SCUBA Diving in Kelp Forests Off The Monterey Coast

Adventure Is Calling

The beauty of Monterey is nothing short of magnificent and picturesque. Yet, when you are sitting at the beautiful pebble beach or one of the many white-sand beaches, you cannot imagine the beauty that is happening beneath the waters.

Meet the Author!

Kim Duke

Guide At a Glance

- Price Range:
- Physical Difficulty:
- Time Required:

Your Next Quest

Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, otherwise known as SCUBA diving, involves submerging yourself underwater with the assistance of equipment to breathe and “float” underwater. Can you imagine what that feels like?

If the thought of submerging yourself underwater with an oxygen tank makes you want to stay home and hide under your covers, let me assure you that diving can be a safe and fun experience with the proper training.

What you need to know before you go!

Not that you need any more reason to visit the beautiful Monterey Bay, but just in case you need reasons to take the leap and SCUBA dive, here are some reasons. First, the ocean is full of mysteries. Only 5% of it has been explored. It is an ever-changing environment that most people don’t have the opportunity to explore. If that alone does not intrigue you, let me tell you about why the Monterey waters are worth seeing.

Monterey has the wealthiest biodiverse and productive ecological region that can be found in the world. The location of Monterey has created a recipe for some of the most diverse marine life you can see. It is also home to the world’s largest mammal, the infamous Blue Whale, and an underwater forest of Kelp.

There is nothing like it in the world, and diving into these waters is an experience of a lifetime.

You will need to attain a SCUBA certification for you to safely participate in this activity. Understanding what to do as you descend into the ocean and ascend back to the surface is key to ensuring that you have the essential skills to operate the soft equipment and hard equipment that makes breathing underwater possible.

To break it down, the basic technique before beginning your descent is to make sure your equipment and tanks are fully functional, equalizing the pressure in your lungs and ears by releasing breath as you descend, adjusting your buoyancy, and understanding how to ascend to avoid the bends.

No need to worry, this video, How To Scuba Dive, covers all the basics and concerns you may have.

Now we got through the basics, I know you’re thinking to yourself, “how much is all this going to cost?” and I won’t lie to you, it can get very costly! But you’re here at Adventure of the Cheap, so we do what we can to help you find ways to be gentle on the wallet. So continue reading to discover ways to save!

Teach me your ways!

  • Take your time when diving
  • Always dive with a buddy
  • Do not bother the wildlife
  • Never hold your breath while diving
  • Do not panic if something goes wrong
  • Use your certification in a different place, let each time be a new place
  • Be free in the space you’re in, reach your destination, and explore

Need some inspiration?

Still undecided?




Where and When to Go?


Monterey is part of a peninsula here in Northern California with magnificent seafood and a beachfront where you can watch the waves roll in for miles. Be sure to bring a jacket because it rarely goes above 75 degrees when the sun is at its highest point in the summer. If you haven’t been to Monterey before, let me assure you, diving isn’t all it has to offer; from Cannery Row to price-efficient beach accessible hotels, you’ll find that there is plenty to do before and after your adventure.


The best time to go diving in Monterey is, surprisingly, late Fall and Early Winter! I know what you’re thinking, “Won’t the water be too cold to dive in the Winter,” it’s ok I would think the same thing. Still, your wetsuit is insulated, and your body heat will keep you warm enough. So the benefits of going during the Winter season will be well worth it.

During the winter, the visibility in the ocean clears because there is less Kelp. That’s right, remember when I mentioned the underground forests of Kelp? It’s beneficial when it lightens up a bit. Be sure to check the weather and the water cycles while planning your trip.


Monterey County is home to many world-class diving sites within Monterey Bay, bounded by Santa Cruz to the North and Monterey to the South.

Monterey Bay

The best diving conditions depend on the season, swell, visibility, and water temperature.

Here are five of my favorite SCUBA diving locations in Monterey, California:

  • North Monastery Beach
  • Monastery Middle Reef
  • Point Lobos State Reserve
  • San Carlos Beach/Breakwater
  • Metridium Fields

Essential Outdoor Skills

What outdoor and survival skills should I master before embarking?

Your certification training should prepare you with all the skills you need to feel confident diving for the first time.

