Breakwater (AKA: San Carlos Beach), Monterey, CA
Undoubtedly the most popular Monterey diving spot, the Breakwater is located a mile or less up the coast, North of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. On weekends hoards of students invade the beach here, making it a bit “festive” at times.
The reason it is so popular is the generally calm conditions, easy access, parking and amenities like a dive shop, fresh water showers and places to eat right at the site. It’s also right in the middle of town so it’s the kind of place you can make a dive, go see Monterey, and go back and make another dive.
Despite it’s popularity with students, there’s a lot to see here underwater. Directly offshore along the breakwater itself you’ll find boulders encrusted with every invertebrate imaginable. Strawberry anemones, orange cup corals, chitons, cobalt and several other sponges, tunicates, sea stars, sea cucumbers, crabs, nudibranchs, you name it, all make these giant rocks their home.
Out toward the sand, you’ll fine sand dabs, a sand dollar bed, tube anemones, sea hares, crabs, more sea stars, flounders, gobies, more nudibranchs, and the occasional octopus. No doubt, octopi inhabit the deep crevices in the rocks as well, but it’s difficult to spot them there.
As you continue across the sand, you’ll reach the kelp beds. That is, if you didn’t head straight there in the first place. The kelp beds here can be pretty thick, giving the dive site that classic “kelp cathedral” ambiance that exemplifies California diving. Rockfish of several varieties seem to be everywhere, along with senioritas, perch, cabezon and several other species of fish.
In reality, Breakwater is more a series of dive sites than a single one. From the other end of the beach, if you don’t mind swimming, you can reach a significant field of metridium anemones, which really deserves it’s own description. There’s also a submerged barge way out, but it’s in boat traffic, so it’s generally not dived.
No matter what part of the cove you decide to explore, you’re in for an exciting dive. Just remember to get there early on weekends, and plan to spend $10 for parking for the day.