Fine Jade Jewelry and Jade Stone Art

How to Find jade at Jade Cove

Dramatic views of Big Sur Jade Cove

Dramatic views of Big Sur Coast

Edge-of-the-world The Big Sur area is a wonderful place to get away from the busy life of living in a city. Here is a place which shows the wild side of nature unlike anywhere else on the California coast. This area of the coast is known as ‘where the mountains meet the sea.’ It was known to the Essalen, the natives of this land, as the edge of the world. It makes sense that this place was called the edge of the world, being the last place on earth to be explored before meeting the expansive Pacific Ocean. Big Sur is a pristine place with abundant water sources, wildlife, botanical and geological wonders. One of these amazing geological anomalies can be found at Jade Cove.

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Jade Cove Trail Pull Off

Jade Cove Trail


The Jade cove pullout is 70 miles South of Monterey and 70 miles North of San Luis Obispo, between Gorda and Pacific Valley, on Highway 1. It is just south of the entrance to Sand Dollar beach and Plasket Creek Campground. Here are some aerial photos of Jade Cove.

There are a few things to remember when looking for jade in Big Sur. Jade can be found on virtually any of the beaches for miles around( Please be aware that many areas of Big Sur’s coast are private property and these areas should not be intruded!). Choose to stay on one beach or hike to several other coves. Jade can be found even in the Jade Cove parking lot where every once in a while you will even find a nice quality piece of jade that someone threw out! The reason people will usually throw out their jade is often because they are new to jade hunting. Jade should be looked for at the tide level, where the rocks are wet. This is because when jade is wet you can actually see its depth and it will usually stick out like a sore thumb next to other leaverites (as in leave it right there) on the beach. Sometimes when people get back to the parking lot after picking up many pieces (and once they have dried) they no longer look like the gemstone they might have picked up. Since most of the jade that is found in this area has spent a great deal of time in the ocean it acquires a sort of salt rind. This layer of salt, when dry, shows up as white and you can no longer see the color of the jade beneath. Many times you will see the veteran jade hunter “licking” the rock, because this temporarily eliminates that white color of the salt allowing you too see the coJade cove traillor of the jade beneath.

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Best Times to Look For Jade

There are a few times of the year when it is especially good to look for jade on the beaches of the Jade Cove area.

Looking Down On Jade Cove

Looking Down On Jade Cove

  1. Low-Tide: During every month there are some especially low tides that occur. These are prime times to be looking for jade on the beach.
  2. Early Morning: The earlier the better. Many times you will find that the beach has already been turned up by other hunters who already got the best pickings from the beach.
  3. Winter: Storms, Swells and Kelp: Winter is the optimum time to look for jade; however, it is dangerous! Summer offers better weather and dry hiking conditions for tourists and first timers. Always where hiking boots or heavy tread sandals. Large waves and wet hiking trails can create a dangerous environment, even for a seasoned hiker. During the summer months the beach is covered in a layer of kelp which can hide the best spots to find jade. In the winter you get larger swells, which not only turn the beaches but also take away the summers kelp. After storms present good jade hunting times since all of the rocks on the beach have been turned up, as well as a small amount of erosion that is created where jade will fall out of the cliff face to turn up as vulcan jade on the beaches.

Note: Please remember to NEVER turn your back to the ocean. The ocean should always be respected because of its unpredictability and amazing power. Bring appropriate shoes, clothing and water. In case of emergency call 911 at Plasket Creek campground.

Rules and Regulations

Looking South of Jade Cove

Looking South of Jade Cove

There are a few rules for gathering jade in the Jade Cove area.

  1. You may only gather loose jade from below the mean tide level.
  2. No tools can be used other than to maneuver or lift jade, or scratch the surface to determine if it is jade.
  3. A lift bag can be used for diving to lift up to 200 pounds.
  4. You may only collect up to what one individual can carry.

How to Identify Jade?

Most of the jade found at jade cove are different shades of green but can also be found in red, blue, black, brown and the very rare violet.

No Excavating at Jade Cove!

No Excavating at Jade Cove!

