For those arriving into northern California to dive, the most popular and prominent airport is San Francisco International Airport. There are few if any commercial dive sites in the actual San Francisco Bay Area, however there are many retail and instructional dive shops that offer excursions south and north of the Bay Area.
Just south of the Bay Area is the pretty, coastal town of Santa Cruz and the dive center called Aqua Safaris. You can get to Santa Cruz by car from the San Francisco area in about an hour or take a hop flight into Santa Cruz Sky Park. Aqua Safaris specializes in underwater photography, spearfishing and deep, cold water dive expeditions. Any Water Sports is another scuba shop near the Bay in the city of San Jose. This shop specializes in retail and scuba courses as well as dive trips to sites around the world. Each month Any Water Sports hosts what they call the “Fun Dive”, a local spot usually nearby in northern California. The shop requires that divers joining in on the fun dives be experienced and have cold water and night diving gear. Many of the dive trips organized by the San Jose shop meet and dive off Monterey.
Bamboo Reef Scuba Diving Centers serve a large scuba diving niche in California with its three stores: San Francisco, Monterey Bay and Marin just north over the Golden Gate Bridge. The Monterey store offers boat dives in the Monterey Bay on an almost daily basis. The dive sites offers kelp forests and rock pinnacles to explore on this day trip. Monterey has a lot of great dives and divers making dive shop competition a serious business in town. Some of the most popular and unique dive shops in the area include Aquarius Dive Shop, Seven Seas Scuba, Glenn's Aquarius II and Dive to Survive Scuba a shop with a training pool just a short walk from Macabee and San Carlos Beaches.
The best way to get to Monterey is to fly into San Francisco and drive the coast. If you have a private plane there is also the Monterey Regional Airport that does offer some commercial flights from around California and as far as Denver, Colorado. Monterey is actually an ideal place to fly in if you want to head directly to Big Sur and skip the big city.
Big Sur is the forested wilderland and coastal wonderland of northern California. Most of the Bay Area dive shops and larger southern California dive shops offers expeditions to Big Sur. The area is remote and there are no “big” towns or centers in the region. There are some very small, locally owned and operated dive boat captains who can be hired for the more adventurous. Sanctuary Charters out of Carmel offer very private, catered dive excursions to Big Sur as well as the Silver Prince Charters harbored in Monterey Bay.
Great local shop. dean is super helpful and certified my 14 year old in the sound. he is patient and knowledgeable. the shop is fully stocked and really cute. I've been diving for 25 years and I wanted my daughter in good hands and she was.