7 Best Snorkeling Beaches in San Diego

Explore San Diego’s oceans while snorkeling the sea caves & kelp forest just offshore to see marine life including sea turtles, seals, colorful fish and more!
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Swim with Sea Creatures While Snorkeling in San Diego

Mother and Daughter Snorkeling in a Kelp Forest at La Jolla Underwater ParkAerial Shot of La Jolla Cove

San Diego is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Southern California, complete with picturesque sunsets, white sands and waters ready for you to explore! Many visitors and locals alike enjoy diving in and exploring what lies beneath with an afternoon of snorkeling!

With year-round sunny weather and ocean temperatures that range from the high 50 degree’s Fahrenheit in the winter months to the low 70’s in the warmer summer months, the Pacific Ocean coastline as well as the local bays like San Diego Bay and Mission Bay are ripe for exploring.

While you might prefer a light wetsuit and the waves may also be a bit larger during the cooler winter months, snorkeling is a great family activity in San Diego 365 days a year!

Local Tips
Explore the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park
This unique park is under water and it span about 6,000 acres. The San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park is one of the best places to snorkel or scuba dive in San Diego when the waters are clear. You can see Leopard Sharks to Green Sea Marine Turtles.

Snorkeling Amongst Kelp Near the Seven Caves in La Jolla
Snorkeling Amongst Kelp Near the Seven Caves in La Jolla

The best places in general for snorkeling in San Diego are coves and beaches that are afforded a bit of shelter from the direct Pacific Ocean waves. Many beaches such as Blacks Beach in La Jolla or Boneyards in Encinitas offer world-class San Diego surfing opportunities but can be a bit rough and not the ideal spots for donning a mask and snorkel and exploring the ocean floor.

Kelp beds are also an amazing and unique experience for viewing ocean life including sea turtles, eels, many fish species and even a shark or two!

La Jolla Sea Caves from Above
La Jolla Sea Caves from Above

The La Jolla Beaches are the best places to enjoy an afternoon of snorkeling in San Diego. Just a short drive north of the San Diego International Airport and Downtown San Diego, the neighborhood is known for shopping, sidewalk cafés, beautiful sunsets, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and of course, incredible beaches, many perfect for snorkeling.

When the sun is high in the sky with blue skies and pleasant temperatures, many of the individual beaches that make up this series of beaches are well protected, in coves and full of wildlife! It will make sense then that our selections for the best snorkeling beaches are primarily in this incredible area.

The Best 7 Snorkeling Beaches in San Diego

The beaches in San Diego offer great opportunities to experience what lies beneath the ocean surface with a day of snorkeling.

Here’s a list of our favorite beaches in San Diego for snorkeling!

San Diego - La Jolla Underwater Park
Green Sea Turtle La Jolla

1) San Diego - La Jolla Underwater Park

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

When you're visiting San Diego and looking for a premiere location for snorkeling, San Diego - La Jolla Underwater Park is one you won’t want to miss!

The underwater park is 6,000 acres of protected area revered by snorkelers and scuba dives alike. The City of San Diego designated the area containing the Ecological Reserve and the Marine Life Refuge for protection in 1971 and since that time it has become an incredible place to explore!

The park, located just offshore from the La Jolla Cove beach is boat access or swimming access only. Once you arrive, the waters are complete with everything you could possibly want for a day of snorkeling including a bit of protection from the most violent waves, a reef, a kelp forest and even sea caves.

You can expect to see Harbor Seals, California Sea Lions, colorful fish and as many as 120 local species, all in an afternoon exploring the area!

La Jolla Cove
Aerial Shot of La Jolla Cove

2) La Jolla Cove

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

La Jolla Cove faces north on the edge of a 200-foot tall sandstone cliff which protects the waters and makes them perfect for snorkeling!

Closer to shore than the San Diego - La Jolla Underwater Park, the incredible snorkeling is accessible from shore. Seals, the Orange Garibaldi which is the California state fish and sea bass are just a few of the underwater creatures you may see while snorkeling the waters at this incredible beach.

The beach is also excellent for swimming if you’d rather exercise than explore and has restrooms, lifeguards and outdoor showers to rinse after a day in the water.

It is also noteworthy that no hard boards are allowed to enter the water at La Jolla Cove.

La Jolla Caves Beach
La Jolla Cave Looking to Ocean

3) La Jolla Caves Beach

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

La Jolla Caves Beach gets its name from the seven unique caves that you will find at the base of sandstone cliffs when snorkeling at this beach.

Located between La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Cove, the rugged coastline gives way to an ocean floor full of sea caves used by pirates in the 1800’s. The caves all have their own names like Sunny Jim Cave (accessible via the Cave Store for a small fee), Sea Surprise Cave and Clam Cave to name a few.

Each cave offers a unique experience with opportunities to see sea lions, several species of brightly colored fish and even leopard sharks.

San Diego - La Jolla Underwater Park
Green Sea Turtle La Jolla

4) Turtle Town

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

With a name like Turtle Town, what more do you need to know!

This hidden gem has an ocean depth of around 30 feet and is teeming with green sea turtles that call San Diego home. The turtles swim majestically through the red and green kelp and can be spotted without much difficulty when you visit the waters in the center of the marine sanctuary. This spot can be accessed if you walk south on La Jolla Shores beach and then swim out from there.

