Legendary California author John Steinbeck once noted “it is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.” And there might be no place better to take this advice than at Crystal Cove State Park
beach, where seemingly endless sand meets plentiful tide pools. Park at the Los Trancos lot off of Pacific Coast Highway and take the trail towards the historic Crystal Cove Cottages. Continue past the Beachcomber Café to the water, with the wide sandy beach to the north. Here’s the trick: Instead of heading north, go south along the coastal precipices to find a variety of rocks forming multiple tide pools. If you’re lucky (and patient), you’ll witness the incredible process of a hermit crab that has outgrown its shell finding a perfect new one to call home. There are even crab duels over the coveted real estate of a good shell: Everyone’s trying to snap one up!
SUNSET BONUS: Come at sunset for best tide pool viewing opportunities and a chance to see sandpipers hunting for sand crabs and pelicans gracefully flying overhead. Check the tides beforehand.
To get to the parking lot, take Pacific Coast Hwy. to Los Trancos and exit to the east. Parking is $15/day or $5/hour and can get validated if you eat at the Beachcomber. Crystal Cove Beach Cottages can be reserved via ReserveAmerica. Camping also available at Crystal Cove State Park. You can also take a shuttle down to the beach and back ($1 each way). No Dogs.