Monterey Dive Sites
By Alan Throop (photos by Dennis Hocker)
At our January 10 General Meeting, our own Dennis Hocker presented an excellent program on the divesites of Monterey.
He has dove Monterey for about 60 years, so he’s a great resource. He showed photos of many divesites, in both calm and rough diving conditions, described what each site has to offer, advantages and disadvantages, and shared insight and humor from his years of diving these sites. Some of the photos went back a number of years, so it was also fun to see some of the old class dives at the various sites.
Dennis first pointed out some of the good maps of dive sites around Monterey but noted that there are many divesites they don’t show. He started by showing the sand plant north of Monterey and describing a nice dive on a rock pile that covers a pipeline. The best diving is about a halfmile from shore. But it’s only available by boat, is a lengthy trip from the harbor, and swells and visibility are often a problem at this site.
He then took us along Del Monte Beach – a long and sandy beach with little diving of interest except on some shale patches off shore. Continuing toward Monterey, you come to the portion of Del Monte Beach next to Wharf II. Called “McMuffin Beach” for McDonald’s being across the street, this is often a divesite for rescue classes and has a concrete sailboat and ‘half-track” a ways off-shore at ~25’ depth. Wharf II itself is a wonderful dive for observing small marine life, with the pilings and sea grass offering interesting habitats to explore. But take care of entanglement hazards at the base of the pilings and fishing lines at the surface; access the pilings by swimming well away from the fishermen along the near-shore end of the pier.
“K-dock”, west of Wharf II, is where dive boats load divers for their day dive trips.
Dennis then took us through the best known dive-sites along Cannery Row: first San Carlos Beach, with its Breakwater wall, pipeline, metridium field, patch reef, barge, and other interesting dive objectives.
Then to Hidden Beach next to San Carlos, and on to McAbee Beach right on Cannery Row. Then down to Berwick Park, just before Lovers Point, where the club used to stage openwater classes to then snorkel over to Lovers and play in the “Washing machine” slot at Lovers Point. Lovers Cove itself has three dives: two beaches inside the cove (inner and outer1) and one on the other side of the point that is a little more exposed.
Driving along Ocean Drive, you find Otters Cove and Coral Street. Dennis showed photos of Coral Street in rough and calm conditions, and described some of the features of this favorite dive site. A little further is Pt. Pinos, which is exposed to the open ocean swells. This site is usually not divable, but on a special calm day can offer some great diving.
Dennis then moved to Carmel, where he described the beautiful Carmel City Beach (no good for diving for many reasons). But driving south from Carmel along the ocean, one comes to Cooper Roof, Butterfly House, Stewards Point, and Carmel River Beach. These can provide spectacular diving, but is also exposed and cannot often be dived. Except for Carmel River Beach, there are no bathrooms or services available and you’re parking on the road.
Dennis spent some time talking about North & South Monastery Beach. Like the previous site, when entries are possible, the diving is excellent. At North Monastery, you can dive a 35’ kelp bed with great vis or swim out just a short distance and dive as deep as you want. South Monastery is a bit more protected and provides similar great diving. Dennis showed photos of how NOT to dive Monastery and discussed entries and exits.
He then spent some time at Pt. Lobos, which is a marine and topside reserve, with open access to the Monterey trench as well. While the dive sites are limited to Whalers Cove and Bluefish cove, Pt. Lobos is known for its larger and more-plentiful fish species, as well as Sheephead that have become established.
Dennis then continued down the Big Sur coast, showing and discussing divesites that are not dived as much due to difficult access from the road as well as the rough surf that only occasionally subsides enough to shore dive. These included No -Name (also called “Reverse”) cove, Granite Canyon, and Jade Cove.
Dennis ended his program with a tour of the dive-relevant sites around Monterey: restaurants (Gianni’s), dive shops, and sites to visit when you can’t dive.
Many thanks to Dennis for presenting this fun and informative program.