Snorkeling Along the West Coast

The West Coast is the seaboard where the mainland Western United States meets the North Pacific Ocean and it is also known as the Pacific Coast. Based on the United States Census groups, there are five states that are in the West Coast which are California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. The West Coast of the United States has an oceanic climate in its Northern part, however, form the California border towards the U.S.-Mexico border, it has a Mediterranean climate.

There are lots of activities you can do when you visit the West Coast of the United States and one of those is snorkeling. There are lots of wonderful beaches here where you can find rich marine life and wonderful sceneries underwater and most of them are in California and Hawaii. If you’re curious about where you can go snorkeling along the West Coast, then we are going to give you a list of the best places you can visit.

1. La Jolla Cove

the beautiful shores of La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is located in San Diego, California and it is one of the most popular snorkeling destinations in America. It has pristine beaches and crystal clear water. Aside from that, this place will also give you a chance to swim with sharks or Leopard Sharks which are usually present in the warm shallow water during the summer season. La Jolla Cove also has an interesting shoreline that turns into a rocky cliff at some points.

In this region, the water is cooler and can range from a few feet to over 25 feet. When you visit this snorkeling destination, do not expect to see beautiful reefs because the reefs in San Diego are not as vibrant and as visible. But you will be able to love the sea life and shore here. It will enable you to see seals, sharks, and turtles.

2. Laguna Beach

an aerial view of Laguna Beach by the highway

Laguna Beach is found in southern Orange County in California. It offers incredible snorkeling spots with its clear waters. You will be able to enjoy pristine snorkeling in the tide pools of this area. You can visit Heisler Park Ecological Reserve where you can find a rich amount of sea life. Then, you can take a tour to Seal Rock and experience snorkeling alongside California sea lions.

Aside from those, you can also visit here Fisherman’s Cove which is ideal for beginners in snorkeling. It is a small cove that is shallow but offers lots of animal and plant life to explore. But if you’re an experienced snorkeler, then you can visit Shaw’s cove, especially if you are looking to explore through lush kelp forests.

3. Catalina Island

If you are looking for a remote place to snorkel, then this is one of the best spots for you. It is located in Los Angeles, California. A boat is required to get to this island, therefore, you will find that there are almost no crowds of people here. There are companies that offer guided snorkeling in this area which you can try if you’re a beginner in snorkeling. The water in this area is warmer which is 55 to 72 degrees F and it has visibility of 40 to 100 feet. When you go snorkeling here, you will be able to see lots of marine life and coral.

4. Channel Islands National Park

San Miguel Beach, Channel Islands, California

This national park is located in Santa Barbara. If you are a little north in the Santa Barbara area, this is the best place to go snorkeling. When you go some little ways from the shore, you will find a cluster of islands which are called the Channel Islands where snorkeling is great. However, this place is perfect for advanced snorkelers only and for those with strong swimming skills. It’s because the currents in this area are quite strong and it requires a higher skill level to navigate through.

This snorkeling destination will offer you a perfect balance between tropical and cold water snorkeling. You will be able to see lots of life around this place as well. It offers over 50 feet of visibility and it has cool temperatures of 52 to 66 degrees F, so don’t forget your wetsuit.

5. Thousand Steps Beach

This is one of the largest beaches in South Laguna Beach. It is located along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. To get here, you need to climb down 223 stairs to reach the sand from the highway. You can enjoy snorkeling on this beach because it is also rich in underwater life. Aside from snorkeling, you can also enjoy other activities here such as surfing, scuba diving, and skim-boarding. It also has tide pools and caves that you can explore.

6. Mauna Kea Beach

the beautiful Mauna Kea Beach in Hawaii, featuring white sands and crystal blue water

This beach is located in Kauna’oa Bay and it is one of the best and popular snorkeling spots in Hawaii. If you want to experience snorkeling here, you need to prepare and arrive early because this place can get busy. This beach is picturesque with its white sand and perfect blue water. You can head towards the right side of this beach because it will give you the quickest access to the best snorkeling experience. There are many snorkeling spots here and you can choose from a rock wall, shallows, and canyons or simply explore them all.

The water depth in the shallows can range from 4 to 11 feet while the canyons can reach up to 30 feet deep, making this place great for any age and skill level. In fact, even kids will be able to play in the water without fear.

7. Kahalu’u Beach Park

entrance of Kahalu’u Beach Park in Hawaii which is a popular snorkeling spot

This is a beach park that is located on Big Island, Hawaii. It is in a small cove where you can find lots of fish. It features a little beach where you can enter and see rock formations that break waves and keep waters calm. This place is a great starting point for beginners in snorkeling. It’s because the water here is shallow which is just up to 10 feet deep, meaning, you will be able to see the underwater clearly because the sunlight can reach the bottom part.

When you snorkel in this place, you will see a lava rock bottom with some coral gardens. There are much tame fish here and as well as sea turtles. Make sure to keep your eyes open when you explore the rocks in this beach because sea turtles usually blend their shells with the rocks.

8. Makaiwa Bay

This is another small beach located in Big Islands, Hawaii. It is a great place for snorkeling because the water here is smooth and clear. There are lots of reef fish, eels, and even octopus that will swim with you here. The water here is shallow, making it great for kids and beginners as well. The beach also features white sand where you can set up for the day and enter the water. Aside from snorkeling, you can also do other activities here like boating and kayaks which can give you another perspective of the island.

9. Kealakekua Bay

 a wonderful view of Kealakekua Bay in the morning

This snorkeling destination is located in Molokai, Hawaii. This island looks like a secret paradise with its beauty. It is also known as the friendly island which is small in size but rich in underwater life. This place is home to some of the best snorkeling in all of Hawaii because this island has many types of reefs.

When you go snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay, you will be able to see lots of colorful butterfly fish, yellow tangs, and parrot fish to name a few. And the best part is that you will likely have all this beach to yourself. It is because it’s secluded. You just need to wear water socks here because it’s quite rocky.

10. Kaanapali Beach

Kaanapali Beach in Hawaii

This beach is located in Maui, Hawaii. It used to be an oceanfront retreat for Hawaiian royalty. In the present time, it is a great place to visit to do some fun activities such as snorkeling, diving, and surfing. The three-mile-long swath of golden sand in this beach will offer you a world-class snorkeling experience. Aside from that, you can also try whale watching on this beach and do some relaxing sunbathing after your snorkeling adventure. If you want to seek some shade after your snorkeling activity, you can go to Whaler’s Village where you can enjoy shopping as well.

These are some of the best snorkeling destinations along the West Coast. The country’s Pacific coastline indeed offers a beach to snorkel in for every preference and some of them are the most picturesque in the world. So, which of these snorkeling spots would you like to visit soon? If you are looking for more snorkeling destinations, you can also check out our post on the Places to Snorkel in the Great Lakes for more options.