North County

Much of the basic North County dive site info below comes from an old Diving Locker handout. If you can help flesh out these descriptions or have other North County sites to suggest, please get in touch. Thank you!

North County dive sites are generally very exposed to swell and therefore only divable when the surf is small.

Fletcher Cove (Solana Beach County Park; formerly known as "the Pillbox")

Take Lomas Santa Fe all the way to the ocean. Paved access road down from the parking lot. Solana Beach Lifeguard headquarters on site. Finger reefs to the north (15–25fsw); straight out sandy then kelp beds to 45fsw. Free parking in lot up top; bathrooms next to parking lot; showers at bottom of ramp.

Large free parking lot
Facilities (bathrooms; showers at bottom of ramp)

Little Solana Cove (Tide Beach County Park; Table Top)

Take Solana Vista west to the ocean. Very long staircase to the beach. Table Top Reef is the reef visible to the immediate north of the stairs; scattered reefs out front and to the south. Kelp straight out down to 65fsw. Very limited street parking; no facilities.

This sidewalk at the head of Solana Vista is it
Lots and lots of stairs
Table Top reef to the north
Yes, you have to go BACK UP at the end!

Seaside (Cardiff State Beach)

The large state beach just north of Solana Beach. Mostly sand on the north, large central reef extending to the south. Best 15–30fsw before the outer kelp beds. Very large free parking lot; bathrooms in the back corner of the parking lot.

Southern end of the beach; note reef in front of the point
Huge free parking lot

Facilities in the back corner of the parking lot (bathrooms)

Cardiff Reef (Cardiff State Beach Park)

Getting There: Take PCH to the traffic light at "Cardiff State Beach" (one traffic light south of Chesterfield Dr. at the Northern end of "Restaurant Row"). Turn West into the parking lot.

Getting Wet: Head to the north end of the parking lot and enter the water where the lagoon flows into the ocean. You'll most likely see surfers to the south and north of this area. Try to stay between the two sets of surfers or you might get run over and surfboard fins can do quite a bit of damage. The bottom here, like the whole dive area, is a rocky reef with lots of dips and high points. You may be up to your knees in water at one point and then take a step and be over your head, so be careful walking out. There's not much use to putting your fins on until you are quite a way out.

The Lineup: The surface swim is quite long (250–350 meters (800–1200 ft)). You need to swim out in a West-North-West direction, putting yourself just north of the lagoon outlet. Get yourself out to where the kelp canopy gets thick. You may run into a spot of kelp on the way, but go around it and keep swimming out. You'll know when you get to the spot because you won't see any spaces to swim around the canopy.

Drop Down: You'll drop down into about 8–12 meters (25–40 ft.) of water. Don't expect it to get much deeper than that. You can go West through the "paths" between the kelp until you get to the end of the kelp forest and then return East. Or if you know your kick cycles and distance, you could swim North and then return to the South. Most likely, you'll do a bit of both. The bottom here is very uneven, with lots of nooks and crannies. Expect to see lots of lobsters, surf perch, urchins, and the rest of the usual kelp forest fare. Visibility is generally fairly poor (2–5 meters (8–20 ft.) due to the shallowness of the site. (Contributed by Gyan P.-K.)

Entrance and parking lot behind
Facilities (bathrooms, drinking fountain)
Shower and the break out front

Pipe's (north end of San Elijo State Park)

In Cardiff by the Sea off the 101 (PCH). Pipe's is a break at the north end of the park, just below the bathroom/shower facilities. Access is via a long, sloping park access road. Shallow reef with sand channels. Park inside for a fee or outside on 101 for free. Bathroom facilities and shower.

The reef out front (Pipe's)
The access road down to the beach
Pay parking inside
Free parking on 101
Facilities (bathrooms, shower)

Swami's (Sea Cliff County Park)

Just north of Cardiff by the Sea on 101 (PCH). Long, steep staircase. Reefs from 5-45fsw, best in the 20-35fsw range. Medium-size free parking lot; bathroom facilities; drinking fountain.

Note the reef structure (darker areas)
Facilities (bathrooms, drinking fountain)

Moonlight State Beach

Take Encinitas Blvd., which becomes B Street, all the way west to the ocean. Park on the street outside the State Beach area (no parking inside). Some reef to the right and left, sand out straight. Small reef and kelp straight out 1/8 mile. Showers and toilet facilities; small food concession stand.

Entrance; no public parking inside
Concession stand
Facilities (showers, bathrooms)

Stonesteps (Seaside Gardens County Park)

Take El Portal Street in Encinitas west to the ocean; at the Y just before the ocean, take the left side. Medium height concrete stairs to the beach. Less reef than at Beacon's. No facilities; very limited parking.

Very limited street parking

Beacon's (Leucadia State Beach)

Take Leucadia Blvd. all the way west to the ocean. Long switchback trail to the beach below. Diving 15–25fsw, 40fsw at outside kelp. No facilities; limited parking.

Diving right, left and center of main beach.