Divers jumping off boat

The Top 3 Orange County Boat Dive Spots

David Mansfield

The Top 3 Orange County boat diving spots are the ACE Wreck, Deadman's Reef and the Headlands. See an overview of each here! 

ACE Wreck 

In June of 2007, the 58-foot drum seiner, the A.C.E. went down in a storm off the coast of San Clemente. The ship flipped so quickly that it the crew was forced to abandon ship without any preparation. The crew survived the harrowing experience and the ship laid itself to rest approximately 5 miles outside of Dana Harbor. 

After its discovery by local authorities and confirmation by local divers, it became a popular dive site for Beach Cities Scuba and Riviera Yacht Charters. Sitting at 114ft, the A.C.E. wreck provides an excellent training ground for experienced divers and is available to dive every few months with the Riviera!  

Additionally, the A.C.E. wreck provides a deep water sanctuary to many Southern California species. At this site, you will see Sculpin, Giant White Sea Anemones (Metridiums) as well as Sea Lions, Dolphins and much, much more. Visibility on the wreck ranges from 10-50 feet and currents can change hourly. Temps range from 50-58 degrees Fahrenheit. Making this wreck extremely enjoyable in a drysuit!  

This wreck is considered a Deep wreck, meaning that you should have Deep Diver Training or experience beyond the Advanced Open Water Course to join the crew on dives. 

Deadman's Reef

Deadman's Reef is located in northern Laguna Beach almost on the border of Newport's Crystal Cove State Park. Named for its known long distance swim from shore, Deadman's Reef is home to a beautiful landscape that provides sanctuary for our underwater friends.  

For those of us that love boat diving, the Riviera provides an excellent method in which to safely dive this reef without dealing with the heavy logistics of conducting a shore dive.

Make sure that you visit the monument here located in about 35 feet of water on the Northern side of the reef. Here, you will meet the "Deadman" in the casket. With the large amount of kelp growth, it does become hard to locate, but most dive professionals and experienced divers will know exactly where to go for a viewing of this hilarious monument to the reef. 

On the backside of Deadman's, you can get depths of about 72 feet with a high tide. Navigation is very easy here because the reef is literally a very large set of rocks. From the boat, you simply need to descend the anchor line and begin your dive. When you are ready to ascend, you just enjoy a nice 15 foot safety stop at the top of the reef and link back up with the Riviera

You will find large schools of fish here with visibility that ranges from 5-35ft on average. Temps range from 52-70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

If you are scuba diving in Southern California, this is a "can't miss" dive site. 

The Headland's

One of the newest Riviera dive sites is the Headlands. Located in Dana Point, CA, the Headlands is a welcoming dive site that offers a wide variety of experiences for divers. 

This dive site is a series of plateaus that range from 70ft to 30ft. This provides an experience for all divers and all levels. Whether you want to see kelp beds, topography or large groups of fish, the Headlands is another great experience for boat diving in Southern California. 

The Riviera crew will want you to conduct this dive safely, which means having a proper Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) and signaling device available in your dive buddy team. It is in an active boating channel, which means navigation to and from the boat is a safe idea. 

On this site you will see rockfish, sea lions, calico sea bass, rays, moray eels, lobster and much more! Temps range from 52-70 degrees at this site. 

If you are visiting the Southern California area and looking to scuba dive, then checking out the Headland's is for you!  

When visiting Southern California, it is always good to call ahead to book your appointments. If you are visiting in the summertime, it is important that you plan ahead. Boats in this area will fill up quickly! 

The quickest way to get on a dive boat is to book online. You can call call 866-400-DIVE and book with one of the boat's representatives as well. 

We hope you enjoyed the article and will find some time to check out boat diving in Orange County, California! 


David "D.J." Mansfield serves as the Director of Operations for Beach Cities Scuba Centers, Southern California's premiere diving operation. He has 20 years of diving experience in Southern California and thousands of dives in the Orange County area. He can be reached at david.mansfield@beachcitiescuba.com. 

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