Snorkeling with the Leopard Sharks in La Jolla

During the last few months of summer, leopard sharks descend on the cove of La Jolla for the warm water, which helps them to speed up the birthing process. This is an unusual natural phenomenon and one that you can experience for yourself with a snorkel, if you feel like you can handle it. I finally got a chance to do it this year, and it was such a cool experience that I highly recommend. Here is all the info.



  • Free other than parking or renting gear
  • September is the best time, but in late August and early October is possible too. It just depends on the year.
  • This information was from my visit in 2017

Best Times


September is the best month most years, as this is when the highest amount of sharks are in La Jolla. It depends a lot on the weather and how calm the water is though. The ideal day is calm waters and sun, but calm waters are the most important. If it is calm, you can usually see some sharks even if it isn’t warm.

Gear Rentals

Going in September means that the water can be pretty cold. You don’t need a wetsuit, but some people will find it a lot easier to relax and wait for the sharks if they have one. You can rent a wetsuit from many of the companies along Avenida De La Playa in La Jolla, like Everyday California. You can also rent snorkel gear there, but honestly, you can buy a pair like I did on Amazon for about the same price and have it forever.

How to See the Sharks


Ok, so now that you have your gear and are going on a good day, how do you see the sharks?


The sharks are in waist to chest-deep water, right out in the cove. It is best to be away from lots of people though, as they are terrified of humans and will run away with noise.


I found that it was best when I just went out to about 4 feet of water and floated around. I didn’t see anything for about 10 minutes, but after that, I saw 3-4 in a series of 10 minutes. People out there point them out too, so there will probably be others helping you see them.


When the sharks are near, just try to hover around the top of the water and not make much noise, and you should see them swimming around. Of course, don’t touch them or get too close to them; they are still wild animals and do have teeth.


I went on a cloudy day and saw 6 in 30 minutes, which is pretty low for the time of year; but I can honestly say it was one of the coolest things I have done in a while. To observe these creatures, some who get up to 5 feet long, in their natural habitat so close to shore, is something you won’t soon forget.

Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you have any tips I left off.

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