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Scuba Diving Site: Los Coronados Islands

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CoronadosThe 'islands' as they are collectively referred to by San Diego locals are located across the Mexican border 19 miles south of San Diego. Being 6 miles off the Mexican coast places these islands right on the edge of the continental shelf and in very close proximity to deep, productive oceanic currents. The currents routinely wash these islands with clean blue water with visibility often exceeding 80'. These four rocky islands are uninhabited with the exception of a small naval outpost located on the south island at smugglers cove. While sparse on human inhabitants, these islands abound in aquatic life from huge Northern Elephant seals to a robust population of photogenic invertebrates and everything in between.

CoronadosThe northern most island, simply referred to as North Island, has some of the most dramatic diving and the best visibility to be found at the Coronado's. Steep drop offs and large boulders will keep most divers focused on the bottom but don't forget to look up as pelagics such as Yellowtail and Bonito routinely patrol the areas in search of food. This is also the island where divers will most likely encounter large numbers of the ever curious and playful California Sea Lion.

Moving south, divers will enjoy the two smallest islands called 'Oscar rock' and the 'Genoa'. Both have numerous dive sites and are personal favorites of the crew. Large boulders fallen together create beautiful caves lined with large sea fans encrusted with oysters. Nearby is also the broken wreckage of the motor yacht Navigator which went down in the mid 90's. Early spring also marks the beginning of an influx of giant black sea bass at the islands and these middle rocks are their favorite haunts.

CoronadosThe largest of the Coronado islands is South Island. Water surrounding this island is somewhat shallower than North Island and has numerous rocky reefs abundant in invertebrate life. These reefs are mostly surrounded by sand and are literal oasis's for marine life. At times, Barred Sand Bass, Calico Bass and Barracuda school on these particular reefs by the thousands. Look closely at these reefs and you may even spot resident File Skin Triggerfish which are rare in Southern California waters. The wave battered weather side of this island is a favorite haul-out for Northern Elephant Seals.

South of South Island is the largest year-round kelp bed at the Coronado's. 'South Kelp Ridge' as it is referred to is simply an underwater extension of South Island. The kelp diving here can be spectacular as visibility is normally excellent. The extremely rocky bottom claims many boat anchors each year and is perfect habitat for lingcod and other rockfish which are abundant here. Looking up into the kelp canopy, you may spot Black Sea Bass which frequent this particular kelp bed.

Seven miles south of the islands is 'the rockpile'. This tabletop reef is a magnet for pelagic and reef fish alike due to the fact that it is sandwiched between 6 miles of sand flats and deep water descending into the abyss. The reef itself tops out at 70' and gradually descends in all directions.

With the numerous and varied dive sites, the Coronado Islands are best experienced on 1-day overnight live-aboard trips.