Get Out of the House and go to Oceanview Mine

Heather Monroe

Spend a day digging your own gemstones and crystals in San Diego County
Find your own gems at Ocean View Mine in PalaBrett_Hondow/PixBay

Covid-19 restrictions are finally easing up, and Southern Californians are anxious to get back to nature and connect with other people. You can accomplish all of this at The Ocean View Mine in San Diego County.

The Oceanview Mine offers everyone a chance to find a wide variety of authentic gemstones. From tourmaline to kunzite and more!

At Oceanview Mine, you have the unique opportunity to dig through tailings from California's only active underground gemstone mine. Oceanview mine is located near the town of Pala, in an area renowned for its museum-quality gems!

Whether you're a greenhorn or a seasoned rockhound, there is no feeling quite like pulling a blingy, one-of-a-kind gemstone straight out of the earth. Best of all, you keep everything you find.

Entrance to the dig site is $75 per adult and $60 for each child between five and 11 years old—kids under five dig for free. Can you think of a better or more fun way to learn geology?

Know before you go

Before you rush out to the mine, you'll need reservations. Typically, Oceanview Mine is open on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Easily check availability on the website, and reserve your spot at the dig.

Once you secure a reservation, you'll receive an email with directions to the site and a release of liability. Print and sign the waiver as you will need to turn it in at the gate.

The gates open at 10 AM sharp and lock at 11 AM. If you're paying upon arrival, make sure you bring cash.

According to the company's website, they are open rain or shine. The summers can get extremely hot. Think triple-digit heat. You want to bring lots of water, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunblock.

There are picnic benches and shady areas with cooling systems in place. However, there aren't any dining venues, so bring a sack lunch.

The experience

Inside the dig area, you'll find a circle of tables surrounding a giant mound of dirt. These tables are workstations. The workstations are far enough apart to be distant, yet close enough to be social.

Each workstation provides a tub and screen for washing and sorting your finds. You also get a shovel and a bucket to use, but you might want to bring your own since they allow you to bring home an extra bucket of unsifted dirt at the end of the day.

The giant mound of dirt in the center of the digging area is the reason you came. That dirt, called tailings, is sourced from the deep underground mine. The tailings pile is full of gems and minerals. It is unsearched by staff and unsalted, too.

After a brief course on safety and gem identification, you'll be turned loose to go through the tailings pile, one bucket at a time. Are you curious about what you could bring home?
Beautiful tourmaline of all colors!Creative Commons/Rob Lavinsky,
Different kinds of quartz, including smoky quartzHeather Monroe
Lovely aquamarine, birthstone for March.Heather Monroe
Kunzite. This one is pink, but comes in various colors.Rob Lavinsky/

And so much more!

You will surely get to know your neighbors throughout the day, and other diggers will drop in to see what treasures you've found. If you have a spectacular find, don't be surprised when a staff member asks to photograph it for their Instagram page.

The staff, by the way, is excellent. Not only are they friendly, but they are also genuinely knowledgeable and excited for you when you find something worth writing home about.

Pro tip: Try to have your back to the sun as you sort through your buckets to avoid sunburn. Also, bring a folding chair to avoid bending all day.

The takeaway

Nowhere in Southern California can you get this much payoff on your investment, even if it is just an emotional payoff. Rockhounding is super fun, social, and oh so satisfying. The backache from stooping over a workstation for six hours, well, that lasts about a week. The gemstones you find and the memories you make will last forever.

Comments / 0

Published by

I am a freelance writer, mom, and genealogist from California. I adore rock hounding, and living my best RV life.

Los Angeles, CA

More from Heather Monroe

Comments / 0