Snorkeling in Laguna Beach, California is a thrilling underwater adventure! Laguna’s stunning coastline, filled with diverse marine life and clear, azure waters, is an exciting location to explore. It’s also a safe spot for snorkeling thanks to its many calm, sheltered coves.
As a former California native and someone who grew up visiting family in Laguna Beach, I’ve been snorkeling in all of its best locations like Shaw’s Cove, Diver’s Cove, and Thousand Steps Beach! Recently, I took my boyfriend for the first time and we spent a lovely afternoon snorkeling, sunbathing, and exploring the rich biodiverse tide pools.
Laguna Bech is full of marine protected areas, each home to a vast number of colorful fish and amazing sea creatures like octopus, leopard sharks, and starfish. Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or a novice, Laguna Beach is one of the best places to snorkel in California.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best spots for snorkeling, Laguna Beach dive shops, what conditions to expect, and must-have snorkeling gear. Ready? Let’s dive in!
QUICK GUIDE: LAGUNA BEACH SNORKELING SPOTS
- Best for Beginners: Shaw’s Cove
- Best for Kids: Treasure Island Beach
- Best for Experienced Snorkelers: Arch Cove
- Best for Reef Exploration: Crescent Bay Beach
- Best for Scuba: Diver’s Cove
- Best Underwater Exploration: Cleo Street Barge
- Best Covered Snorkeling: Monument Point
- Calmest Snorkeling: Fisherman’s Cove
- Most Unique Spot: Thousand Steps Beach
- Most Diverse Marine Life: Wood’s Cove
- Best Snorkeling Day Trip: La Jolla, San Diego
- Best Newport Beach Snorkeling: Crystal Cove
Snorkeling in Laguna Beach
Snorkeling is a popular recreational activity and one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach. You can observe underwater life in a natural setting without the complicated equipment and training that scuba diving requires. Snorkeling gives you a window into a vibrant world teeming with colorful schools of fish and unique marine ecosystems.
Laguna Beach is an excellent place in California for snorkeling! It has plenty of safe coves that offer calm, protected waters. In the summer, snorkeling conditions are nearly perfect. The clean, azure waters provide excellent visibility so you’re guaranteed to see tons of colorful marine life like sea stars, rockfish, sea urchins, perch, and eelgrass.
Best Time to Snorkel in Laguna Beach
The snorkeling conditions in Laguna Beach occur in the summertime when the water is warm and at its clearest. It’s also a good idea to snorkel after noon as Southern California skies tend to stay a bit cloudy until this point.
Marine Protected Areas
There are three different Marine Protected Areas in Laguna Beach, California. That means that marine life and habitats are carefully protected. These areas are no-take zones that issue serious consequences for disturbing the natural environment.
As snorkelers, we have a responsibility to protect the marine environment. Avoid touching or disturbing marine life and coral reefs, and make sure not to leave any trash behind. SUNSCREEN
Safety Guidelines for Snorkeling
Snorkeling is a fun and safe activity when you follow some key guidelines. Always snorkel with a buddy, stay close to the shore, and be aware of the local marine life and weather conditions.
Do you need a wetsuit to snorkel in Laguna Beach, California?
It’s typically a good idea to wear a wetsuit while snorkeling in Laguna Beach. Even in summer, the Pacific Ocean can be chilly. Plus, wetsuits also offer excellent UV protection. You should typically wear a wetsuit in waters that are colder than 70ºF.
Snorkeling Tours in Laguna Beach
While you can book plenty of tours and lessons for kayaking, SUP, surfing, and Scuba diving, there aren’t any snorkeling tours in Laguna Beach. Your best bet is to grab some equipment from a local dive shop and choose one of the locations below.
Where to eat in Laguna Beach
Hungry? Check out any of these Laguna Beach restaurants with a view for the perfect lunch or dinner after an adventurous day of snorkeling!
Fun Fact: Did you know MPAs are pretty rare in the United States? Only about 3% of US waters are no-take areas.
12 Best Laguna Beach Snorkeling Spots
Laguna Beach, with its pristine marine reserves and crystal-clear water, presents some of the most captivating snorkeling spots in the world. Let’s explore the top destinations for snorkeling enthusiasts in this coastal paradise.
1. Diver’s Cove
The tranquil, crystal-clear waters of Diver’s Cove, along with its teeming marine life and craggy reefs is the perfect place for underwater exploration. Snorkelers will be treated to views of vividly colored fish, expansive kelp forests, and may even encounter marine wildlife such as sea turtles and dolphins!
2. Shaw’s Cove
Shaw’s Cove is one of the best beaches in Laguna Beach, CA for snorkeling. Known for its calm, clear waters, this spot is perfect for beginners, kids, and new scuba divers. It was incredible how many things I saw here: octopuses, lobsters, sea cucumbers, and a plethora of fish species like garibaldi and rock bass.
3. Fisherman’s Cove
Fisherman’s Cove is a lesser-known snorkeling spot in Laguna that offers a tranquil experience and plenty of privacy. You’ll find a variety of marine species here, which makes it perfect for underwater photography.
4. Crescent Bay Beach
Crescent Bay, with its large kelp forest and diverse marine life, offers an exciting snorkeling experience. I knew I had to bring my boyfriend here to enjoy swimming and bodyboarding in the clear waters along with stunning views of the rocky cliffs and lush greenery.
Local Tip: Head to the north side of Crescent Bay Beach for the best snorkeling, featuring unique tide pools that mirror the underwater landscape.
5. Treasure Island Beach
Treasure Island Beach has the clearest water in all of Laguna thanks to the efforts of the Montage Resort. This location has tons of natural tide pools and is known for its stunning sea views and shallow waters. It’s an ideal location for kids and snorkeling beginners. It’s also one of the prettiest beaches in the area!
