Top Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in Monterey County

Ready to check out the best sites in Monterey County for scuba diving, snorkeling, shore diving, free diving or other ocean activities? Zentacle has 23 dive sites, snorkel spots, beaches, and more. Discover hand-curated maps, along with reviews and photos from nature lovers like you. No matter what you're looking for, you can find a diverse range of the best ocean activities in Monterey County to suit your needs.
Monterey County dive site map
Monastery Beach South

#1 - Monastery Beach South

California North, USA West

advanced
(18)
The most picturesque dive site in the Carmel area, Monastery Beach offers spectacular diving in the rocky, kelp-packed coastline. Do not attempt this dive unless you are advanced, and are comfortable in heavy surf. Head South on Highway 1 out of Carmel. Park at the Southern end of the first roadside beach.
McAbee Beach

#2 - McAbee Beach

California North, USA West

Unrated
(12)
McAbee Beach can be used by beginners and experts, alike. The easy entry leads to a large kelp bed just a minute off shore. Several old pipelines create an artificial reef, making this a complete site for marine viewers! In Monterey, heading West on Del Monte, bear right onto Lighthouse Ave, then bear right onto Foam St. Make a right onto Hoffman Ave. At the intersection of Cannery Row, you'll see the trail head.
Breakwater Cove

#3 - Breakwater Cove

California North, USA West

Unrated
(43)
Breakwater Cove is another popular dive site. Parking can be limited, so get there early. This is a wonderful place to get a glimpse of sea lions, octopus, and other marine creatures. The best diving is on the outer side of breakwater. Beware of kelp and boats! In Monterey, heading West on Del Monte, bear right onto Lighthouse Ave, then bear right onto Foam St. Make a right onto Cannery Row.
Whalers Cove (Point Lobos)

#4 - Whalers Cove (Point Lobos)

California North, USA West

beginner
(14)
Located in Point Lobos State Reserve, Whalers Cove is the most coveted dive location is this area. The highly restricted access of the Park creates an environment teaming with marine life. You must make reservations well in advance to enter, and must register with the gate before diving in. A complete set of rules and regulations, diving locations, and a reservation form may be found <a target="_new" href="http://pt-lobos.parks.state.ca.us/scuba/divereserv.html">here</a>. Drive South on Highway 1 from Carmel, past Monastery beach. You will see the entrance on your right.
Point Pinos (Sewer Plant Beach)

#5 - Point Pinos (Sewer Plant Beach)

California North, USA West

advanced
(2)
This site is as close to Gorilla diving as you get in Monterey. Rocky entry, ocean currents, kelp beds, surf and breakers are your obstacles. Do not dive unless you have ideal conditions. Double check your dive plan with a local dive shop or guide. Once you've navigated the gauntlet, you'll be rewarded with nudibranches, starfish, anemones, and a variety of fish life. In Monterey, heading West on Del Monte, bear right onto Lighthouse Ave, then bear right onto Foam St. Make a right onto David Ave, then a left onto Ocean View Blvd. Continue past Lover's Point Park, and about 1 mile beyond, past Asilomar Blvd, you'll see the water treatment plant on your left and the beach on your right.
Coral Street Beach

#6 - Coral Street Beach

California North, USA West

beginner
(13)
Coral Street can be a technical dive if the conditions aren't just right. The kelp growth in August and September can be daunting, and the currents can catch you by surprise. Plan this dive with a dive shop, and take a buddy with you who has been here before. Do take your camera, as the macro life is spectacular! Entry can be tricky at low tide, with exposed shallow rocks and abundance of kelp and sea grasses. Once in deeper water you will find a large kelp forest fringing sand channels and walls and pinnacles. Look for remnants of John Denver's airplane. In Monterey, heading West on Del Monte, bear right onto Lighthouse Ave, then bear right onto Foam St. Make a right onto David Ave, then a left onto Ocean View Blvd. Continue past Lover's Point Park, and about 1/2 mile beyond, you'll find the Ocean View and Coral Street intersection.
Monastery Beach North

