Snorkeling in San Diego

San Diego’s diverse ocean habitats are teeming with coastal plant and fish life that will provide you with snorkeling adventures of a lifetime.

Snorkeling is easy, whether you do it on your own or through a tour company. Many spots are calm and protected, perfect for an inexpensive family outing. First-timers, children, and adults of all ages can join in the fun. You need to know how to swim before grabbing a mask and flippers for prime-time floating thrills.

Guided tours teach visitors about San Diego’s marine life, geography, and the delicate natural environment, home to hundreds of marine species.  You’ll want to bring a waterproof camera to snap pictures of bass, cod, colorful orange Garibaldis, and other local dwellers who call San Diego’s bay and coastal waters home.  

There are several popular snorkeling spots where you can go on your own or as part of a tour. 

The most well-known of these is the La Jolla Cove, part of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve. Not only is it the best snorkeling destination in San Diego, but it's consistently rated as one of the top snorkeling spots in the world. Calm waters are home to lush underwater gardens and unique rock formations.

Nearby La Jolla Shores is another calm water destination just as breathtaking.  It has all the same marine life and the added attractions of migratory Leopard Sharks (don’t worry…they’re docile toward humans) that call the eastern edge of the Reserve home in the summer.  Tour companies even offer a special Leopard Shark tour at certain times of the year, where you may spot hundreds of them just feet from the shore in shallow waters. 

You can also snorkel just about anywhere along the 20 miles of sandy beaches on Mission Bay.  Water temperatures can be a little on the cold side, but there’s a great chance you’ll spot smaller marine fish, starfish, sea urchins, giant sea slugs, and an occasional octopus.

For more experienced swimmers and snorkelers, try Devil’s Slide and the Sea Lion Saves off the base of the Seven Seas Caves. You have a great chance of spotting sea lions, rays, octopuses, zebra perch, and spotted horn sharks during mating season.  Other seasoned snorkelers like going to Shell Beach and Boomers to snorkel, explore tide pools and collect shells.

If you’re in shape, and a great swimmer up for a challenge, swim out to Turtle Town.  Located in the center of La Jolla’s Marine Sanctuary, it can be hard to find, but it offers the best chance of seeing Green Sea Turtles, seals, and sharks cruising through coastal kelp beds.