Kristen McLane writes at KristenMcLane.com and she and her husband have recently started a website, Beyond the Zoo, where they highlight great off-the-beaten-path activities in the San Diego area. She guest posts today to give us a taste of the west coast.
San Diego is home to many world-famous attractions. The San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Sea World, and LEGOLAND California are all legitimate family-fun destinations. But by far, my favorite San Diego moments have been spent exploring San Diego’s natural resources.
With over 70 miles of Pacific coastline and temperatures averaging near 70 degrees year-round, it’s no surprise that my family of four spends the majority of our recreational time outdoors. Having recently moved to San Diego from the Midwest, we don’t take San Diego’s natural wonders for granted, especially in the winter.
Tide Pool Adventures
Tide pool adventures are a fun activity for the youngest family member to the oldest. (And dare I say, educational too.) A tide pool is the pool of water collected among rocks after a tide has retreated. What makes tide pools so fascinating is that they are home to many different kinds of plants and animals. Where else can you get an up close view of sea creatures including sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, octopi, barnacles, mussels, snails, crabs, limpets and sea anemones?
My family enjoys the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument. Costing just five dollars per car, the entrance fee is a great value. The most important piece of advice to remember is to plan your trip during low tide. Otherwise, the tide pools will be submerged! Consult a current tide calendar when planning your visit.
The only way to access the tide pools at Cabrillo is to climb down the rocky path north of the parking lot to the shoreline. It’s not strenuous, but it does require sure footing. Keep in mind that because of the rocky nature of tide pools, they may not be appropriate for people with limited mobility. Dress appropriately by wearing comfortable and sturdy shoes. You might even want to pack an extra set of clothes for the kids. My family is unable to resist getting wet! Better yet, dress the kids in bathing suits.
Visiting the tide pools is a real life I-Spy adventure. The more time you spend, the more your eyes adjust to discover the treasures within. A park ranger is stationed at the Cabrillo tide pools to answer any questions you may have. The most obvious (and numerous) creatures are barnacles, mussels, snails and crabs. While not exactly “exotic,” my children have literally spent hours playing with snails and crabs. Sea anemones are also plentiful. It is easy to forget that these squishy looking creatures are alive, until you catch one feasting on a crab!
On a recent visit, my careful observation was rewarded when I caught a peek of an octopus poking out from under a rock. I left that day with a tangible reminder of why it is important to protect and care for our environment. There is no shortage of things to do and see while visiting San Diego. The tide pools at Cabrillo are merely a gateway to all there is to explore beyond the zoo!
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