Scuba Diving in Orange County

The #1 Dive Site in Orange County

David Mansfield

Orange County, California is home to many dive sites, but there is one site that dominates in frequency of divers, quality of diving, and accessibility. Utilizing these markers has led us to believe that Shaw's Cove is the #1 dive site in Orange County.

Located near Beach Cities Scuba, Shaw's Cove has spent over 80 years supporting the Southern California scuba lifestyle as well as visitors from all over the world! 

With that, we think that Shaw's is the #1 dive site in Orange County.

Here are the reasons why:

Frequency of Visits: There is no doubt that Shaw's Cove dominates the local dive community with frequency. On any given day, one will see a diver or two out in the parking areas prepping for a dive. On a weekend, it is not uncommon to see a hundred or more divers enjoying classes, diving for fun or just out exploring the Pacific ocean. You might see events at other dive sites throughout the year that draw the attention of divers; but at Shaw's Cove, you'll have consistent visits! 

Quality of Diving: We've conducted dives up and down the coast of California and much more. Of all those places, Shaw's Cove dominates in the "things to see" category. It is one of the only sites that has cut-outs that are expansive and enjoyable to explore. If you aren't in the cut-outs and caves, you can see a large kelp forest, reach deeper depths on the back side, visit Shelly of Shaw's (a little statue placed there in the early 2000's) or see if you can interact with Sea Lion's on the hunt. There is also an abundant amount of ocean life there. Lobsters are large and plentiful (this is a protected area under the MPA laws in Laguna Beach), every inch of the reef is covered in life and the population of fish is booming. You'll see the staple Garibaldi, Sheepshead, large schools of smelt and many other species here. Angel sharks, Bat Rays, Giant Black Sea Bass, Dolphins, Whales (yes, Whales), Blue sharks and other larger animals will pass by in search of food. This high percentage of things to do in Shaw's Cove make the quality of diving superior in Southern California dive sites. 

Shelly of Shaw's

Shelly of Shaw's: 

Not much is known about "Shelly of Shaw's." Apparently the Shelly has been a Shaw's Cove resident since the early 2000s. Shelly has moved a few times, and was vandalized at least once sometime around 2007. Every once in a while Shelly is mysteriously cleaned and cared for. Shelly currently sits roughly 10 meters east south east, from turnaround rock.

Accessibility: Shaw's Cove is an excellent location to conduct training dives for all recreational levels. It is in a semi-protected cove in terms of wave movement. When the swells are normal, Shaw's wave breaks will be lighter than other Southern California dive sites. When you might be at Wood's Cove and washed out, you might find Shaw's Cove to be an easier entry and exit! 

There is ample residential parking available at this dive site. It is also easily accessible from the Beach Cities Scuba location where many divers travel to and from on their shore dives. 

We know there are many dive sites in Southern California waters. If we were to rank them by popularity alone, it would be pretty easy to make the statement that the #1 dive site in Orange County is Shaw's Cove. Just ask any local, they more than likely got certified in Shaw's Cove , or they completed their first shore dives after certification at Shaw's. 

D.J. Mansfield is a PADI Course Director and Director of Operations for Beach Cities Scuba Centers. He's been in the fabric of the local dive community for 18 years and has hundreds of dives at Shaw's Cove alone. He can be reached at and is often found at the Cypress or Oceanside locations.

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