Overview of Monastery Beach South

Monastery Beach South

California North
USA West


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.

Directions: Head South on Highway 1 out of Carmel. Park at the Southern end of the first roadside beach.


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Diver Reviews:    Click here to write a Site Review, and share any new information about this site!

05/05/2013 Buster (Avg: 4.39 Review) - I read a lot about the harsh conditions at this site, but my son and I did an evening and early morning dive in calm seas and it was spectacular. We are avid freedivers and had no problem with entering or exiting, but could see how it could be rough with SCUBA because of the steep entry. Lots of great fish, kelp beds, plants and rock outcroppings. Great 360 degree views from the water. Vis 40+. Felt like we were in Hawaii, except water was 53 deg.

07/20/2012 Rick Wilson (Avg: 5.00 Review) - After reading all the warnings about this site, honestly I thought I was irresponsible for diving here with my 18 year old son, and my heart raced as we entered the water. But it was calm as glass, and we had ZERO issue getting in the water. Had to be one of the top dive experiences of my 36 years diving. Visibility top to bottom (35+ feet), such amazing colors, monster crabs, amazing kelp canopy. Swimming back there was some surge we rode into the shallow water, what a great ride! My advise, do what we did, wait till there are no waves, and have a great dive!

01/27/2011 Pettyfogger (Avg: 4.14 Review) - They didn't nickname this place 'Mortuary Beach' for nothing. This dive venue is, IMHO, good only for those capable of advanced rough water beach diving. I've only been able to do a standing-up exit once there, the rest of the time, like everyone else, I had had to do the 'Monastery Crawl' to get out. The sand is STEEP, making for a monster backwash, with beaucoup rip currents in the middle part of the cove. Leave your SCUBA mouthpiece in your mouth at all times until you are standing on dry sand. If you get knocked over or tumbled by the merciless shore break waves, you need to be able to breathe while getting tossed around under the wave. Hold onto your mouthpiece if you're knocked down and sucked under a wave. If you find you can't make it in with your gear, ditch it and swim in with just your fins - then crawl out pronto. Bodysurfing experience is invaluable to mastering this place, and those familiar only to lakes and quiet boat dives in the tropics are taking their lives in their hands going in here without expert instruction and personal professional dive master. On the positive side, the reefs and sea life are the best California has to offer, and it's nice not having the Lobos rangers breathing down your neck.

08/26/2010 Shayne Holderby (Avg: 3.75 Review) - Do Not Dive without a familiar diver or at least read up on entry and exit at beach. Excellent kelp and wall diving, usually better viz. Lots of Jellies in this area. Current has a lot of surge (reduced near the wall). Access to the 'bottom' here at both ends of the beach. Very nice dive site. Snorkeling over the south end kelp bed has many surprises.

04/12/2008 Brian Xavier (Avg: 3.95 Review) - South Monastery is a great dive. Pick a flat day and go in next to the kelp at the south end of the beach. Park as close to the south end of the beach as possible. I used my dolly to move my gear; it saved me some trouble. Be respectful of Monastery- a man told me three people died here a few weeks ago- swept into the ocean. A Master Diver also died here awhile back. He was diving on a 10 foot swell day. Don't be afraid to walk away from this dive- even if you drove a great distance to get here.

11/19/2007 Laura from Santa Cruz (Avg: 3.67 Review) - I love this spot, but any day diving at Monastery means being willing to call the dive if there is moderate swell. Because of the angle of the beach, waves crash here with a lot of force. Suit up well away from the impact zone, have your fins ON so you can swim out of the impact zone ASAP and do not take them off until you have backed or crawled out all the way to dry sand. Time your entry and exits carefully. Avoid mid-beach. Know your limits and don't dive here unless you are capable of handling the entry/exit. Conditions can change rapidly. Summer is a great time to try this site; some days are glassy. The vis can be outstanding and the reef is beautiful.

09/13/2007 Samantha (Avg: 3.00 Review) - Because I lived in Monterey while I was learning to dive, I used to dive monastery regularly. It's a beautiful site and was always one of my favorites. I guess I had been pretty lucky because I always entered and exited in one piece. However, recently I returned to Monterey with my friend Julie to dive some of my old favorite spots…Monastery Beach was one of them. Julie and I almost drowned. Eager to get in the water, we hastily checked the conditions and began our south side entry. Everything appeared to be just fine and we stepped off of that little 5 foot ledge and were up to our chests. We were about to put our fins on when I looked behind Julie and saw a gigantic wall of water gathering up…quickly. The next thing I knew my face was pinned in the sand and I was flying head over heels. I thought I'd never surface but luckily I escaped the powerful undertow and washed ashore. As I struggled under 30lbs of weight (yeah I know, shut up) I turned around just in time to see Julie get hit by the next wave and wash up right next to me. So please, even if you have done a few dives at Monastery, ALWAYS THOROUGHLY CHECK CONDITIONS FIRST!

04/25/2006 Mitch in CA (Avg: 3.99 Review) - Lots of parking on HWY 1 and not a very long haul to the beach. There was a group of 6 divers exiting and 2 free divers there, as well. It was low tide and the entry/exit was easy. Went out right of the point and stayed in 35-40 feet - lots to look at and there are some cool reefs. Nudibranch, few crab, stars, and lots of rockfish - bagged 2 yellow, 2 perch, 1 china and 1 black on 1 tank. It is advised that you DO head back underwater as I came up and had to do the hard swim thru the kelp at low tide - not fun! Be careful around the point as I started catching currents going towards the rocks. Awesome site for underwater viewing - just North of Point Lobos.

