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21 Best Places to Go Snorkeling in California-Snorkeling Spots [Islands, Coves]

California is home to some of the most amazing snorkeling spots in the country. However, it’s often difficult to pinpoint the best spots to go to. There are hundreds of beaches across the state, so it’s hard to determine which one is worth visiting. Luckily, with some research and a little know-how, finding some of the best snorkeling spots in California is possible. It makes me wonder, where are the best places to go snorkeling in California?

So, where are the best places to go snorkeling in California? They are 1. Glass Beach Fort Bragg, 2. Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe, 3. Farallon Islands, 4. San Carlos Beach, 5. McAbee Beach Monterey Bay, 6. Carmel by the Sea, 7. Garrapata State Beach in Big Sur, 8. Refugio State Beach Santa Barbara, 9. Santa Cruz Island, 10. Anacapa Island in San Luis Obispo County, 11. Ventura, 12. Malibu Creek State Park, 13. Long Beach, 14. Catalina Island (Avalon), 15. Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, 16. Huntington Beach Pier Huntington Beach, 17. Laguna Beach, 18. Three Arch Bay Laguna Beach, 19. Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, 20. La Jolla Cove, 21. Mission Bay State Park

Snorkeling is a sport that allows people to enjoy the beautiful underwater world. People wear masks to see underwater. Many parts of California have lots of spots where people can go snorkeling. They can see different animals like fish, sea turtles, sea lions, and dolphins.

21 Best Places to Go Snorkeling in California-Snorkeling Spots Islands Coves

They can also see different kinds of beautiful corals and plants. I’ll point out 20 of the best spots to go snorkeling in California and cover some hidden places and tips for making the best of your snorkeling trip. Stay tuned, and keep on reading. Let’s get started!

What Are the 21 Best Places to Go Snorkeling in California?

1. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg

Glass Beach lies along the Mendocino Coast in Northern California. The beach is known for being home to millions of sea glass pieces left behind by military ships in the early 1900s. Glass Beach’s waters are known for being exceptionally clear and filled with various marine life. When snorkeling, you can see colorful fish, colorful rocks on the bottom, and sometimes even a whale!

2. Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay State Park is one of the world’s most beautiful and diverse beaches. Emerald Bay’s waters are crystal clear and filled with 50 species of fish, including Garibaldi and California golden trout. The bay’s waters are also filled with sea anemones, mussels, and rocks. The underwater scenery is quite diverse, and snorkelers can often see sea anemones, clams, starfish, and crabs.

3. Farallon Islands

Farallon Islands are one of the unique spots to snorkel in California. Farallons national park is a protected reserve, and the island’s waters are teeming with wildlife. Underwater is a diverse ecosystem filled with sea anemones, sea lions, dolphins, sharks, and rays. Over 60 species of fish and 20 species of invertebrates live in the waters around the islands.

The Farallons are a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean located about 30 miles from San Francisco.

4. San Carlos Beach

San Carlos Beach in Monterey offers visitors a chance to snorkel in clear waters filled with abundant sea life. The waters here are calm year-round, so even first-time snorkelers have a good chance of seeing the colorful fish that inhabit the kelp forests that line the coast. The beach is a protected marine reserve home to various endangered seabirds and marine mammals. The water temperature here stays around 63° F year-round, and visibility is typically 30 feet or more.

What Are Some Less Popular but Still Great Snorkeling Spots in California?

Monterey Bay is a great spot to snorkel because there are several different marine habitats to visit. Other great places to snorkel in California include the Channel Islands, Catalana Island, and the Bay Areas. There are many less-known but great snorkeling spots in California, including Catalina, Cabrillos, and Santa Monica.

There are several lesser-known but still great snorkel spots in California, including Three Arch Bay, Half Moon Bay, Bodega Harbor, and Trinidad Head. Some of California’s lesser known but still great spots include Catalina island, malibu pier, and off the coast near Santa Cruz.

Visit Anacapa Island (San Luis Obispo County) for its beautiful beaches, Santa Barbara Island for its scenic views, and Eastern Santa Cruz for its rugged beauty. You can then try snorkeling there, especially on Anacapa Island. You might also want to visit the Channel Islands National Park for its amazing scenery. 

Interactive Map of Snorkeling Spots in California

Here is an interactive map overview of the 21 best places to go snorkeling in California. Press the blue or yellow number indicators to zoom in to the snorkeling spot. You can navigate to different spots by pressing the Palm Tree icon. To see interactive photos of the snorkeling place, press on the orange man (right hand side) and look for a small blue dot or navigate to the street. Unpress and you will be taken to that spot on the map to view photos.

