Overview of Shaws Cove

Shaws Cove

California South
USA West


More rocky coastline and spectacular canyons await you at Shaw's cove. The diving is a breeze during good sea conditions.

Directions: Make a left on Fairview Street about 3/4 mile North of Broadway and Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna. The entrance is at the intersection with Cliff.


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07/02/2012 Jason NYC (Avg: 3.42 Review) - My buddy and I hit this spot for the first time ever on a busy Saturday. We found free street parking somewhat easily at about 5:30pm as people were starting to leave this very busy beach cove in Laguna where parking is residential and hard to come by on weekends. We saw at least 15 divers entering and exiting but never saw one underwater all weekend. If you are using a GPS and have never been here before, set your GPS to find the intersection of Cliff Drive and Fairview in Laguna, park, then find the substantial set of cement stairs that leads to this very pretty little cove. It was High tide when we entered and the water was almost to the bottom of the stairs. In we went on the right/north side and followed the reef line on the right with the sand on the left. Out and then right and back again. Easy as pie to navigate. This was our second dive of the day and viz was down from before to about 5-7ft as best. 61f at 38 fsw max. No current really with the ever present Laguna surge. All the normal SoCal critters, kelp, rocks, etc... A really nice dive with a sandy entrance. Surf was maybe 1-2 ft. Pretty calm day here. The hardest part is getting a parking spot on weekend and getting back up the stairs but compared to other sites in Laguna, the stairs here are pretty tame.

10/25/2011 Adam from Lompoc (Avg: 3.61 Review) - Great beginner dive site! This however makes it a very BUSY spot for diving. I counted about 30 divers above ground and ran into about 15 under the water. Great Vis! LOTS of Garibaldi swimming around as well as other fish. Entry was easy with a good depth a short distance off the shore. I for sure recommend this site to a newer diver or even snorkeling...for more advanced divers however I would say that this wouldn't be that enjoyable. It's an easy 2 tank dive but not much to check out if you’ve been diving over a year or so.

03/07/2011 Doug from Cucamonga (Avg: 3.90 Review) - Not my favorite Laguna spot. This is probably the most popular spot in Laguna...seems like no matter what time of year I drive past Shaw's there's either divers walking back to their cars or divers suiting-up to go dive. Parking is free and there is a good amount of it, beach access is easy (although there are a lot of stairs), vis is typically in the 10-20ft range and you don't have to swim very far at all before you enter the diving area. However, the diving here is pretty shallow, I feel a little claustrophobic in the crevices, and there isn't the abundance of plant/animal life that there is at other sites such as Heisler Park. Definitely worth diving, but of the many sites in Laguna I go to, this is the one I go to the least. However, I will say that this is arguably the best snorkeling/freediving spot in Laguna.

04/25/2010 Anonymous (Avg: 2.96 Review) - Its been a while since I commented on this dive site. I think its only fair to give a more accurate account. This is a very popular Training Location. Meaning that on any given weekend, you are bound to run into classes before 10am. I normally don't dive this site unless it's either night, or after work during the weekdays because of the number of people that go here. Entry and conditions change with every day so please know that what might be great one day, can be horrible the next. It's a south facing beach so hard to get lost. There are a few entrances to the crevices and at least a couple tunnels and caves that I don't recommend getting into without training as I have had to rescue a few people that got stuck. I absolutely love this site for night diving and never get tired. I have seen every creature from moray eels, wolf eels, seal, sea lions, octopi, brown shrimp and other smaller shrimp, leopard shark, horn shark, bat rays, thornback rays, sting rays, and hundreds of other creatures both big an small. However, expect to see nothing and be happy if you catch a glimpse of anything as I have gone some times and seen ZERO. I have likely dove this site over 300 times and as I said, its always different.

11/20/2009 Christy Varni (Avg: 4.25 Review) - Have dove here twice and so far it is my favorite shore dive in Laguna. Vis was excellent two weeks ago at about 35-40 which is great for this area. I saw a lot of fish live. I spotted two octopi, sea hares galore with one that was huge. It has a nice wall to dive near. There are a lot of divers on Saturday mornings because the conditions are usually good for the dive classes. The hike to the shore can be tiring depending on where you get a parking spot. It is a residential area so parking on the streets fills quickly and early on the weekends. There are about 40 stairs that you get to hike up as well. Great cardio workout.

