San Diego divers know that it is home to some of the best diving locations in the country–and in the world. However, if you are just traveling through San Diego and have never dived in the San Diego area before, you might be looking for some of the best locations to dive at while you are there.
Alternatively, you may be a new diver looking for the best locations in your area to start out. Whichever scenario you find yourself in–you want to know the best scuba diving locations in San Diego. You’ve come to the right place! We’re going to cover the best 9 scuba diving locations in and around San Diego to help you find the perfect diving experience for you. Let’s get started!
La Jolla Cove Diving
The first dive location on our list is La Jolla Cove. La Jolla Cove has long been regarded as one of the top spots in San Diego for divers. It is even commonly called “San Diego’s most famous dive site”! La Jolla Cove is also featured as one of the 5 Best Places for Scuba Diving in California by our writers. With a reputation like that, it’s definitely a location that you’re going to want to check out. However, it’s always good to do your research first. Here’s why La Jolla Cove is so widely regarded as one of the best diving locations in San Diego.
For starters, it’s one of the few and far-between locations in California and the West Coast where you can experience a wide array of attractions all within one coast. If you’re looking for a versatile location where you can experience beautiful geography, landscapes, terrain, wildlife, and underwater features all in one location, then this could be the one for you.
At La Jolla Cove, you can see giant kelp beds, colorful reefs, and mysterious sea caves all from one single entry. Additionally, the wildlife is plentiful. You can expect to see seals, sea lions, dolphins, and even the occasional whale if you’re lucky. The most common wildlife experience at La Jolla Cove is sea lions. In fact, many divers go to this location solely for the experience of mingling with sea lions.
One of the main reasons that La Jolla Cove is such an amazing place to dive is that it is protected by conservationists. It has been in a protected status since 1929 due to all that it has to offer. This means that it has largely been undisturbed by industry and tourism, aside from divers, who are careful to leave everything just the way that they found it.
The reason for the protection of this sanctuary is that it is part of the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. This is a protected region that includes all the waters within and around La Jolla Cove. The situation is comparable to many state parks around the country that are afforded many of the same protections, except it’s underwater!
The protections include things like very strict bans on hunting or capturing any marine life of any kind whatsoever. There is no fishing allowed. Which includes commercial, recreational, and spearfishing. Anyone that visits the location is also prohibited from taking anything that is considered a geological item, which includes shells and rocks.
All of these restrictions have created an area that is safe for sea creatures of all kinds and has preserved the area extremely well. Without the restrictions, the area would doubtlessly see a vast decrease in desirability.
If you decide to go to La Jolla Cove, you should know that you are making a great choice. There is something there for everybody. However, you are also taking on the responsibility to preserve the location for other divers and hobbyists. You should be sure to leave the area just as it was when you arrived.
Point Loma is one of the best places to dive in San Diego. It has a lot of benefits but is only accessible by boat. This is a great dive location for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of San Diego and explore the underwater world at their own pace.
Point Loma is home to a kelp forest, which is a giant underwater forest made up of Kelp. This is a type of seaweed that can grow up to 250 feet tall!
The kelp forest provides a great home for many different types of marine life. This includes things like sea otters, crabs, lobsters, eels, octopuses, and many different types of fish.
With so much wildlife present, this is a great location for photographers that want to observe a variety of types of wildlife.
Another attraction that you can see at Point Loma is New Hope Rock. This is a large rock that was once part of an ancient reef. The reef was formed over millions of years and New Hope Rock is one of the few remaining parts of it.
The rock is covered in different types of coral and provides a great home for many different types of fish, which again, is great for photographers and those who love to simply observe wildlife while diving.
The final attraction at this location is the train wheels. These are the remnants of an old train that used to run along the coast. This is a set of old train wheels that are connected by an axle. This isn’t a part of nature or wildlife, but it is interesting to see!
The coordinates for all of these attractions are well-published, making them very easy to find.
Point Loma can be visited by divers of all skill levels. However, it is important to be aware that the currents can be strong at times.
This is a great place to dive during the day and it has depths of 35 to 55 feet. Visibility is good most of the time, averaging around 20 or 30 feet.
The next place on our list of best places to dive in San Diego is Wreck Alley. This is a great place for divers of all skill levels.
Wreck Alley gets its name from the fact that it is home to 5 different shipwrecks!
