Review Date AVG ShoreDiving Site
04/27/2014 3.15 LA - Old Pier Pilings California Mid, USA West
02/09/2014 2.95 Christmas Tree Cove California Mid, USA West
The trail was not affected by the recent landslides. It's as difficult as it always was.
12/25/2013 3.45 LA - Marineland California Mid, USA West
The best diving at Marineland can only be reached by boat, or a long swim to and from the Point. Buchanan's Reef extends from the west side of the property out to eighty feet of water. The rocky reef reaches thirty feet off the bottom in places. Kelp, anemones, rockfish and nudibranches blanket the entire reef. Buchanan's is also a great spot to find anchors. The rocky bottom has a long history of capturing ground tackle from the myriad of fishing boats that used to frequent the site. When diving Buchanan's it is always a good idea to move your anchor to a sandy area at the beginning of your dive.
N33 44.015 W118 24.155
Marineland of the Pacific opened to the general public on August 27th, 1954. Over the next thirty-three years it provided fun and education for millions. After years of financial hardship and several ownership changes, Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich, owners of Sea World purchased the property and promised to keep the park open. They closed it on February 11, 1987, six weeks after the sale was complete, moving most of the animals to their park in San Diego. Because it was no longer legal to capture Orcas in the wild, Sea World needed to find its performing killer whales elsewhere. Orky and Corky, the stars of Marineland were renamed Shamu and Namu.
The lot at Long Point sat deserted for the next two decades. Only the Catalina Room, the former Marineland Restaurant remained open for weddings and banquets until 2004. I began diving shortly after Marineland closed. On most days I had the only car in the parking lot. In 1990 more divers appeared thanks to an article in the California Diving News. Marineland soon became one of the more popular dive sites of Los Angeles County.
Diving Marineland is not a walk in the park. Entry and exit can be challenging, if not hazardous. The cobbles in the cove shift with every storm, making a once easy entry difficult. Even on calm days, the wet rocks and surge will knock down the most sure-footed diver. If you haven't crawled out of the water onto rocks while waves slam you down and pull you back in, you haven't dived here enough. Many divers have suffered broken bones here, even in benign conditions. Exiting requires baby steps. Wait for a lull in the water movement and then take small steps toward the shore. Once out of the water, keep moving to higher ground.
Some days are not diveable. Three feet of surf is not bad at many sites, but can be hazardous at Marineland. Even if you were to make it out, surge and low visibility would make a bad dive even more dangerous. When the sea is calm, Marineland offers some of the best diving in Southern California.
In June 2009 Terranea Resort opened on the former Marineland site. Although the diving can still be spectacular as well as challenging, amenities on the shore are much improved. A public parking lot leads to graded trails down to the water. Restrooms, snack bar and a fresh water shower are located midway to the cove.
From the cove, the closest reef is known as the Garden. It was once an urchin barren but thanks to divers removing the urchins it is now a thriving kelp forest. Depths range from zero to thirty-five feet, making the Garden an ideal shallow dive or a great swim-through on your way back from the Point. Garibaldis, calico bass and other typical reef fish are found here. Look closely in holes and cracks for shrimp, octopus and small blennies. Anemones, gorgonian, sponges and Christmas tree worms cover most rocks here. Schooling fish frequent the edge of the kelp, while bat rays and angel sharks can be found in the sand nearby.
I found a tiny pink abalone on a rock here. After feeding it a kelp frond on most dives it grew to over eight inches. Until recently it was on the same rock for more than ten years. As of January 1, 2012 the entire coastline of Marineland out to three miles is a Marine Protected Area. It will soon be as pristine as it was when Marineland first opened.
East of the cove is a reef commonly referred to as the 120 Reef due to its location from the beach. It extends offshore to about forty-five feet. The 120 Reef is home to kelp, sponges, feather duster worms and many sunflower stars. Many divers choose to dive this reef due to its proximity to shore. It is only a ten minute surface swim here compared to the twenty-five minute swim to the Point.
The sandy plains surrounding Marineland can be interesting to explore. Jellies, giant sea bass, torpedo rays and mantis shrimp share the sandbox with sea pens, globe crabs and snails. It's a worthwhile diversion to check out the sand away from the reefs.
Diving at the Point is what makes Marineland an incredible dive site. Boulders and pinnacles are home to a variety of invertebrates, but the Point is best known for its nudibranchs. I have found seventeen species on one dive here.
The best diving is at the south end of the reef in sixty to seventy feet. You can enter from the Point or make the one quarter mile swim from the cove. On calm days divers prefer the shorter swim. In the shallow water near the cement piling at the Point lie the remains of the Newbern. It ground into the shallow rocks near shore on October 14, 1893. Only a few pieces of rusty iron remain near the piling, with some chain and anchor in thirty feet off the southeast corner of the Terranea Hotel. Because Marineland lies on a point, currents can be common here. Diving at slack tide is recommended, but great conditions can be found at any time. There is deep water offshore, so the constant upwelling keeps the water several degrees colder than sites with little relief such as Laguna Beach. It is not uncommon to have a ten degree difference on the same day. Visibility ranges from near zero during moderate surf to well over thirty feet on the best days.
