Overview of Malaga Cove

Malaga Cove

California Mid
USA West


Malaga Cove contains reefs, kelp, sand and rock creatures. Take two tanks, if you have the time and energy!

Directions: Located in the posh Palos Verdes area, grab your street map and follow along: From the Pacific Coast Highway, head South on Palos Verdes Blvd for 1.4 miles. Turn right on Palos Verdes Drive West. In 1/4 mile, turn right on Via Corta which soon becomes Via Almar. Take your next right (Via Arroyo) to the view below.


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09/25/2010 Doug from Cucamonga (Avg: 2.90 Review) - An interesting dive site. When conditions are good this can be a very enjoyable shallow dive. There's lots of Kelp and other plant life, lots of marine life (including Leopard Sharks and Horn Sharks) and a fairly good-sized reef structure. However, the drive there is weird (traveling through lots of winding roads in Palos Verdes). Plus the walk down to the beach is a nightmare in full gear (I just cart my gear down to the beach and suit up on shore). AND conditions are very hit or miss. Sometimes visibility is 20ft with virtually no surf and surge. A couple of days later the site may be undivable. Definitely worth checking out, but if your looking for a 'sure' dive, or a true beginner dive, you'd be better off heading to Laguna or San Diego.

08/06/2010 Andrew Loewen (Avg: 3.23 Review) - I dove this site last night on August 5 2010. Everything I have read about ideal conditions is true; High tide with a southern swell. There are a lot of rocks on entry so high tide is best for entry so that you don't have to walk across all the rocks. One should still be careful while entering and exiting. In addition the southern swell allowed for great visibility varying from 15-25 feet. We started the dive at dusk and took a heading of approx. 210 degrees towards the point of Palos Verdes. There are lots of rocks and kelp for fish and lobsters to hide in and around. The lobsters are not too big, the biggest one I saw was maybe 2lbs. There are not really any big game fish here so spear guns are not needed. Night soon fell, but we were equipped with our lights. There was not any current to sweep us away and the swim club building on the rocks provides plenty of light to easily locate shore. This is a very safe & fun local dive. The road that leads down to the rocks is paved and a little steep so being fit is important. But I've had harder hikes down to the beach like at beautiful Crystal Cove. But that's another story.

07/21/2010 JY (Avg: 3.53 Review) - Have dove Malaga a few times and visibility is variable, usually pretty decent surge. Dove on high tide on 7/18/10. Small surf with long period swell. We did the sand entry and kicked over to the gazebo and descended initially 9 feet and kicked into 24 feet where I think we stumbled on the old pilings. Viz was maybe 10 feet but saw 4 very large bat rays and a giant sea bass - first time I've seen anything like that there!

07/20/2010 Daniel (Avg: 3.05 Review) - I came back two days later to try this site at high tide. The entry over the rocks was sooo much easier during high tide. However, the visibility was still bad (less than 10'). After talking to a man in a kayak who said he was an experienced diver, he said you just can't come to this spot during a Northern swell. It mixes the water around, and you can't hardly see anything. And wouldn't you know it, there was a northern swell today. Boo.

07/16/2010 Daniel (Avg: 3.08 Review) - We went on 7/15/10 at 5pm (low tide). As a beginning skin diver, I was looking for a place with easy entry and lots to see. The road from the parking lot leads you right down to the beach, where the rocks meet the sand. I went in through the sandy beach, and paddled over to the reef. The beach was crowded, but no one was snorkeling. Visibility was bad (maybe 5' or so), so we had to dive to about ten feet to see anything. I've seen some websites that said go during low tide, and some that said go during high tide. We tried at low tide, and it sucked. Couldn't hardly see anything. Gonna try back at high tide sometime soon.

