Skill Level: Open Water Diver, Advanced Shore entry due to rockiness.
How to get there: From Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1), turn SW on Jasmine. At the T-intersection with Cliff Dr., find parking.
Parking: Park as close to the corner of Jasmine and Cliff Dr. for the shortest walk. Parking is at metered spaces and runs about $2.50 an hour, pay by credit card or quarters. During the summer, parking is tough to come by after 7AM. So show up early, or plan to search for parking and walk in your gear.
Facilities: There are restrooms available at the park area. There is a grassy area that can be great for a picnic but only one or two benches. There is a spot with one or two picnic tables and a small grill as well. The city usually unlocks the facilities at about 6am-7am and locks them after sunset.
Surf conditions: www.magicseaweed.com is a great website and app to check surf conditions. “Rockpile/Heisler Park” is the best site to check for conditions here.
Entry: From the street, head down the stairs to a park area. Then you will find another set of stairs that has a sign for Rockpile at the top of them. Head down those stairs. When you get to the beach, at high tide, it may appear sandy. At low tide, it will appear rocky. We encourage a fin on entry. Walk on the sand sideways till you get to the edge of the rocky part. From there, the easiest answer to not fall on the rocks, was to lay on our bellies with BCD inflated, and walk with our hands out a short bit until we were floating and then swim out from there. We started swimming out in about 1-2′ of water. I would recommend this site on low surf days primarily and slack high tide will be best for entry/exit.
Dive Site: From the surf zone, we swam out about 100′ or so and dropped rather shallow- 10′ or so of water. The structure starts immediately. Keep your eyes out for the macro life- spanish shawl and hopkins rose nudibranchs were spread out throughout the dive site. Fragile stars were common to see. Look in the nooks and crannies to find California spiny lobster and green abalone. Scorpionfish enjoyed camouflaging in with the broken shell/sand bottom between structure and hiding under small overhangs. The eels and octopus can be found under overhangs, in crevices, and creeping across the structure. At any rate, move slowly, have a nice long dive and enjoy the macro life as well as the fish. Depths went to about 40′ about 300′ offshore. Keep going out to get a bit deeper. After 35′ depth, there was less kelp, but more anemone and lobster in the structure.
What you’ll see: fragile star, garibaldi, spanish shawl, hopkin’s rose, coronado sea urchin, purple sea urchin, leopard shark, California golden gorgonian, California spiny lobster, kelp bass, opaleye, painted greenling, California scorpionfish, Stone scorpionfish, blacksmith, California sheephead, black perch, zebra perch, California moray eel, brown gorgonian, two spotted octopus, Colonial sand tube worm, fragile tube worm, starburst anemone, cobalt sponge, gray moon sponge, red volcano sponge, wart necked piddock, fluted bryozoan, barred sand bass, kellets welk, encrusting hydrocoral, wavy turban snail, green abalone, cone snail, scaled worm shell, smooth turban snail, rock scallop, kelp
The other stuff: Teaching SCUBA in Laguna Beach is allowed any time any day during the non-busy time of year. However, during the summer months (approximately Memorial Day – Labor Day) 7-10AM is the only time you can be teaching diving/on the beach. Non-training dives are allowed throughout the day, but at the lifeguards’ discretion. Also, snorkels are REQUIRED per municipal code. It is a misdemeanor if you get caught without one-so bring your snorkel with! Last but not least: this is an MPA (Marine Protected Area) No-Take zone. No hunting, spear-fishing or shell collecting allowed in the Laguna beach MPA.
Emergency Assistance: 911
Divers Alert network: 919-684-9111
Emergency Hyperbaric Chambers:
Long Beach Memorial Hospital: 562-933-2000
UCLA Medical Center: 310-794-1031
Catalina hyperbaric Chamber- Emergency line: 310-510-1053
Divers Alert Network, non emergency medical questions: 919-684-9111