5. McAbee Beach, Monterey Bay

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary offers abundant opportunities for snorkeling. Located 90 miles off California’s central coast, this sanctuary is home to more than 8,000 types of marine life. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Marine Sanctuary Center offers snorkeling tours at McAbee Beach, where visitors can explore the tidal pools and see sea lions, leopard sharks, and harbor seals. On its tours, the center also offers the chance to snorkel with Monterey Bay’s famous garibaldi (sea cucumbers).

6. Carmel by the Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a popular spot for California tourists. It offers a picturesque setting with quaint boutiques and galleries. While Carmel-by-the-Sea offers plenty of sights on land, its snorkeling sites are equally beautiful. Carmel’s waters are home to large schools of anchovies and rockfish, as well as sea lions, otters, leopard sharks, and otters. These beautiful creatures can be viewed from an underwater observatory that views the kelp forest below.

7. Garrapata State Beach in Big Sur

Garrapata State Beach is located in Big Sur and is one of the premier spots to snorkel in Big Sur. This beach is known for its amazing scenery and incredible opportunities for wildlife watching. The southern part of Garrapata State Beach is sheltered by Point Sur, which blocks ocean swells. This cove is perfect for experienced snorkelers to swim out and explore underwater. Garrapata state beach is filled with sea life like leopard sharks and even a green sea turtle. However, it is not a snorkeler’s paradise; the currents are strong, and the visibility is poor.

8. Refugio State Beach, Santa Barbara

Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara contains the largest kelp forest in California. This forest provides shelter to many species of fish living among the kelp and algae. Locals enjoy snorkeling at Refugio State Beach and fishing in the surrounding waters. Kelp forests often attract sea lions, dolphins, and sea otters.

9. Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park is an idyllic place to relax under the water. The 2.8-mile-long island has eight beaches and more than 100 tide pools for snorkeling. One of the island’s most famous snorkeling spots is Scorpion Rock, where visitors can see moon snails, sea urchins, and starfish. Another popular snorkeling area is The Boilers, a sea cave filled with kelp and sea life.

10. Anacapa Island in San Luis Obispo County

Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park is an idyllic place to relax under the water. The 2.8-mile-long island has eight beaches and more than 100 tide pools for snorkeling. One of the island’s most famous snorkeling spots is Scorpion Rock, where visitors can see moon snails, sea urchins, and sea stars. Another popular snorkeling area is The Boilers, a sea cave filled with kelp and sea life.

11. Ventura

Ventura is one of the best places in California to snorkel. Ventura is home to several great snorkeling spots, including Channel Islands National Park. The Channel Islands National Park is where snorkelers can see abundant sea life, including sea lions, sharks, sea turtles, and dolphins. The park is home to 30 species of marine mammals and more than 300 species of birds.

Where Is the Clearest Water for Snorkeling

The clearest water for snorkeling is typically found in warm, clear waters. It means that the water temperature and clarity are ideal for those looking to enjoy snorkeling.

Clear, warm water allows visibility underwater, making it easier to see marine life and coral reefs. Additionally, the absence of waves makes walking or diving around submerged objects easy without fear of getting lost.

While all areas have their own unique characteristics and water temperatures, some popular California snorkel spots include Newport Beach, Dana Point Harbor, Laguna Beach Pier (just south of town), and Malibu Creek State Park (just west of town).

If you’re planning a trip to the coast this summer and want to explore different locations for snorkeling while enjoying stunning ocean views, check out our blog post on where to find the clearest water for swimming in California!

12. Malibu Creek State Park

Malibu Creek State Park is a beautiful place in California. The 50-acre park is known for its beautiful hiking trails and hiking along the canyon walls. The park is also known for its excellent creek, which flows all year round. “Malibu Creek” is a tributary of the Los Angeles River, and the water that flows through it is salty and quite murky. However, the Malibu Creek State Park is where the creek meets the ocean, and the water becomes much clearer and clearer at the creek’s mouth. It is in this area that Malibu Creek State Park has some of the best snorkeling in California.

Is Long Beach Good for Snorkeling? Beach Spots Near LA for Snorkeling

There are many places to go snorkeling in California, but Long beach is a great place to start.

The city of Long Beach has beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters that provide perfect snorkeling conditions. There are also plenty of places to eat and drink near the water, so you can enjoy your time in the ocean without leaving the shoreline.

13. Long Beach

Long Beach is one of the most beautiful spots in California. The beach is wide, the sand is white, and the views are breathtaking. Long Beach is among the top destinations for beachgoers in the state. However, the beach’s beauty extends beyond the shore. The waters on Long Beach are crystal clear and home to various fish and other sea life. The beautiful underwater world holds a variety of marine life. Colorful fish swim among the coral and kelp beds. Turtles swim near the shore, and octopuses swim in the waters just off the coast.

Is There Snorkeling in Catalina Island

Yes, there is snorkeling in Catalina Island. The island has a variety of different reefs and beaches that offer excellent opportunities for snorkeling.

