Sea Turtles in La Jolla – The Secret Snorkeling Spot

We know a secret snorkeling area in San Diego. Here red kelp grows on a rocky reef, and the water is shallow, and sea turtles make their appearance. This place, called Turtle Town by the La Jolla locals who know the site, is fantastic.

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Warmer water means more turtle surprises

Many who frequent the waters of San Diego look at me in disbelief when I say I saw the turtles today. I tell them it is not a mystical sea creature, but that we do have these green beauties in our chilly waters off the coast. If the person continues to be skeptical, I just open my phone. I scroll through the many photos we have taken of these creatures. It is a long swim to get to the special place where they love to hang around but worth it. Most of the ocean here is part of the protected ecological reserve and underwater Marine Park. To access the area you have three choices of where to enter the water, the Cove, Shores or Marine Room. We prefer the Marine Room. But sometimes water conditions make one of the other locations a better option. If you’re new here, be sure to enter near a lifeguard tower. There are towers near the main beach at both La Jolla Shores and Cove. It is always advised to check to be sure conditions are safe to enter.

La Jolla’s entire protected marine area is beautiful

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As you start to head away from shore, it may be hard to find our handsome guys. The location covers such a large space. Enjoy the area while you search. Just stop and just float on the surface now and then. Take in the view of our majestic cliffs that surround most of the ocean inlet. The La Jolla marine park has a vast array of underwater life. Mackerel, seals, and cute sharks. While you make your way over to the site, check out the bright orange Garibaldi. This handsome guy is our California state fish. Take a peek under the rocks along the ocean floor to get a glimpse of our adorable California spiny lobsters. Keep an eye peeled for our big green moray eels. They love to poke their heads up from secluded hiding spots as you pass. Enjoy our underwater site and cliffs. Even if you don’t find turtles, you will still enjoy the beautiful marine park.

Photo of Stephanie free in San Diego ocean.
Close image of cute green guy.

Snorkeling myth or reality

Most of the turtles we have seen off La Jolla have medium to dark brown shells. The individuals can grow to over 5 feet long and weigh upwards of 400 pounds. Our residents vary in size with the smallest being a cute guy around 15 lbs. The largest must weigh well over 200 pounds. We often see them along the sea cliffs. There are a couple that visited over the last couple years. We get to know them by the markings on their shells. But in the last year, we have had quite a few new visitors.

Lately, the best time of year to find our turtles is pretty much anytime. It used to be that late summer and early autumn was the best time. Because of the recent warm water phenomena we have had a least one or two around the entire year for the past two years. We are keeping or fingers crossed that they just decide to move here.

The best time of day to go is anytime the ocean is beautiful and calm. We have more sightings in the afternoons than mornings. But this may be due to the ocean being a bit clearer as the day goes on.

The best way to experience these guys is either freediving or just snorkeling at the surface. Since you are at the surface more, you have the opportunity to see them pop their head above the water. Or see them underneath. Once you find one of the residents, it is easy to swim with them or watch them eat. Their favorite food is the red kelp that grows along the bottom so keep an looking for this colorful plant.

The coolest thing about the green turtles is they are not afraid of people. Swimming through sea grass without a care in the world. Their proximity makes for an easy photo opportunity. There is nothing more exciting than to be swimming along with one. Either on the ground chomping away at the kelp, or swimming near the surface for a breath of air.

Over the last couple years, the population in La Jolla has grown. Encounters with turtles are becoming more frequent. So find a San Diego local who knows the secret spot. Grab your gear and get out there to experience our amazing friends for yourself.

Great underwater view of La Jolla.