Horn Sharks, Leopard Sharks, Sevengill Sharks
Swell Sharks, Tope Sharks, Smooth-Hound Sharks
VERY RARE SPECIES
Great White Sharks, Blue Sharks, Mako Sharks, Thresher Sharks
WHEN TO ENCOUNTER
HOW TO ENCOUNTER
Scuba diving, snorkeling, wildlife watching expeditions
GREAT WHITE CAGE DIVING
No cage diving in San Diego, but multi-day trips to Guadalupe Islands in Mexico leaving from San Diego
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.
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.
Photo by Charles Hobson
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!
Photo by Charles Hobson
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 boat charters target highly populated sevengill grounds.
Photo by Charles Hobson
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.
Photo by Monterrey Bay Aquarium
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.
Photo by NBC 7 San Diego
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.
Friends of La Jolla Shores
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.
Photo by Gerald Schömbs
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.
Photo by Elaine Brewer
How to see San Diego 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 most accessible way to see sharks in San Diego is to snorkel at La Jolla Shores with Leopard Sharks during the summer months. This unforgettable experience is suitable for children and can be highly affordable, if you decide to do it on your own.
Other snorkeling options involve joining a snorkeling tour by shore or a snorkeling boat charter.
GREAT WHITE SHARK CAGE DIVING
There is no Great White Shark cage diving in San Diego, simply because there aren’t enough sharks. San Diego companies organize multi day trips to the Mexican Guadalupe Islands – most leaving from Ensenada, Mexico.
WILDLIFE WATCHING CRUISES
To try your chance with the rarer pelagic sharks, you need a full-day at sea and a great deal of patience. There are no San Diego shark expedition operations using ‘chum’ (bloody fish remains) to attract sharks and letting guests snorkel amongst them.
Wildlife watching cruises could reward you with a rare shark sighting, but these are far fetched occasions, not commonplace.