Snorkeling in the United States

One of the things that makes this the United States great is the geographic diversity. From snow-covered mountains to tropical aquatic settings, the United Sates truly has it all.

When people think of snorkeling in the US, they typically think of Hawaii, and for good reason. Some of the best snorkeling on the planet is found there (click here for information specific to Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island). However, people often overlook snorkeling destinations found on the "mainland".

One great example of an underrated snorkeling destination is San Diego. Snorkeling in San Diego offers many benefits, including a shorter travel distance, perhaps no need to book a flight, and there's so much to do in general in San Diego that you can fit many activities into one trip.

Below we will outline some of the best spots to snorkel in San Diego, as well as where to rent snorkel gear and and who to contact for guided snorkel tours in San Diego.

La Jolla Cove

When I was recently in San Diego with a large group of friends, La Jolla was definitely a highlight of our trip. We went to the area numerous times, whether it be for surfing, snorkeling, checking out the boardwalk, and just enjoying the shops and bars. It's absolutely beautiful, and it's a large area, so if in doubt it's probably a good idea to allocate a good chunk of time to spend there.

La Jolla is arguably the most popular snorkeling destination in San Diego. One of the reasons is because of other available activities, convenient location, and simply put, the snorkeling is great! There are a few guided tours you can take and you are also free to explore on your own.

The one main thing you need to keep in mind, which I touched on briefly before, is the wide range in conditions at La Jolla. Water conditions can be calm and clear one day, then strong choppy surf the next day. Therefore, to ensure you get some awesome snorkeling in, please check the weather and water conditions ahead of time and plan accordingly. 

There is a wide variety of marine life to explore at La Jolla Cove. One of the most popular fish is the Giribaldi, California's state fish. The Giribaldi look amazing, and they are easy to spot with their bright orange color, and they seem like they are happy to swim near people! Some people have even reported seeing rays, although I cannot personally attest to that. Maybe consider that a bonus if you're lucky enough to spot some! 

La Jolla Cove Snorkel Rentals


2222 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037

Fins, mask, and snorkel: $15/day

Mask and snorkel only: $10/day

Fins: $7/day

Full wetsuit: $15/day

Spring Wetsuit (short arms and legs): $10/day

Phone (General): (858) 551-9510

Phone (Toll Free): 1-866-HBKAYAK (425-2925)

Email: [email protected] 



2158 Avenida De La Playa, San Diego, CA 92037

Mask, fins, snorkel, and wetsuit: $29/day

* Your choice of spring or full wetsuit

* Check online for limited-time deals

Wetsuit only: $9/day (spring) or $14/day (full)

Phone (General): 1-858-454-1010

Email: Follow this link


La Jolla Cove Snorkel Tours


3939 Mission Boulevard, San Diego, California 92109

La Jolla Cove Tour: $70

La Jolla Leapard Sharks Tour: Call for information

La Jolla Cove Private Tour: Call for information

* All tours include snorkeling gear rental, snacks, and drink.

* Check website for coupons and deals

Phone: 1-858-539-0054

Email: [email protected]



1775 E Mission Bay Dr (at Quivira Access), San Diego, CA 92109, 

Tour, snorkel equipment rental, snacks, and drinks: $70

* Call ahead if you plan on bringing children under the age of 13.

Phone: 1-619-260-1880

Email: [email protected]



2158 Avenida De La Playa, San Diego, CA 92037

Prices start at $39/person. Tours include instruction, fitting, and rentals for wetsuit, snorkel, fins, mask. 

Tour runs for ~ 2 hours, with ~1hr in the water

Highlight is swimming with harmless leopard sharks

* Covers La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores

* Check website for advanced booking deals and online booking deals

Children 8 and up are allowed to participate

Phone: 1-858-454-1010

Email: Complete form at


La Jolla Shores

If you feel like snorkeling just off the shore, try the area between the pier and Marine Room restaurant. Here you have a chance of seeing a wide variety of marine life, particularly animals. Not as popular, this area can be a little busy at times and may not provide the best clarity during moderate to strong surf. However, it can be a very enjoyable area to snorkel on a nice day!

Check out La Jolla Bike and Kayak Tours (info in previous paragraph) for information about guided tours on La Jolla Shores, where you have a great chance of swimming with some harmless leopard sharks! 

Devil's Slide and Sea Lion Caves

If you go a little further north of Lo Jolla Cove, there are some rock outcroppings that offer excellent exploration opportunities. It's a bit of a swim, but there are some really cool and weird creatures in the area, including bat rays, spiny lobsters, and leopard sharks. Of course, given the name, you can also expect to see some sea lions and harbor seals.

This area is close enough to the other La Jolla snorkeling locations that you can actually check out both spots in one day. There are some guided tours of the area. If you're very unfamiliar with the area or are new to snorkeling, we usually recommend this, as it will not only be a little more efficient, but also allows you to maximize your experience and what you see.