How to Find the La Jolla Leopard Sharks: Go Snorkeling or Kayaking!
To see beautiful leopard sharks in San Diego head over to La Jolla. The best ways to experience the sharks is to either jump in for some snorkeling or grab a kayak and start paddling! During the summer months, La Jolla’s leopard shark population explodes. Thousands of migrating sharks arrive in the area, and many are ready to give birth. Often found in less than ten feet of water leopard sharks are easy to spot from the ocean’s surface. So grab your snorkeling gear or kayak. Head out to the protected marine sanctuary in La Jolla for a leopard sharks bonanza. Don’t forget to bring your friends!
Where is the best spot to find sharks? Leopard Sharks Lane.
The hot spot to find leopard sharks in La Jolla is along Leopard Sharks Lane. A secluded strip of the ocean on the east end of the La Jolla Ecological Reserve. Stretching from the Marine Room to Devils slide and accessible from various points. The two best ways to explore Leopard sharks lane are by snorkeling or kayaking the area.
Snorkel with Leopard Sharks
Park in the large lot at the north end of Kellogg Park. Walk south for three blocks along La Shores beach, passing the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. Enter the ocean from the beach in front of the Marine Room restaurant.
Once in the water snorkel west over the sandy bottom and away from the shore. You should soon begin spotting the 4 to 5-foot adult sharks schooling along the sand. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a baby leopard shark measuring no more than 6 inches and super cute!
Advanced Snorkeling Route. Start by snorkeling south from the Marine Room. This next 1/4 mile of ocean, in front of the seawall and beautiful homes, is Leopard Sharks Lane. Here the ocean floor changes to rock. The seagrass covered rocky reef is a favorite birthing area for leopard sharks. This area gets very dangerous during large surf. Be sure to explore Leopard Sharks Lane under the guidance of an expert.
Also common to this area are stingrays, shovelnose guitarfish, and giant bat rays. Keep your eyes peeled in the winter months for the elusive angel sharks.
Tips for Snorkeling with La Jolla’s Leopard Sharks
- Avoid stingrays, always shuffle your feet in the sand when walking into the ocean.
- The most sharks are outside the wave break but still in less than 10 feet of water.
- Leopard sharks love the ocean’s floor, keep looking down.
- Lay still on the ocean surface and let the sharks come to you. Don’t chase the sharks.
- Don’t touch the sharks. Leopard sharks are very docile but will react when scared or threatened.
- No snorkeling gear? You can wade out to knee deep water and look down. You should see leopard sharks.
Kayak with Leopard Sharks
Park near the La Jolla Shore Boat Launch at the end of Avenida De La Playa. If you have your kayak, you can launch here. For kayak rentals or kayak tours walk two blocks east along Avenida De La Playa. This section of the street has lots of kayak rental and tour companies.
Paddle south along the shoreline. Once you are floating in front of the Marie Room restaurant, you should start to spot leopard sharks. Continue paddling south along the eastern coast of La Jolla’s protected marine sanctuary. This section of ocean is Leopard Sharks Lane and is a great spot to view sharks.
Most of the leopard sharks that arrive here in the summer months are female and pregnant. The warm, protected waters of the La Jolla inlet are usually quite calm, so ideal as a shark nursery. Pregnant for almost 11 months these sharks give birth to nearly 20 babies in each litter.
Tips for Kayaking with La Jolla’s Leopard Sharks
- Swimmers and snorkelers have the right of way, watch out for them at all times.
- Stay outside the wave break otherwise; you may end up in the ocean.
- Usually the calmer the ocean the clearer the water and easier to see leopard sharks from a kayak.
- Bring a camera!
Super Useful Leopard Sharks Facts
- In North America, jump in the ocean anywhere from the Oregon coast to Mexico, and you may find leopard sharks.
- The areas kelp forests and underwater reefs provide a fantastic year-round food supply.
- These sharks prefer scavenging in groups for softer prey such as squid, small fish, and eggs.
- Active nighttime hunters. Leopard sharks spend most daylight hours lounging or swimming slow along sand flats.
- The adults thin 4 to 5-foot bodies have a unique leopard print pattern. These large dark spots account for the name.
- The baby sharks start out quite small, less than 6-inches. They grow very slowly and take years to mature.
- Leopard sharks love to swim in the surf line or a few meters outside the wave breaks.