Large rock benches, made of intensely folded sedimentary layers, jut out into the sea forming deep pools filled with colorful medleys of marine life. Easy access to these excellent tidepools make the trip well worth the long drive to San Pedro.
At the turn of the century, this secluded cove was settled by immigrant fishermen who were attracted by the vast beds of abalone off the peninsula. Once the abalone were depleted, the discovery of a geothermal sulfur hot springs brought the development of an ocean-side health spa and resort to the area.
An earthquake in the 1930s all but closed off the springs, causing the resort's demise. The buildings eventually succumbed to the forces of nature and all that remains today are crumbling cement foundations and the ruins of the once lush sea-side garden patios and palm groves.
Distance and level of difficulty: This family outing to the tidepools at White Point is an easy one. The tidepools extend about a mile south of White Point to Point Fermin Park. Paid parking is available adjacent to the tidepools or park for free at the top of the cliff along Paseo Del Mar and walk down to the ocean.
Directions: Take the Harbor Freeway (110) south to San Pedro and exit at Gaffey Street. Take Gaffey Street south to where it deadends at Point Fermin Park and turn right onto Paseo Del Mar. A left turn on Kay Fiorentino Drive brings you down to the beach. You must pay the $5 parking fee to drive on this road.
What you'll need: In order to observe life in the tidepools you will need a low tide of 1.0 or below. Be sure to wear surf-sox or old sneakers for the rocky tidepools. Bring sunscreen, a hat or visor and one quart of water per hiker. There are primitive facilities located near the lifeguard tower at White Point and a large picnic area at Point Fermin Park. Dogs are not allowed at the beach.
Step by step:
1. Park near the lifeguard tower and head north to explore the palm-lined patio of the old Royal Palms resort. This is now Royal Palms State Beach and is a popular surf spot. After exploring the once lush garden area, head back to the guard tower. For those looking for a secluded walk; at low tide it is possible to follow a rough trail that continues from the end of the old patio north around the point toward the steep, rocky cliffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
2. The best tidepools begin at the large rock benches opposite the guard tower and work their way south around White Point. As you head south, the cement foundations of the old resort extend into the cobble tidepools. Close to shore you will smell something like rotten eggs and notice white "hair" growing on the tidepool life as a result of the underground sulfur springs. Continuing south around the point there are two paved coastal accessways that lead up to Point Fermin Park along Paseo Del Mar. At the south end of the park, a rough foot path scrambles up the steep bluff near the lighthouse.
What you'll see: Explore the tidepools around White Point long enough and you will probably see just about every kind of tidepool creature there is to see in Southern California. If you can't coordinate your visit with low tide, you can stop at the nearby Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen White Drive, San Pedro. The museum offers many exhibits and a tidepool "touch-tank" as well as conducting naturalist-led tidepool walks along the south side of Point Fermin. Be sure to check out the large sea-life mural located near these tidepools. For more information call the aquarium (310) 548-7562.