La Jolla California Snorkeling Guide
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La Jolla is the primary snorkeling location around San Diego, California. It offers some great subtropical Pacific Ocean snorkeling. Sea lions and bright orange Garibaldi fish are a common sight. The highlight of this area is sea caves which are large enough to snorkel inside.
The ocean along California is not known for its clarity, while limited, La Jolla has better visibility and marine life than anywhere along southern California. You can expect to have visibility no greater than 20 feet. Most of the time underwater visibility is around 10 feet. Larger swells come though this area and it can be challenging to snorkel in the low visibility.
The ocean temperature in southern California is notably cold most of the year and only reaches around 70 degrees in the warmest summer months. This is the best time to snorkel La Jolla, as the marine life is most abundant. July, August and September are the best months to snorkel La Jolla.
To suppress the colder water, consider getting a neoprene jacket or top. 2mm thick seems to be adequate and will offer some buoyancy in the water while still being flexible.
La Jolla and La Jolla Shores are very popular areas in the summer months. Parking can be challenging, and dive tour company vans will arrive by 7am on weekends to secure a good spot.
There are various snorkel and tour operators to choose from in La Jolla. They all start from the same areas and go the same places. If you are snorkeling by yourself out there and have trouble finding the caves, just look for where the kayak tours are going.
Or, better yet! You can download our La Jolla Snorkel Maps, and these will show you exactly where to go:
La Jolla Digital Snorkeling Map
(Click the box on the map header to open in Google Maps app)
La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove is a beautiful and popular snorkeling area. Sea lions are a common site on the beach and surrounding rocks. Bright orange Garibaldi fish are abundant in the cove. The cove is protected by strong waves and has better underwater visibility that drops sharply as you swim outside the cove. The cove is the main access point to swim to the caves.
La Jolla Caves
There are several sea caves along the cliffs to the east of La Jolla Cove. Some of the caves are large enough to snorkel inside. One cave is open at both ends, allowing a swim through. Water clarity improves in front of the caves allowing some of the best snorkeling in the area.
The first cave is 1,000 foot swim from La Jolla Cove. Make sure you have the skill level to swim here and back if you attempt. Entering the water from the peninsula is possible, but not recommended. Swells will hit the caves, be careful to not get pushed against the walls. There are a few more caves along the cliffs to the southeast, but they are closer to openings rather than caves you can swim inside. If you have trouble locating the caves, just follow the kayak tours.
La Jolla Cove & Caves snorkeling video:
Marine Room snorkeling area is called so because of the restaurant nearby. Access this spot from La Jolla Shores public beach area. The main attraction to this snorkeling spot are the leopard sharks that frequent the shallow sand areas in the warm summer months. Measuring 4 to 5 feet long, they pose no threat to humans. Where Avenida De La Playa road ends at the ocean is the main launching point for kayak tours to La Jolla Caves. A buoy line extends from this area, across the hotel, to near The Marine Room restaurant. Kayaks are not allowed inside of this buoy line. This is the primary snorkel area. Closer to the restaurant, the bottom has limited sea grass and gravel areas. This is a good place to look for leopard sharks. They will be found along the bottom. Depths are shallow, not more than 15 feet. Further along the shore to the southwest, sea grass starts and continues to La Jolla Caves.
Hey, check this out:
For even more detailed information on these snorkeling sites, download our La Jolla Snorkeling Map. Full color maps in .pdf version. Extra notes, tips and tricks to maximize your experience. Download for offline use and take with you to the snorkel spot.