Shipwrecks & Sea Turtles: Our Favorite San Diego Snorkeling and Scuba Diving Hot Spots

As beautiful as San Diego is above the surface, there’s a vibrant underwater world waiting to be discovered. With just a few pieces of gear, you can explore the beautiful landscapes and colorful creatures beneath the sea. Whether you’re a novice, or an avid SCUBA diver, San Diego offers some pretty impressive undersea hot spots for explorers of any experience level, all within a short distance from The Pacific Terrace Hotel.

Unleash your inner mermaid (or merman) and enjoy our favorite SCUBA and snorkeling locations. Check in with our concierge for more specific information and assistance with where to rent equipment!

Wreck Alley (2 miles from the hotel)

Halfway between La Jolla and Point Loma lies an artificial reef known as Wreck Alley. This shipwreck site is located a few miles off the coast of Mission Beach and is home to eight ships and other structures to explore. A scuba diving mecca, Wreck Alley is mostly known for its two most popular wrecks, the HCMS Yukon, a Canadian destroyer, and the Ruby E, a 165-foot Coast Guard cutter. All the ships here offer large entry and exit holes for experienced wreck divers and plenty of exterior to explore for those less confident in sunken ship diving.

(Photo: @sdexpeditions)

La Jolla Cove (4 miles away)

Grab your gear and venture to La Jolla Cove to explore a colorful underwater paradise. From the steps of the cove, head straight out into the ocean to find crystal-clear water and most likely a few bright orange Garibaldi, the official marine state fish of California. You can also say hi to the sea lions lounging on the nearby rocks, and if you’re lucky, they’ll jump in and join you for a swim. This popular tourist attraction is great for both snorkeling and scuba diving.

(Photo: @katcarney)

Turtle Town (5 miles away)

Known as one of San Diego’s best-kept secrets, Turtle Town is an excellent spot for glimpsing beautiful sea turtles gliding through the water. The shallow ocean depths make it a great destination for snorkeling. Find this hidden gem in the center of La Jolla’s marine park, which can be accessed via La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores, or Marine Room. It can take some time to find Turtle Town, but trust us — it’s worth searching for.

Marine Room Beach (5 miles away)

This lively area ideal for divers and snorkelers of all levels lies adjacent to (and derives its designation from) a popular local restaurant of the same name. You don’t have to venture far from the shore here to be completely immersed in a rich ecosystem of sea life. Spotted leopard sharks, spiny lobster, sea turtles, and friendly calico bass are frequently seen amid these relative shallows.

(Photo: @charles_underwater)

Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve (5.5 miles away)

Located just north of San Diego’s city center, divers at this 6,000-acre treasure will discover endless underwater magic. Matlahuayl is home to expansive kelp forests, a few hulking shipwrecks, and even a gorgeous underwater canyon. Countless species of marine life also congregate heavily here, such as seals, sea lions, clams, colorful nudibranch species, and even horn sharks.

(Photo: @gregmoranmusic)

Mission Bay (7.1 miles away)

Possibly the most family-friendly spot we’ve got, Mission Bay is a virtual aquatic playground even for kids just taking their first splash. Mission Bay exudes a relaxed SoCal vibe in the waters off of its 20 miles of soft-sand beach. The only caveat is that the water temperature can run a little chilly, so you may want to bring your heavier wetsuit. Even so, the waters here aren’t deep at all, and they’re still full of large amounts of stunning wildlife — including urchins, starfish, octopus, sea slugs, and even the occasional ray.

Point Loma (9 miles away)

Offering a different underwater landscape than La Jolla, Point Loma supports a wider range of marine life due to its colder water and ocean exposure. Dive down between 45 and 120 feet beneath the surface, where you’ll discover kelp forests home to bass, treefish, kelpfish, and Garibaldi. Keep a close eye on the ocean floor, where you might spot lobsters, moray eels, and a colorful display of sea sponges. Be sure to bring a dive torch to help with visibility amid the thick kelp and deep waters.

(Photo: @positivefangfang)