Best Snorkel and Scuba Hot Spots in San Diego

San Diego is a beautiful enough city above the water. But anyone who’s ventured beneath the waves can tell you there’s an entire world beneath the surface of the Pacific that’s just as stunning as anything on land. 

If you’ve never strapped on your scuba gear or snorkel and hit these fantastic spots, you’re missing out. Here are some great spots for you to try the next time you visit. Don’t forget to pack your goggles! 

Point Loma Kelp Beds (3.5 Miles)

Point Loma hosts a kelp forest that is very much like the on-land variety — loads of vegetation, textured terrain, and copious amounts of wildlife. Depths vary, but rarely plunge lower than about 80 feet, making this a perfect spot for divers of all experience levels, as well as snorkelers who don’t want to venture much beyond the surface. The clear waters here offer excellent visibility at any depth. Many dive charters in the area make treks to the best spots every day, so you’re sure to find a boat that’s able to get you to the most picturesque places. 

Point Loma, San Diego, CA

Mission Bay (5 Miles)

Possibly the most family-friendly spot we’ve got, Mission Bay is a virtual aquatic playground even for kids just taking their first splash. Mission Bay exudes a relaxed SoCal vibe in the waters off of its 20 miles of soft-sand beach. The only caveat is that the water temperature can run a little chilly on occasion, so you may want to bring your heavier wetsuit. Even so, the waters here don’t run deep at all, but are still full of large amounts of stunning wildlife — including urchins, starfish, octopus, sea slugs, and even the occasional ray. 

Mission Bay San Diego, CA 92109

The Wreck of the Yukon (6 Miles)

The Yukon is the mother of all shipwrecks, and has become a must-see destination for scuba enthusiasts. A 336-foot Canadian Naval Destroyer that was in operation from 1963-1993, the HMCS Yukon was decommissioned and sold to the San Diego Oceans Foundation for use as an artificial reef. Soon, the ship was sunk in just 100 feet of water in order to provide a wildlife habitat. Divers from around the globe make pilgrimages to see the ship because of its fascinating history and endless explorability. But be warned: This one’s not for beginners. It’s notoriously cavernous twists and turns have caught even experienced divers by surprise on occasion.  

Wreck of The HMCS Yukon, La Jolla, CA

Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve (11 Miles)

Locals most commonly refer to this 6,000-acre treasure as La Jolla Underwater Park. But a dive by any other name is still just as sweet. Located just north of San Diego’s city center, divers here will discover endless underwater magic. Matlahuayl is home to expansive kelp forests, a few hulking shipwrecks, and even a gorgeous underwater canyon. Countless species of marine life also congregate heavily here, such as seals, sea lions, clams, colorful nudibranch species, and even horn sharks. 

Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve, La Jolla, CA 92037

Marine Room Beach (11 Miles) 

This lively area ideal for divers and snorkelers of all levels lies adjacent to (and derives its designation from) a popular local restaurant of the same name. You don’t have to venture far from the shore here to be completely immersed in a rich ecosystem of sea life. Spotted leopard sharks, spiny lobster, sea turtles, and friendly calico bass are frequently seen amid these relative shallows.    

Spindrift Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037

La Jolla Cove (12 Miles)

A leisurely day among the waves for both scuba fans and snorkelers alike, La Jolla Cove represents the best of both worlds. Just a short 15-minute trek from Downtown San Diego, La Jolla Cove is easily accessible from a small beach just below some sandstone cliffs. Divers and snorkelers will find clear water with excellent visibility, as well as lots of wildlife. Giant schools of shimmering Garibaldi live here, and the curious sea lions that live nearby will often swim out to interact with divers. 

La Jolla Cove, San Diego, CA 92037