These wrecks are:
The Yukon – This is a Canadian destroyer that was sunk in July of 1946. It is one of the shallower wrecks, sitting in about 80 feet of water.
The Ruby E – This is a cargo ship that was sunk in November of 1983. It is a bit deeper than the Yukon, sitting in about 100 feet of water.
The Hatteras – This is a cargo ship that was sunk in November of 1983. It is the deepest of the wrecks, sitting in about 130 feet of water.
The San Diego – This is a cargo ship that was sunk in November of 1983. It is the second deepest of the wrecks, sitting in about 120 feet of water.
The Point Loma – This is a cargo ship that was sunk in November of 1983. It is the third deepest of the wrecks, sitting in about 110 feet of water.
All of these wrecks are interesting to explore and provide a great opportunity to see a variety of marine life.
Wreck Alley is also home to a couple of artificial reefs. These are man-made structures that have been sunk in order to provide a home for marine life and to attract divers.
Wreck Alley is considered to be not only a top destination in California but a top destination for divers around the world who love to explore shipwrecks.
One important thing to know about diving at this location is that they are boat dives only. You need to access them via your own boat or a friend’s boat. There is no shore access to these wrecks. This might make it more challenging to dive here, but there are usually arrangements that can be made fairly easily that will give you access to this amazing dive location.
Next up on our list is Coronado Islands. The Coronado Islands are a collection of islands that are located 6 miles off the coast of Mexico and 15 miles off the coast of San Diego. There are three main islands in this group, they are:
The North Island – This is the largest of the three islands and is home to a naval air station.
The Middle Island – This island is home to a lighthouse.
The South Island – This island is the smallest of the three and is home to a research facility.
The Coronado Islands are considered to be one of the best places to dive in the world. This is because they offer a variety of different dive sites that appeal to divers of all skill levels.
Some of the popular dive sites around the Coronado Islands include:
The Chinese Hat – This is a small island that gets its name from its shape. It is a great place to see a variety of marine life including: seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales.
The Porpoise Garden – This is an area that is known for its large population of porpoises. It is a great place to see these animals up close and personal.
The Kelp Forest – This is a large kelp forest that is home to a variety of different marine life. It is a great place to go for a leisurely dive and explore all that the kelp forest has to offer.
The Coronado Islands are a great place to dive because they offer something for everyone. No matter what your skill level is, you will be able to find a dive site that is perfect for you. The kelp forests, shipwrecks, rocky reefs, and mysterious caverns offer a little taste of everything for divers who want the full experience. To dive here, you’ll have to book a boat, so get started on planning your trip to the Coronado Islands!
South Casa Cove
South Casa Cove is one of the more underrated diving spots that fly under the radar, but there is plenty to see and do at this diving location.
Some of the things that you can expect to see at South Casa Cove include:
Aquatic Park – This is a man-made reef that was created to attract marine life. It is a great place to see a variety of different fish and other marine creatures.
The Wreck of the S.S. Malibu – This is a shipwreck that is located in about 50 feet of water. It is a great place to see a variety of fish and other marine creatures.
Coral Gardens – This is an area that is known for its large population of coral. It is a great place to see a variety of different coral up close and personal.
South Casa Cove is also the alternate entrance to the Children’s Pool, which is a decommissioned area that used to be an area for children to learn how to swim in San Diego. Now, it is teeming with wildlife, thus making it a popular destination for divers. The access is easy and you can walk from your parking location, but finding parking itself is the challenging part. If you’re planning to dive here, you may want to arrive very early on a weekday in order to secure your parking spot.
The Giant Kelp Forest
True to its name, the Giant Kelp Forest is a very large kelp forest that is located within La Jolla. La Jolla is a coastal community that is located within San Diego. This kelp forest is one of the largest in the world, and it is home to a variety of different marine life.
Some of the things that you can expect to see in the Giant Kelp Forest include:
A variety of fish – This kelp forest is home to a variety of different fish including seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales.
A variety of plants – This kelp forest is also home to a variety of different plants.
A variety of coral – This kelp forest is also home to a variety of different coral.
In fact, this diving location is often referred to as “Diver’s Paradise” because of all of the things that you encounter in just one dive. It’s rare to find a diving location that includes all of these things in the same dive, but The Giant Kelp Forest is able to offer it.
In addition to all the wildlife, you’ll also be able to enjoy amazing views. The kelp forest is located in a very picturesque area and you’ll be able to see the beautiful coastline while you’re diving.