#7 - Monastery Beach North

California North, USA West

advanced
(39)
This is an easy-access site toward the Southern end of Carmel River State Beach. Come here when the main beach, just to the South, is packed. Because this shoreline is wide open to the Pacific swells, you should consider yourself an advanced diver before negotiating the entry. Head South on Highway 1 out of Carmel. Just as you start to see the first roadside beach, you're there!
Cannery Park

#8 - Cannery Park

California North, USA West

Unrated
(9)
Cannery Park (also called San Carlos Beach) is just West of the Breakwater dive site. This is a nice place for a second dive, and to get away from the crowd at Breakwater. The dive area is mainly sandy, so expect to see the occasional Halibut. In Monterey, heading West on Del Monte, bear right onto Lighthouse Ave, then bear right onto Foam St. Make a right onto Cannery Row.
Breakwater

#9 - Breakwater

USA, California, Monterrey

beginner
(1)
In many areas the rock blocks are covered with a lush carpet of strawberry anemones, which make interesting subjects for macro photography. Numerous fish eating anemones with their bright red bases, as well as the large green anemones are common near the end of the breakwater, along with some mighty big sea stars. One of the most beautiful creatures found here are the nudibranchs. Members of the dorid family are very common and can be seen grazing on sponges. This group of nudibranchs includes the bright yellow lemon nudibranch, the white-and-black ringed dorid, and the orange-spots-on-white clown nudibranch. The generally more colorful and ostentatious group, the aeolids, are also quite common here including the thick-horned aeolid. One of the biggest attractions that the Breakwater has to offer is its large colony of California sea lions. The last half of the breakwater is not accessible to people and is a favorite haul-out of these large and noisy mammals. Their barking can be heard for some distance both above and below the water. Divers can get a close up look of the herd as the sea lions sun themselves and an even closer look underwater. While normally shy when on land, the sea lions are at home in the water and lose much of their fear of people. The sea lions will normally dive down and investigate divers. They sometimes charge a diver at full speed, only to veer off at the moment before contact. They also seem to have great fun barking underwater, leaving a belch of bubbles in their wake. At the base of the breakwater stretches a sand bottom. The sand is dotted with sea pens and white, orange and purple tube-dwelling anemones as well as aggregating anemones. Living among the tube-dwelling anemones can be found the largest California nudibranch—the rainbow nudibranch. These dendronotids are excellent swimmers and feed on, and lay eggs, on the tube-dwelling anemones. Keep a keen eye for octopuses among the anemones as well. These are most easily found at night, but may be found during daylight by looking under drifting kelp fronds. No matter if the seas are big or flat, you can almost always have a fun dive at the Breakwater. Dive along the outside of the Coast Guard pier in Monterey. Breakwater is also known as Coast Guard Pier.
Monterey State Beach

#10 - Monterey State Beach

California North, USA West

Unrated
(12)
Monterey State Beach (also called Del Monte, named after the adjacent road) is a perfect place for new divers. Restrooms, showers, and picnic areas make this a great place to spend the day. You may want to dive this site on a weekday, or arrive very early on a weekend. The parking can be almost impossible otherwise. Be prepared to spot octopus and flounder! From Highway 1 in Monterey, take the Camino Aguajito exit North. You'll see the Park at the intersection of Del Monte Ave.
Moby Ling Cove

#11 - Moby Ling Cove

California North, USA West

Unrated
(3)
Getting its name from an old story of a diver's once in a lifetime encounter with a grey whale this is an out of the way dive site that should only be visited during excellent conditions. On those days when it is not too stormy you can find dives that are untouched in comparison to the more popular Monterey and Carmel dives. From Carmel, or Monterey take the 1 south to Garrapata State Beach. Once in the park look for a grove of cypress trees on your left. Parking is under these trees.
Jade Cove

