San Clemente Island, San Diego, California

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San Clemente Island is a barren rock owned by the US Navy about 70 miles off the shore north east of San Diego. Horizon Charters is the only boat that frequents the island from San Diego, though other boats in the LA area will occasionally visit. You can check out their schedule, availability & make reservations on line. They do dedicated trips & longer trips that encompass the other "Channel Islands" off the coast of California as well as several Mexico destinations. Visit this site for other charter boats.

Check out the video below to see what's down there.

San Clemente Island Video. (2.75 min, 20.1 MB)

I did this trip in December: it sounds cold, but at 58 - 60 F the water was warmer then than it is in April or May! Also, the trip out was as calm as I've ever been, & the boat travels there overnight, so you're asleep (or at least lying down) for the entire trip. When you wake up, you're at the Island, ready for breakfast & the first of up to 5 dives a day! We hit the water under sunny, glassy conditions & with visibility of over 80 ft (25m) Even though there were fewer animals there than I'd expected (possibly due to the time of year), the topography is stunning: extensive kelp beds sit on top of canyons & swim-throughs. Unlike Catalina, the drop off is more gradual, giving divers more acreage to explore, even if you stay at the same dive site you don't have to repeat the dive. You can go deep (120+ feet) or stay shallow (less than 40 ft) as you please, so it's a great place for novices & experts. As with all dives in California, you & your buddy are on your own; the dives aren't led like in many places.

Kelp diving is one of the most amazing dive experiences out there; it's like flying through a forest. Combining that with the long canyons & swim throughs made me think of Luke Skywalker. It's as close as I'm going to get to that experience. After each dive, while warming up & staring at the barren rock; I was amazed at the difference between the above- & below water experience. It's one of the finest dive destinations I've visited in my 10 years of worldwide dive travels.

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