With 840 miles of coastline, snorkeling all of California could be a yearlong endeavor. From South (warmest) to North, California offers its best snorkeling opportunities in Mission Bay, San Diego, the Sea Caves in La Jolla, the Coves and Bays of Laguna Beach, the Channel Islands near Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Morro Bay, Monterey Bay, San Francisco Bay, and Arcata Bay in Eureka. Shrimp, lobster, crabs, schools of fish, jelly fish, barnacles, dolphins, seals, sea lions, sharks, rays, and whales are some of the sea life you might encounter in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The Channel Islands are eight islands situated near Los Angeles, California, with Channel Island National Park encompassing five of them, including Anacapa Island, Santa Barbara Island, Santa Cruz Island, San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island. Santa Catalina Island, San Clemente Island, and San Nicolas Island are the other three. The islands can be reached by boat and are situated in the open sea, so expect waves and ocean currents.
Although it is a physical extension of California, Baja actually belongs to Mexico. You will need a passport to visit the warm, clear waters of Cabo San Lucas, Ensenada, Loreto Bay, and Santa Maria Bay.
Plan on wearing a wetsuit year round in California, to keep you in the water longer. The water is warmer during the summer months in the waters off San Diego County, so you can get away without one if you’re used to colder temperatures.
Many snorkeling spots in California are reached from the beach. It is usually safer to swim past the ocean waves by ducking under them, instead of riding over them, especially while wearing fins. If you have no experience with waves, start your snorkeling tour in one of the protected bays, or spend time in the waves without your gear, until you understand the rhythm of the ocean. If the waves look dangerous, they probably are. Ask a local. If they’re not going in, follow their lead. Have a tasty lunch, see a good movie, and snorkel another day.
In California, snorkel with an experienced buddy, or, take a tour from an established tour company.
Have your best time ever in the water!