La Jolla scuba diving.

The 5 Best spots for Scuba Diving in La Jolla

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Scuba diving in La Jolla is always a fantastic adventure! San Diego’s top scuba sites are all from the shore in the La Jolla protected marine sanctuary. Here, below the sea cliffs, is the spot to share the ocean with the energetic California sea lions. Underwater walls are a playground for cute harbor seals. The deep submarine canyon can surprise with a variety of octopus. And finally, nutrient-rich waters of San Diego’s giant kelp forests are a great place to dive with sharks. The kelp also provides a stunning backdrop for photos.

Here we list La Jolla’s best scuba diving sites and what to see in each area. It’s no surprise that access to 3 of the top 5 spots is from La Jolla Cove.

#1 The Giant Kelp Forest

Giant Kelp Scuba La Jolla Cove.

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The best scuba diving in La Jolla is in the protected marine sanctuaries giant kelp forest. Access this site from the La Jolla Cove beach. The heart of the action is at Rock Pile, due North of the beach about a quarter mile. The kelp stretches from the sea floor right up to the ocean’s surface. Diving in the kelp feels like flying through a magical forest surrounded by marine life. Fish like sargo and opaleye tend to school in large numbers in this area and are fun to photograph. If you are going to see tope sharks, sevengill sharks or other large apex predators, it will most likely be here.

#2 The San Diego Cliffs & Sea Caves

Diving with sea lions below San Diego cliffs.

Carved into the towering sandstone cliffs to the east of The Cove are ancient caves. Local sea lions love to sun themselves on these rocky cliffs and play in the nearby waves. The best diving is in the shallow ocean along the base of the cliffs. You can often find California spiny lobster hiding under the submerged rocks. Look for thousands of fish including kelp bass, blacksmith and bright orange Garibaldi. In the spring season, you can usually spot the super cute horn sharks around the first cave, The Clam. But if your goal is to dive with sea lions while in San Diego this location is your best chance. Bring your camera!

#3 Boomers & The Underwater Walls

Boomers walls and harbor seals dive.

We love this dive! Southwest of La Jolla Cove, Boomers, is past the western border of the marine sanctuary. Here underwater rocky structures form long passageways next to jagged walls. These channels are alive with fish such as silver sardines, mackerel, even anchovies. Watch where you put your hands, the ocean floor here is home to both spiny kelp crabs and sheep crabs. One of the prettiest scuba sites, Boomers is also a favorite playground for baby seals. Spotting gray whales breaching here during their autumn migration is common. Large surf can make this site impossible to access on many days.

#4 Marine Room Reefs Diving

Scuba with sharks in La Jolla.

On the eastern end of the marine reserve, about a quarter mile south of La Jolla Shores, are the Marine Room reefs. In the shallow waters along the shoreline, it’s common to find halibut, rays, and guitarfish. Heading south the sand floor turns into a beautiful seagrass covered rocks. Look for green moray eels, nudibranchs, and hermit crabs living along the rocky reef. In the summer months, it’s easy to find hundreds of beautiful leopard sharks in this area. This site is often used to gain access to south end of the submarine canyon wall.

#5 La Jolla Shores Canyon

La Jolla Shores canyon scuba diving.

South of Scripps pier on the eastern end of the underwater park is the La Jolla Shores scuba site. The best diving is accessible from the beach at Kellogg Park. Stingrays love to hide along the sandy floor in the shallow wave break, so watch your step when entering. Head west and you pass over the vast sand dollar beds. Look for sand dabs, snails and shrimp living among the thousands of sand dollars. Further west is the submarine canyon. It’s common to find colorful octopus, crabs, and lobster hiding in the canyon wall.