• Post published:July 2, 2023
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Last Updated on September 28, 2023

Sand dollars are fascinating marine invertebrates found in shallow, sandy areas of the ocean.

Beachcombers often search for these white, star-shaped skeletons as treasured finds.

Find sand dollars beachcombing by following these tips: go during low tide, look for clear, shallow water and sandy bottoms, and be gentle with the creatures.

Sand dollars at the beach
Sand dollars found at the beach

The Life of a Sand Dollar

What are Sand Dollars?

Sand dollars are species of echinoderms that belong to the same family as sea urchins and starfish.

They have a unique round, flat, and rigid body covered in fine spines.

When they are alive, sand dollars have a fuzzy appearance due to the presence of small, hair-like cilia that cover their body.

Habitat and Behavior

Sand dollars inhabit shallow coastal waters, typically in tropical and subtropical regions.

They are often found in sandy areas where they burrow beneath the sediment.

These creatures are filter feeders, extracting food particles from the water with their specialized tube feet.

Their primary diet consists of microscopic algae, plankton, and other organic matter.

Tips for Finding Sand Dollars

1. Timing is Everything

Plan your beachcombing adventure during low tide, as this will expose more of the sandy areas where sand dollars are likely to be found.

Additionally, after a storm, the chances of finding sand dollars increase as the rough waves may wash them up onto the shore.

2. Choose the Right Location

Look for beaches with clear, shallow water and sandy bottoms.

These areas provide an ideal habitat for sand dollars.

Pay attention to areas with wave action, as the constant movement helps prevent sand dollars from becoming buried.

3. Recognize Sand Dollar Skeletons

Sand dollars have distinct white, star-shaped skeletons.

Once you understand their appearance, spotting them becomes easier.

Keep an eye out for the telltale shapes and sizes of sand dollars on the sand.

4. Be Gentle and Respectful

Handle sand dollars with care. They are delicate creatures, and it’s crucial to avoid stepping on them or applying excessive pressure.

If you pick up a sand dollar, gently return it to the water or place it back on the sand after observing or photographing it.

5. Utilize Tools for Sand Dollar Hunting

Carry a small shovel, trowel, or sand rake to help uncover sand dollars buried in the sand.

These tools can be useful for gently sifting the sand and locating hidden treasures.

6. Observe Tide Pools

Tide pools are shallow depressions left by receding tides, creating a habitat where sand dollars can be found.

Explore these areas carefully, as they may contain a variety of marine life, including sand dollars.

Beachcombing for sand dollars
Beachcombing for sand dollars

Where to Find Sand Dollars in the US

1. South Florida

South Florida, including the Florida Keys and Miami, is known for its sandy beaches and abundant marine life.

These areas provide excellent opportunities to find sand dollars, especially in shallow, clear waters.

2. North Carolina’s Outer Banks

The Outer Banks of North Carolina offer pristine beaches and a rich variety of seashells and marine creatures.

After storms, sand dollars are often washed up onto the shore, making it an ideal time to search for them.

3. California

California’s coastline is renowned for its stunning beaches and diverse marine ecosystems.

In Southern California, locations such as La Jolla and San Diego are popular for sand dollar hunting.

Visit during low tide to explore the exposed sandbars and find these beautiful echinoderms.

4. Texas Gulf Coast

The Gulf Coast beaches of Texas, including Corpus Christi and Galveston, offer ample opportunities to find sand dollars.

The warm waters and sandy shores attract a wide range of marine life, including sand dollars.

5. Hawaiian Islands

The beautiful beaches of Hawaii, such as Oahu and Maui, are home to an array of marine treasures, including sand dollars.

Explore the sandy areas during low tide, and you may discover these captivating echinoderms.

Sand Dollar at the beach
Sand Dollar at the beach

Beachcombing Etiquette and Conservation

1. Leave No Trace

When beachcombing for sand dollars or any other seashells, always remember to leave the beach as you found it.

Avoid damaging the environment and other marine life by taking only photographs and memories.

2. Observe Local Regulations

Before collecting sand dollars, familiarize yourself with local regulations and guidelines.

Some areas have specific rules regarding the collection of marine life, including sand dollars.

Respect these regulations to ensure the protection of these delicate creatures and their habitats.

3. Appreciate and Learn

Take the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of sand dollars in their natural habitat.

Observe their behavior and understand their ecological importance.

By learning more about these fascinating creatures, you can develop a deeper appreciation for the marine environment.


Beachcombing for sand dollars can be an exciting and rewarding experience.

Armed with the right knowledge and techniques, you can enhance your chances of finding these intriguing marine invertebrates.

Remember to tread lightly, respect the environment, and leave the beach as you found it.

With a little patience and a sense of adventure, you can uncover these mesmerizing treasures while enjoying the beauty of the coast.

Read also: How to Find Gold in Desert Dry Washes

Beachcombing for Sand Dollars FAQs

What are sand dollars?

Sand dollars are marine invertebrates with a round, flat body covered in spines. They belong to the same family as sea urchins and starfish.

These fascinating creatures play an important role in marine ecosystems and are often sought after for their intricate skeletal remains.

Are sand dollars alive?

Yes, sand dollars are living creatures. They are a type of sea urchin that has a flattened body and a star-shaped pattern on their topside. Live sand dollars are covered in a velvety layer of spines that help them move and burrow in the sand.

If you find a sand dollar on the beach, it can be difficult to tell if it is alive or dead.

A live sand dollar will have a dark color and will be covered in a velvety layer of spines. If the sand dollar is white or tan, it is probably dead.

Where can I find sand dollars?

Sand dollars are found in shallow coastal waters, mainly in tropical and subtropical regions.

They can be found on sandy beaches in Florida, California, Texas, and Hawaii.

Look for areas with clear water and sandy bottoms, as these are ideal habitats for sand dollars to thrive.

How do I find sand dollars?

The best time to find sand dollars is during low tide when sandy areas are exposed.

Look for their distinctive white, star-shaped skeletons and use a small shovel or trowel to uncover buried ones.

Patience and careful observation are key when searching for sand dollars, as they may blend in with the surrounding sand.

How do I handle sand dollars?

Handle sand dollars with care. Avoid applying excessive pressure or stepping on them.

If picked up, gently return them to the water or place them back on the sand.

Remember that sand dollars are delicate creatures, and by handling them responsibly, you contribute to their preservation and the ecosystem they inhabit.

Is it legal to collect sand dollars?

The legality of collecting sand dollars varies by state.

Check the regulations in your area as some states prohibit collection or have restrictions on size and quantity.

Respecting local laws and regulations helps preserve the natural balance of coastal ecosystems and ensures the sustainability of sand dollar populations for future generations.

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