Best San Diego Snorkeling Spots

Best Snorkeling Spots in San Diego

Best San Diego Snorkeling Spots

Best Snorkeling Spots in San Diego

By Janna Eggleston I Graphic Designer

By Janna Eggleston I Graphic Designer

Home to a multitude of unique micro-habitats and picturesque coves, it's no surprise that San Diego boasts some of the best snorkeling spots in the U.S. We've compiled a list of the best of the best, and ranked them by skill level.

Home to a multitude of unique micro-habitats and picturesque coves, it's no surprise that San Diego boasts some of the best snorkeling spots in the U.S. We've compiled a list of the best of the best, and ranked them by skill level.

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove


We may be biased, but the La Jolla Cove is definitely the best place to snorkel in San Diego! (Kidding. We’re not biased. It was rated one of the top 10 places to snorkel in the world.) Home to lush underwater gardens, rock formations, and social marine animals like sea lions, garibaldi, anemones, sea stars, and on lucky days green sea turtles and dolphins, the La Jolla Cove is arguably the best spot in all of California to witness marine animals in their natural habitat! The typically calm waters of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve make the Cove a laid back spot to snorkel, kayak, or just swim around.  

Click here to learn more about the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and it's marine life.


Pro Tip:If you want to experience all the La Jolla Ecological Reserve has to offer, head out on a kayak & snorkel tour with us! Not only will you get to witness the diverse marine life and microhabitats, but if weather permits we'll head into the Clam Cave - one of the Seven Sea Caves, which one cannot enter without a guide.

La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores


Located right up the road and on the same stretch of beach as the La Jolla Cove, the La Jolla Shores boasts much of the same marine life, plus the migratory Leopard Sharks that make the Shores their temporary home in the summer months. Just like the Cove, the Shores location in the calm waters of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve make it a great spot for swimmers of nearly all skill levels.  

Click here to learn more about the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and it's marine life.


Pro Tip:Plan your trip to the shores accordingly if you want to see migratory animals! Leopard Sharks show up during the summer and you have the best chances of seeing them up close and personal on a Leopard Shark Snorkel Tour. Other animals also make their way through the reserve seasonally, like Grey Whales, which are often spotted on Whale Watching Kayak Tours.

Marine Room

Marine Room


Technically part of the La Jolla Shores, "Marine Room" is basically Leopard Shark city in the summer. On the eastern edge of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve, in front of the Marine Room, hundreds of Leopard Sharks migrate here in the warmer months and can be spotted just feet from the shore in shallow waters. The word "shark" can stoke fear in a lot of people, but Leopard Sharks have a reputation for being extremely docile towards humans, and are essentially harmless bottom feeders, who thrive on a diet of invertebrates and small fish. Click here to learn more about the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and it's marine life.

While the shallow waters in front of the Marine Room are great for all skill levels of swimmers, you can swim farther out where the sandy ocean floor becomes a rocky reef, where spiny lobsters and eels congregate.


Pro Tip:Head out in the summer on a Leopard Shark snorkel tour if you want to see Leopard Sharks in their natural habitat. If you're not into snorkeling, or are visiting La Jolla during Leopard Shark off-season, you can still see these awesome animals up the street at the Birch Aquarium.

Mission Bay

Mission Bay


The perfect snorkeling spot for beginners and kids, Mission Bay is a laid back cove bearing nearly 20 miles of sandy beaches that the whole family can enjoy. Temperatures can be on the cold side, but these extremely calm and shallow waters are great for observing smaller marine fish and invertebrates like starfish, sea urchin, giant sea slugs, and the elusive octopus.


Pro Tip:If you’re sensitive to cold water, bring a wetsuit! (And don’t forget your underwater camera, or waterproof phone case).

Devil's Slide & Sea Lion Caves

Devil's Slide & Sea Lion Caves


Not the easiest spot to get to for inexperienced swimmers, Devil's Slide and the Sea Lion Saves are located off the base of the Seven Sea Caves. Look just beneath the water's surface and you'll likely see playful sea lions, rays, octopus, and an abundance of zebra perch. If you're lucky, you might even see spotted horn sharks, which mate and give birth along the underwater rock structures.

Click here to learn more about the La Jolla Ecological Reserve and it's marine life.


Pro Tip:Swim out when the tide is low so you can fully appreciate the caves, and bring fins! It’s a bit of a swim.

Shell Beach & Boomers

Shell Beach & Boomers


Drawing less crowds than other San Diego beaches, Shell Beach and Boomers (located right next to each other, just off Ellen Browning Scripps Park) are great places for collecting shells, checking out tide pools, and of course, snorkeling.

Entering these waters can be dangerous for inexperienced swimmers as the waves hit hard (which is great for body surfing, although surfing and boogie boarding are not allowed), and there’s many large rocks beneath the surface. But past the breaks, adult and baby harbor seals, sea lions, and the occasional Grey Whale swim freely amongst the kelp beds.


Pro Tip:If you want to see whales in San Diego, check out a Whale Watching Kayak Tour. Offered during whale watching season (December - March) it’s a chance to have a more intimate experience with Grey Whales than you would in a boat, without having to brave the cold waters.

Turtle Town

Turtle Town


If you’re up for a challenge (and arguably the most unique and unknown snorkel spot in San Diego) then you’ll want to swim out to Turtle Town. We’re not surprised when even locals say they’ve never heard of it.

Located in the center of La Jolla’s Marine Sanctuary (it’s between the Cove and the Marine Room - just look for all the red and green kelp plants) this hidden gem offers the best chance of seeing Green Sea Turtles. While not the easiest spot to find, once you’re there only beauty awaits you. At depths of around 30ft, you have a chance at seeing sea turtles, seals, dozens of colorful fish, and small sharks glide through the kelp.


Pro Tip:There’s a few ways to access this notoriously difficult-to-find area; from the La Jolla Cove, the Shores, or the Marine Room. You’ll know you’ve found it when you see all the red and green kelp!

Want to learn more about the unique marine life and microhabitats in and around La Jolla?

Want to learn more about the unique marine life and microhabitats in and around La Jolla?

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