6. Thousand Steps Beach
Despite its name, Thousand Steps Beach only has about 200 steps. It’s a local favorite for its tide pools, underwater sea caves, and man-made pools. Just be ready for a hike! I had so much fun showing my boyfriend this cool spot with its man-made rock pools. He was, however, not a fan of the uphill trek to get back to our car. Can’t win it all, I guess!
7. Wood’s Cove
Wood’s Cove, another favorite snorkeling location in Laguna, is highly celebrated, and for good reason! This sandy spot and its small beach is home to a functioning reef which acts as a sanctuary for a huge population of biodiverse marine life. Head here to check out lobsters, sheepshead, Garibaldi, the state fish of California, nudibranchs, starfish, and plenty of others!
8. Cleo Street Barge
A hidden gem for snorkeling enthusiasts, the Cleo Street Barge in Laguna Beach offers a fascinating underwater experience. This submerged barge is a habitat for a diverse array of marine life, including calico bass, guitarfish, and octopuses. Access is fairly easy, with the barge located just a short swim away from the shore.
9. Monument Point
Monument Point is a coveted snorkeling spot in Heisler Park, known for its stunning underwater rock formations and an abundant variety of marine life. Schools of brightly colored tropical fish and playful sea lions can often be spotted here, offering you an immersive aquatic adventure.
10. Arch Cove
Arch Cove, aptly named for its remarkable natural arch, is a secluded small cove located south of Pearl Street. I spent a fabulous day here sunbathing and leisurely exploring the ocean life. Its calm waters are rich in marine biodiversity, with everything from starfish to sea anemones to be spotted. However, its access can be tricky during high tide, so it’s ideal for experienced snorkelers.
LAGUNA BEACH PARKING
Wondering where to park in Laguna? If you’re heading near Heisler Park or Picnic Beach, you can check for open spots on Cliff Drive. There’s also plenty of free and metered parking off Pacific Coast Highway. Otherwise, you may want to park in a public garage and consider taking the free Laguna Beach trolley.
11. Crystal Cove State Park, Newport Beach
Crystal Cove State Park, located just up the road in Newport Beach, offers three miles of Pacific coastline with underwater parks dedicated specifically to snorkelers and scuba divers. Its sandy bottom and clear waters are home to a variety of marine life, including bat rays, moray eels, and a collection of colorful fish.
12. La Jolla Cove, San Diego
Snorkeling day trip, anyone? Though technically not in Laguna Beach, La Jolla is close enough to be on the list and is a world-renowned snorkeling location. Here, you’ll find the La Jolla Underwater Park – a marine sanctuary with plenty of sea lions, artificial reefs, kelp forest, and tide pools packed with marine life. The highlight here is the chance to swim alongside the gentle leopard sharks during the summer months, plus a whole lot more fun and unique things to do in San Diego!
READ NEXT: The 17 Best Beaches in Cascais, Portugal
Essential Snorkeling Gear
The right snorkeling gear is crucial for a safe and enjoyable underwater adventure. It ensures proper breathing, clear vision, and comfortable movement, helping to preserve marine ecosystems while enhancing your snorkeling experience.
If you’d prefer to rent equipment or buy it in Laguna, check out the dive shops below. Otherwise, it can often be more affordable to buy ahead of time and bring on your trip with you.
- Snorkel Mask: A snorkeling mask is vital for clear underwater vision. It must be comfortable, fit well, and provide a wide field of view while maintaining a solid seal against your face to prevent water from entering.
- Snorkel: This is a breathing device that allows you to explore the underwater world while floating on the surface. Look for one with a dry top design to prevent water from entering and a purge valve for easy clearing.
- Snorkeling Fins: Fins provide swimmers with additional propulsion in the water, making it much easier to navigate currents and cover distances. They should fit comfortably without squeezing your feet or sliding off.
- Wetsuit: A wetsuit can provide protection from the sun, reduce the risk of stings and scratches from underwater life, and help you stay warm in cooler waters.
- Underwater Camera: If you wish to document your snorkeling adventures, an underwater camera can be a worthwhile investment. It will enable you to capture stunning images of the underwater landscapes and sea life you encounter.
Dive Shops in Laguna Beach
From high-quality snorkels and masks to full dive suits, these dive shops in Laguna Beach cater to all your underwater exploration needs with a variety of equipment for both beginners and experienced snorkelers
- Beach Cities Scuba: With a comprehensive selection of snorkeling and diving equipment, Beach Cities Scuba Centers is a one-stop shop for all your underwater exploration accessories. Their experienced staff are always ready to assist in making the right choices based on your skill level and preferences.
- Dive & Photo: Known for their high-quality equipment and exceptional customer service, Dive & Photo is another popular choice among snorkeling enthusiasts in Laguna Beach. They also offer underwater photography equipment to capture your amazing underwater experiences.
- Lost Winds Dive Shop: Located in nearby Dana Point, Lost Winds Dive Shop offers a wide range of snorkeling and diving gear for rent and purchase. They also provide fishing gear and professional advice suited to your specific needs.
READ NEXT: Algarve Solo Travel: The Ultimate Guide
Laguna Beach Snorkeling FAQs
Are there coral reefs in California?
While California does not have tropical coral reefs commonly associated with warmer waters, it does have deep-sea coral communities. The reefs in Laguna Beach are offshore and primarily composed of deep-sea coral communities found in the cooler, deeper waters off the coast.
Are there sharks in Laguna Beach?
Yes, there are sharks in Laguna Beach, but the majority are harmless species like leopard sharks. While Great White and Tiger Shark sightings are said to have increased in Southern California waters in recent years, the last decade has only seen 1.8 shark attacks per year.
What is the best depth for snorkeling?
Always snorkel in calm, shallow waters, never going deeper than 3-6 feet underwater.