Sea-sonal Wonders

Tidepool and See Migrating Wildlife at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz


You’ll need to go during low tides to safely enjoy tidepooling at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz. As its name suggests, the beach has a natural arch and is an excellent spot for an intertidal adventure.

Among the best times to go tidepooling can be during winter’s king tides, when you have the highest and lowest tides of the year. The next peak is February 9 (2024), but the peak window lasts for a few more days, so you can still go tide-pooling during the weekend (February 10-11); low tide for each of those dates are 4:07 p.m., 4:46 p.m., and 5:24 p.m., respectively, which fall nicely into the golden hour and sunset times. Refer to this tide chart for Santa Cruz for more details. *Remember to stay safely within the low-tide timeframes.

The visitor center is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday to Monday. You can learn about the tide pools there (including the safest routes for exploring them) before heading out. If it’s low tide it may be possible to explore the tide pools along the rocky cliffside on the right side of the beach (map). Look out for the vibrant flower-like sea anemones—fascinating creatures with soft bodies that provide shelter for small fish, crabs, and shrimp during high tide. Try to see if you can also spot sea stars and mussels. As the wildlife here is protected, do not pick up or touch any of the marine life.

A few key safety notes: Rocks are slippery and very slick after big rains; waterproof or water shoes are recommended and exercise good judgment in prioritizing safety first. Never turn your back on the ocean—sneaker waves can come at any time. Venture into tide pools only at low tide and be mindful even then. Always check the tide chart for Santa Cruz before exploring these tide pools.

Even if you don’t go tidepooling here, Natural Bridges State Beach is a scenic spot for spying migrating whales, seals, and shorebirds.

BONUS MIGRATION FESTIVAL: Natural Bridges State Beach is hosting a Migration Festival this Saturday, February 10. There is no charge for the event, but parking is $10. The park is hosting migratory animal talks, and other activities in celebration of whales, butterflies, and birds that travel!

BONUS MONARCH BUTTERFLIES: If you get lucky with timing, you may even be able to see the monarch butterflies in the Monarch Preserve at Natural Bridges State Beach (the butterflies tend to leave by mid-February, though, so check ahead on the status).

Park near the visitor center (map), and explore the tide pools along the rocky cliffside on the right side of the beach (map). NOTE: Tidepooling after wet weather can be very slippery, and sneaker waves are dangerous, exercise caution and good judgement. No dogs.

Story and photos by Janice Lim, @wheresjanice (website:

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. From Town to Falls

    Mount Tam’s Cascade Falls is a bit under the radar, tucked back off a residential area in Mill Valley. Some people drive up to the tiny parking lot nearest to the falls. Do an easy 3-mile (round-trip) hike right from downtown Mill Valley, weaving through quiet streets and secret trails.

  2. The Carson Show

    Carson Falls is ready for primetime. This three-tiered, 100-foot stunner is hidden back in a canyon outside of Fairfax and reached on a 3.25-mile (round-trip) hike.

  3. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park waterfall hike in Sonoma Valley

    Sweet as Sugarloaf

    Right in the heart of wine country there’s plenty more than wine flowing right now, with an oft unheralded waterfall that surges to an exuberant spectacle from all the recent rain.

  4. Sponsored

    Sonoma Valley's 100 Days of Winter Wellness Guide

    This winter wellness plan goes to 100! Nurture yourself in 2024 with Sonoma Valley’s 100 Days of Winter Wellness guide. It’s a perfectly curated array of inspiration and ideas.


Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. A woman stands at Dante's View in Death Valley, looking out to Telescope Peak and Manly Lake, Badwater Basin below.

    Sunset Hike (and Manly Lake Vista!) at Dante's View

    It’s one of the world’s best places to watch a sunset. Dante’s View is a 5,476-foot vantage of the whole southern basin of Death Valley from the top of the Black Mountains. On clear days you get views of both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous U.S. 

  2. Skull On!

    Temescal Canyon not only has epic views, it's got a waterfall right now, one that only shows after big rains. Head out on this 4.6-mile loop.

  3. Woman hiking on the trail at Trebek Open Space in Los Angeles County

    Trebek Open Space

    While most hikers head over to adjacent Runyon Canyon, instead do the 2-mile hike at Trebek Open Space and pay your respects to the legendary Jeopardy host and philanthropist, Alex Trebek.

  4. Woman on Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at Death Valley National Park

    Starry Night & Dark Sky Adventures

    You don’t have to stay out all that late to experience eminent stargazing at Death Valley National Park. The park's been given the highest ranking of darkness by the International Dark-Sky Association. Here are a trio of amazing ways to witness the mesmerizing night sky at Death Valley: