The southern third of California has something for every type of diver, and accessible dive sites include a variety of different types of dive sites to rival anywhere else in the country.
Let’s look at some specific destinations you should consider.
Annie Crawley, globe-trotting videographer / photographer and SDI instructor, says the diving around the Channel Islands is among the best she has ever done… anywhere. Annie organizes and guides live-aboard trips to this collection of offshore islands every year and directs her fellow travelers to capture the fantastic underwater scenes on camera or video. Kelp forests, drop-offs and rock wall literally 100 percent covered in teeming wildlife of every color and shape, plus sea lions and whales!
If time does not permit a trip out to the Channel Islands, try Catalina Island. Just off-shore and a very popular dive destination, Catalina offers very accessible and interesting shore diving from dozens of spots along its coast including the popular Casino Point Underwater Park and the less visited Blue Cavern Point (think Gorgonia).
One of the must-sees in California is the sea lions. Intelligent, sleek and unbelievably fast swimmers, California sea lions live all along the rocky Pacific Coast line and divers throughout Southern California gravitate to any spot where they can interact with these photogenic animals. If you decide to dive with these jokers, ask local shops if there are haul outs or rookeries, nearby. Haul outs are spots where sea lions sun themselves during surface intervals between diving to catch their frequent meals. Rookeries are breeding grounds. If you are in San Diego area, think about a trip to Los Coronados (in Mexican waters but boats leave and return from the US for the hour or so journey).
How about a visit to Wreck Alley, just outside Mission Bay, near San Diego? There are six wrecks in this area including the Yukon. This wreck is California’s largest and most popular artificial reef and sits at a depth of about 100 feet and is a great multi-dive spot for both advanced sport and technical divers. One of the big differences between this wreck and many others is that the Yukon is completely intact and penetration is possible… but only recommended for those trained and equipped to do so (sounds like a good spot of TDI Advanced Wreck training).
Other wrecks in the area include: the Ruby E. a Coast Guard Cutter, 165 feet long, and the El Ray, an old kelp harvester in about 75 feet of water.
Two SDI/TDI shops that you can use while in Southern California are Hollywood Divers in LA and San Diego Underwater Adventurers (SDUA) in… yes, San Diego. They both offer lots visits to many spectacular sites.
Hollywood Divers are on Cahuenga Blvd West in Los Angeles, and on the web at https://www.hollywoodivers.com/. As well as a full service dive shop with sales, rentals and courses from open water to Advanced Trimix, they run trips to many of the local attractions including the Oil Rigs… seven miles off San Pedro and billed as tech diver’s heaven by the locals. These sites really are working oil rigs, and depth run from about 30 feet to 200 and the attraction is “prolific” fish and invertebrates.
SDUA is on Ronson Road in San Diego and also offers a complete gamut of SDI and TDI training, dive travel, gear sales and rentals. They can help you get a handle on lots of local sites including the Coronado Islands, Scripps Canyon, F4 Phantom, Buoy B La Jolla, Polaris missile tower, HMS Yukon, and many others. One newly confirmed site is the wreckage of a B-36 bomber has just been located and confirmed by drop camera in 310 feet of water just off Mission Beach… dives to follow later this month! You’ll find SDUA online at https://www.sduadivers.com/.