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5 Must-Visit Olympic National Park Tide Pools Revealed

If you think Olympic National Park tide pools are just wet rocks with a bit of seaweed, think again!

We’ve schlepped our way through more national parks than we care to admit, but the tide pools at Olympic have a special place in our adventure-worn hearts.

With a treasure chest of marine life that makes pirates jealous, these pools are where starfish are the rock stars and anemones are the divas of the sea floor show.

So, if you’re looking to get your feet wet (literally) in some of the best tide pools the park has to offer, stick with us. Because we’re like the slightly odd, adventure-obsessed friends you never knew you needed, who are going to guide you to the tide pooling experiences of a lifetime.

Short On Time? Here’s The Scoop

Your Quick Guide To Tide Pools In Olympic National Park

Best Tide Pools: Kalaloch Beach 4 or Rialto Beach
Easiest Pools To Access: Ruby Beach
Hardest Pools To Access: Shi Shi Beach
Best Time Of Day: At low tide
Top Tip: Look but don’t touch to protect the animals
What Creatures Will You See: Starfish, anemones, mussels, and more

What Is A Tide Pool

Let’s quickly go over what a tide pool is in case you have heard of it but don’t really know the facts. Feel free to skip ahead straight to the tide pool options if you prefer.

Imagine the ocean takes a tiny vacation, leaving behind mini swimming pools on the rocks, which we fondly call tide pools. These natural kiddie pools are the ocean’s way of saying, “Hey, check out my cool, smaller version!”

Filled with water when the tide is high, they become isolated from the ocean as it retreats, creating a unique microcosm for sea critters and plants.

Tide pools are like the studios of marine biology—small, but where all the exciting discoveries happen. And if you think about it, these pools are ancient; they’ve been hosting sea parties long before humans decided to walk into the ocean with their trousers rolled up.

tide pools at sunset in olympic national park, tide pool in the front surrounded by mossy rocks and a sea stack in the back
Credit: Depositphotos

5 Olympic National Park Tide Pools

If you’re the kind of person who gets excited about the idea of rock-pool safaris and meeting creatures that look like they’ve escaped from a sci-fi movie set, then you’re in for a treat as we reveal the best beaches with tide pools in Olympic National Park.

1. Ruby Beach Tide Pools

Ruby Beach is the kind of place where even the crabs seem to have a sense of humor, scuttling around like they’ve got a joke they’re just dying to share with you.

One of the most Instagrammable spots in Olympic National Park, it draws crowds not just for its photogenic vistas but also for its vibrant tide pools, alive with sea creatures that couldn’t look more alien if they tried.

It’s one of the park’s most beloved and popular beaches, a fact that’s no surprise to anyone who’s witnessed its sunset, which honestly, could give the Northern Lights a run for their money.

  • Facts: Ruby Beach is named for its garnet sands, not its twinkle-toed crustaceans.
  • Directions: From the 101, turn onto Upper Hoh Road and continue onto County Road 110. From there, the well-marked turnoff to Ruby Beach is straightforward.
  • Distance To Tide Pools: The walk is short, and the ground is rough but not too challenging.
  • Unique Species: You’ll spy the usual suspects—starfish, anemones—alongside big pools teeming with curious creatures. It’s different every time, from iridescent algae blooms to rare, bright green anemones that only reveal themselves under super bloom moments.
tree of life near kalaloch beach, a tree hangs between two banks with all the roots showing
Credit: Depositphotos

2. Kalaloch Beach 4

Kalaloch Beach 4 is where even the seagulls seem to know they’ve hit the jackpot.

Nestled snugly within the park and near the Kalaloch Lodge, this beach is a front-row seat to Mother Nature’s drama – with epic sunsets and driftwood sculptures that look suspiciously like art installations.

It’s near the famous “Tree of Life,” a miraculous sight where a tree seems to defy gravity, and its pet-friendly policy means your furry friends can critique the art, too.

Can we talk about the facepalm moment of our lives? We totally missed the Tree of Life on our visit. Yep, in a plot twist no one saw coming, not even us, we skipped what’s essentially the tree version of a superhero, defying gravity with its roots. Talk about an epic misstep.

This living marvel isn’t going to hang around forever, balancing on the brink like it’s no big deal. So, here’s a pro tip from one adventurer to another: don’t be like us. Make a beeline for that gravity-defying spectacle while you’re there for the tide pools; it’s a sight that’s as rare as it is breathtaking.

