San Diego Shark Species
Our waters are full of sharks, but not in the way most people think. The majority of San Diego shark diving is done with small, bottom dwelling, and much less intimidating local species than your average Shark Week stereotype. From the most common to the rarest:
These teeny sharks are a year-round sighting in San Diego. They inhabit most of our local kelp forests and rocky reefs, usually hiding in crevices or under ledges during the day. Horn sharks prefer the comforts of the sea bottom, so scuba diving is the best way to get a close glimpse at them.
Every year, thousands of Leopard Sharks come to the shallow waters of La Jolla Shores for mating season. They are usually around from June through October, but August and September are the best months to spot them. Grab your snorkel gear and swim from the shore towards La Jolla Sea Caves – it won’t be long until your first encounter!
These prehistoric sharks spend most of their time in borderline abyssal depths: around 1,500-2,000ft. During the spring months, however, they come up to the kelp beds of La Jolla and Point Loma to mate. Scuba diving encounters are common between late March and May, when our boat charters target highly populated sevengill grounds.
Monterrey Bay Aquarium
These curious sharks not only have the ability to ‘glow in the dark’, but they are also able to swallow water to double their size when threatened. Despite inhabiting San Diego’s kelp forests year-round, swell sharks are skittish and trickier to spot while scuba or freediving.
NBC 7 San Diego
This migrating species travels all over the West Coast and Baja Mexico. In the summer, pregnant females make a stop at the kelp beds of La Jolla and Point Loma, allegedly to incubate their embryos and minimize their gestation period. Encounters are infrequent so consider yourself lucky if you spot one of these while scuba or freediving.
Friends of La Jolla Shores
These small sharks are abundant in the central California sport fishery and often fished off San Diego’s piers. Local encounters can happen year-round, but they are rare. Divers can spot them on the seafloor and snorkelers can sometimes find them schooling with leopard sharks.
GREAT WHITE SHARKS
Every year, San Diego hosts a small number of great white sharks. These are usually juveniles enjoying the warm SoCal waters during the summer months. Relative to other shark species, great white shark sightings are sparse, but the news channels are quick to acknowledge them. To willingly see these big fishes, your best bet is to join a Great White Shark cage diving trip.
OTHER PELAGIC SHARKS
These sharks dwell in deeper waters, miles away from shore. They are constantly on the move, which explains the inconsistency of sighthings. The most common Pelagic Shark encounters in San Diego are with Blue Sharks, Mako Sharks, and Thresher Sharks. Other species, such as Hammerhead Sharks, are harder to find. The best way to get in the water with these elusive species is to join a guided offshore expedition.
How to see sharks
For certified scuba divers, boat charters are a convenient way to fulfill shark diving endeavors. Our most common encounters are with Horn Sharks and Sevengill Sharks; Tope Sharks and Swell Sharks are a treat. Shore diving is the physically-demanding alternative to a boat charter.
The easiest way to see sharks in San Diego is to snorkel at La Jolla Shores with Leopard Sharks during the summer months. It’s an unforgettable experience, it’s entirely suitable for children, and it’s free.
To try your chance with Pelagic Sharks, you need a full-day at sea and a great deal of patience. Shark locations are often unknown so boats use ‘chum’ (bloody fish remains) to attract different species. If sharks approach, you are able to snorkel amongst them under the supervision of a shark diving professionals.
To do this activity in San Diego, your two options are:
- Join an offshore expedition through our partner, Pelagic Magic (coming soon!)
- Go out on your own (after doing extensive research on shark behavior)
GREAT WHITE SHARK CAGE DIVING
San Diego companies organize multi day trips to the Mexican Guadalupe Islands – most leaving from Ensenada, Mexico. There is no Great White Shark cage diving in San Diego, simply because there aren’t enough sharks. Our personal recommendation goes to Horizon Charters, the only company with charters departing from San Diego.