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The Top 5 Scuba Diving Locations in California

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Scuba diving often requires travel to find the best diving locations. If you want to find several great diving locations in one state, travel to California. With its impressive coastline and beautiful mountain lakes, you can find almost any diving conditions you desire here. And if you’re willing to travel a little extra, you can even hop over to Mexico for unique diving experiences. Keep reading to learn about the top five scuba diving locations in California or close by.

Santa Cruz Island in Santa Barbara

Santa Cruz Island is part of the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara and the largest one at that. While all the islands offer beautiful diving spots, Santa Cruz is particularly unique. Divers can explore kelp forests, sea caves, rock walls, and an impressive coral-covered shipwreck from World War II called Peacock. While you can see whales, dolphins, and other marine wildlife, you’re guaranteed views of more stationary wildlife, such as anemones, sponges, and sea stars.

Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Lake Tahoe sits on the border between California and Nevada. While you can enter the water from the California side, such as at Patton Beach, many divers prefer Sand Harbor on the Nevada side. No matter where you enter the lake, you can enjoy deep, clear water. This lake is the second deepest in the US, which attracts divers of various skill sets. Its location in the Sierra Nevada mountains makes it ideal for altitude diving, but an altitude diving certification isn’t required. However, they do recommend dry-suit diving.

You can see rocky underwater cliffs, sunken trees, and historic watercraft throughout the lake. While there is less wildlife than you would typically find in the ocean, this is still a beautiful dive.

Eureka Oil Platform in Long Beach 

Long Beach is full of amazing diving locations, but the Eureka oil platform is one of the most unique. It is the deepest rig accessible to divers and provides a protective playground for various wildlife. Sea lions climb on and swim around the oil rig, while giant anemones, huge starfish, and miles of mussels also call the rig home. To best see this wildlife, you will probably need lights. While the oil rig provides a fascinating structure, it blocks much of the natural light many divers are accustomed to.

La Jolla Shores Near San Diego

La Jolla is a beautiful seaside village just north of San Diego, and it offers an incredible 6,000-acre underwater park called La Jolla Shores. La Jolla Shores is divided into four ecological regions that divers can explore: kelp, seagrass, rocky reefs, and canyons. These diverse ecosystems and the protected nature of the area attract lots of wildlife, from octopi to stingrays to sharks.

Coronado Islands in Mexico

While it’s technically not in California, you can reach Mexico’s Coronado Islands by boat. Prepare your boat for the summer and bring it to San Diego for send-off, or hire a boat once you get there for the quick two-hour trip.

Once in the Coronado Islands, you can enjoy a unique semi-tropical environment with kelp, caverns, reefs, and a recent shipwreck. This location is best for experienced divers since most of the dive spots are subject to open ocean currents.

It’s almost impossible to narrow down all the amazing scuba diving locations in California to the top five. There are many impressive, enjoyable locations that didn’t make this list that you should still take a trip to explore.


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About Author

Dan Coconate is a local Chicagoland freelance writer who has been in the industry since graduating from college in 2019. He currently lives in the Chicagoland area where he is pursuing his multiple interests in journalism.

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