Uni Foraging in the Bay Area

Location: Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay (reference Outdoor Chef YouTube link); be careful not to forage in the Marine Protected Area referenced at the end of this page

Process & Best Practices:

  1. Check NOAA Tides and Current predictions (link) for negative tide (low tide when water level is < 0 ft). Intuitively, you are searching for sea urchins which reside in tide pools. When the water recedes, you have access to more/deeper tidepools where sea urchins can grow bigger!
  2. Purchase a fishing license (link), one-day or annual
    1. "2020 - Sport Fishing 1-Day License (Res/Nonres)” for $16 was the one I got for 1-day license, I think an annual one is ~$50. Licenses are per-person and come with a ~35 sea urchin per use limit. I plan to go again so regret not getting the annual license right off the bat.
  3. Pack your tools:
    1. (BEFORE SUNRISE/AFTER SUNSET): Strongly suggest minimum one bright flashlight per person
    2. Pliers, scissors, or something sharp are acceptable to pluck urchins out of tidepools
    3. Gloves are necessary to handle the sharp spikes on each urchin
    4. Warm clothes or a change of dry clothes as you might be wading ankle or knee deep in the Pacific
    5. A cooler, bucket, or basin to hold your urchins
    6. Shoes you’re willing to get wet or destroy (I waded in AllBirds which was fine but many had rubber shoes (e.g. rain boots); most important is good traction. Strongly suggest surf shoes

Arrive early as it takes ~15 minutes to walk from the parking lot to shore, you want to maximize the time you are in tidepools harvesting. (BEFORE SUNRISE/AFTER SUNSET): Parking lot is closed and you will get ticketed for parking on the road directly outside the lot. BEFORE you enter the road toward the parking lot, you can park near some industrial warehouses & lots. Be wary, many fences will also have “NO PARKING” signs.


Cut open the bottom section of the urchin

Empty out the black/brown gunk/sand inside, and rinse out fully with saltwater (we rinsed at home with freshwater and it definitely diluted the taste of the golden uni). You can rinse vigorously as the uni is connected to the inside walls of the urchin

Harvest the soft golden portion inside the uni (small spoon worked best)

Place uni in fine strainer to wet & gently shake off any excess gunk off after removal


We were able to collect 50 sea urchins of small to medium size and made ~22 mini-uni nigiri. In total, it took 1 hour of foraging, 2 hours of shucking, and the 2 hour commute to Half Moon Bay. We will almost certainly go again but the next few negative tides between now and September are all ~4AM. See you all there in October when it gets to ~6PM :)


Wading in the ocean with AllBirds: 3/10

Cutting my shin on mussels while wearing shorts: 1/10

Wasting my biggest urchin before figuring out we had to rinse the gunk out: -10/10

Making and finally eating uni nigiri: 5000/10

Overall experience: 10/10 would recommend


Do not cross into the Marine Protected Area, bounded by the cliff above