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Crystal Cove Beach Activities

Orange County

Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.

Crystal Cove Tide Pools

The best tide pools along Crystal Cove Beach are at Pelican Point and Reef Point. Visitors will see crabs, sea anemones, periwinkles, mussels, limpets, scallops, sea stars, sea slugs, and much more. The tide pools are protected as part of the marine refuge and nothing should be disturbed or collected.

Low tide is naturally the time to come. The lowest tides are usually in the winter. Tide Chart for Newport Beach

Regular guided tours of the tide pools are offered in the park. For a monthly schedule of events at the park, see Crystal Cove State Park.

boy exploring a tide pool

Crystal Cove Swimming Beaches

Despite its name, the beach at Muddy Creek has been acclaimed as one of the finest swimming and bodysurfing beaches in the area. The sandy bottom slopes away to great swimming waters with usually mild surf. Access is via the Reef Point entrance. An alternate approach is to park at the lower lots at El Moro, pass through the tunnel to the beach, and then head north.

As a footnote, Muddy Creek has such a meager flow that during the summer and fall it vanishes into the ground back in the hills somewhere. Only in the winter does it generate enough flow to reach the beach.

Diving at Crystal Cove

The varied coast along Crystal Cove attracts a good number of divers. A series of reefs, parallel to the beach, extend along the shore, providing interesting structures to explore. The most popular areas for diving are Reef Point and Scotchman's Cove, Rocky Bight, and Pelican Point.

The hike down the stairs and trails from parking lots coupled with rocky entrances deter some divers. Divers may drop off and pick up gear at the entrance station to the Historic District. The best entry spots at Reef Point are east of Split Rock. Otherwise divers must struggle across rocky shallows.

The area offshore is part of the Irvine Coast Marine Life Refuge. Divers report seeing many perch, Garibaldi, sand bass, halibut, sheepshead, senorita, and opaleye. throughout the area divers will find interesting walls with swim-throughs and colorful Gorgonians.

Historic Artifacts

Several sights of interest draw divers' attention. A 150-year-old historic anchor is resting west of the Muddy Creek about 150 yards off shore at a depth of about 20 feet. Another anchor is a similar distance off shore in the Rocky Bight Area. More than a quarter mile out from Reef Point is the wreckage of a Corsair F4U ditched by a Naval Reserve pilot in 1949.

scuba divers

Local Dive Shops

Beach Cities Scuba at Beach Cities Aquatic Center
4537 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA
Dive instruction, gear, links to Scuba Maniacs dive club, dive boats.
Beach Cities Scuba

Guided Walks at Crystal Cove

A large number of guided walks are available every month at Crystal Cove State Park. Among the popular walks are bird watching both inland and along the coastal areas, tide pool explorations at Little Treasure Cove or Pelican Point, activities at the Michael & Tricia Berns Environmental Study Loop, plant and animal hikes, and a photography walk with tips for taking great pictures of the park.

For a monthly schedule of events at the park, see Crystal Cove State Park.

Exploring the Historic District

A cluster of 46 vintage beach cottages are located at the edge of the beach near the Los Trancos entrance. The cottages were erected in the 1930s and 1940s and have recently been restored. A number of them can be rented by visitors for overnight stays.

On the second Saturday of every month (except December) the Crystal Cove Alliance offers tours of the Historic District. Tours are led by Laura Davick, a long-time advocate for the preservation of the cottages and former resident of the Historic District. Participants will learn about Crystal Cove's history and about the restoration of the cottages. The free 2-hour tours begin at 10:00 AM at the overnight check-in cottage in the Historic District.

Berns Environmental Study Loop

The Michael & Tricia Berns Environmental Study Loop offers visitors the chance to explore science stations in the half-mile loop trail. A grand celebration of the opening of the trail was held on February 1, 2014. The trail was constructed in an area that was formerly a trailer park in the Moro Canyon area of the park. The stations around the loop focus on restoration and invite visitors to participate in the process. Stations cover such topics as bird populations, archaeology, weather, and geology.

Surfing at Crystal Cove

The point breaks at Crystal Cove draw a fair number of surfers. Among the best spots are Treasure Cove and Pelican Point at the northern end of the beach. A series of reefs parallel the beach. Other spots include Boneyard and Rivermouth in front of the Historic District and Reef Point. Rocks are a hazard along the coast here.

Kayaking at Crystal Cove

Kayakers often use wheels under their kayaks to negotiate the trails down to the water's edge. Kayakers can launch from Muddy Creek to Moro Cove, also from the south end of the Historic District to the north end of Treasure Cove. Usually gentle surf makes for easy entry into the water, but submerged and partially submerged rocks are a hazard.

Marine mammals are often seen swimming around the kelp beds. During the migration months whale sightings are common. Dolphins, seals, and sea lions are often spotted along the coast.

Crystal Cove Junior Lifeguards

The Crystal Cove Junior Lifeguards program is available for children ages 9 to 15 from late June through early August. Participants will learn about ocean safety, the fundamentals of lifeguarding, and first aid. They will learn about Crystal Cove's cultural and natural history as well as enjoying activities like swimming, bodysurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking.

Basic swimming skills are a prerequisite. Tryouts are usually held in April and May. Call the park for more information. (949) 494-3539

Nearby Activities and Events

Spring Art Show Reflections

April TBA, 2018
10 AM to 4 PM
Held at the Education Commons in the Historic District of Crystal Cove State Park
Over 20 plein air artists' works on display
Spring Art Show

Crystal Cove Trail Run

December 10, 2017
6K trail run and 15k trail run
Run utilizes fire roads and single track trails in El Moro area
Crystal Cove Trail Run


Thursday nights, June and July
Crystal Cove's Moro Beach
Short distance swim-run aquathlons for beginners to advanced
Sponsored by the Crystal Cove Lifeguard Association

Sherman Library & Gardens

2647 East Pacific Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar, CA
2.2-acre horticultural retreat, gardens, patios, walkways, seasonal flowers
Sherman Library & Gardens

Corona Del Mar Coastline Car Classic

September 3, 2017
Over 150 vintage cars on display
Live entertainment, food and beverage, exhibits
Corona Del Mar Chamber & Community Events

Books of Interest for
Crystal Cove Beach

Ocean Safety

California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at
CA State Parks: Ocean Safety

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