The difference between tide pools and an aquarium? Adventure! You have to work a bit for the tide pools at Abalone Cove in Rancho Palos Verdes, but they’re well worth the effort. The payoff: a great hike with coastal views to awesome tide pools between bluffs and sea. You might call the spot … Abalone Sandwich!
To start, follow the 0.7-mile (one-way) Abalone Cove Trail from the Abalone Cove Shoreline Park parking lot. It’s a steady, but fairly steep, downhill hike passing through coastal sage scrub, lemonadeberry, and wild oats. Sweeping panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean surround you as you descend from the blufftop toward the beach. The Abalone Cove Trail will take you to a nice, albeit rocky, beach, but the best way to reach the tide pools is to take the turnoff for the Sea Dahlia Trail. This trail leads back uphill over the bluffs, but is much faster and easier on the feet than traversing the rocky shoreline. If you do take the beach, just head downcoast to where it ends at the base of the cliffs.
The Sea Dahlia Trail leads right to the tide pools. At low tide, rocks form a large shallow lagoon full of aquatic life. Keep your eyes open for anemones, sea hares, barnacles, and sea stars. Just be sure to check tide times before heading out, and aim to arrive within an hour (give or take) of low tide for the best access to the pools. And keep in mind you still have to hike back up to the top of the bluff afterward. If you time it right, catching the sunset from the parking lot adds yet another awesome reward for your effort.
From Pacific Coast Hwy. in Torrance, take Palos Verdes Blvd. toward the ocean for about 2 miles, then turn south on Palos Verdes Dr. W. Continue for 7 miles to Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, on the right. The first 30 minutes of parking are free; $6 for up to 2 hours; $12 for anything over 2 hours. Aim for the south end of the lot, since that’s where the tide pool journey begins. Trails are dog-friendly, but no dogs on the beach.