Snorkeling in La Jolla

Snorkeling is one of the best ways to see La Jolla’s wildlife up close! Spend a day with family enjoying sea life like leopard sharks, seals & sea turtles.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Snorkeling in La Jolla
Discover Marine Wildlife
When to Go
Featured Activity
What to Expect
The Best Tours
Save on Gear
Helpful Tips
Where to Stay

Discover Marine Wildlife With La Jolla Snorkeling Tours

A Seal Poking Its Head Above Water next to Snorkelers at La Jolla CoveJust Finishing Snorkeling at La Jolla Cove

The San Diego area is known for its stunning marine wildlife, and La Jolla is one of the best places to see it. Located just a 20-minute drive north of Downtown San Diego, La Jolla is a charming village that is known for its beautiful beaches as well as its amazing marine wildlife.

While there’s plenty to see on shore (including a colony of charming sea lions), you’ll be able to see even more if you dive under the surface. Snorkeling is one of the most exciting and popular things to do in La Jolla, and it’s a must for any nature lover or adrenaline junkie visiting San Diego.

Guitarfish on Top of Seagrass in La Jolla
Guitarfish on Top of Seagrass in La Jolla

There are hundreds of different marine wildlife species that you might see while snorkeling in the La Jolla area. In addition to the sea lions, who occasionally dive underwater for a swim, you might see leopard sharks, harbor seals, green sea turtles, dolphins, stingrays, and hundreds of different species of fish.

One of the best things about snorkeling in La Jolla is that anyone with basic swimming skills can go. The calm waters of La Jolla Shores beach are great for beginners, while more advanced snorkelers can make their way out past the cove to see even more incredible wildlife.

Consider renting discounted snorkel gear with the purchase of an All-Inclusive Go San Diego Card in advance of the trip which will maximize your savings. La Jolla offers a full day snorkel rental which when combined with other area attractions such as the world-famous San Diego Zoo, can help you and your family save even more!

When to Go Snorkeling in La Jolla

Getting Out of the Water After Snorkeling at the La Jolla Cove
Getting Out of the Water After Snorkeling at the La Jolla Cove

Because San Diego has such incredible weather, you can go snorkeling almost any day of the year and have a good experience. Late fall and winter can actually be a great time to go snorkeling in La Jolla Cove, as it’s less crowded and you’ll have more room to yourself to enjoy the wildlife. Although temperatures can be slightly cooler, wearing a wetsuit will keep you warm underwater.

If warm temperatures are your biggest concern, you’ll have the highest chance of a bright, sunny day towards the end of summer. However, you’ll need to fight off crowds of other snorkelers as well as kayaks, surfers, and swimmers. Summer is an extremely popular time to visit La Jolla.

Local Tips
Remain Calm While Snorkeling
The trick to an adventure full and fun snorkeling experience is to remain relaxed and calm. This will allow you to to just float without much effort and you will see more.

During late spring and early summer, the San Diego area experiences a period of overcast weather. This is often referred to as “May Grey” and “June Gloom” by locals. If you choose to go snorkeling during this period, opt to go later in the day when the clouds have blown over.

You can go snorkeling at any time of the day in La Jolla Cove. However, the best time to go is in the late morning or early afternoon. At this point, the water is beginning to calm down, so it’s easier to swim. The light from the sun overhead also makes it easier to see all of the incredible wildlife passing through the water.

Featured Activity

La Jolla Underwater Park: Kayak and Snorkel Tour
La Jolla Kayak & Snorkel Tour
Jump on a kayak and follow an experienced guide to find the best snorkeling spot in the La Jolla Ecological Reserve! On this 2-hour tour, you can expect to see a variety of fish and other marine animals!
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What to Expect While Snorkeling in La Jolla

There’s so much to see underwater while snorkeling in La Jolla. It helps to know which wildlife species to look for before you go snorkeling so you can keep an eye out for them. Many species of marine wildlife migrate throughout the year, so depending on when you go, you may see different animals.

Here are just a few of the wildlife species that you might see in La Jolla. The area surrounding La Jolla is actually part of a wildlife preserve called the San Diego - La Jolla Underwater Park, which creates a safe and healthy environment for these animals. For the best experience, go snorkeling with a tour guide - they’ll be able to point out the different animals you should watch for.

Sea Lion in La Jolla

Sea Lions

La Jolla is well known for its sea lions - you’re likely to see groups of them laying out in the sun along the shore. Sea lions are very social animals, and you’re likely to see them playing and communicating with each other throughout the day.

While sea lions spend a lot of their time on land, they also like to dip into the water from time to time, so you may see them as you’re snorkeling. They are actually very impressive divers, with the capacity to go hundreds of feet underwater.

Leopard Shark in La Jolla

Leopard Sharks

One of the most exciting species you’ll see underwater in La Jolla is the leopard shark. Leopard sharks are completely harmless to humans and are known for the dramatic spotted patterns on their skin. Thousands of leopard sharks migrate through La Jolla every year, so you’re sure to see them on your snorkeling adventure.

Green Sea Turtle Swimming in the La Jolla Waters

Green Sea Turtles

There really are Green Sea Turtles that live near La Jolla, although they have become endangered as a result of human activity. Sea turtles are slow, gentle creatures, and they often take their naps underwater! Keep on the lookout for their distinctive shells.