11/15/2009 Jesse Rorabaugh (Avg: 3.62 Review) - This was my first Southern California dive. I had come hoping for Lobster, but within a few minutes it was pretty clear I was simply not going to see any. The site is just too popular for any game diving other than sea urchin. Although this was a daytime dive and I have never caught a lobster so don't consider me much of an authority on the subject. Other than that, this was a really great dive. The visibility was a good 30' and there were huge schools of bait fish, many Garibaldi, thousands of Sea Urchins, a Sheepshead or two, schools of Opaleye, a large Bat Ray and my dive buddy saw a large fish he believes was a yellowtail.

05/03/2009 Victor Chu AKA Batman (Avg: 3.47 Review) - Excellent spot for both beginners and instructors alike. April 30, 2009 night dive: 1-2' surf, 2-5' surge, and poor vis (5-8') with 2 Night Specialty students. On the surface, this would seem like poor conditions for a dive but after hundreds of dives at Shaw's, we still got a big surprise. Groups of 3'+ wingspan bat rays were congregating inside the reef and swam circles around us for lengths of time (5 min +) in 2 areas inside the reef! 2 large eels (5-6'+) inside a crevice. 1 large 10-12lb lobster next to the eels. The local female harbor seal 'Sparky' also followed and played with us for quite a few minutes swimming between our legs and brushing up against us. By far one of the most enjoyable dives at Shaw's or anywhere in Laguna!

02/21/2009 Bob from Oceanside (Avg: 4.17 Review) - There's lots of stuff to see: Nudibranch, scallops, sea hares, fish, soft coral, sea fans, and sea anemones. You name it, for a SoCal coast, and they are here.

01/16/2009 Frank Lukowski (Avg: 3.95 Review) - Went for my first dive at Shaw's cove yesterday and it certainly won't be the last. When you enter, surface swim out to the rocks and descend down to about 15ft. There you will follow the reef on your right, gently descending on a mild slope. You will eventually come to a huge pile of shells. If the current is down and visibility is up, you can then venture directly right of the shell field into a crevice in the reef. This will take you under a rock arch, which then opens up into a larger area. In this larger area there are many cracks in the reef. One crack is even large enough to swim through. This larger crack leads you out onto the lower reef which ends in about 50ft of water. A beautiful dive site, with plenty of reef life abound. When the southern swell is down, visibility can reach up to 35ft. Sea Life seen on my dive: Garibaldi, Sheephead, Giant Sea Star, Painted Greenlings, Senorita, BlackSmith, Rock Wrasse, Tube and Green Anemones, Gorgonian Sea Fans, Barred and Kelp Bass and Rock Scallops A Video of my dive can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Opx1vhS2r30

06/22/2008 Marcus (Avg: 3.27 Review) - Dove here for the first time today. Although the viz wasn't particularly good (15 feet), the reef structure to the north is pretty interesting. Trek down (and up) the steps can be tough if you're not in good shape, and parking can be a problem if you don't get there early. The surf was up a bit but doable if you're trained for it or used to it. You'll find sting rays and halibut on the way out. We headed to the north on our first dive (210 degrees from the beach) and followed the reef out to the point to a depth of 48'. Lot's of garibaldi, calico bass, cabezon hiding in the rocks at depth, cucumbers, and a variety of urchins and sea stars. Saw a large bat ray on the way back in. Nice dive site, but if you want to keep your mask and snorkel put them around your neck on the way out, and do the stingray shuffle on entry and exit.

03/19/2008 Brian Xavier (Avg: 4.25 Review) - This is the second best dive site in Laguna. Very nice with rock formation going out to sea. Dove to 40 feet and great viz to about 30 feet. Went to north side of beach/rocks. Reminded me of Pahoehoe on Big Island. Nice Garibaldi and a few Sheephead. Great dive a lot like Catalina. Find parking and you've got it made. Red curbs mean no parking. Currently they're working on the walkway down to the beach. One of my best dives ever. I used my dolly to carry my gear, then locked it to the steps. Saves energy.

02/27/2008 Benjamin (Avg: 3.04 Review) - At 25-30 feet, this place was awesome for all class of divers. My first time coming here, and it was the best place along California coast. I'm going night diving here soon with my brother

08/06/2007 Monique (Avg: 2.85 Review) - This one of the best beach dives I've ever been on. I saw 3 octopus, 6 lobsters, 1 crab, lots of garibaldi and other fish and the swim through crevice was really fun and different. It felt like a slot canyon. You have to be careful not to get lost. Only saw 4 other divers in the water on the way out.

07/23/2007 Brian in Torrance (Avg: 3.39 Review) - Nice dive site. Vis was 10-15 feet. Light surge and no waves. We must have passed 20 people under water and they were not students. Look forward to diving this spot in the winter during Santa Ana's...

