Crystal Cove State Park

California Mid, USA West
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Snorkeling and Scuba Diving at Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove is one of those areas that you could spend years exploring. This large stretch of beach has several entry points, and depending upon how far you want to hike, you can choose a different entry for every day of the year! Drive 4.5 miles South of the Newport Bridge. You'll see the miles of wild beachfront, and the entrance to the park.
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Zentacle
Zentacle
Sep 21, 2021, 1:04 AM
scuba
Prepare for a hike down (and back up) the cliff. You can see the rocky point in the background, as well as the delineations of sand, reef and kelp. The swell here can be overpowering. Only dive on a calm day. Get advice from your local dive shop. The trails are generally well-developed.
Jason NYC
Jason NYC
Jul 2, 2012, 12:00 AM
scuba
I came here (reef point area) on a busy Sunday afternoon, and after seeing the stairs to the beach, I decided to just go ahead and have a nice day on the beach with my family and cancel the dive. It is not too terrible up and down the stairs, but certainly much more severe than Crescent Beach, or certainly Shaw's Cove if you have been to those spots just south of here. Only divers in very decent shape will not be hurting after the climb back up the stairs. All that said, take a look at the stairs and at the water to get a look at the very rocky entry spots so you can find a sandy channel out and avoid the surf that even on a calm day can be tough given the rocky entry. Just from our snorkel trip I would say viz was about 10ft, 64F, surf was about 2ft+. Lots of life. Full facilities on the top of the cliff, nice bike paths and a lovely historic district/area with food, shops, another beach area and cottages for 'glamping' in style. If you have kids, the tide pools here are some of the best I have ever seen in SoCal. This really is a lovely place. Do yourself a favor and come spend the day here! Enjoy!
Originally posted on shorediving.com
Jesse Rorabaugh
Jesse Rorabaugh
Aug 2, 2010, 12:00 AM
scuba
The walk down to the beach carrying all my gear wore me out. Not as challenging as say Reverse Cove in central California because there are stairs. I however did not park near the stairs and wandered all over the place looking for them. The entry was challenging. Even on a day where surf was below average it was a fight to get out. This was partially my fault though. I got in at a part of the beach that was rock not sand. Climbing on invisible rocks is really quite difficult, and at one point I hit my knee pretty hard. Visibility was poor. It was a day with 10-15 foot of visibility at Shaw's Cove. I would say that it was only 10 feet here. Close to shore it was no more than 5. Despite all of this, it is my third or forth favorite free diving site in California. It does not quite beat Coral Street in Monterey, or Reverse Cove in Big Sur, but it at least beats anything in Laguna. When I dive in Laguna it feels fished out. I have tried spearfishing there several times and after probably 15-20 hours of diving have only pulled out one fish and only seen a few more that I would have shot at. Here however it felt like a whole different place. I saw many reasonably sized Sheepshead, Opaleye, Sand Bass, and Perch. They are pretty skittish but it makes a reasonable intermediate spearfishing site. Judging by the guy in the full cameo wetsuit and big teak speargun it may even be a good advanced spearfishing site. A few notes: Parking was $15. The previous reviewer wasn't kidding. Fish and Game really does watch this place closely. Expect to get your catch looked over. All of Laguna Beach is about to become a Marine Reserve. This site is outside the boundary of that reserve. I expect that next year it will be fished out as all the diving from Laguna moves to this site. However in five years I strongly suspect this will be an amazing site again. Once the Marine Reserve is established, fish leaving the reserve should sustain it. Watch out for boats. I saw at least a half dozen fishing and diving boats outside the kelp bed.
Originally posted on shorediving.com
Brian Xavier
Brian Xavier
Jul 3, 2008, 12:00 AM
scuba
The day I tried to dive Crystal Cove the swell was up and the shore break pretty big. I ended up free diving the kelp for awhile so I wouldn't get beat up with the dive gear. I think this would be a really great dive on a high vis day. I plan on going back here. Take a dolly if you go to the Reef Point entrance- you'll need it.
Originally posted on shorediving.com
Kendall Roberg
Kendall Roberg
Jan 17, 2006, 12:00 AM
scuba
What an awesome place to dive! I took my newly certified brother out here to dive and we had a great time. The winter surf was a little challenging, but we still made it. We found a large reef filled with Garibaldi, Senorita, and Lobsters! There was no kelp on the surface (I think the recent massive wave probably harvested it a bit), but there was plenty of eel grass and shorter kelp underwater. We went down to 32 feet and found a lobster trap, too (no lobsters in it). The walk to the beach is .32 miles and the showers are currently closed for the season (I guess they don't have as many visitors in the winter). Other than that, this was great place to dive.
Originally posted on shorediving.com
J. Williams
J. Williams
Aug 17, 2004, 12:00 AM
scuba
Absolutely gorgeous area with plenty of wildlife and a diversity of habitats. Amazing reefs. Get there early and parking is free (otherwise $10), showers and bathrooms, not a terrible climb up or down to the beach. When the waves are breaking, entry is a bit rough, and surge can be a problem, but well worth the effort. Up to 40 ft vis in some areas.
Originally posted on shorediving.com
Ken
Ken
Mar 4, 2003, 12:00 AM
scuba
HI! I am the lifeguard supervisor/dive team leader for Crystal Cove State Park. Crystal Cove is a designated "Underwater Park" and a Marine Life Refuge (Irvine Coast). Awesome variety of marine life and good diversity of bottom types. Excellent photography opportunities and limited recreational fishing (lobster and designated game fish only). Game hunters should expect to be checked every dive by park lifeguards, rangers, and game wardens. A new site of interest is a 150 year old historical anchor located just west of the Muddy Creek access ramp (east end of Reef Point parking lot) in approx 20 foot depth, about 150 yards off shore. Also, divers may now drop off / pick up gear at the entrance station to the Historic District (PCH / Crystal Cove signal light). This access provides for easy beach diving down and up coast of the beach cottages. Contact park lifeguards/rangers at 949 494-3539 for additional diving safety tips!
Originally posted on shorediving.com