We have not done much snorkeling in California, but the little we have done has been interesting. But BURRRRRR! With the warmest waters in the low 70's, these are definitely not tropical waters. We like it about 80°F or above in the water.
And while California does not offer the wonderful warm tropical waters and sea life that we love, it is well worth doing just to get in the water and see something new.
A wet suit is a must for us. In late summer, wearing a 2mm shorty wet suit, we can stay in the water for an hour (in San Diego). But lots of locals go in without a wet suit and stay in just as long (at least in San Diego). We would freeze without a suit!
You are not going to see any coral in California (unless you free dive to eighty or ninety feet). Instead you will be snorkeling in greener waters that have seals, beautiful kelp beds, lots of sea grass and rock, and an interesting variety of fish and rays.
There are a handful of places that people snorkel in California that we know about. And all of these locations are in southern California.
La Jolla Cove is a very popular snorkel spot and in the summer it is packed with people exploring the waters.
Just down the road from La Jolla Cove is La Jolla Shores. And were it not for the amazingly beautiful Leopard Sharks that congregate in the shallow waters in the late summer, there would be nothing to see here but sand.
Offshore from Santa Barbara are the Channel Islands. And apparently there is some very interesting snorkeling to be had there. The waters are supposed to be a mix of tropical and cold waters, which leads to an interesting habitat of over a thousand species. But it is still pretty cold with water temperatures averaging about 52-66 degrees. So a wet suit is a must. The visibility is supposed to be excellent, over 50 feet.
The preferable areas to snorkel are from Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and the east side of Santa Cruz islands.
But this is not a snorkel spot for novices. The currents and wave conditions can be very dangerous in the Channel Islands.
It sure sounds interesting though, and it is on our list of spots to check out.
Learn more at these links:
Have You Snorkeled Channel Islands?
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South of Los Angeles, 22 miles off of Newport Beach, Catalina Island is one of the most popular places for snorkeling in California. You can access a number of beach spots or take snorkeling boat tours. One of the most mentioned spots is Lover's Cove. It offers a protected cove with kelp forests and lots of other sea life. The waters are a bit warmer than the Channel Islands.
We have not had a chance to do this yet, but this website has a list of snorkel spots in Catalina.
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