For water enthusiasts and adventurers looking to expand their horizons this summer, diving with PADI® (Professional Association of Diving Instructors®), the world’s largest dive training organization, offers exhilarating experiences, scenic underwater landscapes, and up-close views of magnificent sea life. Fortunately for those of us that are lucky enough to call California home, there are a number of incredible dive sites that are a short drive or boat ride away:
1. Catalina Island (California, USA): Lots of sea life here! Aside from the expansive kelp forest, divers will find horn sharks, sea urchins, spiny lobsters, sea cucumbers, seals and more. The fish are used to divers, and will often swim right up to them.
2. La Jolla Cove (San Diego, California, USA): An easily accessible shore dive just north of San Diego, the entry is from a sandy beach and you’ll immediately pass some interesting rocky reefs on your way out to the kelp beds. Keep an eye out for playful sea lions and leopard sharks.
3. Monterey Bay (Monterey, California, USA): Many choose to shore dive here, with great opportunities to swim with sea lions at the San Carlos Beach breakwater, and towering kelp forests at Lovers Point. But don’t miss the chance to explore iconic spots such as The Pinnacles, where two rock pinnacles just 100 feet from the sea floor, surrounded by dense, fish-filled kelp forests.
4. Channel Islands National Park (California, USA): Just a short boat trip from the mainland, the beautiful rocky shorelines are home to sea lions, sea birds, whales and dolphins. Giant kelp forests underpin the islands’ marine ecosystems, and cold and nutrient-rich currents support a staggering variety of marine life.
Venturing out a bit farther, here are a few other must-see dive sites around the world.
5. The Sea of Cortez (La Paz, Mexico): This amazing destination was once baptized by Jacques Cousteau as “The Aquarium of the World,” as it has over 800 species of marine life who call it home, including the famous gray whales. This is also one of the premier dive sites in the world for schooling hammerhead sharks, which range from between six to hundreds travelling in a clockwise direction.
6. Queensland (Australia): Queensland has a reputation as a haven for divers – and for good reason. With the world’s largest coral reef system and dozens of renowned wreck sites located along its coast, there is truly no other dive destination on the planet like Queensland. The Great Barrier Reef in the north is comprised of 2,900 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and an abundance of diverse marine wildlife encounters that should be on every diver’s list of places to explore.
7. Koh Tao (Thailand): With a great island vibe, tons of activities to do and easy diving, Koh Tao, Thailand is an incredibly fun place to visit on vacation. This idyllic island is a tropical paradise with white sand beaches fringed with palm trees, rugged cliffs and stunning sunsets. Koh Tao’s underwater scenery is just as spectacular with coral encrusted rock pinnacles, vibrant reef, great shipwrecks and the opportunity to see passing pelagics including whale sharks and spotted eagle rays.