Slowly, peacefully you swim through a kelp forest. You take deliberate breaths through your regulator. The sunlight beams through the water, casting eerie, cathedral-like shadows. The colors around you are spectacular, and the kelp gently brushes against your wetsuit.You are enchanted. You are in a marine sanctuary.
Soon, the kelp near you parts, and you are startled by a pair of brown eyes and whiskers. He’s a California sea lion, practically in your mask, and he’s checking you out. After he recognizes that you are probably not his date for the evening, he swims off. But he’ll be back for another look.
You swim through the kelp, and find yourself alongside a reef. You check out the reefs’ many nooks and coral growths. Then something grabs your attention. You pause for a closer look and notice several lobsters huddled together inside a crevice.
These and other natural wonders await divers who descend into any of the nation’s 13 national marine sanctuaries and marine national monument.
Find a Sanctuary Near You
Recreation in our national marine sanctuaries represents a fundamental American value, and a driver of jobs and the economy. Protecting this ethic and lifestyle is paramount to our mandate. Ninety-eight percent of all national marine sanctuary waters are open to recreational fishing, diving, surfing, swimming and much more. Please visit the various sanctuary recreation websites and discover the value of having these areas open for recreation and explore the diverse leisure activities within the sanctuary system. So, dive in! Sanctuaries are your place of refuge, and careful management of these areas ensures the long-term protection of our nation's underwater treasures for generations to come.
Sanctuary waters are filled with unique ecosystems waiting to be explored, harboring a spectacular array of plants, animals and historical artifacts. Discover a sense of wonder as you glide through a towering forest of giant kelp or experience the thrill of spotting a nurse shark lying beneath a ledge of colorful corals. You can even dive into America's rich maritime history as you explore the numerous shipwrecks found in sanctuary waters. Find out more about these and other exciting dive opportunities that await you in your national marine sanctuaries!
Recreational fishing is among the country's favorite pastimes, providing opportunities for people of all ages to experience the natural marine environment. Each year, more than 15 million Americans enjoy saltwater recreational fishing. While National Marine Sanctuaries protect underwater ecosystems, they are not off-limits to the public. Ninety-eight percent of national marine sanctuaries waters provide places where Americans can fish. Take the opportunity to get out on the waters of a National Marine Sanctuary; enjoy top-notch fishing while supporting the long-term protection of our nation's underwater treasures by finding more information here about recreational fishing best practices.
North America is the world's largest whale watching destination. Being one of the important ecotourism industries in California, Hawaii and Massachusetts, you can head out onto the ocean to view some of the largest animals on our planet. Whale watching trips to any of our national marine sanctuaries in these states will offer you the opportunity to make memorable connections with much of the wildlife that make these sanctuaries so special.
Mavericks. Waimea Bay. Pipeline. The names evoke images of pumping surf, the raw beauty of ocean swells exploding on solid reefs, and crowds gathered to watch in awe as expert surfers take on world-class waves. These places are some of the most revered surf spots on Earth, but there's another thing they have in common, something that few people realize: They are all found within national marine sanctuaries. Here are some top surf spots in the sanctuaries. For more, check out these other surfing features: Catching the Wave: Surfing in the National Marine Sanctuaries and Power of Place: Surfing Olympic Coast.
Visitors who prefer to stay above the water in our sanctuaries can view the water's surface and natural surroundings by sailing, boating, kayaking or canoeing. Whether your final destination is the sanctuary or you are transiting the sanctuary to reach another destination, remember to enjoy your surroundings but be aware to avoid striking fishing gear, other boaters, and marine animals such as whales, sea turtles, and sharks.