While California is good for a lot of things, most people don’t consider it a snorkeling paradise. The cold waters don’t inspire long hours floating on the ocean surface. With water temperatures never getting much warmer than the low 70s, even in San Diego. The cooler waters may not seem appealing at first but once you see the plethora of marine life below the sea, you will be hooked. Armed with a wetsuit in tow, you will find that these waters can be a snorkeling paradise.
For those on the west coast, snorkeling in California offers much to see. Seals and sea lions are frequent in these waters. You are also likely to see some harmless sharks such as leopard and lemon sharks. Many crabs, rays…
While you won’t find any lush coral reefs as you do in tropical waters, you can expect to see a sea of green as you float seagrass and beds of kelp. This type of climate allows the rich marine life to flourish and makes this part of the world a snorkeler’s dream.
Our Top Five List
1. La Jolla Cove – San Diego
This is one of the most popular snorkeling destinations in all of America. Not only are the beaches pristine and the water crystal clear, but will you also have the chance to swim with sharks. The Leopard Sharks like the warm shallow water in the summer. There is also an interesting shoreline that turns into a rocky cliff at some points.
Water in this region is on the cooler side and can range from a few feet (1 meter) to over 25-30 (7.6-9.1 meters) feet depending on where you go. You shouldn’t expect beautiful reefs like you may be used to in other parts of the world. In San Diego in general, the visibility isn’t the best and the reefs aren’t as vibrant, but the sea life and shore are what you come for. You can see everything from seals to sharks to turtles in this area. The shore also changes from beautiful sand to rocky cliffs with caves.
2. the Channel Islands National Park – Santa Barbara
For those a little more north in the Santa Barbara area there is snorkeling to experience in these waters too. A bit away from the shore there is a cluster of islands called the Channel Islands. Here you can experience snorkeling unique to itself.
In this area, the best snorkeling lies in Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and on the east of the Santa Cruz islands. These spots are perfect for advanced snorkelers and those with strong swimming skills. The currents in this area are quite strong and require a level of skill to navigate through. This area is also quite wavy making it important to have a dry snorkel.
Offering a perfect balance between tropical and cold water snorkeling, you can expect to see lots of life around this area. The clarity in this area is exquisite offering over 50 feet of visibility. With temperatures a cool 52-66℉ you will require a wetsuit. This is a small price to pay for the incredible snorkeling to be had in this area.
3. Catalina Island
This is one of the best spots in California because it’s so remote. You can’t just hop in a car and drive here. Since a boat is required you will find that there are nearly no crowds of people. Many companies offer guided snorkeling throughout this area at a reasonable price.
The best part is that the conditions here are better than diving straight off the coast. The water will be warmer (55-72℉), with higher visibility (40 – 100 feet). There is also more to see in the way of marine life and coral in this area.
4. Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach offers just about everything from world-class ice cream to incredible snorkeling spots. The clear water in this area attracts thousands of beachgoers every year. The tide pools in this area offer pristine snorkeling. Heisler Park Ecological Reserve is a protected area that offers a rich amount of sea life. From here you can take a tour out to Seal Rock to snorkel alongside lots of California sea lions.
Fisherman’s Cove is another great area that is ideal for beginners. A smaller cove that remains relatively shallow this area offers plenty of plant and animal life to explore. Shaw’s Cove is a great area for those looking to weave through lush kelp forests. Divers Cove offers a quiet and open area that has plenty of rock features. This area is better for those with more experience as the waters go quite a bit deeper.
5. Lake Tahoe
You don’t have to be in the ocean to have a great snorkeling experience. Lake Tahoe is one of these places. It features amazing rock formations and upwards of 10 amazing entry points. Nearly every spot has crystal clear water that ranges from 10 – 30 feet (3 – 9 meters).
What is amazing about this place is its natural beauty. You will be snorkeling in a lake that is encompassed by some of the most stunning views in all of the USA. It also has specific beaches where you can snorkel with your dog. This is one of those places that you need a week to fully explore everything it has to offer. You can even make this spot a weekend kayak getaway to fully experience everything this amazing place has to offer.
Globo Surf Overview
San Diego is a place with some of the most exciting snorkeling spots in not only America but the entire world. You will have the opportunity to snorkel with a wide variety of marine life including sharks, otters, and even sea lions. The water will be a little cooler than you may be used to but the sights make up for it. The coast is also a spectacle. It transforms from a sandy oasis to a rocky cliff with caves to explore. Overall, you will be impressed with this entire spot.