When you decide to come up, be sure to stay for the sunset or just enjoy the beautiful scenery around the area.
Boomers & The Underwater Walls
Boomers Underwater Walls are named as such because of the very loud “booming” noise that takes place when gigantic waves crash upon the rock walls.
This noise is caused by the waves crashing against the rocks and it can be quite loud. Don’t let the noise deter you, though! This is a very fun location to dive and see some wildlife! One of the things that people love about this location is how easy it is to see harbor seals. The site is frequented by these graceful and friendly creatures, and that is one of the main reasons that divers love to collect here.
One important thing to remember about diving at Boomers Walls is that you should really only dive in this area under very calm conditions. The waves make a large sound when breaking on the point by the Shuffleboard Club at the Cove. The area at that point is really shallow, and it’s not recommended that divers be there when there is any swell, as it could create a dangerous situation for divers. This area is best visited on a calm day!
That said, many of the dive locations here are more than suitable for divers of all skill levels. Beginner divers shouldn’t be too intimidated by this location, even if there are some features that you will want to be cautious with.
Marine Room Reefs Diving
The next location on our list of best diving places in San Diego is Marine Room Reefs Diving. This location is a bit more advanced than some of the other locations on our list, but it is still an amazing place to dive.
La Jolla Shores area of La Jolla, California, is home to the Marine Room. Marine Room is known for its shallow reef diving and similar conditions to La Jolla Shores- relatively small waves, clear visibility, and less surge. It tends to be less visited by divers than Shores and Cove, perhaps because parking is not convenient and no public facilities are available.
In the early summer months, the Marine Room is the best place to see leopard sharks. A shallow reef system extending southward to La Jolla Cove can be easily accessed from the northern part of the reef system. In addition to offering divers access to the La Jolla Submarine Canyon, this location is also used by divers.
Located on the shore of the Marine Room beach is a world-class restaurant. In 1916, the Spindrift Inn was built as a small inn and restaurant. The site was renovated and reopened as the Marine Room on May 29, 1941, following the removal of the Inn. Known for its rich history and spectacular views of the shore, the Marine Room offers some of the best dining in San Diego.
There is limited parking in the area, so arriving early is recommended. As you approach the beach and enter the restaurant, please be respectful of the patrons.
When you enter the water, pay special attention to the composition of the bottom. Avoid stepping on stingrays by shuffling your feet when walking on sand. In reefy areas, you should also use caution.
On the left side of the Marine Room restaurant, there is a narrow pathway leading to the beach.
Neither public restrooms, showers, nor lifeguards are provided. You should keep this in mind when diving at this location and planning your trip.
La Jolla Shores Canyon
In the same area as La Jolla Cove, you’ll find La Jolla Shores Canyon. Though this diving site shares many of the benefits of La Jolla Cove, it also has a lot of unique features that make it definitely worthy of a visit.
One thing that you should know if you want to dive here is that the difficulty of this dive location is considered to be a bit higher up. It is labeled as “Novice to Advanced”. So, it might not be the best location for beginners to get some diving hours under their belt. This is a location that you’ll want to visit if you know what you’re doing already.
One of the best things about this diving location is that it’s very easy to access. You can access via a sandy beach after parking for free! This makes it one of the most popular locations in and around San Diego. This site has diving in ranges from 10 to 50 feet, meaning there is always plenty to see. There is a steep drop, which you’ll want to watch out for.
Visibility at the location can be limited but is clear under the right conditions. Typically, you can see 15 to 20 feet out in front of you, but in some cases, it can reach 30 feet.
This is a very popular destination for those who love to practice photography and capture some stunning underwater photos. This location is so great for photography and capturing wildlife because it is protected under the same guidelines as La Jolla Cove. The reason that this location is considered to be better for advanced divers is that there is some difficult terrain and deeper depths, which can create challenges or dangerous situations for new divers that don’t have a lot of experience. For that reason, you may want to practice elsewhere or go with an experienced diver if you want to visit this location.
All in all, La Jolla Shores Canyon is a very versatile, undisturbed place to dive that should be on the list of any diver that wants to get the most out of their diving experience in San Diego.
Whether you’re a new diver or an experienced diver with several hundred hours of dive time, there’s a diving experience in San Diego that is right for you. With dozens of diving locations spanning multiple skill levels and attractions, you’ll be sure to find one of the best diving experiences that you’ve ever had when you’re in San Diego.