Snorkeling in Solana Beach

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At La Jolla Shores, the ocean bottom slopes gently out to sea and the waves roll gently toward the beach, where seals can be found sleeping in the sun. This unique ecology makes the area an ideal entryway into the ocean, which the native La Jollan owners of La Jolla Kayak take full advantage of, leading kayaking excursions past the steep cliffs and through the secluded sea caves where humans first learned to douse fire. Alternatively, snorkel tours allow explorers to dive into the 6,000-acre Underwater Park to spy the leopard shark, garibaldi, and dolphins swimming underfoot. To facilitate journeys, La Jolla Kayak transports visitors' kayaks to the beach straight from its outfitting shop, which also houses complimentary lockers and rents out wetsuits to keep love-struck sea lions from slipping notes into divers' pockets.

2199 Avenida De La Playa
La Jolla,
CA
US

Action water-sports shop Everyday California (formerly OEX), wrangles an experienced team of experts to escort patrons on kayak, surfing, and snorkeling tours. The shop as been lauded by publications including the Chicago Tribune for its exploration of the earth's watery expanses that offer glimpses of marine creatures such as sea turtles, sea lions, seals, dolphins, and cormorants. Kayak tours take paddlers out on a variety of adventures, including destinations such as seven sea caves, the paths of migrating gray whales, and underwater kelp forests. Everyday California also rents out kayaks, snorkel gear, surfboards, paddleboards, and saddles for baby belugas.

2243 Avenida De La Playa
La Jolla,
CA
US

A colony of seals suns itself on the rock ledges of La Jolla Cove while seabirds preen themselves a few feet above. Below, bright-orange garibaldi fish and california spiny lobsters scuttle about the cove’s reefs and kelp beds. This biologically rich landscape sets the stage for La Jolla Dive & Snorkel’s scuba-diving lessons, which range from beginner discovery classes to dive-master-certification courses that adhere to the training standards of the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI). They also lead four shore dives to various sites, such as one located near The Marine Room restaurant, where the shallow reefs and smell of lobster bisque attract gentle leopard sharks in the early summer. Along with scuba diving, instructors also teach students how to strut in fashionable snorkeling gear and how to stoically gaze into the horizon during standup-paddleboarding tours.

1133 Coast Boulevard
La Jolla,
California
US

The staff at Unified Team Diving can transform someone who's never scuba dived before into a professional diver with their expansive menu of classes and courses. In their onsite heated swimming pool, instructors orient students to the world of breathing and exploring underwater. Combined with classroom sessions, they can award their students various certifications such as recreational diver, technical diver, diving instructor, and overhead diver, which includes cave diving. They conduct their training dives at the nearby La Jolla shores, which offer shallow wrecks, walls, and kelp for students to explore.

5845 Avenida Encinas #137
Carlsbad,
CA
US

Disguised in wetsuits, flippers, and diving masks, humans almost seem indistinguishable from the scores of aquatic life that thrive among the San Diego coastline. In the water, curious sea lions tug playfully at divers' fins, and thick stalks of kelp wave like Queen Elizabeth telling the gathered crowd to go home already. With access to five separate sites in which to see such wonders, the guides at San Diego Excellent Adventures tailor their adventures—whether snorkeling, diving, or paddling—around the experience level of each tour group, ensuring an easy assimilation to undersea life.

During guided dives along La Jolla Shores, swimmers peer in on frolicking creatures such as lobsters, octopuses, and leopard sharks, and standup paddleboards grant access to Mission Bay's shoreline views previously seen only by terribly lost Venetian gondoliers. Currently the largest manmade bay in the country, Mission is known for its calm waters suited to beginners just learning to explore the ocean.

1133 Coast Boulevard
San Diego,
CA
US

Over the course of its 22-year existence, Ocean Experience Surf School has helped somewhere in the neighborhood of over 15,000 students to safely discover and refine their passion for watersports. Students 6 or older hop atop surfboards, paddleboards, and kayaks for on-the-water practice under the care of experienced instructors during private lessons and group classes.

The local press and community showers the school's companion retail outlet with praise, which won both the Best Surf Shop and Best Skate Shop in CityBeat's 2010 Readers' Poll. In an effort to give back to the community, the organization runs an afterschool sports program offering surfing and skateboarding lessons to kids up to 18 years old and adults with a note from a certified kindergarten teacher.

4976 Newport Ave
San Diego,
CA
US