“Where do you dive around here?” is a question scuba divers in Phoenix, Arizona get often. While we have all learned to love Lake Pleasant, nothing beats scuba diving in the blue water of the ocean. Lucky for us desert divers, we are located right beside California and Mexico, so there are plenty of quick weekend getaways or turn-around vacations we can take to experience incredible ocean diving without breaking the bank or taking time off of work.
There is nothing like scuba diving through the towering forests of kelp off of California’s Catalina Island. Boat diving around Catalina Islands gives you access to numerous dive sites. There are a number of protected areas where you can see giant black sea bass, huge lobsters, lots of fish, sharks, sea lions, and more! Hunting is allowed in unprotected areas so this is the place to be during the scallop and lobster seasons.
Eight miles off of Long Beach you’ll find “Ellen”, “Elly”, and “Eureka” three oil rigs sitting between 260 and 700 feet of water. The rigs’ great depth makes this an excellent place for tech divers. When you pull up to these massive structures, you can often find them covered in napping sea lions who will dive down and join you below and snack on schooling bait fish. As you descend, you will see the underwater beams and columns covered with life including scallops, starfish, and other invertebrates. Scallop hunting is allowed here in season! Advanced recreational divers can still enjoy these trips with proper training and buoyancy control.
A short seven hour drive from Phoenix and you’ll find yourself in the quaint fishing town of San Carlos, Mexico located between the Sea of Cortez and the mountains. Jaques Cousteau famously called the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium” due to it having one of the greatest varieties and diversity of marine life. Whales, dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, lobster, eels, puffers, and nudibranchs are just some of the things you might see on your dives or boat ride out. The water is warm, so no need to pack your 7mm wetsuit or drysuit on this trip during the summer. When you’re not diving, you’ll find plenty else to do like enjoying the restaurants and bars, hiking, golfing, or relaxing on a sandy beach. Sea 2 Sea runs multiple San Carlos trips a year perfect for all levels of divers lead by an experienced team.
Right in San Diego you can find one of the best California dive sites that can be accessed by a swim right from the beach! You’ll swim to and descend over another beautiful kelp bed. This is a protected site so it is common to see TONS of sea lions and even some small sharks! Since you don’t need to book a boat to get there, this is a great last minute getaway!
Wreck Alley, San Diego is home to the most intact shipwreck on the California coast. The HMCS Yukon, and other wrecks including the Ruby E and more! The Yukon in particular is fantastic for wreck training and experience with lots of cut outs and swim throughs. Sitting between 80 and 120 feet, you’ll want your advanced certification and maybe even your deep diver specialty. The Yukon is over 360 feet long and a must dive for any wreck enthusiast!
6. Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco) Mexico
The closest location on this list can be reached by a short four hour drive over Arizona’s southern border from Phoenix. Once you arrive, you can reach Isla de San Jorge, better known as Bird Island, by boat. The island is home to sea lions and other marine life, fin whales, and humpback whales can even be seen in the winter and spring if you’re lucky! Rocky Point has some hidden shore diving gems that can be accessed without a boat.
Cold water, warm water, abundant and diverse sea life, and even shipwrecks can all be experienced by divers from Arizona with just a short drive. If you’re tired of green water, bad summertime visibility, or not seeing much in the lake, hop in the car and join us on one of our many upcoming trips to Catalina island, Wreck Alley or San Carlos, you won’t regret it!