06/26/2007 Daniel Burke (Avg: 3.75 Review) - This dive spot came as a complete surprise to me. The visibility was amazing compared to Strands Beach where I had been snorkeling. The fish weren't that big; my brother caught a 1ft perch and saw a halibut swim away. Tons of large stingrays. I'd want to go back just because it was such a nice spot.

12/09/2006 Troy Simmons (Avg: 3.70 Review) - It was a really nice location for a quick beach dive, although getting to the beach is somewhat arduous in scuba gear. But this is worth it as it is an interesting dive location where at anytime you could see possibly anything!

11/09/2005 Toby Grant (Avg: 3.87 Review) - Shaws Cove was freakin awesome. I really enjoyed the cliff area on the right. I went to go freediving with my buddy and it was really cool to drop down about 30 ft and just follow the rock wall and see some of the really cool wild life. Tons of Garibaldis. Heard there were octopus but didn't get to see any. Highly recommend it and enjoyed it way more than Crystal Cove.

04/08/2005 K Robinson (Avg: 2.45 Review) - Was told that this was a great site. Must of hit it on a bad day. Viz was about 3 feet. Nice rock ledge and wall to the north of entry. Did not see many fish -- heck, we were lucky to find each other. Lots of classes being taught. Will have to try again on a better day. Be prepared to carry equip down the road and down stairs.

09/19/2004 AJ (Avg: 3.67 Review) - The grunion are out! There are tons of grunion off to the right (August 2004). You can swim through their school and watch them swirl around you as they get chased by mackerel!

05/28/2004 Thomas Short (Avg: 2.66 Review) - I always have a good dive a Shaw's Cove, but the trick is to get there early in the morning before classes start to show up. This is when you well see the majority of marine life that hasn't been scared off by dive classes. Also the entry is a lot better earlier in the morning before the swells come in.

01/12/2004 Wheezy (Avg: 4.07 Review) - Shaws is a great place to dive when vis is above 15'. It's one of those dives where you need to SLOW DOWN and really look around. The abundance of life is amazing. I just took some photos of an entire family of Spanish Shawls, a mom, dad, and the smallest nudibranch I've ever seen. GREAT DIVE

01/03/2004 Matias (Avg: 2.33 Review) - Great place to learn beach entry and exits, I've seen vis from 1 to 25 feet, better when Santa Ana winds blow. Good learning site.

01/01/2004 Anonymous (Avg: 3.48 Review) - This site is almost always easy to enter and plenty of sea life to experience. Probably the biggest downside is the congestion both above and below the water. Last time I was there I counted at least three classes.

12/28/2003 Tim (Avg: 3.23 Review) - Shaws was my first beach dive. It had a very easy entrance, and a lot of marine life. The reef had some small tunnles to go through and we even had a seal swimming with us

12/23/2003 Enrique Kaneshiro (Avg: 3.20 Review) - Excellent Site. Semi Secluded with good views over all enjoyable!

12/08/2003 Edward J. Palumbo (Avg: 3.66 Review) - Surf conditions and visibility were inconsistent from February to May with viz deteriorating with offshore storms and higher water temps, but the site is normally sheltered from high surf and it has a number of features to recommend it. Parking, though limited, was less a problem for me on repeated visits than other nearby coves and beaches, but I invariably arrived early, about 0730 hrs and occasionally during the workweek. This site is popular with swimmers, dive classes and snorkelers, so it is predictably crowded on weekends. Access to the south-facing beach is accomplished by stairs, and shore entry & exit is typically uncomplicated. To the right (west) of entry are rocky walls and, exploring these, we find a crevice that provides a haven for garibaldi and other fish in approximately 18-22 feet of water, according to my notes. Though frequently visited by divers, there are cracks where octopus can hide and the empty shells that litter the bottom support the reports of divers I'd spoken to who said they saw small octopus here. Water depth at the outer reef, beyond the crevice, was 43+ feet and my average visibility was 20-25 feet. Moving east (i.e., to the left of my shore entry as you look from the beach), I found submerged reefs with senorita wrasse and grunion. I had the pleasant surprise of a harbor seal encounter as I returned to the beach, and the creature circled to examine me as I hovered several feet off the sandy bottom. In shallower water, I found a mask with attached snorkel and a weight belt on the bottom, uncovered by shifting sands. I did not note any public restroom facilities or showers in my log, which may have been an oversight. The area is primarily residential. I recommend this site more highly than Diver's Cove, Boat Canyon or Diver's Cove for marine life. I look forward to an opportunity to revisit this and other sites in Orange County.

