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Carmel Pinnacles aka The Pinnacles is a boat accessible salt water dive site, located in Carmel, CA. This dive site has an average rating of 4.50 out of 5 from 4 scuba divers. The maximum depth is 91-100ft/28-30m. The average visibility is 41-50ft/12-15m.

Every scuba destination boasts a number of “must see” dive sites. These sites are so exceptional and so representative of the destination that you have not really experienced the destination unless you visit these sites. In the Monterey Bay Area one of these sites is The Pinnacles.

There are actually two Pinnacles that are nearly a mile offshore, and these underwater mountains have better visibility than sites nearer to the beach. They are constantly swept by nutrient-rich currents, leading to a perfusion of plankton and kelp and consequently invertebrates and fishes.

The Inner Pinnacle juts up from the 100-foot bottom to about 15 feet of the surface. Divers descend through the thick layer of giant kelp to discover a rocky mountain that drops away at about a 45-degree angle, and is carved out with a series of canyons and small caves. The shallow area is a profusion of color with strawberry anemones carpeting the rocks in enormous colonies. Think of a giant Persian rug in shades of red, orange and lavender. Orange puffball, red volcano and the dark-blue cobalt sponge become the predominant source of color as one descends a bit deeper. This area is great for both wide-angle and macro photography. You may photograph the grand color of the entire reef or focus on one small critter.

The outer pinnacle is separate from the inner and is located about one-quarter of a mile southwest. It is composed of a group of rocky plateaus that vary between 45 to 70 feet below the surface. The sides of pinnacle drop steeply away to the 100-foot bottom, while the upper structure is highly textured with narrow channels and valleys that are marvelous to swim through.

Large anemones dot the rocky walls and surge channels in shades of red, white and green. California hydrocoral is common here. This coral forms branch-like structures, some 6 to 18 inches across and adds purple and pink to the collage of underwater color. The Pinnacles are nothing short of nudibranch heaven and scores of species are commonly found here. Look for unusual nudibranchs here like Stearns’ aeolid and the white dendronotid.

Also, look for small gobies and sculpins hiding in the rocky crevices of the reef. Larger rockfish are found hiding among the strands of kelp. Still larger lingcod and cabezon may be found on rocky perches or back in caves.

Look out into the open water every now and then, because you will never know what is watching you if you don’t look. Because this area is exposed to the open ocean, many pelagic species may also be observed here. Large Medusa jellyfish with their long trailing tentacles can often be found just outside of the kelp bed. Carmel Bay is also home to many whales and dolphins. Rizzo’s dolphins are found in Carmel Bay in great numbers in the winter, and you might see one here.

When the weather is good, it is always worth a trip south to Carmel Bay to the most asked for dive site — the Pinnacles. There are many reasons for this, but you must dive here to understand why this is a “must see” site.

Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: The Pinnacles are located between 3/4 and one mile offshore between Pescadero Point and Cypress Point in Carmel Bay. Throughout most of the year the Pinnacles may be located by finding the extensive kelp bed offshore from the large pink house with a high tower, nicknamed "The Castle House." However, after a period of winter storms there may be no kelp at all visible on the surface, and a depth finder comes in handy in locating this dive site.
Access: You may launch your own boat from the Monterey Coast Guard Pier (no charge) for a 10-mile ride around the Monterey Peninsula, or at Stillwater Cove on the 17 Mile Drive (fee; reservations only, 408-625-8507). This spot is commonly dived by Monterey’s dive charter boats.
Skill Level: Intermediate or better
Depths: 15 to 100 feet on the Inner Pinnacle, 40 to 100 feet on the Outer.
Visibility: Generally quite good — 20 to 70 feet.
Photography: Great wide-angle photography, as well as many little critters for macro photography.
Hunting: This area is part of the Carmel Bay State Marine Conservation Area and no invertebrates may be taken. Spearfishing rules here are in a state of change. Check regulations before spearfishing.


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CAAdventureGurl - 12/29/2016 10:05 PM
Rating Added: 4
I’ve been here so many times I can’t count. Most of the boat dives end up here which is OK by me. It’s a beautiful site. It can be deep but it’s an easy site even for a novice. It’s always got fabulous visibility, well over 60’ at times and a great variety of things to see.
MontereyBay - 7/16/2015 5:24 PM
Rating Added: 5
’’I dove here and it was incredible with all the coral I felt I was in the tropics. Lots of color. This was my favorite dive. The visibility was the best of all my dives in Monterey; about 80 feet.
FastFord - 9/11/2012 9:55 PM
Rating Added: 5
Two words...Strawberry Anemones...EVERYWHERE!