Examine starfish feet and sea urchin spines at Discovery Tidepool, our touch-tank home to colorful denizens of the California coast.

Submerged by ocean currents during high tides and exposed to sun and wind when the water is low, only the hardiest sea creatures can survive and thrive in the tide pools of the intertidal zone. At the Discovery Tidepool, get up close and personal with the animals that live in this constantly in-flux environment, including brilliantly colored starfish and prickly purple sea urchins.

Ask our knowledgeable docents and biologists about any of the touch-tank invertebrates, use magnifying cameras for even closer investigation, and play an interactive game that tests your species identification skills.

Children touching a starfish in the Discovery Tidepool touch tank.

Discovery Tidepool Residents

Sea urchins, starfish, and abalone shells abound in the main, see-through touch tank. A collection of smaller tanks house a rotation of surprise guests, from newly hatched swell sharks to Pacific mole crabs that filter-feed by waving long, feather-like antennae through the water.

Closeup of a prickly purple sea urchin from the Discovery Tidepool.

Life in the Intertidal

Tide pool inhabitants are adapted to survive the harsh conditions of their homes. With protective features such as spines, thick skin, shells, and sticky feet, they avoid drying out in the sun, becoming prey to seagulls, and being washed away by pounding waves.

A visitor gently touches a large starfish in the Discovery Tidepool touch tank.

Tidepool 101

Are visitors allowed to pick up the animals? Why is the water so cold? The answers to these and other frequently asked questions can be found via the link below.

Bright orange fish swim through the California Coast exhibit.

California Coast

Discovery Tidepool is part of our larger California Coast exhibit. From kelp forests dotted with leopard sharks to rocky reefs blanketed in pink anemones, experience local marine biodiversity the way only scuba divers can: up close and personal.

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Steinhart Webcams

Steinhart Webcams

Be mesmerized by the brilliant colors of tropical fish, the grace of sharks and rays, and the busy waddling of African penguins. Our webcams stream 24 hours a day.  

Philippine Coral Reef exhibit

Discovery Tidepool Location

Discovery Tidepool Location

Find us at toward the rear of the California Coast exhibit, right next to Animal Attraction