There are tide pools. And then there are tide pools. Trust me when I say that the Rancho Palos Verdes tide pools at Abalone Cove are in a league of their own. Their sheer size alone should earn them some sort of special LA nature award.
Of course, the trick is actually getting to the tide pools. Abalone Cove is one of two beaches (Sacred Cove being the other) located within the 64-acre Abalone Cove Ecological Reserve. Access is via nearby Abalone Cove Shoreline Park. Confused yet?
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park is a lovely open space, complete with picnic tables overlooking the Pacific. It’s worth spending a few minutes here to get your bearings and soak up the amazing scenery. One a clear day, you should be able to enjoy a fantastic view of Catalina Island. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a whale or dolphins – not to mention lots and lots of birds.
But the park is just a staging ground. Head to the southernmost end of the parking area and you’ll find what you came for: The Abalone Cove Trail, which leads down to the beach area.
There are no distances posted, but the walk to Abalone Cove took us about 20 minutes. It’s a steep, narrow dirt path that puts you out onto a very rocky beach. From this vantage point, the tide pools will feel like they’re just a few minutes off in the distance.
Take my advice, though. When you reach the rocky beach, keep an eye out for a trail marker on your left. Although it’ll take you back up the bluffs above the beach, the Sea Dahlia Trail will completely bypass the rocky beach and spit you out right at base of the tide pools. Your feet will thank me later, I promise.
The tide pools here are pretty impressive, especially at low (or minus) tide. That’s when the rocky outcroppings are exposed, revealing all kinds of sea life below. If you’ve never been tide pooling before, you might want to brush up on some tips for exploring tide pools with kids.
In spite of the many, many people also exploring during our visit, there was plenty of space for us all. I was grateful to see a few volunteers on hand to help point out interesting critters (like sea hares and an octopus), then offer some fun info about those creatures.
If you visit with pint-sized explorers, you might want to stick to the edges of the tide pools here. We discovered it’s challenging to maneuver once you get out a bit on the rocks, and the occasional big waves can be a little scary.
If you’ve come with some brave kids, you might want to investigate the sea cave, too. It can be seen from the rocks above the tide pools but requires some steady footwork. It might be more accessible with extremely low tides, but we were only able to get a glimpse.
There is much to see at Abalone Cove, but don’t forget to leave time for play! Our boys were eager to play in the sand and look at all the different rocks on the beach.
- Abalone Cove Beach is accessible via a dirt trail from Abalone Cove Shoreline Park; no distances are posted, but it took us about 20 minutes each way
- The dirt path is steep (especially when it’s uphill!) and narrow in parts with lots of rocks to maneuver over, not stroller-friendly or for those with health conditions
- Huge area for exploring tide pools at low (or minus) tide; more sure-footed kids may want to investigate a small sea cave, too
- On a clear day, can enjoy fantastic views of Catalina Island
- Great spot for whale and dolphin sightings
- Suggested time: We spent more than 2 hours at beach level exploring the tide pools and playing – and could have stayed longer! Combined with a picnic lunch and the walk to and from the beach, our outing lasted about 3 hours
- Check tides at Palos Verdes cove before you go!
- Time your visit for the hour before and the hour after the low (or minus) tide
- Off-season park hours are limited: Mon.-Fri. noon to 4 p.m., Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Summer hours (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) are in effect from Memorial Day to Labor Day; park is closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
- Parking is $5
- Lots of picnic tables at Abalone Cove Shoreline Park offering amazing views of the Pacific; no food for sale on site
- Portable potties are available in the parking area; there’s also one at the tide pool area on the beach
- Lifeguards are on duty during summer hours and weekends only
- No animals allowed on the beach
- If you have them, wear water sandals – they’ll help you maneuver in the tide pools without getting your feet soggy
- Bring a change of clothes and towels for the kids, plus water, snacks, hats and sunscreen
- Read about Michele’s day trip to Abalone Cove Shoreline Park over on FunOrangeCountyParks
- Abalone Cove Reserve trail map
- Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy Abalone Cove Ecological Reserve page
Abalone Cove Reserve is located at:
5970 Palos Verdes Drive South
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275