03/22/2010 Big Dave (Avg: 3.13 Review) - Dove Malaga Cove yesterday. We started with four divers - two of whom were experienced but not in the best shape. My buddy and I had no problems with the hike. The other divers were exhausted by the time we reached the sandy beach. The second team struggled with exhaustion and gear issues. They decided to call it a day after one entry attempt. My buddy and I had no problems with the entry. He felt like it was a long kick out. Viz was bad, but we still saw amazing sea life. We saw lobsters, crabs, sand sharks, angel sharks, sculpin and of course garibaldi. I would recommend this dive, but make sure your fitness level is decent and you don't mind beach dives. Next time I will do the rocky entry as it didn't look too bad and will save a lot of energy in the kick out.

09/09/2009 Jay (Avg: 3.17 Review) - This was my third snorkeling adventure. The trail head off Palos Verdes is a little tough to find at first. Once I took the gradual hike (make sure you take hiking shoes) down to the rocky beach - its every man for himself. No obvious trails, just start working your way through the rocks. I hit the water at 3pm and found the visibility okay about 50 yards offshore. I would recommend hitting this site at low tide… much better visibility.

11/16/2008 Frank Lukowski (Avg: 3.48 Review) - Malaga Cove is one of two spots on the Palos Verdes Peninsula that has easy beach access. The other being White Point. I've dived Malaga cove quite a few times and it's either hit or miss. When it's good, I've found 25ft+ visibility. When its bad, it could be less than a foot. The good thing about Malaga is that it's extremely shallow. You have to go really far out to get over 40 ft and most points of interest are at 25 to 30. You'll encounter plenty of garibaldi, opaleye, sargo, senorita, and a few sheep head. As well as some lobster, if you know where to look. Most divers enter over the rocks by the yacht/dive club and then plan their dive perpendicular to the club. If a high southern swell is up Malaga can be a safe haven for divers. If a Northern swell is brewing, you're better off diving elsewhere.

07/19/2007 Annona Diver (Avg: 3.23 Review) - I've dove this site several times, but never seem to get good viz. But I'm told that when it's good, it's really good. There are lots of kelp patches, eel grass, and rock reefs with lots of fish and other life to see, when you can… BUT DON'T BE TEMPTED TO ENTER OVER THE ROCKS! That entry sucks as the bottom has such a gentle slope to it that you'll be standing and wobbling while fighting the waves and waiting to take your next lunging slippery step forward through yet more slick rocks until finally, 30' out, you get into chest deep water. Just make the extra hike to the sand beach entry and fin back out. Trust me, your knees and shins will thank you. Sand entry is good for beginner divers on up. Lots to see, shallow.

04/17/2006 Kendall Roberg (Avg: 3.64 Review) - Great place to dive. The beach entry is the way to go and we found a reef right off the beach with a few lobster and swell shark. Some crazy guy on the shore started telling us about government conspiracies, but other than that it was a great dive. Great spot for people new to diving.

08/10/2005 Leif (Avg: 3.53 Review) - Snorkeled the cove and the one Just north of it. Great visibility now. So much red tide this summer down south, it was nice to find this place.

04/04/2005 John Kibler (Avg: 4.23 Review) - My buddy and I snorkeled Malaga at 9:30am on April 3, 2005. All I can say is "WOW!" We entered at the first point to the west, just past the small (but fun looking) surf break with two surfers out. About ten minutes amongst the shallow (10-15') kelp, we were approached by a curious harbor seal. The seal allowed us to stroke it, sniffed our fists, and was generally very puppylike in its activity. He hung about for 2 or 3 minutes before returning a few minutes later to playfully chew on my fin. Later during the snorkel, we found 3 or 4 juvenile horn sharks sitting amongst rocks. As we paddled towards shore, visibility got worse and no more sharks were spotted, although we did find a large sheep crab. Fantastic!

