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Best Snorkeling Spots

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Within a few feet of shore, you will see underwater plant and animal life you never knew existed: strawberry-colored bat stars, pencil-shaped pipefish, rabbit-sized sea hares.  Dozens of California's state fish, the orange Garibaldi, swim before your eyes, as well as schools of tiny shrimp, top smelt, surf perch and kelp bass.  Spiny lobsters, locally known as "bugs," pile on top of each other under rocks and crevices, along with sea urchins, moray eels, crabs and octopuses.

In the silent world beneath the water's surface, time seems to move at another pace.  With very little cost or effort, snorkeling can be a real escape to another realm.

The first, most important tip for safe and enjoyable snorkeling is to relax. Finding optimum snorkeling in San Diego is simple: Look for rocks adjacent to a sandy bottom.  All you need are fins, a mask and a snorkel, all of which can be rented at local dive and surf shops.  A light wet suit helps keep you warm and buoyant, but it isn't necessary during the warm summer months. And go during high tides -- you'll see more.

WHERE TO SNORKLE

La Jolla Cove:

You'll find some of the best snorkeling in the world at La Jolla Cove, part of the 6,000-acre La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Reserve that stretches to Torrey Pines State Reserve.  The park is filled with underwater kelp forests, deep canyons, sandy plains and plentiful sea life. On a day with flat, calm water with little surge or surf, La Jolla Cove is a gem. Once past the first 20 yards of surf and eel grasses, the underwater animal life is remarkable, with alien-looking creatures.  Sheep crab up to 2 feet in diameter look like lunar landing modules.

Devil's Slide and the Sea Lion Caves:

Located just north of La Jolla Cove,   offer pristine waters teeming with life.  About 25 yards out from the cliffs are rock outcroppings in 15 to 20 feet of water.  In and around the rock niches, you'll see bat rays, shovel-nose guitarfish and thousands of spiny lobsters. It's not unusual to see web-footed cormorants swimming 15 feet underwater, looking for anchovies and top smelt, that travel in schools of up to 10,000, which the large black sea birds scoop up in their hooked beaks. Leopard and horn sharks up to 6 feet in length are common in the area, and are relatively harmless.

La Jolla Shores:

The best snorkeling off La Jolla Shores can be found south of the Marine Room restaurant and north of the pier. Here you’ll see sandy bottom dwellers like halibut and flounder, stingrays and huge yards of sand dollars, which bury themselves perpendicular in the sand.  It's important to remember this area is an ecological preserve, and it is illegal to harass or take any animal or plant.  Even if a shell looks empty, other animals may inhabit it."

Shell Beach and Boomers Beach:

Just south of La Jolla Cove, both Boomers and Shell beaches big bottom rocks and offer great snorkeling for advanced swimmers, who can negotiate the stronger underwater surge and higher surf. 

Mission Bay:

One of the best places to snorkel in San Diego is also one of the least known.  At Mission Point Beach (at the south end of Mission Boulevard), the snorkeling is remarkable. With no surf and very little surge, the shallow, quiet cove is ideal for novices and younger children. Along the rock jetty here, sometimes in less than 2 feet of water, Garibaldi fish swim among delicate coral plants.  The gobs of bright orange, red and pink spaghetti-like strands on rock ledges are the eggs of the slimy black sea hares.  Octopuses are common, as are sea cucumbers, spiny lobsters and the plentiful kelp bass, which range from a few inches to 2 feet in length.

Don’t Miss These North County Beaches:

Solana Beach: Fletcher Cove, at Lomas Sante Fe

Encinitas: the underwater preserve at Swami's Beach, off Highway 101  

 

KNOW OF ANOTHER GREAT SNORKEL LOCATION?  EMAIL US AND WE’LL INCLUDE IT (IF YOU WANT TO SHARE)

 

San Diego Treasures Staff:
Videographer: Michael Gerdes
Sound: Roland Lizarondo
Editor: Ron Stein
Music Consultant: Byron La Due
Production Manager: Ena Newell
Producer/Host: Kathi Diamant

Snorkelers: Clare and Maura Daly Phinney

Underwater Videography:   Mary Lynn Price, DiveFilm.com
 
Music Selection:    “Andre’s First Swim” by Bruce Broughton from the motion picture “Andre.”   

Watch San Diego Treasures on KPBS-TV. San Diego Treasures offers KPBS viewers a chance to discover one of San Diego’s natural or man-made spaces and places that make our county a special place to live.  

 

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