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How To Find Sand Dollars In The Water

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it does grow in the sand…sort of.

Sand dollars are the currency of the sea. Many people see them after they’ve met their fate and ended up bleached and in the gift shop bins of every beach resort in the world. But what’s really interesting about sand dollars is finding it in its natural habitat – the ocean floor.

Fortunately for Edisto Beach vacationers, finding a sand dollar the natural way is easy.

The best time to find the sand dollars is during low tide and in the morning. Granted, it isn’t always easy to get the lunar schedule to line up with the needs of vacationers, but it is doable. Low tides that occur in the afternoon can make it harder to find sand dollars as the wind generally picks up and the choppiness of the waves makes it hard to stay in one place in the water. As for finding a sand dollar in high tide, forget it. The current is too strong and it is impossible to get out deep enough without risking your personal safety. Check out a tide chart from Edisto’s Piggly Wiggly for free so you can be sure to hit the water when it’s nice and low and sand dollar friendly.

Checking for sand dollars requires a bit of bravery as your feet must touch the surface of the ocean floor. Many people find that to be somewhat scary because of the crabs and other sea creatures that lurk beneath the surface, but it’s worth it.

An adult can go out about waist or chest deep and slowly feel the ocean floor by his or her feet. The sand will feel either grainy or smooth and anything sharp is most likely a shell, but on the off chance that it is a crab, pull your foot up and continue on in a new location.

If your foot comes across something that feels like the top of a helmet, use your toes to pinch it on the edge and bring it up to the surface. It’s also possible to swim to the ocean floor to find it, but with almost no visibility it’s significantly more difficult than using the toes-as-a-pincher method. Once you bring your find to the surface, you’ll see that it is mostly likely a sand dollar, but could be an ordinary shell.

Sand dollars are living organisms and in their natural state they are not the pristine gift shop versions of themselves. They are a dark grayish-green color and they move ever so slightly via the spines covering the bottom of their bodies. Often times, miniature crabs no bigger than a fingernail can be seen on the body.


4 Responses to “How To Find Sand Dollars In The Water”

  1. Dana says:

    They are LIVING organisms – instead of digging them up – why not let them live? Finding the “dying/dead” ones is one thing but taking them from there home and killing them – I’m SO disappointed in Edisto – posting this article.

  2. Conner says:

    Dana you like fresh seafood? Perhaps fishing? Hunting? Well its a organism that is in abundant species and I do this every year and I catch at least one to keep and many more to look at

  3. Tim says:

    Taught my kids and wife (Jersey Girl) how to do this a few years ago and they think its the coolest thing ever. Growing up on SC beaches teaches you how lucky we are to have such great resources.

  4. Rush says:

    Dana, I do not see anywhere where it said “take them home with you”, I dig them up all the time but always put them back so they can live.

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