10 Best Places to Go Snorkeling in California

California’s diverse coastline offers a wealth of opportunities for snorkeling enthusiasts to explore its underwater wonders. From the rugged northern shores to the sun-drenched southern beaches, the Golden State’s marine diversity is nothing short of breathtaking. Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or just dipping your toes into the world of underwater exploration, here are the 10 best places to go snorkeling in California.

1. La Jolla Cove, San Diego

La Jolla Cove, San Diego

La Jolla Cove is considered the crown jewel of snorkeling destinations in California. The sheltered waters here are home to an astonishing array of marine life, including garibaldi fish, sea lions and, during certain seasons, leopard sharks. The cove’s gentle entry point and clear waters make it an ideal spot for all skill levels.

2. La Jolla Shores, San Diego

La Jolla Shores, San Diego

Near La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores is home to sandy beaches and vast kelp forests. It is considered to be an excellent place to encounter leopard sharks, bats and a variety of colorful fish. The mild surf conditions here welcome both novice and experienced snorkelers.

3. Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands, off the coast of Southern California, are known for some of the most pristine and unspoiled snorkeling in the state. The Channel Islands consist of five California islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel or Barbara Islands),

The entire park covers 249,355 acres, half of which is under the sea, and is home to a diversity of cultural and natural resources of great international and national importance. This park offers visitors a truly unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty of California under the sea.

The Channel Islands were named a US national monument in 1938.
1976 was designated a biosphere reserve.
Established as Channel Islands National Park in 1980
The park includes a marine sanctuary that protects six nautical miles of water around the park.

4. Catalina Island

Catalina Island

Catalina Island is considered a paradise for snorkellers, where several snorkeling sites such as Lover’s Cove and Casino Point are located. The waters of Catalina Island are teeming with marine life, with bright orange Garibaldi fish and the occasional sighting of bats and leopard sharks.

This guided Catalina Island snorkeling tour at Casino Point Dive Park is a must-do for anyone who loves the ocean.
Here you’ll be surrounded by aquatic, native life, schooling fish and seagrass while an informative guide shows you Catalina’s fascinating marine world.

5. Crystal Cove State Park, Newport Beach

Crystal Cove State Park, Newport Beach

Crystal Cove State Park’s Underwater Park A protected marine area with an abundance of marine life provides a delightful contrast. You can snorkel over the rocky reefs and sandy bottom while seeing a variety of fish, crabs and even octopus here. Located here on the busy Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove is one of Orange County’s largest remaining examples of open space and natural coastline.

6. Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach

Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach

Shaw’s Cove is a small hidden ocean. It is a small beach located under the houses in California. Which is known for its extraordinary visibility and unique geological features. snorkelers can encounter sea stars, sea cucumbers and many reef fish in this picturesque bay. It is located between Boat Canyon-Fisherman’s Cove to the east and Crescent Bay to the west.

This stair entrance is at the intersection of Fairview Street and Cliff Drive, one block from the North Coast Highway.

7. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Monterey

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Monterey

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is often referred to as “the crown jewel of the California State Park system.” Located in Northern California, Point Lobos is home to stunning kelp forests, diverse marine life and dramatic underwater terrain. Here snorkellers also get to see sea otters, harbor seals and many fish species. Landscape painter Francis McComas called Point Lobos “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.”

8. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur

This state park was named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns. The rugged coastline of Big Sur makes for beautiful snorkeling. The park stretches from the Big Sur shoreline to nearby 3,000-foot peaks. It features redwoods, tan oak, madrone, chaparral and an 80-foot waterfall that tumbles from granite cliffs into the ocean waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The water here can be quite cold and conditions can be challenging, making it a great destination for adventurers. Provides an opportunity to see unique marine life and explore underwater caves and crevices.

9. Van Damme State Beach, Mendocino

Van Damme State Beach, Mendocino

Van Damme State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) Located in Mendocino County near the town of Little River, Mendocino’s rugged beauty extends beneath the waves at Van Damme State Beach. This tranquil spot offers snorkelers access to kelp forests, sea urchins and various fish species. The coastline runs for less than half a mile, and features rocky, stony and sandy beaches.

10. Refugio State Beach, Santa Barbara

Refugio State Beach, Santa Barbara

Located just north of Santa Barbara, Refugio State Beach and Tajigu Aas are nearby destinations, about 20 miles north of Santa Barbara. Refugio State Beach offers excellent snorkeling. The rocky reefs are home to colorful anemones, sea stars and sea urchins. Playful seals and sea lions are also seen.

The beaches near Santa Barbara provide excellent places to view kelp forests and sea lemons, one of Southern California’s most visited nudibranchs.

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