Some jade can even have a colored rind which can be white and even orange. Jade has a greasy feel to it and shines in the sun. It also has depth which means that you can see into the stone. Another way to identify jade is by its hardness. Jade is harder than steel which means that it can not be scratched by a knife. If you can scratch it with a knife it is probably soapstone or serpentine. Also, a great rule to run by, if you are unsure if the stone is jade, look at it in the sun. The sun brings out the qualities of jade where you can see its depth and translucency. To find out more about the different types of jade check out the Big Sur Jade page.

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Serpentine, Soapstone and Agates

There are 3 other stones that are very common at Jade Cove which people seem to easily mistake for jade. These are Serpentine. Soapstone and Agates.

Prime area to look for jade

Prime area to look for jade

Soapstone is the easiest to identify. You can scratch soapstone with your fingernail. Remember, jade is harder than steel so pull out your knife. If you can scratch it, it isn’t jade. An agate is an unpure form of quartz. The reason a lot of people seem to mistake this stone for jade is because it can have a glow or slight translucency. Agate actually has the same hardness of jade 6.5 to 7. The knife rule does not apply here. Usually you can tell that this isnt jade because of the white

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quartz veins which commonly run through it. Jade will not have quartz in it. It is also a lot duller of a color than jade, and does not have the same sort of glow or depth.

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Another area to look for jade at Jade Cove

Another area to look for jade at Jade Cove

Serpentine looks like jade because of its color; ranging from black to green, but a totally different stone. Its is easily mistaken as jade. The hardness of serpentine has a fairly wide range from 2.5 to 5.5 due to its differing proportions. This means that your steel knife will scratch it, though sometimes barely. There is one rule that you should always follow. If you are not sure if it is jade, it probably isn’t.

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  1. Joan Dermody

    This is a wonderful page. When I use to look on the beach no one had a computer and one depended on rock hound magazines.

    I do have a question. I have a small piece of jade, from jade cove, that I would like cut and made into 4 mountable stones. Do you have a suggestion who that might be. I am in Rancho Cucamonga and cannot travel far. Don’t want a jeweler, more a rock hound. Thanks for your help

  2. admin

    Hi Joan,

    I am glad that you liked the page, I worked hard on it.

    I personally only have a dremmel to work on jade so I do not have to tools available to cut and cab. That is one of my future goals, I am saving up for an All In Wonder by Inland so I can start working on some pieces I have set aside.

    Through making this site I have networked with quite a few jade hounds and might be able to send out the word for you if you are interested.

  3. loop

    Thanks this was a good read

  4. norma J.

    Thanks for the tips… I enjoyed reading your articles and am looking forward to visiting Jade Cove. It sounds like relaxing fun…hope I get lucky!

  5. Frank

    I found a piece of Botryoidal Jade at Jade Cove. It is about 20 pounds, and another Botryoidal piece about 10 pounds. Question is where can I sell large specimens like this and are they worth a fair amount?

  6. admin

    Hi Frank,

    The prices of pieces of jade really depend on their quality. The color, intensity of that color, translucency, depth and if there are any flaws in the piece really affect its price. A buyer would look at your pieces and decide if they are a cutting piece or a carving piece. Many times it is a gamble to cut into a piece of jade since there is a high chance of cracks throughout it, which makes most of it unusable.

    In the next few months I will be adding a forum to this site. You could add pictures of the pieces there to get some comments on it but the only real way to determine how much a piece is worth is by looking at it in person.

    Pieces really range in price. I have seen 20 pounders going for virtually nothing to thousands of dollars polished up. Bubble jade is a little rarer and its prices also vary.

  7. Jamie

    Jade cove is truly a beautiful place.

    Some things to note from someone that was there last weekend.

    1. You need hiking boots. I wore tennis shoes and I ended up sliding about 50 feet down the side of the mountain side toward the ocean before a bush stopped my fall. I believe hiking boots will provide much better traction on the rocks and silt.

    2. Take a first aid kit just in case. We have AT&T and had no cell service. If you have an accident or need a bandage it is a few miles to Gorda Springs and even further to civilization.

    3. Take water. Again you are not near civilization and if the sun comes out it can be warm on the walk down and up.

    The hunt for jade is exciting, but we let that excitement hinder our judgment and it cost me getting banged up and ruining the rest of our vacation in California. One cannot be to careful. Even if it is something as exciting as rock hounding.

    Good luck and happy hunting!!

