Del Monte Beach

Location: Del Monte Ave, Monterey, east of Fisherman's Wharf
Parking: Metered parking, across the street from McDonalds.
Restrictions: Permission from harbormaster required to dive the pier pilings.
Experience Level: Novice
Depth: 10-35ft
Entry: Sandy beach, no rocks

Del Monte Beach is a pure sandy beach just east of Fisherman's Wharf. The harbor and wharf provide protection from most swells, so the site is almost always calm. You also have your choice of entry/exit locations, as there are no rocks that I'm aware of to trip you up in the surf zone. Most of the site consists of sandy bottom, with scattered beds of eelgrass and other seaweeds. This lack of features doesn't mean there's nothing to see here. Sheepcrabs, perch, nudibrachs, snails, and even halibut, rays, and skates are common sights here.

Sailboat

One destination I enjoy is a sunken sailboat located in about 25 feet of water. The boat is usually home to a small kelp forest, which attracts several species of perch and rockfish. It's a great site for invertebrates such as strawberry anemones and barnacles. To locate the sailboat, swim out and look for a white dome at the Presidio. Continue swimming out until the dome is between the first two buildings on the wharf. Next, line up the flagpoles in the park across Del Monte Ave between the third and fourth threes behind the beach. When all these landmarks line up, you should be at or near a patch of kelp, which is the sailboat.

Buffalo Half-Track

The half-track is a chassis of an old military amphibious vehicle. Most of it is corroded, but it's still home to lots of life. It's located near the sailboat, approximately southwest and 20 yards. I usually prefer to begin the dive at the sailboat, and navigate to the half-track by swimming southwest from the bow of the boat.

Pier Pilings

The pier pilings are covered with life. If you've never dove a pier, you're in for a treat. Every piling seems to be covered by completely different species, and the variation even changes with depth. Before diving the pilings, you must get permission from the harbormaster's office. They're not known for denying permission, but will provide you with rules regarding where you can and cannot dive.

Shale Beds

A shale bed is located a few hundred yards away from shore, and is marked by a kelp forest running parallel to shore. The depth at this distance is about 40 feet. Here you will see critters not often seen elsewhere in Monterey. One of my favorite sightings here is an occasional population boom of hooded nudibranchs. When their population booms, they will literally cover every inch of the kelp. Typically they appear during the autumn months.

Sandy Bottom

The sandy bottom is generally uninteresting, but there's always the possibility you'll see skates, rays, or halibut. I hear it's a good night dive, and I'll report my experiences with that when I do my own night dive here.

Links

California Diving News Review
California Diving News Review: Wharf #2
Shorediving.com

Photos from Del Monte Beach

More photos from Del Monte Beach