DON'T BE CHICKEN! My wife and kids were chicken, and now they love it.
Its like flying. take the pool classes in your home town, then do the open water dives in san pedro. then you get the full certification in san pedro, and can then dive to your hearts delight.
thats the best way. trust me there. our classes here in oregon went to the black see 1 foot water - super cold- for open water. we came to san pedro. take the last set of classes before you go down, so your last classes are right before you get to san pedro.
Please don't be chicken. Wouldn't you like to fly?