08/29/2005 Anonymous (Avg: 3.94 Review) - I took my first 'local' dive here at Monastery. I got certified in Hawaii, so the cold waters of Carmel were a little different. The water wasn't as bad as I thought - about 50 degrees, which is pretty warm for this area, as told by my Dive master. For the first dive we swam around the kelp beds at around 40 feet, a short swim out from the shore. The second dive, we snorkeled out a lot farther (also on the south shore), and that was a lot better. The rock formations are large and rugged, and there is a lot more larger fish to see. Saw lingcod, rock fish, jellyfish, hundreds of starfish varieties, and a few crabs. Didn't see any halibut, although we saw a few divers coming out of the water with Perch and some other fish types. Overall, the dive was good and I would go back for some more.

05/08/2005 Kendall Roberg (Avg: 4.72 Review) - Great site! We swam out to the start of the kelp beds and dropped down to about 20 feet. Visibility was nice at around 20 to 25 feet. Lots of cool reefs and tons of marine life. Set your compass for the shore and make sure to end the dive close to the shore, otherwise you'll have a long surface swim over the kelp (not very fun). Great site!

08/07/2004 Robert Magee (Avg: 4.52 Review) - I am a pretty new diver. I have been certified for 3 years. This was approx. my 25th dive. This was probably the best diving I have done. We entered from the south shore. The waves were about 2 feet at 9:30 am and about 3 feet at 11:30 am. We swam out about 100 yards and dropped down to about 25 feet. The thick kelp was on the furthest south part of the beach. We swam out pretty much kelp free. When on the bottom we swam towards the kelp and there was the best marine life and rock formations I have seen yet. There is an abundance of nudibranches, annemities, almost every star fish imaginable, crabs, a lot of hermit crabs. We saw a few Ling Cod. The fish I liked the best was a Painted Greenling. I think I saw a Spotted Kelpfish also. The deepest we went was 43 feet. You don't to go deep to have a great dive. Be very careful entering and exiting. You have to do the crawl on the way out. I suggest putting on your fins after your in the water. The workout is walking back to your car or truck after the dive. Hope to see you out there some time.

07/09/2003 William E. D'Anis (Avg: 3.30 Review) - In 1954 I joined the Calif. Congers. Being a couple years older than the group I had the only car. We would sleep in the car or under an underpass on Hwy1 and snorkel Monastery Beach in dry suits. No one had an Aqua Lung! The convent Sisters would come down to watch us. Some of the Calif. Congers were Jim Coon, Henry Reiswig, Don Williamson, Matt Saunders, and Vern Peckham. There were 30 of us. Lingcod and cabazone were scarce then too. Abalone were not as prized as they are today. We would have fish and abalone fries on the beach. Jim Coon (Thaddeus Lingcod Coon, Jr.) was the president and Henry Reiswig went on to become a Dr. of Marine Biology. Now I am 70 and those days are gone. My diving was over by about 1984 but I got my son certified SCUBA and dove with him on his checkout at Cataline. Wonderful years!!!!!

06/30/2003 Eric 'Spoon' Carvaho (Avg: 3.96 Review) - Again, some of the best diving. Facilities include a pay phone right next to bathroom in case a medical emergency arises. Love to do a night dive here!

09/18/2002 Derek (Avg: 3.68 Review) - I actually enjoyed this end of the beach better than the north side mainly because of the bigger fish, but I am a biased fish person. The visibility was definitely not as great as the north, but it was still about 15-20 feet. The entry was easy this day with a 2-3 foot swell coming in. We dropped down right in front of the kelp forest and navigated out to the point. The depth went from about 20 feet to 55 feet with many shallow areas towards the land on the south. I saw numerous species of rockfish including: blacks, gophers, and one big vermillion rockfish. The gophers pretty much did not move from their holes and would make great models for pictures...I guess that is why they are called gophers? Also spotted a few calico bass and sand dabs. The kelp was pretty thick so make sure you navigate well if you go into the beast...which is of course the most interesting part of the dive.


Site Photos

(click photo for a larger version)

 Map     Sat
GPS: CN2301


Parking at Monastery Beach South 

You will usually find ample parking along the road.




Overview at Monastery Beach South 

Non-divers will certainly enjoy this beach, as well. Be careful of the surf, as breakers can pound the unwary.


 Map     Sat
GPS: CN2303


Entry at Monastery Beach South 

The surf is relatively calm on this day. Here, some divers are taking the inflatable around the point.


 Map     Sat
GPS: CN2304


Entry at Monastery Beach South 

Other divers are braving the kelp and surf.

Last Verification: July, 2001  


Diver Averages for  Monastery Beach South  (1=worst, 5=best)

Average Site Condition

Ease of Shore Entry:  3.14
Bottom Conditions:  4.43
Reef Conditions:  4.14
Animal Life:  4.21
Plant Life:  4.29
Facilities:  3.43
Solitude 3.57
Roads:  4.21
*Site Average:  4.00

Average Enjoyment Level

Snorkel:  2.93
Beginner Scuba:  3.00
Intermediate Scuba:  3.86
Advanced Scuba:  4.29
Night diving Scuba:  2.93

Number of reviews for this site: 14


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