#12 - Jade Cove

California Mid, USA West

intermediate
(17)
Jade Cove is an Adventure in all respects! Plan on making this a full day trek, if not spending the night in the area. After making an incredibly beautiful drive up (or down) the coast, be prepared for a mild version of Gorilla diving. The reward? A souvenir piece of jade to take home to display with your other diving trophies. There are regulations to be aware of. A good starting place for web research is <a target="_new" href="http://www.mbnms.nos.noaa.gov/Intro/press_releases/980708.html">here</a>. Getting in at times is accomplished by going under the thick bull kelp that's near shore and has a thick canopy. It's shallow and is affected by heavy surge. In August there is a thick krill layer near the bottom (5ft thick) that decreased the viz to 2-5ft. Beautiful reef, fishes, and if you look carefully you will find pieces of jade. A rememberence from Daniel S. McDermed: In 1966 my Dad's hobby was scuba diving, and my grandparents' hobby was making jewlery. In the murky water of Jade Cove, Dad's exploration of a small underwater cave produced a large piece of jade that weighed 17 pounds. I remember a young man offered my Dad 35 dollars a pound for it while my Dad stood there in those chilly waters. Dad said "Thanks but this man has some real plans for this chunk." Much more than the money offered was gained from the retained stone. Found 70 miles South of Monterey and 70 miles North of San Luis Obispo, between Gorda and Pacific Valley, on Highway 1. The trail head leading to Jade Cove (Main, Central Jade Cove) is .4 miles south of Plaskett Creek Campground entrance on Cabrillo Highway 1. Free parking on the west side of hwy 1. Walk the straight dirt path to the narrowing switch back trail. There is a spring halfway down with water on the path, the very last leg has an anchored rope line for balance! Cross over some large boulders at the bottom to the cove.
Monastery Beach

#13 - Monastery Beach

USA, California, Monterrey

intermediate
(0)
Dive site is really two different locations, North beach, which is the wall dive and you can easily hit 130+ ft. Great for photography. No spearfishing is allowed. This is an Advanced dive site with dangerous surf entry and exits. Do not dive if waves are breaking. South Beach, best place for divers new to area. Safest entry/exit when any surf is present. Kelp bed diving. Recommend you start here. It is common to dog walk out during exits as beach is steep and waves break hard. It's known by locals as "The Monastery Crawl". Save plenty of air for exit. A night dive here is for experts only. You can dive this from shore or you can boat dive the kelp forest. Too far of a swim to the kelp from shore. Drops off very quickly from shore. If the wash rock (exposed reef, north end of beach) is being swept by waves (as it often is), it is advised that you dive somewhere else as visiblity will be low and dumping surf during entry/exit will make for not very pleasant, and potentially dangerous, dive conditions. If the conditions are calm, however, the north end is my favorite dive site in Monterey. Night diving from shore is difficult, but in calm conditions, can be amazing. It is very dark here (little external light pollution), so turn around early to make the long swim back in if diving from shore as you can't see the kelp and surface swimming is not pleasant at night through kelp. Monastery Beach is also known as Carmel River State Beach.
Fire Rock

#14 - Fire Rock

USA, California, Monterrey

beginner
(0)
California winter diving can best be described as beauty or the beast. When winter storms are raging, divers can certainly experience marginal conditions. The time between storms, however, produces the calmest, clearest and warmest water of the year. Choosing a dive site depends on accessing the various sites against the wind and swell conditions. When a moderate northwest swell is running, a great spot is Fire Rock. Fire Rock lies south of Pescadero Point at the northern most point of Carmel Bay. The line between Fire Rock and the point defines a shallow reef. On the lee side of this reef is a protected dive site with lots of marine life that offers a comfortable dive even in a moderate swell. Most of the shallow reef consists of a jumble of boulders, 15 to 40 feet below the surface. The shallow waters are an interesting place to explore for those who enjoy macro photography or looking for tiny invertebrates. The rocks are adorned with an assortment of strawberry anemones, cup corals and sea cucumbers. At least a dozen different species of dorid nudibranchs may be found here on any given day, along with an assortment of crabs, shrimps and little reef fish. Many of the rocks are covered with a layer of colorful encrusting sponges that act as colorful backgrounds for photographers. At about 40 feet the bottom falls away in a vertical wall that terminates on flat rock-and-sand bottom at 80 feet. On the wall you will fine large, bright red, fish-eating anemones and large sunflower stars. Trees of hydrocoral may be found in deeper waters. Orange cup corals and colorful sponges cover much of the wall. The wall is split with numerous large and small cracks. Numerous species of rockfish take refuge in the shelter provided cracks and by the boulders in deeper water. The bottom at the base of the wall is mostly flat with piles of small boulders. The ragged bottom offers a shelter to many species of rockfish. Large gopher, black-and-yellow, and brown rockfish may be found tucked into their favorite crack or hole. On my most recent dive, there were a dozen small vermilion rockfish (AKA: Pacific red snapper). This is a particularly good place to see many species of rockfish in one place. Fire Rock lies south of Pescadero Point at the northern most point of Carmel Bay. The line between Fire Rock and the point defines a shallow reef. On the lee side of this reef is a protected dive site with lots of marine life that offers a comfortable dive even in a moderate swell.
Eric's Pinnacle

