Meet the Garibaldi on Your Laguna Beach Vacation

When you visit Capri Laguna, you will be directly on the beach. You can make the most of our oceanfront location by exploring the marine protected area that’s directly accessible across the sand. There, you can meet California’s state fish, the garibaldi.

  • Sustainable wildlife protection at Laguna Beach
  • California’s feistiest fish
  • Natural history of the garibaldi
  • Preparing the nest
  • Throat-thumping & loops
  • Your stay in Laguna Beach

Sustainable wildlife protection at Laguna Beach

“The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.” – Jacques Cousteau

Needless to say, California is shaped and defined by its coast; so when you visit Laguna Beach, it’s a good idea to make the most of the Pacific Ocean. After all, our hotel is located directly on the sands of the beach itself.

A recent state conservation effort that designated underwater parks along the coast actually makes it easier than ever to enjoy wildlife. The parks, which are technically called marine protected areas (MPA), were created to safeguard the environment and the wildlife of the ocean while allowing access to those who want to enjoy the natural world in all its glory. (Note that the entirety of the waters off Laguna Beach and the near vicinity is protected as an MPA – although fishing is allowed off parts of the coastline.)

Related Reading: 10 Species You Might Spot in California's Underwater Parks

Let’s look at one of the species of fish you will be likeliest to find when snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, or paddling off Laguna Beach: the garibaldi. In fact, you can even often spot its brilliant hue from the bluffs overlooking the sea.

California's feistiest fish

The garibaldi, which is the official state fish of California, is bright orange, similar to an oversized goldfish. In fact, their color is so vibrant, you can often spot them within the kelp forest from the bluffs that stand next to the ocean.

At just 14 inches long, and living off a diet that’s high in worms, algae, sponges (contributing to their color), and bryozoans (aka moss animals), you wouldn’t expect much attitude from the garibaldi. But that’s exactly what you’ll find from it. Oddly enough, garibaldis have something in common with dogs: they are strongly territorial. Just as dogs will bark and charge at anyone who invades their turf, when garibaldis feel someone is invading their grounds, they will grunt and chase you away.

The garibaldi is by no means delicate, according to Scott Reid, an aquarist who manages the kelp forest display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium farther up the California coast. In fact, Reid has been confronted, comically, by a flustered garibaldi numerous times. “They charge you and they make a grunting noise, kind of like someone making a burp," he says. "At first you don't know what it is, and then you put two and two together and you realize you're being charged by a garibaldi."

Natural history of the garibaldi

Cousins of the coral-reef damselfish, garibaldis really are quite striking, with their shockingly bright orange bodies and penetrating yellow eyes. Because they are so bright that they almost glow, they are easy to spot as they make their way through dark kelp and reefs.

If you look up pictures of the garibaldi, you will see that some of the fish are darker, with blue coloring at the edges of their fins and spotted across their bodies. Those are the ones that have not yet reached adulthood, and their markings make them especially eye-catching.

Garibaldis “are especially common in the warmer waters of Southern California and the Channel Islands,” notes the aquarium. “Up to 40 garibaldis, and their territories, can exist within an area the size of a basketball court.”

Preparing the nest

The male girabaldi is primarily responsible for child care. An adult male settles in an area of reef that includes a section of rock wall and a protective spot where they can create a nest.

Every March, the male cleans up the nest, ushering out urchins and sea stars and biting at the plants until all that’s left is red algae – which he also chews until it’s an inch long. That’s where the eggs will go.

Throat-thumping & loops

After a male has prepared his nest, it is time to bring in the females. They make their rounds looking for nests from April through fall.

To attract females, males swim loops and clamp the teeth in their throat to create a thumping sound.

Eggs don’t have to be isolated; in fact, the females want their eggs to be alongside others. As many as twenty females will lay their eggs in one nest. “This means male garibaldis have to work hard to attract their first females,” notes the aquarium. “[A]fter that, many others come—sometimes lining up to lay eggs at a popular nest.”

Did I mention that garibaldis are territorial? Well, the male doesn’t even want the female to stick around too long. Once she lays her eggs, the male chases her out and fertilizes them on his own.

Your stay in Laguna Beach

Are you in need of a little rest and relaxation, while enjoying the habitat and species of the Pacific Ocean? The Capri Laguna on the Beach is the ideal place to center your visit to one of the world's most beautiful settings. Book Now.