If you have already dived on the West Coast of the United States, please share your experience, what you thought of your dive center, the visibility, the current, the fish you encountered, your opinion on the spots not to be missed. This will help other divers to better prepare for their trip.
The American West extends from the U.S./Canada border in the north to the border with Mexico in the south. In fact, the west coast of the United States runs along the Pacific Ocean for some 1,300 miles, or about 2,100 kilometres. The 3 states concerned are Washington, Oregon and California.
The state of Washington not only overlooks the Pacific Ocean, but also includes Puget Sound, a strait that opens to the ocean for more than 160 kilometres/100 miles. For example, there are more than a dozen scuba diving parks in the vicinity of Puget Sound. Indeed, this represents more than a hundred dive sites including wrecks, cold water reefs and unusual underwater rock formations. Then, whales, sea lions and seals are often seen by divers!
As for diving in California, it is done in temperate water. Indeed, although the water is warmer than in the north, we still talk about diving in cold or temperate water since the temperature is around 70°F/21°C. In addition, rapid changes in depth, or thermoclines, should be expected, dropping to about 50°F/10°C. Then, the kelp forests that populate the California coast in some places are very popular with divers!
This page is a detailed guide to diving on the West Coast of the United States.
Pictures West Coast of the United States
The best scuba diving sites
The American West has always been a favorite diving destination for North Americans. In fact, many of those who contributed to the development of the scuba diving industry began their careers in the kelp forests of California.
The very long west coast of the United States has different conditions and therefore offers a dozen distinct regions and more than a thousand scuba diving sites! We have selected the most beautiful dive sites in California and Washington to make a short list of the must-see!
Diving in California
- The Channel Islands National Park is an archipelago nicknamed the “Galapagos of North America”. It is a park composed of 5 islands that is located off the city of Los Angeles. It takes about an hour to reach these islands by boat. The Channel Islands are wild and natural with little or no infrastructure, so you can camp there, but nothing more!
- St. Catalina Island is also located off the coast of Los Angeles and offers excellent diving! Unlike the Channel Islands, this island is developed and includes a few hotels, resorts and diving centres. Then, it is interesting to note that most of the dives are made from the shore!
- La Jolla, in San Diego in Southern California, offers a superb underwater park. This park is protected under various designations such as “ecological reserve”, “refuge for marine fauna”, etc. Divers will have the chance to explore rocky reefs, kelp beds, sandy expanses and even an underwater canyon. The majority of the dives are made from the beach and are possible all year round. Indeed, the caves are spared the difficult conditions on the surface.
Diving in Washington
Although the Washington State coastline is very long and falls directly into the Pacific Ocean, scuba diving is concentrated in Puget Sound. The strait allows ocean water to penetrate inland for some 80 kilometres (50 miles). Thus, Puget Sound begins on the Pacific coast and extends to the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia.
- Edmonds Underwater Park: The underwater park is one of the most visited in Puget Sound. In fact, more than 25,000 divers visit this park every year, which offers 10 hectares of beautiful discoveries! The park is also nicknamed “Bruce Higgins Underwater Trails” and was established as a marine reserve over 40 years ago. For example, the marine life is dense and the paths that stretch for about 4 kilometres are dotted with man-made structures.
- Washington State has several other underwater parks, including 10 in Puget Sound! The government website offers maps, explanations and tips for diving in Washington!
Scuba Diving Notices West Coast of the United States
Scuba diving in the American West is mainly done with charter boats or dive centers. Also note that some dive centres may not have their own boat and may rent a charter boat. In this case, the guides and instructors of the diving center as well as the group of divers join a boat for their excursion at sea.
Usually, the staff of a charter boat will select appropriate sites to explore and brief. However, this type of boat does not offer a dive plan, so it is the responsibility of the diver. So, if you are not a local diver, familiar with the sites visited, it is better to go with a center that will provide a guide or diving instructor.
And since shore diving is very popular on the West Coast of the United States, you may be tempted! In this case, refer to a local dive center for reliable site instructions.
Dive prices in California and Washington
Rates for diving on the West Coast of the United States vary according to the region, but mostly according to the type of diving. Here is a glimpse of the average dive price for California and Washington:
2 dives with equipment: +/- 120$.
PADI Specialization – wetsuit diving (drysuit): +/- 200$.
Price Course level 1 / Open Water: +/- 520€.
Price Course Level 2 / Padi Open Water Advanced: +/- 390$.
Price Course Level 3 / Rescue Diver: +/- 400$.
Emergency First Responseà +/- 100$
Divemaster: on request from the different diving centers but about 750€ and more.
We advise you not to look only for the lowest fare, but rather to choose your dive center according to where you feel best. It is sometimes wise to pay a little more and be in better conditions!
Best time to dive on the US West Coast
It is possible to dive all year round on the West Coast of the United States. The fall months are considered the best time to dive in California and Washington. Indeed, during this period algae proliferate, but surface conditions remain calm. This provides excellent visibility and the temperature is still comfortable for other travel activities!
In winter, visibility is even better, but surface conditions can be rough.
Since scuba diving in California and Washington is mainly in cold or temperate water, wetsuit diver certifications are popular. In addition, the full range of patents and specializations from leading agencies such as PADI and SSI are available on the West Coast of the United States.
To make the most of your diving trip, we recommend that you find a hotel close to the ocean to avoid spending too much time on the roads.
Hotels in the U.S. are pretty expensive. To compare prices, I recommend Findhotel. I had on my last day booked nights on Santa Cruz.