There’s not much for beginner divers in Big Sur , but if you’ve got some underwater experience, you’ll want to bring your gear when you visit this region. Expect cold water. Temperatures range in the mid 50s in the shallows, dipping into the 40s as you dive deeper down. Visibility is 20–30 feet, though rough conditions can diminish this significantly; the best season for clear water is September through November.
The biggest and most interesting dive locale here is the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Hwy. 1, 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur, 831/667-2315, www.parks.ca.gov , daily sunrise–sunset). You’ll need to acquire a special permit at Big Sur Station  and prove your experience to dive at this protected underwater park.
The park, along with the rest of the coast of Big Sur , is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. You enter the water from the shore, which gives you the chance to check out all the ecosystems, beginning with the busy life of the beach sands and heading out to the rocky reefs, then into the lush green kelp forests.
Divers at access-hostile Jade Cove (Hwy. 1, two miles south of Sand Dollar Beach) aren’t usually interested in cute, colorful nudibranchs or even majestic gray whales. Jade Cove divers come to stalk the wily jade pebbles and rocks that cluster in this special spot. The semi-precious stone striates the coastline right here, and storms tear clumps of jade out of the cliffs and into the sea. Much of it settles just off the shore of the tiny cove, and divers hope to find jewelry-quality stones to sell for a huge profit.