We often get spoiled in California by the picturesque scenes of beautiful coastlines and long stretches of sandy beaches. We are fortunate as divers not only to recognize the beauty of the coastline on land but also underwater. There are a few spots that really capture what California is all about both above and below the water. Powerhouse is such a spot.
Powerhouse is a spectacular beach dive located in Del Mar, California near San Diego. It is named after a large powerhouse that still stands just south of the beach. It was originally built as an electricity and hot water power station for the Del Mar’s well-known Stratford Inn. The powerhouse became an electricity provider for the Del Mar community until 1918.
Before its structural decline, the powerhouse had other lives, including a stint as a nightclub destination, called Roaring 20s, and as a desalination plant. The City of Del Mar purchased a parcel of land in 1983, which included the powerhouse on its grounds.
The area itself is beautiful and one of the nicest beaches in all of Southern California. Many photos and paintings often depict the beach scene.
Powerhouse is a great beginners’ dive. It is shallow and reaches a maximum depth of 30 feet. It is a sandy beach entry and not frequently visited by divers. Start off by walking down the ramp to the beach. Walk about 50 yards south and enter the water. The dive starts after you clear the surf zone. Swim out until you cannot see the bottom and drop down. You should be in 20-30 feet of water. Swim out west farther until you hit a small reef.
The dive site itself is a sandy bottom mixed with a small reef. You will see a variety of small creatures darting in and out of the reef. You will find a variety of treefish, rockfish, calico bass, lobsters, and blue-banded gobys. I often see a lot of horn sharks here. For those into things that don’t move too fast, you will always find few sea stars, kelp crabs, sea fans, and anemones amongst the reef.
It is a pretty easy and relaxing dive. Watch out for surfers overhead while entering and exiting the water. Powerhouse is a popular surf spot as well.
The City of Del Mar also sponsors concerts at Powerhouse Park during the summer. They set up a large stage and everyone brings picnic baskets. There are also some great restaurants in the area. En Fuego on the PCH is excellent and Jakes or the Poseidon are fantastic.
To get to the Powerhouse, exit on Del Mar Heights road off the I-5 and head west. Turn right (North) on Camino Del Mar/Coast Highway and go north about two miles until you get to 15th street. Turn left towards the beach. Follow this road and turn right on Coast Blvd. Park on the street (metered parking) or there is a pay lot near the railroad tracks. The beach is just north of the railroad tracks and south of the Poseidon restaurant.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: Del Mar, California. North of San Diego and La Jolla. Coast Blvd. and 15th street in Del Mar. The beach is just north of the railroad tracks and south of the Poseidon restaurant.
Depths: 10-30 feet.
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate depending on conditions.
Visibility: Poor to good, averaging 10-15 feet.
Photography: Lots of rockfish, bass, horn sharks, halibut, and. Good amount of colorful small creatures, too. Good for macro.
Hunting: Average. Some lobster. Spear fishing is not recommended due to amount of beach traffic and poor hunting opportunities.
Hazards: Currents, surge, surf, and surfers.