A notable diving experience can be found around Catalina Island, located 26 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. The water is warmer and calmer than what you would find closer to the mainland, making the island home to some of the best scuba diving in southern California.
Beginners and advanced divers alike will find something to suit their levels. The local dive shops carry plenty of equipment and supplies for purchase or rental, and you can go it alone or sign up for one of the packages, which includes lunch and a fully supervised dive. Surprise yourself and your partners with a night dive to experience the island from a unique point of view.
There is much for divers to discover below the surface. Four ships sunk here and now serve as a natural habitat for sea life. An underwater monument dedicated to Jacques Cousteau is also popular, as well as the plethora of coral foundations, kelp beds and ocean life including squid, angel sharks, yellow tail and bat rays at Goat Harbor; orange garibaldi fish and large lobsters off Bird Rock, near Isthmus Harbor; and Farnsworth bank with blue sharks, barracuda and sea bass.
San Diego, two hours south of Los Angeles, also is a popular diving location despite its colder waters. The coastline around this city is dotted with popular dive sights. The most sought after is La Jolla Shores, which attracts both beginning and advanced divers. There you will experience the La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, a 533-acre underwater marine preserve.
Wreck Alley, another well-liked spot offers divers more than just marine life; you will discover the Canadian Warship HMCS Yukon here. Or visit Imperial Beach and explore the S-37, an old wreck, which sank in 1945. One word about safety is that the S-37's openings are very small and covered with silt; you are advised not to attempt to go inside.
Monterey, California, is another scenic scuba location with plenty of areas to please divers of all levels. It also is the most used spot for diving in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are giant kelp beds, up to 12 feet, along with seat otter, sea lions and harbor seals. Or try Hopkins Deep Reef with its abundance of rockfish and abalone. Advanced or expert divers can try Monastery Beach with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, but with a strong undercurrent at times, so use caution.