09/19/2004 Chris Albertson (Avg: 3.63 Review) - This is a very large shallow reef system. The rocks that make up the reefs are long, straight and all run parallel so navigation is easy. Just swim along parallel to the system to your turn around point. Many fish and bottom dwelling critters are here, too. Kelp over the rocks with eelgrass in the shallow water. The water remains 40ft or less to 1/2 mile off shore. Vis is 25+ on a good day This would be excellent night diving but the parking is closed at 9:00pm so you can only night dive in winter. Before taking the gear out of your car check the conditions from the gazebo. If the surf is up, this is not a fun dive. Shoulder high breakers will push you into the rocks, and it is a wide surf zone. But many times the cove is lake-like. Exiting on the sandy beach is easy and recommended even if it does means a longer walk back. If the surf is up at Malaga go to Long Point (a.k.a Old Marinaland) as that beach faces the other direction and will likely be calm and has similar reefs

09/06/2004 Dan and Rob Fox (Avg: 3.65 Review) - Went to Malaga Cove with Southcoast divers due to a storm off the coast of Baja. This group usually dives Laguna area. I personally entered and exited over the rocks but a few chose to go to the beach and enter and exit. The viz was 10 to 25 feet depending on the bottom. The kelp beds were great and full of life schools of fish. octopus and lobster. It is not deep about 25 to 30 so bottom times were hour plus. The day was great and a good dive was had by all. The hill is doable but take your time.

08/20/2003 Adam (Avg: 4.27 Review) - I've made 50+ scuba dives here, 40 as a beginner. Excellent site for beginners to drop down to 15' for an hour. Garibaldi everywhere, calico bass, sand bass, kelp bass, senorita fish, opal eye...lots of fish! Lobsters too! Kelp a little further out, and that's neat to swim thru. No sea stars tho', few anemones too. It's a hike back up the lifeguard road. Easy access from the beach and novice rocky entry area for practice. I've lost 1 flashlight, 1 knife, and 1 watch there (got the watch back tho'). Found 1 weight belt. Rocks meet sand here. No sharks ever. It's absolutely amazing here. Haggerty's entrance is STEEP and just West. Great there too. Sea-D-Sea is the local dive shop (in Hollywood Rivera). They are nice. 5 minutes away too. Great spot for new girl divers, exits are easy @ beach. Save some air @ end of dive and surface under kids surfing in the cove-scare the heck out of 'em! Ha! ;)

07/24/2003 Anonymous (Avg: 3.02 Review) - We went snorkeling in the early afternoon, and the vis was pretty poor - but we heard some sharks had been seen earlier. Easy entry; very light surf. If the dive is a bust, it's a nice beach to hang out on and play in the water (if you don't mind dodging kids learning to surf!)

09/10/2002 DivingCat (Avg: 3.66 Review) - Summer, temp up to 73F - almost too warm!


Site Photos

(click photo for a larger version)

 Map     Sat
GPS: CM1401


Entrance at Malaga Cove 

Adjacent to the Rolling Hill Preparatory School, continue straight to the cliff-side park.


 Map     Sat
GPS: CM1402


Parking at Malaga Cove 

There is parking along the road and in the lot to the left.

Trail Head

 Map     Sat
GPS: CM1403


Trail Head at Malaga Cove 

Here begins the Journey of a Thousand Steps. Actually, it's not that far, but will seem like it once you've hiked down this access road. A cart for your gear would be recommended if it had brakes, as the hill is rather steep. Otherwise, take your time on the hike, resting and hydrating along the way.




Overview at Malaga Cove 

A long, sandy beach lies beyond the rocky diving area.




Overview at Malaga Cove 

Just to the left of the above picture, you can make out the kelp beds in the distance.


 Map     Sat
GPS: CM1406


Entry at Malaga Cove 

A sandy beach gives an easy entry in the right conditions.

Last Verification: July, 2001  


Diver Averages for  Malaga Cove  (1=worst, 5=best)

Average Site Condition

Ease of Shore Entry:  3.65
Bottom Conditions:  3.35
Reef Conditions:  3.47
Animal Life:  3.71
Plant Life:  3.53
Facilities:  1.88
Solitude 3.41
Roads:  4.00
*Site Average:  3.44

Average Enjoyment Level

Snorkel:  3.76
Beginner Scuba:  3.59
Intermediate Scuba:  3.47
Advanced Scuba:  3.06
Night diving Scuba:  3.35

Number of reviews for this site: 17


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