Scuba Diving in Southern California

Scuba Diving in Southern California

David Mansfield
California is home to beautiful coastlines, sandy deserts, mountainous regions and much more. Visitors from all over the world stop in to watch the gorgeous coastal sunsets, ski down the slopes, or swim in the ocean in a state that literally "has it all". The opportunity to see all of these things is more than reachable in Southern California. Want to surf? Just head down to the coast! Want to snowboard? Just drive up to this mountain a few hours away! Want to see a famous movie star? That's just up the road too! 

Just as diverse is California's diving. From massive kelp forests to rocky formations, the scuba diving here is top-notch. This coastline's protective features and the efforts of conservationists create a balanced aquatic ecosystem in Southern California. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) invite sea lions, giant black sea bass, bat rays and much more to pass by looking for smaller fish to consume. It's not a rare occurrence to see a passing dolphin or humpback whale. Many of the fish in Southern California are used to the presence of divers and show a curiosity when a human passes by their home. Have a Garibaldi stare you down while you pass by the mating spot he created through hard work. He will be so territorial that he'll click and "charge" at you to keep you from challenging any potential mating scenario. Go on a night dive and you'll have a well fed sea lion follow along using your lights to help them hunt down unsuspecting prey.
California Sea Lion

The California Sea Lion enjoying the sunlight.

The ocean currents make the kelp and seagrasses sway mildly in the water, adding to the relaxing effect scuba diving gives us all. Meanwhile, the waters come down from the Alaskan coastline providing an average temperature of 73.3°F in summer and 60°F in winter. Wave action is present along the coastline and will stir up a bit of the substrate when larger water movement occurs. Along the coastline, divers will experience between 5' - 50' of visibility on any given day. Typically, winter time allows for clearer waters and ample parking as tourists thin down looking for those summer days.

The fertile waters of California create an unprecedented diving experience that no one should miss. Cruising along the surface of the water is equally exciting between dives. You are sure to see passing whales, sharks, sea lions and giant pods of dolphins. 

A beautiful day on our coastline.

You would be missing out on an amazing opportunity if you visited and did not snorkel or scuba dive in Southern California. It's unparalleled beauty. 

You'll be able to check out the California coastline, dive on oil rigs, see shipwrecks like the Yukon or ACE wreck and even explore offshore islands like Catalina. There's so much beauty and diversity that you'll be able to see California scuba diving anew each time you visit. On your surface intervals, you can visit Hollywood, Universal Studios, Knotts Berry Farm, Legoland and more! 

Getting to Southern California is quite easy. 

The premier and centrally located airport is John Wayne airport in Santa Ana (SNA). This small airport offers an easy entry into the heart of Orange County. If you are looking to explore further north or further south, the larger hubs of Los Angeles International (LAX) and San Diego (SAN) airports offer ports of entry that allow you to see other beautiful areas.

Once you are here, you can select your scuba diving operation. Beach Cities Scuba dominates the North San Diego, Orange County and Southern LA County regions with seven locations scattered from Oceanside to Cypress, CA. Additionally, the only dive boat that serves the Southern California coastline on a regular basis is the Riviera Charters. This boat will take you on adventures in Southern California like no other. 

Divers on the ACE Wreck Divers preparing to descend on the ACE wreck.

Whether you are exploring our shores by beach or boat, you'll find that Southern California will offer amazing dive sites and a memorable experience for you. When you see your first large animal pass by or interact with sea lions, it'll be hard for you to forget these waters and all of the beauty that they hold. 

About the Author:

D.J. Mansfield

 D.J. Mansfield is a PADI Course Director who dives Southern California and has done so for 22 years. He is currently the Director of Operations for Beach Cities Scuba and is a committed ocean steward and trainer for divers all over the world. Follow him on Instagram @djmansfield7 or contact him at   


Did you know that Beach Cities Scuba is a 100% AWARE partner? We are committed to supporting our ocean partners and creating a protected environment for sea life that includes responsible fishing practices and minimal human interaction. See how you can get involved today!

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