Location: Scenic Rd. and Stewart Way, Carmel, CA
Parking: Limited parking on Stewart Way.
Experience Level: Advanced
Entry: Sandy beach with rocks and eelgrass.
Butterfly House is the site that best exemplifies the magic of kelp forest diving. Huge, and I MEAN huge boulders, dense kelp forests that shoot straight up from 60 or more feet, and amazing fish and invertebrate life. I don't dive this site often, but almost every dive has been memorable.
So if this site is so awesome, why don't I dive it every weekend? Well, there are a few reasons. The most significant is parking. There is only enough space on Stewart Way for about 3 cars. And although space is usually available, since I normally dive with my classes, I avoid the site when several carloads of divers are involved. Another potential barrier is ocean conditions. The beach itself is pretty much protected from most swells, but there are several shallow rocks off the beach that create surf break if a swell is present.
The access path to the beach is located to the right of the road barrier. Follow the steep and narrow path down to the rocks, and follow your preferred route to the beach.
Once in the water, I stick to a simple reciprocal navigation path. This ensures that I don't stray too far from the exit location at the end of the dive. My favorite area to dive is the distant kelp bed about 200 yards from shore. Here you'll have access to 60 plus feet of depth with stunning kelp forests. You'll also find the main reason I dive here: hydrocorals. One note: during the summer, the kelp canopy is very thick, making this area a bit dark. Be sure to bring a flashlight.
The shallow areas are also worth while, although often surgy. Navigate carefully, as the large rocks can cause you to veer off-course and miss the beach on your trip back.
Photos from Butterfly House
Hilton's Aeolid (Phidiana Hiltoni)
©:2005, Matt Crisp