Location: Pala (53 Miles / 55 Minutes North of Downtown San Diego)
Gem Mining Hours: 10:30AM – 3PM on Sundays and Some Thursdays; Reservations Required.
Cost: $60 ($50 for Kids)
Features: Pan for California Gemstones, including Pink Tourmaline; Tour a Gem Mine that supplies Museum Curators and Jewelers around the World.
Oceanview Mine Highlights: One of the world’s richest deposits of pink tourmaline is found in San Diego County. Oceanview is an active California tourmaline mine, which has been shown on the Travel Channel and is the destination for museum curators around the world who come here to find specimens for their gemstone collections.
On most Sundays and many Thursdays, the mining operations are shut down to give visitors the opportunity to visit the mine and pan for their own pink, watermelon, and green tourmaline. You will also find crystals, smokey quartz, garnets, kunzite, feldspar, morganite, lepidolite, muscovite mica, aquamarine and more. This expansive array of California gemstones was recently featured as the cover story in Rocks & Minerals magazine.
A large pile of new ‘tailings’ are brought out from the mine each day. Visitors will be given a workspace with a screen, and other tools used to sift through the tailings. After an introductory lesson starting at 10:30AM, visitors will get to spend the rest of the day sifting through as much of the tailings as they can endure to find pink tourmaline and other popular California gemstones. Anything you find is yours to keep.
Bring along Playtex gloves (the kind you might wear for cleaning kitchens and bathrooms) if you do not want to get your hands dirty. You will be using water to find the sparkle of gem stones as you sift through the tilings in your screen box. The staff is very helpful in describing the types of gems you have found and go out of their way to make sure kids have a great experience. Be sure to bring along ziploc bags and even a bucket to take your precious stones home. You can read more about a recent visitor’s experience from the Oceanview Mine web site.
Closer to lunchtime you will be given the opportunity to take a tour of the mine in small groups. The tour lasts 15-20 minutes depending on the current dig location. You will get to see sparkling gems in the pegmatite dikes, which formed when the right mix of minerals shot up as magma through cracks in the surrounding rocks millions of years ago.
Summers are busier when kids are out of school and come to join in the fun. If you want to visit when it is a little quieter, visit on a Thursday when kids are in school.
Preparing for Your Visit
Dress appropriately since it can get hot in Pala during the summer. Check the Inland Forecast to learn more. Wear something you don’t mind getting dusty. In addition to the gloves and containers to bring your gems home, bring sunscreen and your camera. You may want to take pictures of your adventure and the surrounding hillsides that make for a peaceful setting.
Food – Bring plenty of water and pack a lunch in a cooler. Oceanview Mine has a small shaded pavilion with picnic tables where you can take a break. The mine also has BBQ’s for those who want to grill food.
Consider bringing money to purchase gems and other souvenirs. To see photos, make reservations, and learn about the rules for gem stone mining, visit the Oceanview Mine web site.
Information on Visiting the Oceanview Mine
Directions from Google Maps to the intersection of Pala Road and Magee Road in Pala, CA 92059. (You will see a different gem stone business at this intersection called Gems of Pala.) To reach Oceanview Mine, you will receive the exact directions on where to go on Magee Road once you make your reservation.
Traffic – It is relatively easy to reach Oceanview Mine during its normal hours for gem stone mining. It is only 7 miles east of highway I-15.
Transit – There is no transit service to the Oceanview Mine.
Nearby Attractions – The Pala Casino Spa Resort is a nice place to stop for some food on the way home, not to mention enjoying some of their other amenities. Also, consider a quick stop at the Cupa Cultural Center to learn about the Cupeno Trail of Tears that took place when local Indians were evicted from their ancestral home in 1903 after losing a battle in the U.S. Supreme Court.