  • Swim for 200-300 meters comfortably
  • Know how to clear your mask of water
  • Understanding buoyancy and how to level yourself
  • Know how to clear your regulator
  • Learn about atmospheric compression

Numbers to remember

Every 10m, you gain an atmospheric change!
0 m
3 air pockets to continuously monitor: mask, lungs, and eustachian tube
of buoyancy are: regulator breathing, proper weighting, and breath control/
0 A's

Safety & Risk

Is this adventure for you?

SCUBA diving can be classified as a dangerous activity. However, with the proper training and equipment, your risk lowers significantly.

You might believe that sharks or other dangerous sea creatures would be your biggest worries, but that’s not true. Most SCUBA accidents are caused by human error or malfunctioning equipment.

No matter what, you must not panic. To borrow a Jedi phrase, “Remember your training!”




What animals can I expect to encounter?

Monterey is known for its diverse wildlife. Therefore, it is essential to respect the animal residents of the bay and land. You will discover that a lot of marine life travels seasonally. One of your biggest fear, as with many, is seeing a Shark while diving. Let me take this time to demystify the fear of sharks: Most sharks off the California coast are harmless to humans!

Shark sightings have only recently increased in Monterey Bay in recent years and are typically seasonal.

The wildlife you will likely encounter are:

  • Seabirds
  • Sea Turtles
  • Sea Otters
  • Jellyfish
  • Gray Whales

There are over 1,000 species you might encounter while driving. Read this article for the complete list.

gray whale

Fitness & Training

What is the recommended level of fitness?

This activity is for everyone, no matter your fitness level.

You should be able to swim for 200-300 meters, but this does not need to be done under a specific time limit. However, it is crucial to ensure you have no medical conditions that prohibit you from enduring rapid atmospheric changes.

Training and preparation exercise regimen

There is no extensive training required for this activity. However, I would recommend being comfortable and having some experience swimming in open water before your dive. Many people have thalassophobia  (fear of deep, open bodies of water) their first time floating in the Deep Blue.

Gear Guide

What gear do I need for this trip?

Gear can be broken down into two categories, soft equipment, and hard equipment. All items can be rented through your guide services:

Soft Equipment

  • Mask
  • Snorkel
  • Fins
  • Suit
  • Weight Belt
  • Gloves

Hard Equipment

  • Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA)
  • Cylinder
  • Regulator
  • Buoyancy Control Device

Finances & Budget

What are the costs associated with this adventure?

Gear & Products



Attaining your diving certificate and buying your hard and soft equipment can be extremely costly. The license can run from $300 to $500, and the equipment, not to mention the maintenance costs, can cost you a hefty bill of about $2,000 to $6,000.

Don’t be alarmed; there are ways to get certified and attain equipment while still having money left over to order a soda with your sandwich. You can find fantastic deals to save on your certification with Groupon, like this one here that cuts the cost of your certification and rental equipment from nearly $700 to less than $200.

When it comes to equipment, your best bet to save some coins is to rent the equipment from a reputable diving company that will not typically cost more than $300. However, if you desire to become an avid diver, I recommend buying pieces for you to own aggregately and renting a la cart as necessary.

Savings Tips

  • Rates are often cheaper in the off-season!
  • Big groups typically get discounted group rates.




Parking can be a bit unfriendly in the center of Monterey, I would recommend catching Lyfts or Uber to save on parking costs. This is where friends will come in handy, you can split the cost of the ride amongst your pals within the app.




I have stayed in quite a place in Monterey. I would advise you to see if Monterey Tides has any openings but staying in Monterey could cost a bit. Try looking into the surrounding cities like Carmel for price-friendly options. Don’t worry; it’s only about a 15-minute drive to get to downtown Monterey from there.

It wouldn’t hurt to gather friends for the trip and split the room.

Insider Tips

Insider Tips

  • Do not wait until the day of to schedule your diving experience.
  • Try snorkeling in the open ocean first before attempting to dive.
  • Eat at Old Fisherman’s Grotto on the Wharf, call weeks ahead for a reservation and ask to be seated in a corner view window.

What does no one tell you?

Bring a knife in case you need to escape from being strangled in a kelp forest!


Sure, bring the family. Call ahead to ensure there are no age restrictions associated with diving Everyone should have a certification prior to your trip.

The youngest age to be certified to dive is 10 years old, however, each organization is different. For mature adults, the base skills will still be needed to participate.

You should relieve yourself prior to your dive.

See Notes on transportation in the Finances & Budget section.

See notes in the “Where and When to Go?” section.

Yes, it is recommended for you to dive with a certified instructor and reputable company.