Snorkeling in California

Snorkeling in California

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 wetsuit is a must for us. In late summer, wearing a 2mm shorty wetsuit, we can stay in the water for an hour in San Diego. But lots of locals go in without a wetsuit 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 freedive to 80-90 feet. Instead you will be snorkeling in greener waters that have seals, sea lions, 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 most of these locations are in southern California.

Places for Snorkeling in California

La Jolla Cove – San Diego

Garibaldi fish in La Jolla Cove California

La Jolla Cove is a very popular snorkeling in California spot and in the summer it is packed with people exploring the waters.

You can see some cool bright orange Garibaldi fish snorkeling La Jolla Cove, in beds of sea kelp.

Click here to see pictures of what we saw snorkeling, and full details about where to go at La Jolla Cove.

Snorkelers entering the water at La Jolla Cove.

Foggy Masks, Fin Blisters and Angry Snorkels!

Poorly fitting, cheap gear, can ruin your trip. See our snorkeling equipment reviews and fitting suggestions to make sure your next trip is great.

La Jolla Shores With Leopard Sharks in San Diego

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, snorkeling La Jolla Shores would be boring with only sand to see. Click here to see pictures and learn more about snorkeling La Jolla Shores in San Diego.

Leopard Shark over sand at La Jolla Shores California

Channel Islands National Park

Offshore from Santa Barbara are the Channel Islands. And apparently snorkeling Channel Islands National Park is very interesting. 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 wetsuit is a must. The visibility is supposed to be excellent at 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 snorkeling in California spots to check out.

Learn more at this link:

Snorkeling Channel Islands Official Website – Snorkeling in California

Have You Snorkeled Channel Islands?
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Catalina Island

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 one of our community members wrote a nice report about snorkeling Catalina Island at the first link in the box below.

More Snorkeling Tips