Dive Travel: Our favorite spots to dive in Southern California

Authored by: Lindsay Pullin, a SCUBA diving instructor based in Southern California and the owner of The Merbabe Adventures blog. 

Diving in my home, Southern California, is a true gift and pleasure.  Although colder than some people can handle, those who persevere are rewarded with Giant Kelp and a diverse and colorful ecosystem.  

The state of California is the site of the largest network of Marine Protected Areas in the world.  These areas have various levels of conservation requirements and as they have been in place for 10 years in Southern California, we are now starting to see some of the benefits of keeping our oceans protected.  As such, my favorite dive spots in so-cal are frequently MPAs.   

Shaw's Cove in Laguna Beach
My first and favorite dive site is Shaw's Cove in Laguna Beach.  Shaw's is a State Marine Conservation Area (so do not plan on taking anything, even a sea shell when you visit), and an extremely popular dive spot for Dive Instructors and students.  Dive this spot enough and you'll find the hidden treasures there- Shelly the mermaid, swimming through the arch on a day that the surge is calm enough, seeing juvenile leopard sharks in the shallows, or being accompanied by harbor seals on night dives. 

If you dived this site every day for a year you would see something different, and it's one of my top night dive spots as well. 

Blue Cavern in Catalina Island
Blue Cavern is another one of my favorite spots to visit. It too is a State Marine Conservation Area as dedicated by California Fish and Wildlife and is located close to Two Harbors, on Catalina Island,  Because of that, boats cannot anchor within Blue Cavern, and divers visiting have to conduct a live drop on the boat.  Blue Cavern has water as lovely as the name implies, and you can frequently see giant bait balls schooling, and the animals that come to prey on it.  Also, white sea bass pass through, much to the chagrin to would be spear fishermen. 

Terrenea Cove In Rancho Palos Verdes
Terrenea Cove is another spot that rewards divers willing to put the effort in.  Located off a beach situated right next to Terrenea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, this dive starts with a low key 10-15 minute hike downhill and includes a rocky shore entrance.  Visibility is not guaranteed, but when the conditions are right, you can find nudibranchs, mantis shrimps, sponges and tunicates, as well as all the usual Southern California suspects). 

Also, you can end your dive day by catching lunch at Nelson's at the resort.  They have great happy hour, and you can whale watch from the restaurant. 

Veterans Park in Redondo Beach
And finally, while it is difficult to end this list, I would be remiss not to mention diving at Veterans Park in Redondo Beach.  This is a dive site that is all sandy bottom with no rocky reef, but its defining feature is the canyon located just off shore, and the only non-MPA on my list.  Although you run the risk of not finding anything on a dive, you also run the risk of finding truly wonderful things coming up from the depths to visit. 

Vets Park is a wonderful location to practice navigation, to do deep dives from the shore (the canyon goes down hundreds of feet), and its also a great spot to witness a defining feature of Southern California- the squid run and subsequent explosion of squid eggs that occurs seasonally.  And you know who else loves squid eggs? Everything! From Sea Lions to Sarcastic Fringehead and everything in between. If you hear that the squid are running, head over to Vets and plan on doing a night dive to witness the wonder of nature. There have even been divers who have witnessed a gray whale calf while diving here.  

Happy Diving So Cal!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published