Tidepooling Point Lobos

Point Lobos, Monterey Bay, California


Point Lobos is a state park on Monterey Bay, and one of my favorite spots on California’s Central Coast. I’ve been there many times, most recently this past fall.


It is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the largest marine sanctuary in the United States.


Monterey Bay’s underwater canyons provide cold, nutrient-rich waters that attract an abundant diversity of marine plants, invertebrates, and mammals. Everything from snails to whales cruise by.


Point Lobos, California

Kelp forests, one of the most productive and dynamic ecosystems on earth, are abundant here. They offer food and protection to marine wildlife.


With tectonic plates nearby, the granite and sedimentary cliffs and rocks at Point Lobos have evolved for over 80 million years, creating a shoreline mosaic of crevasses and holes perfect for collecting intertidal waters and associated wildlife.


Sea Lions, Point Lobos


Point Lobos, California


Hiking, birding, photography, kayaking and scuba diving rank high on the list of activities. But it’s also fun to explore the rocks and tidepools, discovering the sea creatures that make their home here. Once you get started, it’s hard to stop.


Tidepooling is like a seaside safari — so much to see and learn, and never a dull moment.


With changing tides and constant wave action, water continually whooshing in and out, there is something different happening every minute of the day.


My binoculars are with me wherever I go, and they come in handy at the tidepools. Here are a few close-ups.

Tide pool with sea urchins (purple), snails, limpets, algae


Sea urchins and anemones, crabs and starfish, sea palms, algae and other seaweed hang on tenaciously, riding out the pounding surf.


Tide pool with sea anemones above and below water


Crabs scuttle, sea birds forage, and marine mammals languish.


Black-crowned Night-Heron, Point Lobos


Harbor Seals on a bed of barnacles and algae, Point Lobos, California


Every tide pool is a different community, a different story. This whole rocky plateau is a world of tidepools.


Tide pools and tidepoolers (center), Point Lobos, California


Point Lobos has a long history of attracting humans in their various endeavors: Ohlone natives, abalone hunters, Spanish explorers, whalers and commercial fishermen to name a few. For a time it was a designated WWII defense site; then it was slated to be a  residential housing development (which was nixed). Edward Weston photographed here, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” and over 45 other movies were filmed here. It’s not far from Big Sur.


The wild beauty and magnificence of Point Lobos still calls. And fortunately these waters are protected now–harbor seals and sea otters can live in peace. Humans can explore and picnic and revel in the briny world.


Twice a day every day, the water recedes and returns, in its infinite earthly rhythms.


Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Harbor Seal, Point Lobos. Photo by Athena Alexander


Kelp forest, Point Lobos


92 thoughts on “Tidepooling Point Lobos

  1. I love tide pools. As an old desert rat, they just fascinate me. Always something new to see and filled with tiny wildlife. I remember finding a small octopus years ago and it’s just so foreign to me. PS: I accidentally hit unfollow while closing the banner about cookies on your site. I refollowed, but if I don’t show up for your next post, something went haywire. Always look forward to your posts.

    • Yes, I live inland from the coast and in very dry and parched parts, too, Craig. So we share that fascination of the abundance of water and all the life flowing in and around it. I can imagine what a thrill it must’ve been to find a small octopus. They are such crazy-cool animals. I appreciate your frequent and faithful visits. Hope your weekend is a joy.

    • I’m so glad you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Point Lobos, Hien. That’s the opposite coast from your neck-of-the-woods but I do remember a few years back when you spent quite a bit of time on the west coast. Your Cape May region is pretty spectacular too. Cheers and thanks.

  2. Tide pools are a sensory delight, and you’ve captured this perfectly here! What an abundance of marine treasures to enjoy. Thanks for this snails to whales excursion, it was wonderful!

    • As always, your comment brought a big smile to my face, pc. The snails to whales excursion was fun to write and share, and I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Your frequent visits to your coast are always a fun adventure to vicariously enjoy, too. We don’t have so much driftwood here like you do. Many thanks and have a wonderful weekend.

  3. It is as if nature created seaside apartments for every creature of all sizes and shapes. I loved the description of the sea safari and how each pool brought new discoveries. Should we get back to California, we would love to explore this area. For now we thank you for the virtual exploring and send our very best to you and Athena.

    • You know Sue we’ve been enjoying Point Lobos for decades, and it never ever loses its charm or adventure. There are more people visiting now than there used to be, but few people come out to the edge to explore the tidepools. If you and Dave ever do come here, I know you will enjoy it. Bring your kayaks! Sending love and thanks and smiles to you both.

    • It looks at first glance like a lot of rocks, but once you start poking around in it there’s all sorts of life going on. Glad you enjoyed the tidepooling post, John. Always a pleasure to have you visit, my friend.