Stingrays are another common sight in La Jolla, and it’s important to watch out for them so that you can avoid their painful stings. When observed from a safe distance, these animals can be very beautiful, gliding through the water effortlessly. Stingrays are actually very shy and are usually scared away by movement in the water.

Garibaldi Fish

These are the state fish of California, and they’re very easy to spot while you’re snorkeling. They have a bright orange color and contrast brightly with the blues and greens of the ocean, particularly when the light filters into the water. They like to eat shrimp and are named after an Italian general named Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Grey Whale Spraying Water from Blowhole off the Coast From San Diego


If you snorkel particularly far out into the ocean, you may see some of the most dramatic animals that live in the area - whales. The gray whale migrates from the Arctic to San Diego in the fall and winter. Orcas also occasionally make their way to La Jolla, although they are very rare.

While advanced snorkelers might see a whale underwater, an easier way to see them is by taking a whale watching tour. Whale watching cruises are led by experts and are typically the easiest way to see these beautiful yet elusive creatures.

La Jolla Sea Caves from the Cliffs Above

Sea Cave

In addition to all of the stunning animals in La Jolla, you can also tour dramatic underwater caves. There are seven caves next to the La Jolla Caves Beach that are easy to access and are a great place to see underwater wildlife. There are also huge underwater canyons as part of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve that more advanced snorkelers can explore.

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Best Snorkeling Tours in La Jolla

Bat Rays off of La Jolla in San Diego
Bat Rays off of La Jolla in San Diego

If you haven’t been snorkeling before, the best way to learn is by taking a guided snorkeling tour. There are many local providers that offer guided tours with expert divers. They’ll teach you the basics of snorkeling and lead you to the most beautiful underwater spots in La Jolla Cove.

For those traveling with families, look for a snorkel tour designed for kids. Snorkeling is fairly easy to learn, but a kid-friendly tour will provide extra support if you need it. Many outfitters also offer combination tours that also include kayaking or paddle boarding, which is a great option for those who are feeling more adventurous.

For those who are more comfortable with snorkeling, you can rent your own gear at one of the many shops around San Diego. To go snorkeling, you’ll need a snorkel, mask, and flippers, and a wetsuit is highly recommended.

Before heading out on the water, you may want to look up recommended snorkeling routes from your starting point. Planning out your route ahead of time can help you see more wildlife.

A great way to save money on snorkeling and other popular San Diego activities is by using the San Diego Go Card. With the San Diego Go Card, you can get snorkel rentals from Bike and Kayak San Diego, as well as admission to some of San Diego’s most exciting attractions, such as the SeaWorld San Diego, the USS Midway, and so much more.

You can opt for an All-inclusive pass, which covers dozens of activities throughout town, or build your own for discounts on your favorite activities. We offer an additional discount on the San Diego Go Card on top of their already great prices, so be sure to sign-up before your trip!

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 for An Epic La Jolla Snorkeling Adventure

Snorkeling in La Jolla is an unforgettable experience - here are some tips to help you make the most of this underwater adventure.

Snorkelers Admiring at Group of Harbor Seals at La Jolla Cove
Snorkelers Admiring at Group of Harbor Seals at La Jolla Cove

Swimming in the Ocean is Required

Make sure you are comfortable swimming in the ocean ahead of time. While snorkeling isn’t particularly difficult, you will need some basic swimming skills to enjoy your adventure safely. You may want to brush up on your underwater technique before taking your snorkeling tour.

Bring a Friend

Never go snorkeling on your own, and opt for a guided tour if you’re a beginner. Even if you’ve been snorkeling before or are comfortable swimming in the ocean, you never know what might happen.

Snorkeling with a buddy will help you stay safe, plus you’ll have someone to share the memories with.


It can be difficult to find parking in La Jolla, particularly during the crowded summer months. Instead, opt for another mode of transportation, like rideshare services or San Diego’s public bus system.

If you do decide to drive to La Jolla, get there early and give yourself plenty of time to find a spot.

You’ll have better luck searching for parking in residential areas than on the main streets.

Consider a Wetsuit

We recommend opting for a wetsuit while snorkeling in La Jolla. Even if the weather seems warm, the water in the Pacific Ocean can be cold and uncomfortable. A wetsuit will help you stay comfortable so you can enjoy the adventure.

Get a Mask That Fits

Make sure you rent a mask that fits. An ill-fitting mask can let water leak in, which can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to see. When renting your snorkeling gear, try on a few different masks at the shop to find the closest fit.

Check the Surf Report

Check the surf report before heading to La Jolla to snorkel or kayak. This area generally has calm weather, but occasional harsh waves can make it more difficult to swim - and to see all of the incredible creatures underwater. An online surf report can give you a better idea of the current conditions so you can prepare.

Wildlife Safety

Never interfere with the wildlife underwater - instead, watch them from a safe distance. Many wildlife species in San Diego are endangered, and it’s important not to interfere with them.

Additionally, some fish and underwater mammals could be dangerous if you get too close. Don’t take anything with you from underwater and leave the habitat as you found it.

What to Bring Along

Make sure to bring a towel and a change of clothes for after your swim. The water can get cold, so you’ll be thankful to have them when you get out!

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The World Famous San Diego Zoo
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Guided La Jolla Sea Cave Kayak Tour
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