Long Point N33 44.073 W118 23.890
Offshore from the 120 Reef is the Marineland Platform. The platform was a floating steel dock that was originally dumped in fifty feet of water south of the cove. It was first discovered by divers Jim McCabe and Christian Lopez on February 6, 2005 while searching for the 120 Reef. They were told there was a reef in forty-five feet outside the cove, but didn't have the heading. When I asked them for the location they each had different ideas of where it was. I narrowed it down to a few square acres and made several searches before locating it. After tying cave line from the platform to the Garden it became a new site for beach divers to enjoy.
The steel structure is home to corynactis anemones, nudibranchs, crabs and scorpionfish. The wooden deck was rotted but still provided surface for a small kelp forest and a rest stop for a large halibut. I had to replace the line a few times, and then one day the platform itself was missing. Gary Fabian, who had located the UB88 in 2003, used the same sidescan technology to find the platform. It had been snagged by a squid boat, and then dragged 800 yards eastward. It now sat in over eighty feet off the 120 Reef, minus the wooden deck. A few years later it was once again snagged and moved by another squid boat. This time it was spun around and now sits at eighty feet from its last resting place. Nets covered the entire structure, trapping squid and any bird or fish that swam into it. We cut the net to allow the squid to escape, then notified Kurt Lieber, founder of the Ocean Defenders Alliance. He and his volunteers removed most of the net, making it safe for divers and marine life again. Merry Passage and I placed a buoy on the site to discourage fishermen from dropping nets here and to help divers locate it. N33 44.150 W118 23.438
09/18/2003 3.41 Divers Cove California South, USA West
Divers Cove is the most popular dive site in Orange County for dive classes. Easy entry, short surf zone and nice reefs allow students to become acquainted with California diving without a lot of work. The center of the cove is a sandy plain where you will find several classes each weekend. There are small reefs on the left side of the cove that extend into Picnic Beach. The right side of the cove is where you will find the best diving. It's a moderate to long swim to the exposed reef system offshore between Divers Cove and Boat Canyon, but well worth the effort. The outside edge of the reef ends at forty feet and has cracks and mini walls as high as twenty feet where you can find octopus, Moray eels, seals, sea lions and lobster. The inshore side of the reef is shallow and can be surgy, but there are more fish and lobsters to be found here. Divers Cove is an excellent night dive site as well. Many of the animals that you see hiding in the deep cracks during the day are roaming the reef at night. Parking is limited during the Summer and especially on weekends. There is metered parking directly in front of the cove and free parking to the West. Bring plenty of quarters! The City of Laguna Beach requires that you dive with a buddy and also carry a snorkel with you. You can keep it tucked away, but the police and lifeguards will cite you if you don't have it in your possession.
12/01/2001 2.90 Christmas Tree Cove California Mid, USA West
Continued from earlier evaluation
12/01/2001 3.74 Alua Beach The Big Island, Hawaiian Islands
One of the least crowded sites in Hawaii where you can see virtually everything on one dive. I've seen Manta Rays, many turtles and a large Marlin once. Nearly every coral head has a White-mouth Moray living inside. If you swim to the outside of the cove at 130 feet and lay motionless for a moment, you're in for a treat. The sand is full of Garden eels who will pop up until you move. Bring a bamboo mat, available at every store in Kona to keep sand out of your gear. The entry is very easy. Shallow sand gives way to coral at about four feet deep. From the beach, it is a short snorkel away from easy, relaxing diving Hawaiian style.
11/17/2001 2.70 Christmas Tree Cove California Mid, USA West
This is my favorite beach dive site in California. The visibility averages five to ten feet better than other sites on the peninsula. The trail can be a killer, but my wife(5'3")once carried three tanks up the hill in one trip. If you plan to make two dives, I suggest taking tanks for both dives down together rather than making two trips up this trail. You can leave the second tank between some rocks on the shore. If someone wants to steal it and carry it up, more power to them. As you enter the cove, the area immediately to the right has some excellent snorkeling in five to twenty feet of clear water. The best diving begins just outside the center of the cove. There are rocks the size of school buses covered with sea stars, kelp, sponges, anemones and an assortment of fish. There is a high spot outside and to the left of center that breaks the surface at low tide. If you follow this reef offshore you will find beautiful overhangs and hiding places for many critters down to eighty feet, where the rocks give way to a sandy plain. Here you will find seapens, tube anemones, sand dollars and Halibut. The first time I snorkeled at Christmas Tree Cove, I saw a Leopard shark and a large Batray in the shallow spot. My first scuba dive here brought eight Blue Sharks and a very friendly Harbor seal. After getting out of the water once, a Gray whale surfaced right where I had been less than two minutes earlier. When the ocean is flat and you feel adventurous, this is well worth the hike. Photography can be excellent, however hunting is rather poor. There seem to be few large fish and even fewer lobsters here.