#15 - Eric's Pinnacle

USA, California, Monterrey

beginner
(0)
"Eric's Pinnacle" begins at -20m and goes up to -10m. Great for marine life - crabs, anemones, invertebrates etc. A nice place to dive for beginners and advanced divers. By boat from Monterey Marina
Ballbuster

#16 - Ballbuster

USA, California, Monterrey

advanced
(0)
Very nice dive with a lot of marine life. North of Monterey, in the bay.
The Needle

#17 - The Needle

USA, California, Monterrey

intermediate
(0)
This is a rock pinnacle just outside the Point Lobos boundary. Access by boat from Monterey Harbor, Point Lobos (Whaler's Cove), or Stillwater Cove. Use a depth finder to find the pinnacle and anchor on top.
Point Lobos

#18 - Point Lobos

USA, California, Monterrey

beginner
(0)
This is a brilliant spot for kelp diving! Lots of fish and the brilliant light shining through the long green hydrophytes offers lots of phantastic scenes for photographers. But the highlight is definitely the seals (and sometimes puppies) often seen there - when you're lucky! But of course: don't touch or harrass them! The dive site is part of the Point Lobos National Reserve, park entrance fee approx. 10,- $ / vhcl. Parking lots are just next to the entrance; freshwater rinse is available as well as restrooms. Entrance is quite easy, just follow the boat slip.
Cypress Point

#19 - Cypress Point

USA, California, Monterrey

beginner
(0)
Sea Otters and other fishes North side of Carmel Bay
Hidden Beach

#20 - Hidden Beach

USA, California, Monterrey

beginner
(0)
A lot if kelp, cannery artifacts. Can be surgy at times. A lot of sea lion interaction; invertebrates.
McAbee

#21 - McAbee

USA, California, Monterrey

intermediate
(0)
McAbee is a 0-star rated scuba dive and snorkel destination in USA, California, Monterrey which is accessible from shore based on 0 ratings.
Lover's Point

#22 - Lover's Point

USA, California, Monterrey

beginner
(0)
Lover's Point is also known as Lovers Point.
Mill Creek

#23 - Mill Creek

USA, California, Monterrey

beginner
(0)
This spot has a large kelp bed that can be quite thick in the late summer (before the winter storms have ripped it loose). The reef the kelp is attached to has sand channels in between that I have seen sanddabs and halibut lurking. The rocky areas have lots of rockfish (mostly blues, blacks, olives, black/yellows, gophers, kelps), cabezon, lingcod and other regular fare. The rocks here are covered in low kelps and invertebrates. Pterogophora understorey with Nereo/macro canopy on top is pretty common. Lots of sea stars, anenomes, and sea cucumbers. Most of the rocks are covered in encrusting invertebrates and small mobile invertebrates, so there is always lots to see. In the late spring the young of year rockfish form good sized schools under the kelp canopy. This area does see some small scale life fish commercial fisherman. They launch their aluminum boats from the beach here and fish from about Lopez Point down to Ragged Point. This is a beach access spot on a remote stretch of the California coastline. You can pull off hwy 1 into the Mill Creek free day use area. There are bathrooms, barbecues and plenty of parking. The beach is a short walk from the parking area down a small drop-off to an area with cobble and sand to walk on. You follow this around the cliff face to the North (which may be damp at a high tide) to a sandy beach, with large coarse sand. The beach is a steep drop but is easy to access or to launch a small boat or kayak. Getting here by boat would take a long time, and you would pass better dive spots on your way.