What can you see in the water at Shaw’s Cove in Laguna Beach? For starters, eel grass, rock formations, urchins, anemones, and many types of fish—including the California state fish, the garibaldi. In short, Shaw’s Cove has the best snorkeling on the Southern California mainland. That’s especially true as September brings the warmest ocean water of the year.
More good news: No expertise or great swimming ability is required. The cove’s calm waters make it the perfect spot for snorkelers of all skill levels. The action is best at the north and south ends of the cove, where the underwater spectacle greets you as you float effortlessly along the surface. If you snorkel out along the rock structure at the north end, you’ll eventually reach an impressive kelp forest. You might even encounter some eels if you’re lucky! Look but don’t touch; this is a state marine conservation area.
The beach itself is tiny and typifies strands in Laguna: towering cliffs crowned by multimillion-dollar beach houses, a rocky coastline, and staircase accessibility. If you’re with nonsnorkelers, they’ll find tide pools to explore, or they can simply lie on the sand and ogle the homes!
Safety Tips: A lifeguard is on duty, but know your own swimming abilities. Don’t swim out farther than you can manage to swim back. Plenty of truly awesome sights are really close to the shore. Also, don’t snorkel too close to rocks or kelp. The sea rocks can be very sharp, and it is easy to become entangled in kelp.
To get to Shaw’s Cove, follow Pacific Coast Hwy. to Fairview (about 4 miles south of Newport Coast Dr. and 1 mile north of CA-133 in Laguna Beach). Turn toward the ocean on Fairview and follow the road until it dead-ends at Cliff Dr. Look for the beach stairs where Fairview meets Cliff Dr. It’s street parking only, so arrive early and be prepared to cruise to find a spot. No facilities are available at Shaw’s Cove. If you need to buy or rent snorkeling gear, stop by Laguna Sea Sports in Laguna Beach. No dogs on the beach 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 15 to Sept. 10. Dog-friendly outside those dates and times.