Dive Site: Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach, California

Ask any Southern California diver about the most popular southland dive site and you’d be hard-pressed to find one who doesn’t say Shaw’s Cove.

Shaw’s Cove, known for its easy beach access, is nestled just beneath the cliffs of one of the most upscale residential neighborhoods in North America, roughly 1 mile north of the famed Laguna Main Beach.

Plan to begin your diving day at Shaw’s Cove between 7 and 8 a.m., as parking becomes an issue by early afternoon. With surf rarely exceeding 3 feet, Shaw’s beach entry is suitable for even novice divers. The water is brisk — as is the case for most California dive sites — so you’ll need to zip into that 7mm suit if you want to be comfy. Water temperatures vary from the mid 50s in the winter months to the high 60s in the warmer months.

Once you’ve geared up beside your car, trekked down what feels like 5 million steps, flooded that wetsuit with some cold Pacific water, muscled past the surf zone, kicked out 150 yards to the good stuff, and then taken a few minutes to catch your breath… after you’ve done all of that, you’re ready to see what all hype is about. The reef is home to many different species of starfish, lobster, nudibranchs, urchins, eels, sheepshead, harbor seals, the ever-popular and strong-willed garibaldi — even the occasional gray whale has been spotted on the outskirts of the cove.

Be mindful of the surge should you decide to dive the crevice, as it can be a bit tricky at times, but well worth the risk. At the end of the long crevice, you’ll find Shaw’s famed arch, also known as the gateway to Crescent Bay just to the north. Crescent is home to Seal Rock, which is the place to be if you’re in search of a friendly pinniped experience.

If you’re hungry after your dive, check out The Cliff Restaurant in Laguna Village, which offers delicious food, served outside on a beautiful patio overlooking the mighty Pacific.

By John Heimann

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