Sometimes the name of a dive site is misleading. Take Hidden Beach for example. By the name you might expect it to be hard to find or off the beaten path. Well, these statements cannot be further from the truth. Hidden Beach is easy to find and is located right along Cannery Row.
There is a little park near the Monterey Breakwater that is dwarfed by a large hotel on each side. The Monterey Bay Inn and Monterey Plaza Hotel effectively hide the entry from passing divers and create a private little beach right in the center of the Monterey tourist area. Locals call this place Hidden Beach.
From the beach extends a sand bottom which gradually slopes down to a maximum depth of 60 feet about 400 yards offshore. Most divers do not have the desire to swim that far and rarely get more than 150 yards offshore and deeper than 40 feet.
The near-shore bottom is mostly sand that gives way to a rock and sand patch reef system. Sandy areas are good places to look for—and photograph—sea pens, white, orange and purple tube-dwelling anemones, as well as aggregating anemones. This area is also a good pace to find sand dabs, hermit crabs, and olive snails.
The visibility is not as good here as other, less protected areas in Monterey, and this is not the place to find crystal-clear water with wide-angle vistas. It is, however, a great place to get close to the reef and marvel and photograph the area’s tiny critters. In many areas the rocks are covered with a royal, red carpet of strawberry anemones. Numerous fish-eating anemones with their bright red bases, as well as the large green anemones are common. These make great photo subjects.
Some of the most beautiful marine creatures found here are the nudibranchs, and a great many species are common in this area. Members of the dorid family are the most abundant and can be seen grazing on sponges or tunicates. This group of nudibranchs includes the bright yellow lemon nudibranch and the white-and-black ringed dorid.
The generally more colorful and ostentatious group, the aeolids, are also quite common here. The thick-horned aeolid is particularly noticeable with their orange gills and yellow and blue lined face.
Look for small fish such as skulpins, black-eye gobys and kelpfish among the algae-covered rocks. Larger fish such as lingcod and rockfish are rare here, but in the spring and summer you might be lucky to see a large California halibut.
Since Hidden Beach is on Cannery Row, you might expect to find artifacts from the old days, and you would be correct. The old sardine boats would tie off to offshore moorings and pump their catch to the canneries via large pipes. The pipes stretch form the hotels out to sea. Look for artifacts: bottles, porthole-shaped iron fittings, and other metal parts among the pipes.
While you can begin and end your dive at Hidden Beach, many choose to make it a one-way trip to San Carlos Beach. This is less effort than it sounds since both entries/exits are equidistant from the north end of the San Carlos Beach parking lot. No mater how you dive Hidden Beach you will find lots of little critters to enjoy.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: In Monterey, along Cannery Row, between Reeside and Dickman Streets.
Access: Park in the north end of the fee lot along San Carlos Beach. Bring plenty of quarters as the change machine does not always work. Divers may not park along Cannery Row by Monterey law. The entry is located between the Monterey Bay Inn and Monterey Plaza Hotel. It is a short walk along Cannery Row, through a small park, and down stairs to a narrow, sandy beach. Restrooms, freshwater showers, water for boat washing, and a free launching ramp are available at San Carlos Beach/Breakwater. Monterey Bay Dive Center is located across Cannery Row from Hidden Beach, and Aquarius Dive Shop is located at the Breakwater Cove Marina.
Depths: 15 to 40 feet
Skill Level: All
Visibility: 10 to 30 feet
Hunting: This is part of the Ed Ricketts Marine Park. Divers may not take game, although it is legal to fish with hook and line.
Photography: Great macro for nudibranchs, other invertebrates, and small fish.
Hazards: Watch for thick kelp and boat traffic.
Recorded Dive Conditions: (831) 657-1020