California King Tides are coming to the shores of Santa Cruz County this winter! These naturally occurring and predictable events are when the highest and lowest tides hit our shores and create an even more dramatic coastline. At high tide, the powerful waves often crash against seawalls and extend beyond their usual natural borders. The extreme low tides, expose tide pools rarely seen and allow miles of beach walking and extended exploration. The upcoming official King Tide dates are January 11 and 12, 2024, and February 9, 2024, however, there are even more dates with these extreme tides! Extreme low tides (and high tides) will be present on the days leading up to and after the dates listed above.
Take a peek below for more information on timing your visit (yes, timing matters), where to go and what to look for, and for responsible tide pooling information.
And for those from out of the area, California King Tides is the perfect time to plan a winter getaway in Santa Cruz County! Book your stay and don’t miss this extraordinary time of year on the coast!
As we mentioned, timing matters! The best thing to do is consult a tide chart where you are able to see the exact times of the highest and lowest tides. At least an hour before and after the listed low and high tides yield extreme tides worthy of exploration! And another Insider’s Tip: as mentioned above, the day(s) before and day(s) after the official King Tides dates often still present extreme tides as well.
WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO LOOK FOR
TIDE POOL AT LOW TIDE
Tide pooling is at its best during King Tides. The exceptionally low tides reveal an underwater world of creatures and habitats well worth the find. From the usual sightings like crabs, hermit crabs, mussels, anemones, sea snails, and starfish (the leather starfish have been a particularly popular find last year!) to the more rare discoveries like urchins, sea cucumbers, nudibranch (look it up if you’ve never seen one), and octopus, the low tides are a fascinating peek into the Monterey Bay. But please remember to watch your step and leave the creatures alone. We want to protect and preserve this beautiful coastline and the wildlife and ecosystems that call it home.
And don’t forget to reference that tide chart and pick one of our suggested beaches on our Tide Pooling Guide. Natural Bridges State Beach is a wonderful choice as there are guided tours available throughout the year as well
TAKE A WALK ON THE BEACH – A LONG ONE
During the lowest tides, you are able to cover a lot more ground on your beach walk! Many spots that are usually un-walkable become walkable as beach sand is revealed to guide your steps. A few of our favorite long stretches are from Aptos to Capitola, the collection of Live Oak Beaches, and Watsonville beaches to Aptos. And for the little explorers, try the shorter low tide walk from New Brighton State Beach to Capitola Beach.
WATCH THE HIGH SURF FROM THE COAST
If you’d rather post up on the coast and watch the impressive high tides, places like West Cliff, Pleasure Point, and Davenport will be excellent spots to view the high surf. But be sure to watch from a safe distance since the waves can reach new levels, and when coupled with a typical winter swell of larger waves, can be dangerous if too close. Remember to never turn your back on the ocean!
PROTECT AND PRESERVE THE WILDLIFE AND ECOSYSTEM: BEST TIDE POOLING PRACTICES
Please remember to watch where you step and tread lightly on this delicate and beautiful ecosystem. Please leave creatures alone and only take photos of your King Tide experiences. Help us protect and preserve this beautiful coast so everyone can enjoy for years to come!
CALIFORNIA KING TIDES PROJECT
The California King Tides Project helps us visualize future sea level by observing the highest tides of today. You can help by taking and sharing photos of the shoreline during King Tides to create a record of changes to our coast and estuaries.
Updated Fall 2023