Best places to dive in Southern California

beach cities scuba, best places to dive in southern california, laguna beach, laguna beach scuba diving, orange county scuba diving, scuba, scuba diving, scuba diving in southern california, snorkeling -

Best places to dive in Southern California

Disclaimer: I will admit that everyone has their own opinion on best places to dive. Whether it is convenience for the diver, ease of entry or low-cost alternatives; the diver will always hold the ability to make their own judgment on proper locations.

I will also admit that I am showing you some of the best diving that I have personally done over the years of living in Southern California. Do not worry, I have left out my favorite Laguna Beach destinations for this one! With that, let's look at some of the best places to dive in Cali. We'll list them here and then talk about each: 

  • HMCS Yukon, San Diego, California - Mission Bay Area
  • Los Coronados Islands, Mexico
  • Catalina and San Clemente Islands
  • The Oil Rigs

Yukon: The HMCS Yukon is a 366' Canadian destroyer that was purposefully sunk to create an artificial reef system off the coast of Mission Bay, San Diego. Complete with two shore gun stations and a perfectly intact superstructure; the HMCS Yukon has become one of Southern California's gems when it comes to visiting the area as a scuba diver or looking for a weekend getaway. This wreck was intended to sink via mechanical purposes when, the night before, it began to take on water and prematurely submerge. It now sits comfortably on its port side and provides divers with spectacular views. It is of note that the Yukon is an advanced dive, with an extended depth and potential currents/conditions affecting divers, it is imperative that only the experienced diver and accompanied individuals visit it. Charters will take you on two-tank explorations of this dive site all year around. This area is excellent for training the Advanced Open Water Diver Courses, Wreck Diver specialty and the Deep Diver specialty. It's also a great idea to have a Surface Marker Buoy, knife and a finger spool on this dive site. 

  • Depths: 60ft to 100ft
  • Temps: 50 - 72 degrees seasonal
  • Surge/Current: Varies from slight to moderate
  • Level: Advanced divers and above
  • Visibility: 5' - 50+' 

Los Coronados: The Los Coronados islands sits just across the Mexican border and can be reached by boat via the Mission Bay area. A set of islands (North, Middle, South) peaks above the ocean seafloor to provide some of the best diving in Southern California. The highlight of a Los Coronados dive is the guaranteed interaction with Sea Lions. A dive site known as the Lobster Shack holds a large family of the pinnipeds that enjoy buzzing scuba divers and providing photographers with amazing "aquabatics". Normally completed in three dives, the Coronados Islands never disappoint. This area is excellent for training the Advanced Open Water Diver Courses and Deep Diver specialty. It's also a great idea to have a Surface Marker Buoyknife and a finger spool on this dive site. 

  • Depths: 0ft to 80ft
  • Temps: 56 - 72 degrees seasonal
  • Surge/Current: Varies from slight to moderate depending on Island
  • Level: All levels welcome
  • Visibility: 5' - 100+' 

 

The Islands: It is no secret that there are beautiful islands located off the coast of Southern California. Charter boats will cart you over to these places and take you on amazing dives. The Catalina Island area is inhabited with their main city located in Avalon. Whether you want to take a quick Catalina Express ride over or a helicopter, getting to the island is quite easy. Once there, you can choose to enjoy the dive park or hop on a boat (you can also hop on boats on the California side) to enjoy a day of diving in Catalina. The sites are numerous and the conditions are oftentimes beautiful. For those looking for a little more "untouched" natural beauty, San Clemente Island offers a look at Southern California with minimal human interaction. Though the island is frequented by military maneuvers and you have to request permission to enter, San Clemente will always be a special place in the Southern California diving community. With large sea life and protected areas, you'll get maximum amounts of interaction and beauty no matter which one you choose! This area is excellent for training the Advanced Open Water Diver Courses and Deep Diver specialty. It's also a great idea to have a Surface Marker Buoyknife and a finger spool on this dive site. 

  • Depths: 0ft to 300ft+
  • Temps: 50 - 72 degrees seasonal
  • Surge/Current: Varies from slight to moderate depending on location
  • Level: All levels welcome
  • Visibility: 5' - 100+' 

The Oil Rigs: A special treat in Southern California scuba diving is the oil rigs. As you approach these monoliths, you'll see sea lions hanging out and all sorts of ocean bound animals waiting to hunt for the passing school of fish. Under the sea, you'll find a large interconnected structure system built to support the massive weight of the rig itself. These provide a jungle gym of diving fun for all divers. Whether you are looking to seek out a chance to get some fresh scallops or to take amazing photos of the superstructure, the oil rigs will never let you down! A quick jaunt from Southern California ports will get you alongside oil rigs like the Eureka where you can spend an hour exploring what makes Southern California diving top-notch. This dive does involve currents, so it is always a good idea (as with every dive) to have a cutting device and two signaling devices. These will guarantee your safety and allow you to surface to meet your boat. Which usually conducts active boating in order to pick you up (meaning they do not anchor on site). This area is excellent for training the Advanced Open Water Diver Courses and Deep Diver specialty. It's also a great idea to have a Surface Marker Buoyknife and a finger spool on this dive site. 

  • Depths: 0ft to 300ft+
  • Temps: 50 - 72 degrees seasonal
  • Surge/Current: Varies from slight to moderate depending on location
  • Level: Advanced divers and above recommended
  • Visibility: 5' - 100+' 

Whether you are looking for some amazing shore diving or hopping over to the islands and more, you'll find that Southern California diving offers some of the most diverse ocean interactions the world over. 

About the author: David Mansfield is an active PADI Course Director and Technical Diving Instructor Trainer located in the Southern California area. He serves as the Director of Operations for Beach Cities Scuba and provides divers with experiences all along the Southern California coastline. He has traveled around the world scuba diving and holds over 1,100 student certifications that range from the basic diver level to professionals in the industry. He can be found out on the ocean or you can keep up with him at www.djmansfield.com or on his Instagram @djmansfield7


1 comment

  • Samantha

    Every year our family goes to Catalina for Thanksgiving. We recently moved to Florida but we are headed back to Catalina next week to take our kids diving. Love it!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published