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Snorkel With Leopard Sharks Off The La Jolla Coast

Photo: Brian Gratwicke/Flickr

Summertime in San Diego means some of our flashiest fish—leopard sharks—are massing in the shallows of our coast. These small, sleek, spotted hunters gather, for example, in large numbers this season in the waters off La Jolla—to breed, to pup, and to forage. And you can appreciate these wonderful critters up-close and personal: All you need is some snorkel gear!

These little, bottom-feeding sharks—a six-footer is exceptional—are completely harmless, at least to human beings; to an anchovy, crab, shrimp, or spoon worm, though, they’re terrifying. Among their varied predatory strategies is suctioning invertebrates straight out of holes and shells.

Leopard sharks are important predators of California’s estuaries and bays, and seeing them up close in the wild is amazing. That’s all the more so true because of how breathtakingly beautiful these houndsharks (the shark family they belong to) are: blotched with the spots and bands that give them their name, cruising sandy flats and kelp jungles with effortless, sinuous strokes of their tails.

You’ve got a number of options for snorkeling among La Jolla leopard sharks, including the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and San Diego Bike & Kayak Tours. Besides the throngs of leopard sharks, you’ve got a good chance of spotting other fixtures of San Diego’s underwater ecosystem, including the arresting shovelnose guitarfish—a distant relative of the leopard shark.

San Diego’s big-city energy is unbeatable: the food, the shows, the festivals, the nightlife. But there’s an amazing natural ecology going on all year long in our coastal hills and postcard-perfect waters, and it’s one of our city’s great virtues that you can just as easily appreciate these wild rhythms as the urban ones.

When you stay at the Sofia Hotel, you’re an easy trip away from La Jolla and the nursery waters of our splendid San Diego leopard sharks. Come experience one of the great underwater spectacles of our coastline—the sight of dozens of gorgeous sharks mingling in the La Jolla shallows—and call the Sofia home while you do so!