Do know that the marine turtles are endangered and protected by law under the Endangered Species Act. Viewing them in their natural habitat is an experience you won’t soon forget but please don’t try and touch or try to feed the turtles during your visit.

Shell Beach & Boomer Beach
Looking at Boomer Beach to the North

5) Shell Beach & Boomer Beach Kelp Beds

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

Shell Beach & Boomer Beach are two small beaches near La Jolla Caves Beach and The Children's Pool, just south of La Jolla Cove.

Snorkeling at these beaches is excellent but only on calmer days as the beaches are more exposed than La Jolla Cove just around the corner. These beaches are less crowded and feature kelp beds just offshore where you can see countless colorful fish species, seals as well as many other sea creatures.

When you need a break from snorkeling, the beaches are also great for collecting shells, body boarding and swimming.

La Jolla Shores
La Jolla Shores Boardwalk and Main Lifeguard Tower

6) Marine Room

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

On the southern end of La Jolla Shores beach near the end of the reserve, you’ll find the Marine Room Reefs, an excellent choice for a day of snorkeling in San Diego!

The shallow waters are home to rays, halibut, flat guitarfish and moray eels to name a few.

Leopard sharks can be found here in the summer. Don’t be afraid! They won’t hurt humans as they are more scared of us than we are of them.

La Jolla Caves Beach
La Jolla Cave Looking to Ocean

7) Devil’s Slide Reef

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

If you continue traveling south from the Marine Room, you will find another incredible snorkeling spot in San Diego known as Devil’s Slide Reef. Located at the base of the sea cliffs, the area can be a bit challenging to access and is best left to snorkelers with a bit of experience.

Once you arrive, the area provides waters great for snorkeling that are full of fish including zebra perch and anchovies as well as crabs and other interesting marine life. You might even get lucky and see a some spotted horn sharks, the elusive octopus or maybe a leopard shark!

Go Snorkel with Go Pass!
La Jolla - Full Day Snorkel Rental
La Jolla Full Day Snorkel Rental
While visiting San Diego, discover the sea creatures of San Diego with a Full Day Snorkel Rental with your Go Pass in La Jolla. Take pictures of the areas marine life and coral. Snorkel, mask, wet suit and flippers are included in your rental.
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Local Tips
What is a Go City San Diego pass?

The Go City San Diego pass allows visitors to experience more attractions while simultaneously saving money.

With the pass, you can visit San Diego’s top attractions like the San Diego Zoo or LEGOLAND, all while saving up to 55% off on admissions. Plus, the pass gives you the ability to skip the line when visiting select attractions.

Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra

Tips to Know Before Visiting the Best Snorkeling Beaches in San Diego

La Jolla Shores South End of Beach
La Jolla Shores South End of Beach

Renting Snorkel Gear

All the gear you will need, including a mask and snorkel for your day snorkeling, can be rented at a discount when you buy a Go City San Diego pass in advance.

This pass allows you to combine gear rentals for things like snorkels, surfboards and even bikes with admission to the top attractions in San Diego like the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, SeaWorld San Diego in Mission Bay or one of the more than 20 museums in the area, all for less than standard prices.

We also offer a discount code (GVSD5OFF) which you can stack on top of the already discounted prices offered by the Go City San Diego pass.

The Season You Visit Matters

Sea conditions can be quite different based on the time of year of your visit to San Diego.

Make sure to check the forecast before you arrive and select a beach with optimal conditions including calm seas. If you don’t like cool water, consider wearing a wetsuit, especially in the cooler winter months so you are comfortable during your day in the water.

Looking into a Kelp Forest in the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park
Looking into a Kelp Forest in the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park

Cave, Coves & Kelp Forests

Some of the best marine life in San Diego call caves, coves and kelp forest home. Enjoy exploring these incredible areas and be sure to give the sea creatures plenty of space while snorkeling the waters.

Safety First

Some of the snorkeling beaches on our list are boat access only, while others are accessible from the shore. Know your abilities and always travel in groups in case there is an issue.

Trying Out Surfing at La Jolla Shores
Trying Out Surfing at La Jolla Shores

Other Activities to do after Snorkeling

Many of San Diego’s more than 78 beautiful beaches are not only great for snorkeling but also for additional San Diego activities such as stand up paddle boarding, swimming and even people watching.

Consider renting a SUP, a kayak, a surfboard or taking a surfing lesson from one of the local surf schools to brush up on your skills or experience riding a wave for the first time, all on the same day you spend the afternoon snorkeling.

Stay Nearby

If you want to stay near one of the best snorkeling beaches in San Diego, the La Jolla neighborhood is the place to be! Consider the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa for a luxury, boutique experience.

As one of the best luxury hotels in all of San Diego, you can expect high end touches like plush bedding, 3 restaurants, a wellness center and spa. Located next to University of California at San Diego and world-class golf at Torrey Pines, the property is also just a short drive to a number of the best spots for snorkeling in San Diego.

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Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
Balcony View at Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
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Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa is an exceptional resort, with the kind of amenities you would expect from a full-service spa that is a AAA Four Diamond rated hotel.
Prices Starting at $235
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Tours & Adventures
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
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Guided La Jolla Sea Cave Kayak Tour
Guided La Jolla Sea Cave Kayak Tour
$144 per 2 people
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