Today you’ve got just one tank. Why dive just one dive site when you can dive two? The neighboring pair of Diver’s Cove and Fisherman’s Cove in Laguna Beach allows you to do just that. And both are great beach dive sites.
Parking for both sites are in the same location with paths to the water for each just a few steps apart. The parking is a handful of metered parking spots directly in front of Diver’s Cove and then some additional metered parking on the street. Bring lots of quarters and arrive early for the best spots, especially on weekends. The walk to the water’s edge is down just a few steps to a protected sand beach entry.
Surf conditions at both sites are easy and light about 300 days out of year, but there are those days when diving should just not be attempted. The local lifeguards will usually stop you, but use your own best judgment. Be cautious and when in doubt don’t attempt a surf entry that will put you in danger!
Diver’s Cove is the best place to start. Water entry is a bit easier with a sand beach protected by a rocky point. But you will want to check out both dive sites first from the surface to judge wave height, beach slope, etc. Note that at Fisherman’s Cove there are shallow reefs on the east side of the cove that you don’t want to cross on your exit.
On entry at Diver’s Cove, you will likely be treated to bat rays scurrying across the sand bottom. They range in size from babies to behemoths of five feet across. To see the largest ones be the first divers in the water early in the morning. As you swim out, the shallow rocks immediately to the right will be tempting, but leave them to the snorkelers as there are better reefs further out.
Angle slightly right to just off the point and head out about 100 yards, and you will drop down onto a series of ridges that make up the first part of the reef you’ll encounter. You’ll find stars, rock scallops and urchins in about — 25 feet of water. You’ll also likely spot the shiny chestnut cowry and various nudibranchs. Barred sand bass are common as are garibaldi and the wrasse family — sheephead and señorita fish. Cracks and crevices along the ridges hold pockets of lobsters. This is all part of the Vedder ecological preserve, so the animal life is protected and at least somewhat friendly.
Follow the reef ledges out about another 100 yards to about 30 feet deep, then make a right turn up the coast and toward the mouth of Fisherman’s Cove. You’ll ascend over a larger ridge adorned with more stars, rock scallops and stands of gorgonian sea fans. Then drop down to a small ledge that meanders back toward shore and Fisherman’s Cove. As you follow along the margin of where the rocks meet the sand, you will come across large crevices that cut back into the reef. These you will definitely want to explore. Some of them lead to increasingly narrow and deep crevices, others just dead end. One in particular leads to “Mermaid’s Grotto,” a hole in the reef from which several more crevices lead. Hunker down in the large hole to take in the beauty of the gorgonians sea fans swaying in the surge and the many garibaldi as the swirl about.
If air consumption allows, follow out several of the cracks that lead away from Mermaid’s Grotto as they are all interesting. A particularly deep crack leads back toward Fisherman’s Cove. The top of the reef here is only 12 feet down, depending on the tide, and the bottom of the crack is at 25 to 30 feet. The passage at its narrowest is about four feet across so use caution and do not enter if a strong surge is present.
Exiting at Fisherman’s Cove can be a little tricky. The beach slope is steep and the sand beach almost disappears completely at extreme high tide. Stay clear of the shallow reefs on the east side of the cove and exit at the center of the cove. The path back to the parking area is to your right.
You may have started with just one tank and dived two sites, but you really should spend more time diving this area of Laguna Beach. Within just a few blocks are several additional, easy and excellent dives including Shaw’s Cove to the west and Picnic Beach east of Diver’s Cove.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: Parking for both sites is at the 600 block of Cliff Dr. in Laguna Beach.
Access and Entry: Short path and a few steps to a protected sand beach surf entry.
Skill level: While both sites are beginner sites with beach diving experience, doing the loop takes more experience due to the longer swim and navigation skills needed.
Visibility: Good, averaging 15 feet.
Photography: Fair wide angle in the crevices and big bat rays. Fair macro for nudibranchs, some reef fish and lobster but it can be surgy.
Hunting: Not allowed in the Vedder Ecological Preserve.
Restrictions: Must dive with a buddy and a snorkel in the Laguna Beach city limits or face stiff fines.
Facilities: None at either Cove, but there are restrooms and picnic benches at Heisler Park (Picnic Beach) next door to Diver’s Cove.
Conditions: Call 949-494-6573.