Diver at Shaw's Cove

Orange County Scuba Dive Sites

David Mansfield

There is no doubt that Orange County scuba diving surpasses the competition in terms of marine life encounters, quantity of sea life and unique exploratory dive sites. From San Diego to San Francisco, a diver can enjoy a wide range of scuba diving that provides clear, calm and cool waters. The abundance of dive sites, access to/from and the protection of those areas are on an entirely different level when it comes to Orange County scuba diving.

What makes Orange County so different? The topography offers unobstructed views of the ocean for those multi-million dollar homes that decorate the landscape of Southern California. This creates sweeping observation areas found throughout the region. These large hills continues downward towards the ocean and provide dramatic rock formations for divers to explore. For beach-goers, swimmers, paddle boarders and other aquatically focused folks; the public access areas to the Pacific Ocean are far greater than many other areas along the western coastline. Huntington Beach alone boasts a 9.5 mile state beach! The rocky formations found along the coastline continue well into the water; submerged and covered completely with ocean creatures. 

Diver in the ocean

As a visiting diver, many will notice that there are waves along the coastline. As divers move north towards Santa Barbara, Big Sur and Monterrey, they will experience large waves that have spent millions of years forming up California's beautiful views. These pose a challenge to beach divers throughout the region and many will find themselves traveling via boat to enjoy the dive sites found in these areas. As the coast moves south and east, one will find that coves and beaches become a little more protected. With the consistent swell and direction, many Southern California dive sites are often capable of successful scuba diving throughout the week. If you are in Orange County and looking to experience dive boats, you are more than welcome to explore Orange County Dive sites with boats like the Riviera Charters. This boat has operated in the Dana Point harbor for many years and has become the staple boat diving platform in Orange County. 

The beautiful rock formations are often accompanied by kelp. Kelp forests are prolific throughout Southern California and provide excellent protection for many animals. Diver's enjoy sweeping views as the kelp sways back and forth with sunlight rays poking through. It is amongst the most beautiful views found on earth. A diver can linger along the bottom and enjoy watching the fish travel through the area while watching the kelp forest. When you are on a dive site with kelp, it does not get much better!

Diver on the Riviera

There are naysayers when it comes to scuba diving in California. These protests can be narrowed down to three main issues: water temperature, wave action and visibility. 

The water temperatures range from 55°-75°F throughout the year. The average Southern California water temperature is 60°F. Usually, the cooler temps in winter will bring in high pressure systems that will keep the wave action low and provide us with great visibility. What most divers experience is the cooling effects of the outside temperatures which creates an undesirable effect to those of us that have an affinity for warmth! With the proper exposure protection, a diver can enjoy year-around scuba diving in Orange County. Whether finding an affordable drysuit or wearing a 7mm wetsuit, many divers enjoy scuba diving in Southern California year after year. 

The waves in Southern California do pose a risk to scuba divers and they are a very manageable risk. Scuba instructors throughout Orange County and all along the coast teach their divers at the lowest levels of learning how to enter and exit effectively from beaches.  These waves can become greater heights during tidal changes, wind shifts or other factors. If those conditions exceed your capabilities as a diver, it is a good idea to postpone your California diving activities or find another venue like a dive boat to enjoy your dives. Even a three or four foot wave is more than manageable to the majority of divers in Orange County. You'll find divers every single weekend at dive spots like Shaw's Cove as they safely enter and exit the water for their dives. If you are interested in learning how to beach dive, ask your instructor about the techniques! 

Visibility is affected on the Southern California coastline by wave action. The majority of dive sites have a sandy substrate; when the waves are up, the visibility is usually reduced. This does not make a dive site 'un-dive-able'; it simply means we change our perspective and travel further away from the beach to get better visibility. The average in Orange County is 10'-15'. The highs and lows are so drastic that there have been times when diving in Southern California felt like diving in the tropics with cooler waters. The clarity of the water is affected by numerous factors, but does provide an average that makes diving in California a year-around experience. 

Diver in the ocean

Overall, Orange County Scuba dive sites are excellent venues to enjoy whether the diver is visiting Southern California or is a resident of the area! If you are interested in exploring these areas, contact your local Southern California dive shop and get set up. You'll be very happy you did when you see how populated these areas are throughout Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and much more. 

About the Author:
D.J. Mansfield

D.J. Mansfield is a PADI Course Director who dives Southern California and has done so for 22 years. He is currently the Director of Operations for Beach Cities Scuba and is a committed ocean steward and trainer for divers all over the world.

Follow him on Instagram @djmansfield7or contact him at dj@beachcitiescuba.com.   

Did you know that Beach Cities Scuba is a 100% AWARE partner? We are committed to supporting our ocean partners and creating a protected environment for sea life that includes responsible fishing practices and minimal human interaction. See how you can get involved today!



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