Catalina Island is located off the coast of Southern California and offers visitors a wide range of activities to enjoy, including swimming, sunbathing, hiking, camping, boating, fishing, and more. The island also has excellent snorkeling locations for exploring the coral reef system.

The waters around Catalina are warm and clear year-round, making it a popular destination for tourists worldwide. Whether you’re looking to explore the colorful coral reefs or take a relaxing dip in the crystal-clear water, Catalina Island has something for everyone.

14. Catalina Island (Avalon)

Catalina Island is one of the most beautiful destinations in California. The island is home to diverse marine life and abundant aquatic life. Catalina Island offers incredible snorkeling opportunities. You can snorkel off the rocky coastline at Two Harbors or Avalon Harbor. Snorkelers can enjoy swimming with sea lions and dolphins and see colorful fish and octopuses.

15. Abalone Cove Shoreline Park

Abalone Cove Shoreline Park is a good choice for first-time snorkelers. The shallow and calm waters are perfect for beginners, and Abalone Cove Shoreline Park’s coral reef offers abundant marine life for snorkelers to enjoy. Visitors can also enjoy excellent views of the park’s beach and coastal area.

16. Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Pier offers a great place to swim or snorkel in the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. The pier is 1.5 miles long and over 100 years old. Snorkelers can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the pier and view the marine life that lives there, like cowrie shells and anemones. You can also see several fish species, including angelfish, puffer fish, octopi, and sea urchins.

Where Can I Snorkel in Southern California?

Snorkeling is a great way to see the underwater world in Southern California. There are many places to go snorkeling in this area, so there’s sure to be a spot that suits your tastes and needs.

You can enjoy many water activities when visiting Southern California, including snorkeling. Snorkeling is a great way to see the underwater world and learn about the marine life there.

There are many spots around Southern California where you can snorkel, so it’s easy to find an activity you’ll love. Whether looking for shallow waters or depths beyond your reach, you’re sure to find a spot that’ll fit your needs and interests.

Whether you’re new to snorkeling or have been doing it for years, there’s sure to be a place near where you live that will let you explore the beauty of Southern California’s underwater world at your own pace.

17. Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is a scenic coastal town in Orange County (California), United States, known for coastal attractions like tide pools and waterfalls. Visitors can snorkel alongside sea lions and dolphins at low tide. Swimming in the natural coves and inlets is always safe and fun because Laguna Beach is protected from the ocean’s strong waves and currents by a series of rock formations. A variety of marine life can be seen while snorkeling and scuba diving in the coastal communities of Laguna Beach.

18. Three Arch Bay, Laguna Beach

Three Arch Bay is a must-see spot for Laguna Beach, California snorkelers. The bay is known for its diverse marine life, including leopard sharks, dolphins, yellowtail snappers, and various reef fish. The bay’s unique underwater landscape makes it a popular spot for divers and snorkelers. The bay consists of three arches, which protect the bay from waves and currents that can pull snorkelers off course. The calm water allows snorkelers to explore deeper waters and spot more marine life.

19. Doheny State Beach in Dana Point

Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, California, is a great place to snorkel in the summer. The beach has calm seas with crystal clear water. From the beach, you can see kelp forests between the rocks on the sandbar. The kelp forest is unique because it is like an underwater forest where fish hide between the kelp stalks.

Is There Snorkeling in San Diego? -Snorkeling Locations

Yes, you can snorkel in San Diego. There are many places to go snorkeling, depending on your interests and preferences. Some good places to go snorkeling include Mission Bay, La Jolla Cove, and Point Loma Nazarene University.

20. La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is a world-famous snorkeling spot. The clear water provides a great view of the La Jolla kelp forest. Inside the kelp forest, divers and snorkelers can swim with California sea lions, leopard sharks, and giant leopard sharks. The water is shallow, and the visibility is excellent. La Jolla Cove is a good place to see tide pools and a wide variety of sea life.

21. Mission Bay State Park

You can snorkel at any beach in Mission Bay State Park in San Diego, California. The water is clear, and the visibility is excellent. Mission Bay is the best place in San Diego to see dolphins, sea lions, and whales. The tide pools are home to colorful starfish and other creatures, including some that are poisonous.

Tips for Snorkeling in California

Snorkeling is a great way to see some of California’s most beautiful marine life. Here are some tips for enjoying the activity in the Golden State:

1. Find a good location. If you’re looking for snorkeling spots near a city, try searching for popular tourist destinations like Santa Monica Pier or Seal Beach. But be warned – these areas can get crowded and noisy.

2. Check the weather forecast. Sometimes strong waves or high winds can make swimming difficult or even dangerous, so it’s important to check the weather before you go out. If conditions look bad, stay put!

