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Snorkeling With Leopard Sharks at La Jolla Cove, San Diego

Snorkeling, and getting a glimpse of the underwater world is always an incredible time – and getting to swim amongst the sea lions, the (harmless!) leopard sharks, and the other marine life in La Jolla Cove is a must if you’re visiting San Diego. This guide is all about snorkeling at La Jolla Cove in San Diego – what you’ll see, when to go, and tips for getting the most out of your experience!

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What Can You See When you Snorkel at La Jolla Cove?

Snorkeling at La Jolla Cove gives you the opportunity to spot a lot of amazing wildlife! Here’s what you can see when you go.

Sea Lions

My personal favorite animals at La Jolla Cove are the sea lions! No matter when you go, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll see a group of them lounging on the rocks, and a few swimming in the water. They’re adorable, and if you snorkel at La Jolla Cove, they’ll often swim right beside you!

A group of sea lions is laying on a rock at La Jolla Cove.
A group of sea lions is laying on a rock at La Jolla Cove.

Leopard Sharks

Don’t worry – the leopard sharks aren’t scary! They’re pretty small, and they’re entirely harmless. They get their name because of their spots, resembling leopard print. The sharks stay in shallow waters during mating season, and La Jolla is actually where the largest gathering of leopard sharks in the entire world can be found! Sometimes, you can even see them if you wade into the water a little bit – but snorkeling at La Jolla Cove is the best way to spot them (pun intended).

More Fish at La Jolla Cove

There are tons of other things to see when you snorkel at La Jolla Cove! Garibaldi, guitar fish, sea stars, and schools of fish of all sizes are the most common – but lucky snorkelers have even spotted octopuses, sea turtles, stingrays, and sometimes a pod of dolphins (though they usually stay further from the shore).

The BEst Time to Snorkel at La Jolla Cove

You can go snorkeling at La Jolla Cove any time of year, but each season can be a little different. San Diego is pretty warm year round, but the water is colder in the winter – so be prepared with a thicker wetsuit if you go this time of year!

When to Snorkel With Leopard Sharks at La Jolla

If you want to see the leopard sharks, the best time to snorkel at La Jolla Cove is in August and September. The leopard sharks come to the shallow water to mate, and this is when their mating season is almost over – so there will be more sharks to see!

The Best Time of Day to Snorkel at La Jolla Cove

Along with the best time of year, you’ll also need to choose what time of day to go snorkeling at La Jolla Cove! This can make a big difference for visibility – which means how far you can see underwater. The best visibility happens when the water is calm (because it’s not picking up sand from the bottom), and when there’s a lot of sunlight that helps you see further underwater! The best time of day to snorkel at La Jolla Cove is usually between 10am and 1pm – after the water has calmed down, and while the sun is usually shining.

Try to pick a sunny day to go snorkeling at La Jolla, and check the surf report – the fewer waves there are, the better the visibility will be!

The best Snorkeling in La Jolla

La Jolla is a cute coastal town in San Diego, and there are a few different spots where you can snorkel! Here are the places with the best snorkeling in La Jolla.

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is the most popular spot for snorkeling. This is where you’ll see the leopard sharks, and where the sea lions usually hang out! The cove is surrounded by rocky walls and cliffs, which means the water is calmer.

A staircase is leading down to the beach at La Jolla Cove.

La Jolla Caves

You can swim to the La Jolla Caves in a few minutes from the cove, or take a kayak to explore the caves hidden in the rocky cliffs. Be careful with this spot – you’ll need to be aware of the tides!

La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores is near the Marine Room restaurant, a little north of La Jolla Cove. This beach is a great place to see stingrays and crabs, but be careful walking on the bottom!

La Jolla Cove Snorkeling Tour

A really great way to experience snorkeling at La Jolla Cove is with a tour! This is perfect if you haven’t snorkeled here before, because you’ll get a guide who knows all the best spots – ensuring that you’ll see some amazing marine life.

La Jolla Cove snorkeling tours will often have the option to add gear as well, so if you don’t own a wetsuit or snorkeling gear, or if you’re traveling and don’t have it with you, this can be another benefit of taking a tour.

Here are some great options for La Jolla Cove snorkeling tours:

A girl is smiling on the beach at La Jolla Cove, while putting on a pink mask and snorkel.

Gear for Snorkeling at La Jolla Cove

You’ll need some gear to go snorkeling! You can get your own, or rent some gear for as little as $12. Renting is a great option for travelers or people who don’t plan to snorkel very often, and you can find rentals right next to La Jolla Cove!

A girl is sitting on a rock at La Jolla Cove, putting on blue snorkeling fins.
A pair of blue snorkeling fins is in the foreground, with La Jolla Cove in the background.

Gear for Snorkeling at La Jolla Cove

If you decide to bring your own snorkeling gear, here’s what you’ll need!

A mask and snorkel are required to see and breathe, and while you can technically snorkel without fins, it’s definitely not recommended. You’ll go much faster with fins, and it’ll be significantly easier to swim! It’s usually easiest to get these as a set.

The Aqua Lung Sport set is a great set of snorkeling equipment, perfect for anyone getting in the water. Some people prefer a full face mask like this one, with the snorkel attached – this has the advantage of wide angle views and fewer moving parts! For kids, check out the Aqua Lung Jr Snorkel Set.

Do you need a wetsuit to snorkel at La Jolla Cove?

If you’re bringing your own gear, a mask, snorkel, and fins are a must – but do you need a wetsuit to snorkel at La Jolla Cove? If you’re going snorkeling in the summer, you can probably do just fine without a wetsuit. However, they really do help you stay warm, and I like to wear one anyway! The water can be pretty chilly, and a wetsuit helps you stay in the water longer and be more comfortable. Any time of year that isn’t summer, a wetsuit is a must!

In the summer, a 3/2 mm wetsuit is enough to keep you warm. In the winter, I definitely recommend a 5mm suit – I snorkeled in my 2mm in January, and I was freezing! A wetsuit hood also makes a big difference in keeping you warm.

A girl is standing on the beach at La Jolla Cove, with a pink snorkel and mask on.

More to Do When You Snorkel at La Jolla Cove

There’s plenty to do at La Jolla, so here are some more ideas for things to do nearby, to add to your snorkeling adventure.

Things to Do Near La Jolla Cove

After you’re done exploring in La Jolla, here are some other places to check out!

Have you been snorkeling at La Jolla Cove, or have other snorkeling recommendations? Let me know in a comment below!

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