Best Scuba Diving in California: Destinations to Consider

best scuba diving in California
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The best scuba diving in California is easy to find, especially since all of the top destinations are homes to droves of wildlife. Just beneath the surface of the water, you’ll be able to see lush forests of kelp that allow varying amounts of sunlight to reach deeper depths. From sea otters to bat rays, there’s an assortment of wildlife for you to experience at various depths.

Below are some of the best spots to go scuba diving in California and our top recommendations for places to visit.

Best Scuba Diving in California: Seven Spots to Explore

1. Bluefish Cove, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Located in Monterey County, Bluefish Cove is one of the most popular places to visit because there are plenty of amazing things to see. Many people suggest everything you would expect to see in the Caribbean Sea is right off the coast of this area in California. It’s also home to some of the densest kelp forests along the rocky shore.

When you submerge into the water and navigate through the kelp, you are very likely to see schools of blue rockfish, algae, and crustaceans. It’s one of the many dives on this list recommended for advanced divers because you’ll need to take a long surface swim to get to the best dive spots. Also, you’ll need to know how to navigate depths up to 65 feet.

2. Naples Reef, Long Beach

Long Beach is one of the most popular destinations for tourists, but did you also know that it’s home to the Naples State Marine Conservation Area?

Naples Reef is a fully protected underwater park nestled within the Santa Barbara Channel. There are 30-foot walls covered in anemones and incredibly thick kelp forests, similar to most other of the top spots on this list.

Our favorite thing about Naples Reef is that it’s home to beautiful and plentiful marine life, including lobsters, sea lions, and yellowtail. There’s so much marine life that it’s one of the most popular locations for marine biologists and their research.

3. Lover’s Point, Pacific Grove

Lover’s Point is one of our favorite California destinations that we recommend for beginner and advanced divers alike. You won’t have to worry about attempting to navigate through steep terrain, as the water surrounding Lover’s Point is relatively calm and offers optimal visibility.

Most scuba divers find they don’t have to dive deep to see all of the most impressive attractions. Abalone, starfish, and crabs are just a few examples of wildlife you’ll experience in this area. It’s also home to tons of tiny jellyfish that you’ll have to watch out for.

With cooler water temperatures than other diving spots at 55 degrees F, a wetsuit will be needed for these waters.

4. Farnsworth Bank, Santa Catalina Island

In this area is where you’ll find that California reaches the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Farnsworth Bank is the optimal destination for scuba divers who have an ample amount of experience and are on the hunt for a thrilling dive.

You’ll be able to get into vast water that is home to giant currents, and you’re likely to see large pelagic animals as well. Above all else, the water is impeccably deep and may not be accessible depending on the weather and water conditions.

In Farnsworth Bank, you’re likely to swim alongside sharks, marlin, mola mola, and tuna. The experience is like you are in an open sea exhibit with sea anemones, soft corals, and cobalt sponges, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.

If you aren’t an experienced diver, it is highly recommended you sign up for a guided tour with professionals. Local tours will help you to have the confidence and comfort needed to traverse through more advanced locales.

best scuba diving in California

5. The Rock Quarry, Santa Catalina Island

Another popular place on Santa Catalina Island to visit is The Rock Quarry, which is just east of Two Harbors. In this location, you can visit three different ecosystems on a single trip which include kelp beds, rock formations, and sandy depths. The Rock Quarry is less of an area to visit if you’re looking for beautiful reefs and more of a spectacular location for finding various species of fish.

The most popular fish you’ll find are scythe butterflyfish in the protected cove; they are bountiful. Divers of all skill levels will easily be able to get into the waters; however, to get to the appropriate dive location, you will need to travel by boat.

6. Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach

Aside from the luxurious nature of this area, Laguna is also home to Shaw’s Cove, which is a unique place to find an assortment of reef fish. You’ll want to pay close attention to the water conditions because it is also an area known for their occasional surges.

By far, Shaw’s Cove is one of our favorite destinations for viewing a stunning outer reef. Nudibranchs, gorgonian sea fans, and garibaldi are just a few examples of the wildlife you might experience in the water.

It’s also important to mention Laguna Beach has an assortment of on-land activities and fantastic eateries for your whole family to enjoy after a day at the beach.

7. Channel Islands National Park

Ideal for divers who are looking for a more secluded dive, the Channel Islands National Park is a fantastic option. Many refer to this area as the Galapagos of North America, and it is also one of the least populated regions of the state.

Accessible by boat, you’ll be able to see some of the most stunning rocky shorelines that North America has to offer. Since there are giant kelp forests in this area, it has created a nutrient-rich environment that creates the perfect home for a multitude of species. These may include whales, dolphins, sea lions, and sea birds.

In all honesty, as there is so much to explore, you’ll need more than one day at the Channel Islands National Park.

Final Thoughts

It’s simple to find the best scuba diving in California, as there is plenty of coastline for you to take advantage of. From Laguna Beach to Catalina Island, there are numerous destinations for divers of all experience levels. We guarantee that you’ll be able to have a unique experience everywhere you visit.

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