  4. I would love to spend a day there. Your post just makes me want to teleport myself to that spot. I’ve never been there, but many of the photos take me back to time spent in the Queen Charlottes doing an amateur dip into the water with mask, snorkel, and definitely a wet suit (that water is colder than California’s). The sea urchins and anemones and seaweeds all remind me of that. Beautiful place, this Point Lobo.

  5. I like that– a seaside safari! Tidepooling in a wonderful Pacific sanctuary, an adventure in natural diversity wherever one looks. Thanks for another great one, Jet, and the photos are, as usual, superb!

    • I always enjoy your warm words and sentiments, Walt, thanks so much for stopping by. There is no end of activities here along the Monterey Bay, and how lovely to share the tidepooling, one of my favorites, with you. Cheers to you, my friend, and best wishes with your new publication.

  6. Your post brings back some happy memories, Jet. I spent two separate years in Monterey, attending the Defense Language Institute (1977-1978 and the again in 1988-1989) while I was in the Army. During the second stint, I lived in the bottom floor of a restored Victorian House near Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove. I loved the Monterey area and I made a number of trips to Point Lobos and to Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur with friends. Back then I was not quite as into nature as I am now, but your descriptions and Athena’s wonderful images show me how much I would enjoy exploring the tide pools there with my current heightened awareness of the beauties of the natural world.

    • Wonderful to hear from you, Mike, thanks so much. How fortunate to have two visits to Monterey. Living in Pacific Grove must’ve been great fun. I am delighted you have had the pleasure of visiting Point Lobos and Big Sur. And yes, you and your camera would have an endless barrel of fun here now, the photographic canvas is never empty here, as you know. Thanks so much, Mike, and have a fun weekend. I haven’t “seen” you for awhile, am heading over to see what marvelous images you’ve made lately.

    • There is so much to see here on the Central Coast, Mike. If you ever visit there will be no end to your long hikes and nature discoveries. Our mountains aren’t anything like your Alps…but the seascapes make up for it. Thanks so much for dropping by today.

  7. What a fascinating and beautiful place – one I would love to visit. I see it as a great opportunity for painting and sketching….Those seals are waiting to be sketched:). Thank you Jet.

    Hope you enjoy a lovely weekend and that your creative juices are flowing….

    • Yes, it is a fascinating and beautiful place on the Central Coast, Janet, and I’m happy I could share it with you here today. If you visited here, your sketch pad and watercolors would be open every hour. I have been enjoying your virtual Crickhowell tour, Janet, nice that we can share the worldly beauties with each other. You, too, have a fun and creative weekend.

  8. Such a beautiful part of CA, my favorite. It’s a pity I live so far away!
    Nice post, with superb photos– I love that shot of the kelp, such a handsome plant.
    Have a good weekend, you two!

    • I am warmly amused that the kelp plant was your first draw on favorite photos, Eliza. You’re so organically plant-oriented. The kelp forests in Point Lobos are truly astounding, and mesmerizing to watch. They’re connected to the sea bottom in some places, and sway rhythmically with the moving surf. In other places they’ve been dislodged over time, and make beautiful arrangements on the beach and rocks. I’m happy I could share this corner of the world with you today. Thanks so much for your visit, always a pleasure.

  9. When I get back to California one of these days, I’d love to go here. I can appreciate the comment of someone living in the desert. It’s a very different place, yet the Black-crowned Night-Heron is a bird I see every trip at the Riparian Preserve, so we have that in common. 🙂 Thanks for a lovely tour.


    • Yes, something about the sea and water always being there, it’s so free and relieving both, to be by the sea. I’m glad you enjoyed this vicarious visit to Monterey Bay, Janet. I know you would like Point Lobos. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Your closing comments are so lyrical and spot-on. Monterey Bay is such a special place and tide pools anywhere are fascinating. You mentioned binoculars – I recalled learning (not all that long ago), that they can be used like a microscope when turned around. Even the tiniest of critters are worthy of our notice.

    • So glad you enjoyed the tidepools of Point Lobos, Eilene. Being a birder, I wear my binoculars a lot and by using them at the tidepools, just regular use, not turned around, I see so much without having to be laying on my stomach. Glad you enjoyed the post, and I appreciate your kind words, Eilene.

  11. I love the view of the ocean, the smell of the sea, the rocky landscape of low tides as much of the breaking waves of the high tides, striking and shaping the resisting rocks. Do we yearn for the days when we lived submerged in the womb of our mothers? Great post, my friend. It made me think a bit deep. 🙂

  12. Loved this post and what it tributes, Jet! I’ve lived around inland tidal waters for about 25 years, and absolutely love the treasures they bestow, both plant life and wildlife, with pooling. WOW, Point Lobos is a paradise for tidal pooling, I’d love to explore it! It’s part of our bucket list for our California visit, along with Big Sur. We were hoping next year to travel the West coast but we’ll have to wait and see what traveling will be like by then. Fingers crossed!