  • Facts: At Kalaloch, see if you can spot the elusive spiny lumpsucker—a misnomer of a name for such an adorable fish. Don’t lump it in with the rest; these lumpsuckers are superstars.
  • Directions: Park at the Kalaloch Lodge and follow signs that guide you down to the beach.
  • Distance To Tide Pools: A little more rugged than Ruby’s walk but nothing that requires a Sherpa. Turn right when you reach the beach and head to the rocks in the distance to find the pools.
  • Unique Species: Giant green anemones cover the sea floor like emerald encrustations, and the fat purple sea urchins create a vibrant scene that could rival a Van Gogh.
rialto beach hole in the wall view with a rock with a hole in it in which you can see a seastack through it on the other side
Credit: Depositphotos

3. Rialto Beach Tide Pools

Rialto Beach is where the wild and the whimsical collide, making you wonder if you’ve accidentally wandered onto the set of a fantasy film.

Here, massive driftwood logs stage their own version of a balancing act, and the famed “Hole-in-the-Wall” seems like nature’s attempt at modern art.

Did you know that this beach is a hotspot for spotting bald eagles, giving it a slightly patriotic vibe? It’s also recognized for its uniquely photogenic sea stacks.

Bringing your camera? Dumb question, of course, you are – Rialto Beach’s landscape begs for a photo shoot, promising to make your social media profiles look wildly adventurous.

  • Facts: The beach is basically throwing its own driftwood furniture sale, offering all the rugged, “au natural” seating you never knew you needed to enjoy the view.
  • Directions: Take Mora Road off La Push Road and follow the signs.
  • Distance To Tide Pools: It’s a 3.3-mile beach hike round trip from the main parking lot, but you won’t notice as you’ll be ogling at the Olympic splendor.
  • Unique Species: Look out for rare finds like giant acorn barnacles and buried treasures such as agates and sea glass that sometimes wash into these crystal clear pools.
close up of the animals at rialto beach tide ppols with a starfish and green sea anemones
Credit: Depositphotos

4. La Push Beaches (Second & Third Beach)

Known for their rugged beauty, these siblings – Second and Third Beach – are the Pacific Northwest’s best-kept secret, unless you count every travel blogger who’s ever set foot there.

Second Beach, with its fairly easy access through the forest and iconic sea stacks, is like that popular kid in school who’s friends with everyone.

And it’s the beach where we decided to park ourselves longer than a sea star at a sunbathing contest (AKA the beach we chose to spend ample time at in Olympic). Even if you don’t bother to trek down to the tide pools, the beach itself is a blockbuster hit and well worth a visit.

Meanwhile, Third Beach is the moody, mysterious one, requiring a bit of a trek to earn its affections but rewarding you with solitude and unspoiled vistas. Plus, if you enjoy waterfalls, make it a point to visit Strawberry Bay Falls along the beach as well.

The area around the beaches is part of the Quileute Nation, which offers a rich tapestry of cultural heritage alongside its natural wonders. And, if you’re into Twilight, yes, you’re in that La Push.

  • Facts: If pitching a tent next to a vast, unimpressed ocean sounds like your idea of a wild Friday night, then rejoice, for both beaches come equipped with their very own wilderness camping spots—because nothing screams “adventure” quite like dozing off to the sound of waves plotting your sandy demise.
  • Directions: Take La Push Road all the way to its end for Second Beach. For Third Beach, there’s a different trailhead further up the road.
  • Distance To Tide Pools: Each are short, leisurely walks on the beach that end in La Push tide pools with awe-inspiring nature to explore.
  • Unique Species: Seek the mammoth-sized, fire-bright sea stars. They are the celebrities of these puddled stages.
tide pools at shi shi beach with a long stretch of beach as far as the eye can see
Credit: Depositphotos

5. Shi Shi Beach

Shi Shi Beach, where the sand is softer than your bed, and the views are more stunning than your ex’s new partner, is something straight out of an overly dramatic travel brochure.

Here’s a nugget of wisdom for trivia night – it’s home to the epic Point of Arches, a smorgasbord of tide pools and sea stacks that could make a grown man weep with joy.

And, because we know you’re wondering, yes, it’s a hike to get there, but think of the stories you’ll tell. Pack your sense of adventure (and maybe a sandwich or two) because Shi Shi Beach isn’t just a destination; it’s a bragging right.

  • Facts: Shi Shi Beach is a habitat for diverse wildlife including bears. It’s where bald eagles are the posh locals; sea otters are the adorable neighbors, and migrating whales drop by like unexpected yet totally awe-inspiring holiday guests.
  • Directions: The trailhead for Shi Shi Beach is at the end of the Makah Reservation. It’s a wild ride of unpaved roads and a stop in at the reservation to get a recreation pass through their land. Please check local guidelines for the hike at the time of your visit.
  • Distance To Tide Pools: Prepare for an 8-mile round-trip hike that is muddy and moderately difficult, but the solitude is a hardcore reward.
  • Unique Species: This secluded shore is home to sea spiders—yes, SPIDERS OF THE SEA—as well as those eerie, ancient ghost forests that rest under misty mantles.
one of the beaches in olympic national park at sunset with sea stacks and some water trails along the beach
Credit: Depositphotos

Bonus: Tongue Point At Salt Creek Recreation Park

Tongue Point at Salt Creek Recreation Park is so exclusive that even the starfish don’t want to leave.

