Explanation of Tidepool Rules

Tidepool Rules


Tidepool Rules and Regulations

Zone 3 Closure

Zone 3 Sign
At the closed boundary is a sign and “Bots Dots”

TPERP Volunteers help protect Zone 3, by advising park visitors of the closure and directing visitors to the open areas in Zones 1 and 2. Volunteers explain to visitors why Zone 3 is closed. It’s for restoration and it serves as a research control area.

Bot Dots in Zone 3
“Bot Dots”, or orange reflectors extend from the closure sign to the west, marking the closed boundary as far as possible into the lower intertidal. Visitors are not allowed past the sign, or the bot dots.

Sea Cave Closure

Two people stand at a dangerous edge of a sinkhole along sandstone cliffs at the ocean's edge.TPERP Volunteers advise that the Cabrillo Sea Cave is located within a closed area of the park. Due to extremely dangerous conditions and in compliance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Federal Law prohibits entry at any time.

The cave was created by sudden and catastrophic sandstone erosion and rock falls.

No taking of animals, shells or any natural resource

The removal of any animal, shell, or natural resource from the rocky intertidal area is against Federal law. This law will be enforced. Volunteers can advise visitors of this law and explain why it’s important for the health of the tidepools.

No buckets in tidepools

While bringing a bucket to the tidepools is not against the law, it is against park policy. Volunteers can ask visitors to leave buckets in their car, or turn them upside down on the beach, so staff can ensure animals, or shells are not being kept in the buckets.Hermit Crab


No Drones

Launching, landing or operating an unmanned aircraft, or remote vehicle is prohibited from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service.White rectangular sign with red border. A drawing of a Drone is covered with a red circle and a slash. Below are the words "No Drone Zone"

No injuring or harassing wildlife, or destruction of natural resources

Many tidepool animals can be safely touched as long as it is done with great care and respect.

No organism attached to a surface should be removed by force, however slight. Many animals, such as limpets, chitons, barnacles, mussels, sea stars, and urchins are attached directly to rocks (permanently or temporarily) and using force to remove them would be harmful to them.

Owl limpet
Owl limpets firmly attach themselves to the rocky substrate. Prying up an owl limpet off the rock, would injure, or quite possibly kill the animal. This is against the law.

Two people walk along a rocky beach. A baby seal is in shallow water in the foreground.

Animals that are actively swimming, moving away from people, hiding under rocks, or that resist being handled, should not be pursued or picked up.

Nothing, especially rocks, should be thrown in any area of the park. Rocks can do great damage when they land in the water, and continue to do damage as they are tossed by wave action.

A girl turns over a rock on a beach.

Rocks should not be moved and should be left in their original location and orientation. Organisms living under the rocks have adapted to a certain environment, and rock-turning can harm them.

Carvings on a rock.
Carving initials into the sandstone is destruction of a natural resource.


Groups of 10 or more require a permit during low tides of .7 or lower.


Dog on leash

Legitimate service animals are welcome.

Pets are only allowed on the Coastal Trail adjacent to the rocky intertidal area in the park. Pets are not allowed in the tidepool area, surrounding vegetation, or any other part of the park, they must remain on the Coastal Trail.

On the Spur Trail, pets are allowed to the bottom of the steps, but are not allowed on the lower level where tidepools exist.

They must be on a 6-foot leash and owners must pick up after their pets.  Remember Cabrillo is a “Pack It In, Pack It Out” park.

Pets must not be left unattended in vehicles in any part of the park.

No swimming or surfing

No swimming

Recreational water-related activities such as swimming, wading, boating, kayaking, snorkeling, SUBA, jet skiing, and surfing are not allowed within 300 feet of shore in any part of the park.

Surfers must arrive and depart by boat only; they are not to enter the water from the park.  Enforcement of this regulation is difficult but the park will enforce the no entry rule.

No smoking

No smoking

Cabrillo National Monument is a smoke-free park.  Smoking, including e-cigarettes, is not permitted in buildings or any part of park grounds, which includes tidepools, trails, and parking lots.

No camping is allowed in the park.  Camp fires are not permitted and no source of open flame is allowed. No campfires

No Fishing

FishingThe Marine Mammal Act went into effect January 1, 1972. Major revisions and additions to Southern California MPAs went into effect in state waters in January 2012. Fishing of any type is now banned in the park. Volunteers should contact Law Enforcement rangers if they see someone fishing.

No bikes on trails

Traditional bikes or low-speed e-bikes are not allowed on the trails.  Bikes are allowed on roads only and must be walked in other areas or left in the paved areas of the park.

No bikes on trails

Tidepools close at 4:30pm


The tidepools close at 4:30pm. This is to ensure everyone makes it out of the rocky intertidal area of the park by the overall closing time of 5:00pm. It’s time to start asking people to return to their cars at 4:30pm, but it’s a loose closure time. This can be difficult when visitors want to stay for sunset. Volunteers can recommend visitors stop at the cemetery, or head to Sunset Cliffs for a sunset view. Again, this is a window closure time, so visitors need to start heading to the parking lot at 4:30, but should not be cleared out of the tidepools before that time.

Periodically the park will extend it’s closing time so make sure you are aware of any changes before your shift.

Last revised 18-Feb-21