Refugio and El Capitan State Beaches

If you don't mind a drive for a different dive, try Refugio or El Capitan about 25 miles north of Santa Barbara. Actually, this is a long coastal area and while most of it isn't good diving, there is an awful lot of coast and there are some very good spots known to the locals. The trick is getting to them from Hiway 101 or some frontage road.
Refugio and El Capitan are State Parks and so access is not so difficult. There is camping at the parks. The diving is only so so, but I remember the first time I was at Refugio in perhaps 1967. Some people were taking large red abalone from the reefs just offshore. Unfortunately, these particular people that showed me their gunny sack of abalone, were actually way over limit. It was a vivid memory.

On a good day, good diving can be found at Refugio at the sides of the cove. The kelp beds far offshore are another matter. According to Wheeler J. North, that area is one of the few places kelp will grow in mud. If you make the long swim out to the kelp, you may not find much to see. If the diving is not good, the beach is really nice and the beachcombing is very good.

Conditions are about the same at El Capitan. Go to the reefs at the sides of the cove.

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