  8. admin


    It sounds like you have a fun and interesting time. You definitely need to bring hiking boots to scale some of the hills down to the coves. I also always bring an extra change of clothes, I almost ALWAYS get soaked by the end of a trip.

    AT&T gets no reception, but you would be surprised to know that Sprint phones actually do! It always amazes me when Ryan gets out to the coves and is texting when I have 0 reception.

    It is good to note that people should realize that Jade Cove is truly in the middle of nowhere and you should always be prepared for a worse case scenario. Though, with that being said, across the street is a campground and they do have a private telephone. If there is an emergency head there first.

  9. Roger

    Wonderful page! We plan on going to Jade Cove next Ausgust 2011 as my step-son is going to get married at Ragged Point then.

    How steep is the climb going down & up? We are both in our 60’s.

    I love Jade and am always looking for it in the river beds here in Washington state.


    sorry but i can’t believe someone who loves jade would exploit it so much.i have jade hunted all my life and learning on my buddy and i almost died last winter watching waves and everything,and we are pro.we personally dive and beach combing in winter is waaay to dangerous,rogue waves come when least expected.THE WAVES WILL SWEEP YOU OUT WITHOUT WARNING. when some unsuspecting family sees this site and wants to go in winter and something happens the county will shut it down all together.that’s not fair to veteran jade hunters.again sorry for putting your site down but these are the’s not a family outing in winter.for example i had my backpack hanging on the cliff and lucky enough i got away but my backpack shot strait out to sea two days after a just don’t know.PLEASE BE CAREFUL NEAR,DURING,OR AFTER WINTER!summer time is safe for people or families not familiar with the jade experience.BE SAFE.


  11. Thomas

    Went to Jade cove on Sunday Nov. 7, 10. I found a nice piece of forest green jade, about the size of a quarter and 3/8″ thick. The climb down from the bluff to the beach was very difficult, I recommend only advanced climbers. I don’t know if you can go around the point from Sandollar beach. I found a nice piece of jade there, bigger, about 2″ long by 1 3/4″ wide and 1/2″ thick. also dark green.

  12. ryan

    Great to hear Thomas!
    The jade Cove and Sand Dollar beach areas are spectacular to visit and even better when you make a jade discovery. There has been a fresh storm and I bet those trails were wet and slippery; I always wear hiking boots or sandals with heavy tread on the bottom so I can access the many coves where jade can be found.
    Happy Jade hunting!

  13. ryan

    Jade hunting can be dangerous, but it is up to the individual to determine how difficult navigating the cliffs trails down to the rocky beaches and the conditions of the surf will be. I hope everyone takes caution! The “How to find Big Sur Jade page” has been updated to better explain the danger that jade hunting can present. This website does not exploit big sur jade. We are a grass roots, locally operated website and workshop. Our jades are collected personally or by other jade hunters in the area. Many websites also give directions and information for the Jade Coves. Information is helpful, not exploitive.

  14. admin

    Eagle Eye,

    Your comment has some valid points, many which have been addressed in this article. Jade Hunting can be dangerous depending on the tide and the specific cove. That being said, the ocean IS dangerous and one should take care to never stop watching it while on the beach (any beach for that matter).

    I have been hesitant to respond to many of the comments about this website, both here online and also around the Big Sur area. Yet there are a few points which I feel I need to address.

    Firstly, this site is not the only one online which gives information about the coves and how to find jade. A quick search on Google for “Jade Cove” or “Big Sur Jade” brings up a large collection of articles from many sites.

    Also, any experienced jade hunter can see that some of the information given here is purposefully MISLEADING (okay, I said it). When I first started looking for jade in the coves about 5 years ago no one gives out the secrets of the coves, you have to discover these for yourself. The information I gave here is what any new hunter can get from a few quick questions in the area.

    I have not given away the locations to the popular local coves which will remain unnamed. Instead I let people know about the popular tourist spots such as Jade Cove proper, Willow and Sand Dollar.

    So, I have this to say. Instead of targeting our website why not target the true criminals of the coves? We all know of the people who illegally extract jade causing erosion of our precious area.

    Teach the rules and regulations, give some helpful hints to the tourists of the area and make people more aware of our amazing, high quality nephrite jade.

  15. Xinxi

    Where to buy and sell after you have Jade?