    • You know how vast the treasure of the sea are, Donna, having lived around intertidal waters for 25 years. It was difficult to narrow down the beauty into one little post, but I’m glad it captured the wonder for you. I, too, hope you can travel the west coast by next year. Thanks so much.

  13. so fascinating and delightful, Jet. and excellent photos as always. i should remember to visit Point Lobos next time we’re in Monterey. thank you. wishing you a wonderful summer 🙂 🙂

    • Oh, yes, I think you will enjoy Point Lobos, Wilma, next time you’re in Monterey. It’s about a half hour’s drive south of Monterey. A long way from Chicago. Many thanks for your warm visit.

  14. Tide pools are a wonder anywhere, but this region is so exquisite. Have been there twice and really loved it. Gorgeous photos, thanks for sharing. That last photo of the kelp forest is magnificent. Very painterly.


    • Yes, you’re right, Peta, tide pools are wonderful anywhere…and I’m sure you’ve seen a lion’s share all over the world. I’m happy you’ve had the pleasure of the Central Coast. Glad you enjoyed the kelp photo. Kelp is a joy to watch, and happily there is a lot there. Many smiles to you and Ben…and thanks.

  15. Thank you for this enjoyable tour of Point Lobos. We visited there a decade ago, so much to enjoy. Hope we will have a chance to revisit this beautiful place.

    • You and your husband are robust travelers, Amy, and I’m delighted to hear you’ve been to Point Lobos on one of your many adventures. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • There are so many great “rocks and trails” to enjoy along the Central Coast, so I’m glad you’ve been in the area, Deborah. Thank you for your warm words and visit, much appreciated.

  16. You’re preaching to the choir with me! What fun it was to catch the minus tides at Bandon! It’s been a very long time since I stopped along Monterey Bay. It seems my Muse pointed me northward.

    I must say that I love the Harbor Seal and Kelp Forest which Athena contributed. It’s been a real pleasure to watch her photographic skills evolve.

    • I thought of you as I was composing this post, Gunta, because of all the many Oregon beaches you’ve explored, all the tides, rocky ridges, and wildlife you have shared with us. That harbor seal photo is on our wall in the living room, one that we both like so very much,too. Glad you’re enjoying Athena’s photography over the years; she works really hard on it, as you know yourself with all the incredible photos you take, and it is a great joy to have the memories and beauties always with us, even when in lockdown. Cheers to you, my friend, and thanks.

  17. Great stuff, ladies. I knew about Point Lobos because the late, great Ansel Adams lived near there and was able to photograph it in his later years. Some of the photos and text reminded me strongly of the west coast of Vancouver Island, where I’ve been blessed to photograph intertidal life. Blessings to you both! 🙂

    • So very wonderful to receive your visit and kind words, Frank, thank you. I liked your reference to the revered Ansel Adams, and am glad you recognized the area from his art. Both AA and Edward Weston were lovers of Pt. Lobos, as many others are/were too. I have only been to Vancouver Isl. in the south, Victoria, for a short trip in 2014, and just this past spring was doing some research on taking a trip to the west coast of it. It looks truly spectacular. I’m glad you had the pleasure. And as always, many thanks, Frank.

  18. What a harsh yet starkingly breathtaking environment that yields such a variety of animals and birds and sea urchins and sea lions and more. Loved your pictures, Jet!! Thank you for sharing your adventures at Point Lobos.

    • Oh so nice to see you enjoy the Point Lobos area, too, Cynthia. Glad you saw indications of my novels, too. Golden Gate Graveyard is set in San Francisco, which you might enjoy, some fun SF history. Many thanks.

  19. This is a special place. I thoroughly enjoyed your post, Jet. Amazing to see through Athena’s terrific photos. Another favorite tide pool spot is Fitzgerald…I’m sure you’ve been.

  20. Lovely! I so enjoy living on tidal waters and seeing the endless changes they bring! Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughtful reflections.

    • I love watching the tides, too, Nan, and what a joy at your house where they dominate your “yard.” Endless reminder of the rhythms of our earth. Thanks so much, Nan, as always.

    • I like that, Dave. I’m not a diver, but am a snorkeler, and I concur. In fact, it is snorkeling that heightened my interest in the world of tidepooling. Many thanks.

  21. I love how tidepooling at Point Lobos attracts humans but my favorite line was “Everything from snails to whales cruise by” That kind of says it all:)

    • As someone who lives with tidepools everyday, Bill, you know the beautiful earthly rhythms and creatures that inhabit the tidal waters. I’m honored that you liked that sentence, I worked on it, and it’s always rewarding to have the crafting be recognized. My warmest thanks for your visit and comment.

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