10/15/2003 Mark Wilson (Avg: 4.23 Review) - Beautiful conditions. Visibility was at 20+ ft. The reefs are teaming with life. Octopus, Sea Bass, Garibaldi and Rays. Beach entry was very easy with waves only at 1-2 ft. Count them in fours and wait for the lull. Swim straight out about 100 ft and then at a 45 to the right to catch the reef. Great open "caves". Good dive for Novice as well as seasoned divers. Diving season appears to be back.

09/02/2003 Mark Wilson (Avg: 2.40 Review) - Diving Shaws on Aug 31st at 6:30 am Visibility was only 2-5 ft. Temp was 57 degrees. Swells were 2-5 ft with a lot of surge. My wife and I made it out to the reef but the visibility lately has been real bad.

08/19/2003 Len Wittrock (Avg: 3.24 Review) - Shaw's Cove is ideal for beginning scuba divers and is home to several scuba schools in So. Cal. During the summer classes must enter the water no earlier than 7am and must be out of the water by 10am leaving the beach open to non-student divers for most of the day and night. Conditions are at their very best in the winter, like almost all California diving! Summer diving in Calif. usually exhibits lower visibility and higher waves than in the winter. Vis, on average in the summer ranges from 2-10ft. In the winter it ranges from 20 to 30ft. at Shaw's Cove. There are moray eels, octopus, bat rays, shovel nose guitar fish, halibut, and much much more to see on the reef. Enjoy the dive!

05/04/2003 Erik Wade (Avg: 3.24 Review) - This place is a shot in the dark. I live close to it and some days it has a great visibility, others you can only see above water. There are always classes Sat & Sun, but they have to be gone by 11am. It is best to hit this place early to avoid people and find parking, plus it's usually the best time for visibility.

04/16/2003 Brett (Avg: 3.28 Review) - Not bad. Currents are almost nothing and sea life isn't bad. It is a very Leisurely dive site.

02/06/2003 Rob Barton (Avg: 2.92 Review) - A fun little dive site. If you can catch it on the right day, passing through the crevice is incredible. However, don't go through if the surge kicks up. The surge can be strong and the vis drops quick so it's just a better idea to turn around and go back the way you came. Don't worry, there is more stuff to see. Plenty of garibaldi, urchin, and mussel shells. Entry and exit is easy if you time the waves.

09/15/2002 Anonymous (Avg: 2.99 Review) - Best Laguna beach dive.

09/15/2002 Mitch in CA (Avg: 2.86 Review) - Shaws cove is great for beginners to advanced divers. Beginners- easy entry from shore. Intermediate- reef systems. Advanced- tunnels and swim throughs. It is fun to spend a whole day there and relax do scuba and skin diving. The only drawback is the CROWDS of people!

07/24/2002 Anonymous (Avg: 3.74 Review) - (No review given)

03/24/2002 Anonymous (Avg: 2.92 Review) - Popular site for classes.

01/07/2002 Dave Crawford (Avg: 3.16 Review) - This cove is popular with dive instructors for class dives. The beach entry is very easy, as long as the swell isn't from the south. During the winter the visibility ranges form poor (when the swell is high) to outstanding. During the summer it ranges from poor to fair. I have seen lobster here, and a couple of rock scallops, there is an abundance of fish life. It makes for a fun dive.


Site Photos

(click photo for a larger version)

 Map     Sat
GPS: CS0201


Parking at Shaws Cove 

Parking is where you can find it. Here, two divers suit up at their truck.

Trail Head

 Map     Sat
GPS: CS0202


Trail Head at Shaws Cove 

Here, two explorers rest from a good dive and a healthy climb up the stairs!

Left Entry

 Map     Sat
GPS: CS0203


Left Entry at Shaws Cove 

Make sure you're well-practiced and comfortable negotiating the swells.

Right Entry

 Map     Sat
GPS: CS0204


Right Entry at Shaws Cove 

The more interesting structures are off this point.

Last Verification: July, 2001  


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

Average Site Condition

Ease of Shore Entry:  3.95
Bottom Conditions:  3.38
Reef Conditions:  3.70
Animal Life:  3.54
Plant Life:  3.11
Facilities:  2.32
Solitude 2.57
Roads:  3.81
*Site Average:  3.38

Average Enjoyment Level

Snorkel:  3.35
Beginner Scuba:  4.14
Intermediate Scuba:  3.62
Advanced Scuba:  3.03
Night diving Scuba:  3.73

Number of reviews for this site: 37


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