|San Diego's underwater scene ranges from the magnificent giant kelp forests of Point Loma to the nautical graveyard off Mission Beach called Wreck Alley.
There is an aquatic Ecological Reserve off the La Jolla Cove; fishing and boating activity has been banned in the 533-acre reserve since 1929, but diving and snorkeling is welcome, and it's a reliable place to spot the rare garibaldi, California's state fish, as well as the rare giant black sea bass.
Shore diving here, or at nearby La Jolla Shores is common, and there are dive shops to help you get set up. But boat dives are the rule. Check out the Islas los Coronados, a trio of uninhabited islets off Mexico (a 90-min. boat ride from San Diego), where seals, sea lions, eels, and more cavort against a landscape of boulders (watch for swift currents); and the Yukon, a 366-foot Canadian destroyer that was intentionally sunk in 2000, 2 miles off the Big Dipper roller coaster at Wreck Alley, joining four other drowned vessels. Water visibility in San Diego is best in the fall; in the spring, plankton blooms can reduce visibility to 20 feet.
The San Diego Oceans Foundation (tel. 619/523-1903; www.sdoceans.org) is a local non-profit organization devoted to the stewardship of local marine waters.
The website features good information about the local diving scene; www.sandiegodiving.com is another good resource.
San Diego Divers Supply, 4004 Sports Arena Blvd. (tel. 619/224-3439), will set you up with scuba and snorkeling equipment.
Blue Escape Dive and Charter (tel. 619/223-3483) and Scuba San Diego (tel. 800/586-3483 or 619/260-1880; www.scubasandiego.com) are other good outfits.