Located on the Olympic Peninsula, the area was once a World War II military camp, because even soldiers couldn’t resist a good view.

But guess what? It’s not actually a point, nor will you find any tongues (shocking, we know).

Instead, it’s where the ocean floor puts on a show at low tide, with sea life that’s more colorful than your aunt’s holiday sweaters. Fancy meeting a sea cucumber up close and personal? This is your spot.

And the cherry on top? It’s accessible without a hike that tests your will to live.

  • Facts: Tongue Point isn’t just about tickling your science fancy with its eco-diversity; it’s also a prime spot to ogle at the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island because who doesn’t love a stunning view with a side of existential crisis about the beauty of nature?
  • Directions: Drive west from Port Angeles on US 101, then take a left on Camp Hayden Road and follow signs to Tongue Point.
  • Distance: Toe-to-water in under ten minutes.
  • Unique Species: You have a better chance of seeing larger sea creatures like octopi and wolf eels than the other tide pools we have discussed, though they are still rare to find.

Map Of The Beaches With Tide Pools In Olympic National Park

Our custom map will guide you to the hidden gems of tide pools without making you feel like you’re trying to decipher ancient hieroglyphics. It’s the perfect guide if you are making your way from Seattle like we did during our stay.

What To Look For In The Tide Pools

You might think a trip to the Pacific Beach tide pools is like visiting the zoo. It’s not. There are no snack carts, and most tadpoles will bite if provoked. What you will find, however, are these nine species (hopefully) that’ll raise your tide-pooling street cred.

  • The Elusive Octopus: The grand marlin of tide-pooling, the octopus is the best problem-solver and the most likely to be squiggly. If you see one, go buy yourself a lottery ticket right now!
  • Hermit Crabs: The introverts of the tide pools. These guys would rather borrow a shell than engage in small talk.
  • Sea Stars: Not to be confused with movie stars, although they’re just as dramatic when it comes to regeneration. Lost an arm? No problem, they’ll just grow a new one.
  • Anemones: The squishy, sticky party hosts of the underwater scene. Just don’t accept their “hug,” or you might regret it.
  • Tide Pool Sculpin: These are the chameleons of the tide pool world, mastering the art of blending in. “Where’s Waldo?” but make it aquatic.
  • Mussels: Clinging onto the rocks like their life depends on it because, well, it does. They’re the ultimate hang-on-for-dear-life enthusiasts.
  • Barnacles: The freeloaders of the sea. Why move around when you can just permanently attach yourself to a nice rock and call it home?
  • Sand Dollars: These class presidents have always got stars in their eyes and don’t accept loans in any currency but sand.
  • Sea Cucumbers: The not-so-cucumber-shaped creatures that could use a bit of a PR makeover. Seriously, who named these squishy, spiky blobs after a vegetable?
a close up of a tide pool with a red starfish in the shallow water
Credit: Depositphotos

Tide Pool Etiquette & Safety

Before you go gallivanting around the Olympic National Park tide pools, here’s the lowdown on how not to be “that person” – you know, the one who makes the sea stars file a restraining order.

Be Aware Of Tides

Forgetting to check the tides before heading out to the tide pools is akin to inviting yourself to a surprise party where the surprise is getting stranded.

High tides have a knack for turning what was a leisurely exploration into an impromptu swimming lesson. Always know your exit strategy, folks.

Look, Don’t Touch

Think of the tide pools as an underwater museum where everything is a do-not-touch exhibit. You wouldn’t stuff the Mona Lisa in your backpack, so maybe don’t pocket that starfish, yeah?

Snap pictures, make memories, leave only footprints (carefully placed in sturdy shoes), and save the “souvenir collecting” for the gift shop.

Use Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Slathering on any old sunscreen before you mingle with the tide pool critters is like bringing a kazoo to a symphony – it just doesn’t harmonize.

Ordinary sunscreens can throw a pool party for pollutants, harming aquatic life faster than you can say “UV protection.”

Opt for reef-safe sunscreen to keep the underwater bash eco-friendly. It’s like being the considerate guest who brings the “good snacks” – everyone appreciates it, especially the sea turtles.

