There are outstanding locations for snorkeling or diving. Some are even close to the shore and not a boat necessary. Share special places you know and describe what to expect.
The five islands are accessible by plane year-round though by boat only Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz Island. However, accessibility is always weather depending. The other three islands San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and Santa Rosa are accessible by boat from April to October/November. Boat trips are not offered daily. Booking in advance is essential. Check the conditions and closures of the islands first. Channel Islands Conditions
Most visitors come during the summer from June to August. Due to the limited transportation opportunities, it doesn’t get too crowded.
The islands have a cool Mediterranean climate, but weather varies considerably from island to island. The winter is cool and wet - summer is warm and often dry. Most precipitation from November to April with its peak in January and February and drier from May to October. Summer is the driest period. The climate is influenced a lot by the sea. Fog may appear, especially on the outer islands during the night but can occur at any time. The islands are often windy, and strong winds occur on the outer islands. Strong eastern winds from October to January. Sea temperature is around 50°F (10°C) in winter and around 65°F (18°C) at the end of summer.
Each season has its own character, different weather, and outdoor activities. The best time to visit one of the islands depends on what you are looking for as well as the activities you’re planning:
Snorkeling: It's snorkelers paradise and best at the end of summer until fall with a sea temperature of about 65°F (18°C). A wetsuit is recommend to stay longer in the water.
Watersports: Besides snorkeling, summer until fall is also the best time for sailing diving, kayaking, and swimming. Many consider early fall as the best time of year for diving or snorkeling as ocean temperatures go up to 70° (F) and visibility may reach 100 feet.
Whale Watching: January until March has the highest chance for gray whale sightings.
April to September is the season for blue and humpback whales due to the high plankton concentration. Year-round spottings: orcas, minke whales and different species of dolphins. Besides, it is common to spot seals, sea lions and water birds.
Birding: Birding is outstanding in the Channel Islands. Some endemic birds occur here like the Island Scrub Jay on Santa Cruz Island. Best time is the nesting season in spring. Shorebirds are best seen on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel.
Surfing: In the winter and spring the north shore is best, and in the summer and fall it’s the south shore. Best access to all surf spots by private boat due to the remote locations. Besides being one of the best times for surfing, in the winter also some of the best sunsets occur.
Wildflowers: Depending on the amount of rain from the end of winter until spring some continue to bloom during summer. Gumplant, buckwheat, poppies, and verbena can still be viewed in the summer.
Snorkel and weather conditions at the Keys
While the water is reliably flat offering good clarity in the summer, the heat and humidity can be absolutely oppressive. In September and October, hurricanes can occur as it did last year in 2017. Much got destroyed by Irma here on the keys.
The months from November thru April are much more pleasant, but there can be strong wind and waves the water clarity drops significantly. Cold fronts from Canada with strong winds arrive here in the winter. The temperature drops, and it gets chilly. Also, there can be days where the surf is too high for snorkeling. The worst month with strong winds is January, and it improves in March. The best month for snorkeling is May until Memorial Day. It is still not too hot, water is clearer, and accommodations are not as expensive as in the summertime.
With convenient ferry boat from Ft Myers, it can be very crowded during the weekends, and of course, Key West has several huge festivals so you'll want to keep their calendar to either avoid them or partake!
Great diving destination at any time of the year with dry season in Cancun from from December to April. Weather is more predictable and sea is calm for snorkeling and diving. Less chance for rain.
Low season starts after Eastern and prices may drop. In summer more frequented by European tourists and prices increase. Hurricans and tropical storms can occur at the end of the rainy season September/October.
Diving is possible all year round, but the best periode is the end of summer until the middle of oktober.
To visit the island good weather conditions and a calm sea are essential. Best months are from May to September for snorkeling and diving. Water is even colder than at Cairns of Coll. It is a hotspot for basking sharks in July and August.
The great white sharks arrive sometime in July and usually depart by late November. Under normal circumstances you’ll never fail to see them during that time. It’s because of the really high shark concentration at Guadalupe Island. It is not uncommon to have more than one shark around the cages on some days. However, there are slight variations to what you can see:
The first male and smaller female sharks show up in July. That’s why most tour operators start their trips by the end of July. The last trips are usually offered mid-November, end of November. However between July and mid-September you will ‘only’ see the male sharks or smaller female ones. By the end of September the first huge mature female sharks (18 ft) start showing up. By mid-October the numbers of sharks go down slightly. However, the chance of encountering those spectacular female sharks is at its highest during October/November.
Weather and Water Temperature
Very warm during the day and cooler at night. Summer clothing should be fine. Bring a sweater, pants and a windbreaker/rain jacket. From July to November the average daytime temperature ranges between 73 and 78° F (23-26° C). It’s slightly cooler in November. The ocean is at its calmest during these months. But still, keep in mind that the weather can get rougher on the way forth and back. The water temperature ranges between 72° F (22° C) in August/September and 68° F (20° C) in October/November. A 5mm – 7mm wetsuit with a hood is recommended.
Crowds are not an issue, as only few operators are heading to this island. But still, book well in advance if possible. The shark diving trips to Guadalupe Island became more popular in the recent years.