Overview of Van Damme State Park

Van Damme State Park

California North
USA West


The dive site at Van Damme is directly across the street from the State Park entrance. The park has 74 campsites with all the amenities, and a riverside foot trail. Check out the park's visitor center while off-gassing.

Directions: The entrance to Van Damme is 3 miles South of Mendocino on Highway 1. The road curves right around the beach. For more information on California parks, call 1-800-444-7275 or go to their website here.


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Diver Reviews:    Click here to write a Site Review, and share any new information about this site!

08/17/2012 Volleyman (Avg: 3.42 Review) - Walked south to edge of the fist rock formation and swam out about 30 yards and dove in open spot in between heavy kelp bed. Found Good Ab population in fairly shallow depth. Caught my limit in one spot.

04/17/2012 Bluestar (Avg: 4.03 Review) - This is a belated report, but better late than never. I have mixed feelings about this site. What you save on not having to climb down a steep cliff, you blow on having to walk or swim very far to find abs. I headed straight out from the center of the beach and within 75 yards are all sandy bottom; no rocks or abs. The kelp is so thick, it's hard to swim parallel to coast, so I had to swim back to shore, walk south, then enter again. Walking on sand with all the gear is exhausting! I may give this site another try in 5 years.

07/16/2009 Aaron Warren (Avg: 3.53 Review) - Heavy kelp with not so good viz 2-8 foot. Water was 49 degrees but still a fun dive. Went straight out in the middle and stayed fairly shallow. Saw tons of dungeness crabs including some mating. A bunch of kelp crabs. The biggest sea cucumber I have seen. A tiny jellyfish. And lots of abs.

05/26/2009 Patricia Terry (Avg: 3.52 Review) - This dive site is too easy! The beach entry is a short walk from the parking lot. There is a shower and toilets. One of the shallow reefs is just a few kicks away from the beach. There is a lot of kelp, but if you dig around you can see some large abalone, crabs and clams. This is a great beginner dive, but not the best diving around the area.

02/04/2007 Kevin (Avg: 3.69 Review) - VD is an excellent location for those new to diving. Van Damme is famous for open water certification dives. The beach entry is too easy, even for the novices. The outer reef protects the beach from swells when all other local dive sites are blown out. The majority of the bay is shallow (20-30 ft) and sandy with no current....Great for newbies. During ab season, boat traffic can become frustrating. The north wall offers pretty good sight seeing with cucumbers, crabs, and big abalone once you get deep. The north wall also has a cave that is pretty cool to dive during high tide. If all else fails in the Mendocino/Ft. Bragg area, Van Damme is still a good option.

03/21/2006 Mitch in CA (Avg: 3.41 Review) - Went to Van Damme as everything else was blown out or didn't look too clear. Did a 2 tank dive - dove left side of parking lot and was very shallow. There was a good reef, though, with lots to look at. We saw a big sea cucumber, nudibranch as well as the usual suspects and grabbed a few crabs. Tried to go towards the center of beach but not much there. The right side (north) looked good though although a far swim. Easy entry/exit even when everything else was windy.

06/23/2005 Aaron Warren (Avg: 3.90 Review) - Did a one tank dive. Parked right in front of the shower. Bathrooms were open and clean. Water temp was 50 degrees but felt warmer. Vis was 20 foot once we got past the inside kelp. Didn't see any fish, but we saw Dungeness crabs, big abs and sunstar fish. It was a very easy walk from the parking lot to the water. Small one foot surf. I took pictures and they came out really nice.

01/28/2005 Chris 3 (Avg: 4.00 Review) - This is an absolutely great dive for the beginner diver (me as of this review). Very easy entry with a large and shallow protected area. Inside the cove depths probably average in the 30's getting into the 40's in places. I've never done the rocks that form the breakwater but would like to see the deeper water on the far side. There is a huge anchor we came upon in the middle of the cove. It was massive and had been there long enough to have developed a little ecosystem. Overall a fun dive and one that would make a good choice if some other spots are too rough.

01/09/2004 Avid Diver (Avg: 4.05 Review) - Pleanty of interesting stuff can be found in the kelp a very short swim from shore. Gets even better farther out but is a long swim.

11/15/2002 Carl Bowers (Avg: 3.81 Review) - This is a very protected dive site. It offers shallow water for beginning abalone divers and deeper water on the back side of the pinnacle rock. Kelp is thick (good for abs) but usually has an easy entry/exit even on not so calm days.

02/08/2002 Qwksvt (Avg: 3.63 Review) - Easy entry. Extremely long swim out and to the right for anything interesting. Primarily a area to take a zodiac out and then free dive for abalone. The large bay makes it nice for scuba novice. Great California State Park for camping.


Site Photos

(click photo for a larger version)

 Map     Sat
GPS: CN0601


Entrance at Van Damme State Park 

Looking North, this is the entrance to the park. The beach entrance is to the left.


 Map     Sat
GPS: CN0602


Parking at Van Damme State Park 

Parking next to the shower is a good idea!


 Map     Sat
GPS: CN0603


Overview at Van Damme State Park 

From up above you can see the channel through the kelp.


 Map     Sat
GPS: CN0604


Entry at Van Damme State Park 

The entry makes this a perfect newbie diver site!

Last Verification: July, 2001  


Diver Averages for  Van Damme State Park  (1=worst, 5=best)

Average Site Condition

Ease of Shore Entry:  4.73
Bottom Conditions:  3.55
Reef Conditions:  3.36
Animal Life:  3.45
Plant Life:  3.82
Facilities:  4.27
Solitude 3.09
Roads:  4.00
*Site Average:  3.73

Average Enjoyment Level

Snorkel:  3.36
Beginner Scuba:  4.36
Intermediate Scuba:  3.82
Advanced Scuba:  3.27
Night diving Scuba:  3.09

Number of reviews for this site: 11


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