Leave Your Dog At Home

Dragging your four-legged friend along to the tide pools might seem like a fun idea, but it’s like wearing socks with sandals – not the best choice.

Sure, they’re allowed on some of the beaches, but tide pools? That’s a whole different ballgame.

Sharp rocks and delicate ecosystems aren’t paw-friendly, nor are they doggie playgrounds. Leave the pups at home, where the biggest risk they’ll face is not getting enough belly rubs.

tide pools at shi shi beach on a sunny day with sea stacks in the back
Credit: Depositphotos

What Is The Best Time Of Day To See The Tide Pools

Timing is everything, like trying to snag the last slice of pizza at a family gathering. You don’t want to rock up to the shore when the sea decides to crash the beach party.

That’s where the almighty tide chart comes in – think of it as your golden ticket.

Peeking at the Olympic National Park tide chart is akin to consulting the stars to plot your seaside escapade. This chart tells you when the ocean will graciously step aside, revealing its hidden, splashy treasures.

Remember, friends, battling against high tide for a glimpse of sea life is as promising as a chocolate teapot. Low tide is your friend, the hero of your aquatic adventure.

What You Should Bring To The Tide Pools In Olympic National Park

Here are the essential items that’ll round off your tide pool day with a healthy dose of preparedness. And don’t forget to dress in layers; Pacific Northwest weather is as changeable as a fad diet.

  • Waterproof Hiking Boots: You’re not Moses, and the sea won’t part for your sneakers. Get some hiking boots that laugh in the face of water.
  • Snacks & Water: The snack-less and the dehydrated face the ultimate tide pool challenge—sea creatures will be more hydrated than you. Carry a reusable water bottle to help the environment.
  • Sun Protection: The best defense against unwanted solar love, sun protection could be the difference between glow and growl. Just remember what we said about picking a reef-safe one up above.
  • Camera: Because if you don’t post it on social media, did you even go? Plus, capturing the face of a starfish is priceless. Or, if you always use your phone for photos, grab a waterproof sleeve to protect it.
  • Binoculars: For when you want to spy on the shyer residents from a respectful distance. Think of it as nature’s reality TV.

Are Any Of The Tide Pools Accessible For Those With Mobility Issues

The sad tide truth is that, due to the rugged landscape, all the tide pools are pretty inaccessible. Imagine navigating what feels like an obstacle course designed by nature herself. It’s not just a walk in the park; it’s a climb, a scramble, and a bit of a high-stakes balancing act over driftwood at most of the beaches.

And while Rialto Beach itself is accessible, the tide pools are a 3.3-mile round trip that demands a bit of moving around on sharp rocks and leaping over driftwood Indiana Jones style. Not exactly wheelchair-friendly, we’re afraid.

shallow tide pools sit among large rocks along the pacific coast in olympic national park
Credit: Depositphotos

FAQS For Tidepooling In Olympic National Park

Grab your magnifying glasses and detective hats—it’s time to play “Fact or Fiction” with the most burning questions about tide pooling you definitely Googled but were too embarrassed to ask out loud.

What Is The Best Beach In Olympic National Park For Tidepools?

Kalaloch Beach 4 takes the crown, hands down. It’s the promised land of tide pools, where starfish and sea anemones reign supreme. Think of it as nature’s own underwater metropolis, except you’re less likely to need a subway map and more likely to just need good balance and waterproof hiking boots.

Where Are the Tide Pools At Rialto Beach?

To find the elusive tide pools at Rialto Beach, head towards the Hole-in-the-Wall during low tide; it’s sort of like looking for the entrance to a secret society, except the secret password is “don’t get your feet wet.” Trust us; you’ll know you’re in the right spot when you start seeing sea stars giving you the side-eye.

Can You Touch Things In Tide Pools?

Tide pools are like living museums where touching the art gets you more than dirty looks – it can harm the exhibits. Yes, those sea critters might look touchable, but it’s best to resist the urge. Think of your hands as looky-loos only unless you fancy explaining to a hermit crab why you evicted it from its home.

Where Is The Best Place To See Tidepools In Washington State?

If you’re on a quest for the best tidepools in Washington State, prepare your drumroll because Rialto Beach is the champion. It’s not just a beach; it’s a full-on natural aquarium without the admission fee. If you are looking outside the park, try Deception Pass State Park or Damon Point.

What Animals Are In The Tide Pools?

Tide pools are wacky neighborhoods where starfish are the divas stretching on the rocks; anemones are the sticky-fingered kids you were warned about; crabs are the grumpy old men yelling at you to get off their lawn and the occasionally sulky octopus that only ever peeks out the window. It’s a soap opera down there, and every critter plays its part to perfection.

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