardwalk.

2. Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

The Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is a vast open-space preserve that stretches one mile along the shoreline. It is home to many endangered and threatened species, including the steelhead trout, red-legged frogs, tidewater gobies, burrowing owls, monarch butterflies, and Monterey pine trees. 

This ranch offers plenty of opportunities for tide pooling. Tide pools are exposed in between rock formations during low tides. They are teeming with numerous marine life. You just need to scramble down to the water’s edge to explore! 

Animals and plants you can spot here

  • Anemones
  • Hermit crabs
  • Barnacles
  • Sea urchins
  • Limpets

Bear encounters also frequently occur here, but rarely in the area where the tide pools are situated.

Amenities

  • Free street side parking in the neighborhood
  • Picnic benches available
  • No restrooms
  • Stroller-friendly boardwalk
  • Wheelchair accessible in some parts
  • No drinking water
  • No running water or showers

Additional info

  • Smoking, fires, firearms, hunting, and any kind of weapons are prohibited
  • Camping is prohibited
  • Dogs must be on a leash
  • Remote-controlled devices, such as drones and model aircraft, are prohibited
  • Motorized or electric vehicles are prohibited
  • Bicycles are allowed only on designated trails. This map shows all bicycle trails.
  • Special events for a maximum of 20 people require a permit from the Cambria CSD
  • Bring a jacket, as it could get cold and windy

Other recommended activities

It is an excellent place for a short to moderate hike through nature! There are 17 hiking trails you can take, from flat or hills and smooth or roughly maintained trails. Some popular trails are:

Bluff Trail

Bluff Trail offers an 8-mile walk on a boardwalk and gravel path along the picturesque coast from north of Windsor Boulevard to south. If lucky, you may see dolphins or migrating whales.

Forest Loop Trail

This trail winds through 70 acres of native coast live oaks, and Monterey pines. It offers a walk through the magical forest.

Santa Rosa Creek Trail

This flat trail goes through riparian areas shaded by willows. It connects to Santa Rosa Creek, a habitat for steel head trout. 

Getting there

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is open every day from dusk till dawn. It is located west of Cabrillo Highway 1. Unlike other hiking places, Fiscalini doesn’t have a designated parking lot. Visitors can park their vehicles on one of the residential streets, as small residential communities surround the ranch. The most popular parking is on Windsor Blvd, before the Buff Trail. From there, you can walk into the preserve. 

3. Lampton Cliffs Park

Lampton Cliffs Park is a small 2.1-acre natural park with trails and benches overlooking the beach. It is located on the corner of a neighborhood area. The park is great for relaxing, picnicking, or just strolling around and watching the waves. You can enjoy the stunning, unspoiled ocean while watching the wildlife.

During low tide, the rock formations turn into small tide pools with abundant marine life. These tide pools are found at the base of the cliff. Many families with kids visit on the weekends.

Animals and plants you can spot here

  • Anemones
  • Hermit crabs
  • Chitons
  • Mussels
  • Barnacles
  • Small fish

Amenities

  • Free parking 
  • Picnic benches available
  • No restrooms

Additional info

  • Dogs are allowed, but on a leash
  • The staircase can be slippery
  • Good for kids

Getting there

Lampton Cliffs Park is located between Windsor Blvd and Lampton Street. It is marked properly and can be seen on the map. The free parking lot is located right at the entrance of the park. 

To get to the tidepools, you must take a short trail through a small field that leads to a wooden staircase down to the beach and a small cove below the cliff side. 

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