3. Wear sunscreen and protective gear. Even if the water looks calm from shore, there’s always a chance that something could happen underwater that would require you to take cover (like getting stung by jellyfish). Make sure you have everything you need – sunglasses, hats, sunscreen, rash guards/skins, and waterproof shoes/clothes – before hitting the beach!

4. Bring your own food and drinks. It might not sound like much fun, but bringing your own snacks will save money and help keep beach cleanliness in mind (#snorkel #beachlife). And, of course, don’t forget your favorite snorkel gear – fins, masks, and snorkel tubes!

5. Respect the environment. Don’t litter, and be careful not to disturb any marine life that you might see. And last but not least, have fun! Snorkeling is a great way to relax and recharge after a long day.

What Can Types of Fish Be Found While Snorkeling in California?

Snorkelers are most likely to see a variety of fish while snorkeling in California, based on the seasonality of that type of fish in that region or snorkel spot.

What Type of Fish Are Most Seen by Snorkelers in California?

California is home to more than 1,000 species of fish. Most of these live along its coastlines and estuaries. Some are found in the ocean, while others prefer freshwater habitats.

The most common types of fish include Angelfish, Clownfish, Sea Urchin, Triggerfish, Sea Cucumber, Stingray, Octopus, Squid, Cuttlefish, Shark, Barracuda, Grouper, Sea Bass, Bream, Flounder, Cod, Halibut, Mackerel, and Herring.

FAQs About Snorkeling in California

Snorkeling is a great way to examine California’s marine life closely. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about snorkeling in the state:

– When is the best season for snorkeling in California?

The best time of year to snorkel in California is anytime, but spring and fall are particularly nice due to the warmer water temperatures.

– Is it safe to swim with dolphins when I’m snorkeling?

Yes, swimming with dolphins during your visit to Cali can be an unforgettable experience!

– How deep do I need to go while snorkeling?

Most Californians only need to go down as far as their shoulders when Snorkelling. However, if you’re feeling adventurous or want a deeper dive, head out on one of the many guided tours offered in various areas around the state.

– Can I see any sharks while snorkeling?

No, sharks aren’t typically found near shorelines where people often swim and snorkel. However, there’s always a chance you might spot one if you’re really looking for one!

What Are Some Hazards to Be Aware of While Snorkeling in California?

There are a few hazards to be aware of while snorkeling in California. One common hazard is getting stung by a coral polyp. Coral polyps are tiny creatures that can sting you if you touch them underwater. Another hazard is getting lost in the ocean’s depths. If you get lost, it can be difficult to find your way back home, and hypothermia may set in if you’re not prepared for it.

Snorkeling in California is a great way to see some of the state’s most beautiful reefs and coral formations. However, a few things should be considered before diving into the water. First and foremost, always wear sunscreen and take appropriate safety precautions when snorkeling. Second, be aware of reef safety guidelines – never swim near coral heads or drop into deep waters without first checking with an experienced guidebook publisher like Lonely Planet or National Geographic Traveler. Finally, if something doesn’t feel right while snorkeling – whether it’s because of an unusual fish or coral encounter – don’t force things! Just relax and float until you find a safe place to surface.

What Are the Best Times of Year to Go Snorkeling in California?

Snorkeling in California is a great activity during any time of year, but certain times of the year are better than others. The best time of year to go snorkeling in California is usually during the spring and fall months when the water temperatures are warm and there’s less wind. However, summertime can also be a great time to snorkel in California if the water is warm enough.

What Is the Visibility Like in California Snorkeling Spots?

California snorkeling spots range from 5 to 30 feet, although visibility is worse when strong ocean currents are prevalent. Water clarity worsens in December and January when large storm systems pass through California. Some areas have year-round visibility, but it is usually clearer in winter. The California Current brings warm water into the state’s coastal waters, which limits visibility to less than 30 feet year round.

 What Should I Bring with Me when I Go Snorkeling in California?

A Wetsuit

A wetsuit is the clothing worn by swimmers that help them stay warm in the water.

A wetsuit is your most important gear when swimming in California’s cold waters. It provides warmth and protection from the water and can also help you stay afloat if you get into trouble.

Snorkeling Gear

Bring all your snorkeling gear, so you have everything at hand to make a great day of snorkeling. 


Flippers are good, especially when water currents are a bit strong. Not everyone needs them or wants to use flippers, but I have found them to give an extra boost, saving energy and enabling me to snorkel a bit longer. 

Parting Shot

There you have it, my list of best places for snorkeling in California. I covered the best places to go snorkeling, listed a few spots that are not well-known but just as exciting to go snorkeling, some tips on going snorkeling in California, and lightly touched on equipment to take. For your next trip to California, take these tips and apply them to your situation. The best thing you can do for a snorkeling trip in California has a good plan and then get moving to implement it.