best places for snorkeling in South California

7 of the Best Places for Snorkeling in Southern California

With over 1,100-miles of pristine coastline, California is an obvious choice for those looking for seaside adventures. In Southern California, the waters tend to be warmer than those in the northern section of the state too, averaging between 21-24C (70-75 C). While the beaches here tend to be more manicured than those up north, there are patches of wilderness to discover too. Whether you’re looking for a secluded cove or easy access, you’ll find it in South California. To help make the decision a little easier, we’ve rounded up seven of the best places for snorkeling in Southern California. 

The best places for snorkeling in Southern California

1. La Jolla Cove 

This protected marine sanctuary is a strictly swimming, snorkeling and diving zone. That means  that, unlike most of Southern California, you won’t bump into any surfers here. The north end of the cove is the most popular snorkeling spot, encompassing a handful of caves that you can swim out to during low tide. It’s teeming with brightly-coloured fish, including the California State Garibaldi fish too.

best places for snorkeling in South California
La Jolla cove beach, San Diego, California.

2. Channel Islands 

Sitting off Santa Barbara’s coastline, this idyllic collection of five islands makes up the Channel Islands National Park. Santa Cruz offers the best snorkeling, though if you’re not short of time it’s worth exploring Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara and Anacapa too. Snata Rosa and San Miguel are prone to the windiest conditions, so best visited by confident swimmers.

Visibility is some of the best in the area, up to 100 ft. Highlights include halibut, yellowtail bat rays, white sea bass and the California State Garibaldi.

3. Catalina Island

This tiny rocky island set off the coast of Southern California is one of the region’s most popular destinations for snorkeling. The island encompasses dozens of superb snorkeling spots, but Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve, Casino Point Dive Park and Descano Beach are the most famous. The waters here are calm and crystal clear, with visibility up to 100 ft. It’s best to book a snorkel tour through a reputable company, since the waters here are brimming with extraordinary wildlife.  Scuba Diving Magazine recently ranked it as one of the “World’s Healthiest Marine Environments” too.

best places for snorkeling in California

4. Veterans Park, Redondo Beach

This popular dive site, located on Redondo Beach, offers easy access to some of the best underwater scenes in the region. the park encompasses a protected reef which is brimming with halibut, lobsters, scorpionfish, pipefish and baby horn sharks. During winter, you might even catch some mating squid too. The waters here are notably calm.

5. Crescent Bay

Another Orange County favourite, Crescent Bay is a sweeping half-moon shaped beach that comprises reef formations, kelp forests and schools of rockfish, eelgrass, starfish, bat rays and sea urchins. You might even spot the occasional leapord shark. The tidal pools here are popular with little ones too. Crystal Cove State

best places for snorkeling in South California

Diver’s Cove isn’t only prized with scuba divers, it’s popular with snorkelers too. Located in Laguna Beach, the cove is protected from the worst of the coast’s swells which makes for calm waters and good visibility. Highlights include garibaldi, sea stars, purple urchins, lobster and kelp bass. You might even get lucky and spot stingrays and leopard sharks dancing across the seafloor. The cove is around 300-ft long, separated from Picnic Beach by a row of rocks.

best places for snorkeling in California

7. Scorpion Anchorage

Scorpion Anchorage has nothing to do with its namesake, thankfully. Instead, the waters here are teeming with stingrays, crabs, sea hares and seals. It’s one of the largest sea caves in the world, which makes it ideal for more advanced snorkelers looking for a fun-filled day out too. You’ll need to hop on a boat to Santa Cruz to reach this epic snorkel site but it’s worth the extra effort.

Allie D'Almo

Allie is a passionate traveller with a hearty interest in great food and stories. She likes to travel slowly, particularly to underrated and underloved places. She’s lived in Italy and is now based in London, where she spends most of her time either plotting her next trip or writing about her last one.

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