Diving Catalina Island

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Catalina Island, USA


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Country: USA  Area: California

Water Temp: 18 - 23°C (64 - 73°F)

Visibility: 10 - 30m (33 - 98 ft)

Depth Range: 5 - 50m (16 - 164 ft)

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Santa Catalina Island or Catalina Island is known to be a bouldery island yet great for scuba diving.

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From Los Angeles, Catalina Island is off  22 miles (35 km) south-southwest. Catalina is part of the Channel Islands of California Archipelago. Its beautiful beach, relaxing atmosphere,  indulging beauty makes visitors enjoy even by just strolling over the island. It is also a place where bunch of lovers chooses to hold their wedding ceremonies.

Catalina grew famous in the 1930s as a prestigious celebrity getaway island, giving its proximity to Hollywood. With locals using golf carts rather than cars, this island has a distinct charm maintained over the decades. Featured in songs, movies and TV shoes, this stunning island is an excellent getaway or addition to a tour of California.

Beautiful! Credit

One of the most exciting experience in Catalina is exploring giant kelp forest & marine life per cubic meter  fashioned more beautifully than anywhere else on the planet. Thus Catalina Island is considered "The World's healthiest Marine Environment."  Shipwrecks are also present in Catalina. Snorkeling is indeniably pretty one experience worth the while in Catalina Island.

Come closer, Credit

Marine Conservation

Catalina Island is a State Marine Reserve, Park and Conservation area.

A number of non-profit organizations have been established in the region for decades, working to conserve both the marine and terrestrial ecology. Avalon Beach is a particular priority, given that it ranks as one of the country’s most polluted beaches. The unmaintained sewer system has greatly deteriorated, leading to significant environmental degradation. Organizations such as the Catalina Island Conservancy are working to remedy the problems. The conservancy actually owns much of the island in an effort to promote further conservation.

The Flag, Credit

That all said, the Avalon coast continues to be regarded as one of the world’s healthiest marine environments.


Catalina has a mild subtropical climate that is pleasantly warm year round. Annual temperatures hit highs between 15°C and 26°C, with October to March as the coldest months. Precipitation is limited, with rainfall increasing from November to April, though rarely exceeding 33mm in a month. Snow rarely occurs on the island. 

In winter months, water drops to between 51°F and 61°F, though it warms to between 70°F and 74°F in the summer months.

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Shore Diving

Casino Dive Park is a large roped off area with stair entry located next to the Casino Building. It is the first non-profit underwater park in the USA. Within the park, there are a number of interesting wrecks and a Jaques Cousteau memorial. Sea life is prolific in the region, and due to a high number of divers, very approachable. There are also some very impressive kelp forests. The area is perfect for beginner divers.

Waters are generally calm and there is 30 – 40 foot visibility.

A Diver and a fish, Credit

Boat Diving

There are over 40 dives sites off of Catalina Island, with more than 800 species in the water. Ranging from sandy bottoms to kelp forests, with no end of coves and rocky points, the region caters to all levels of divers. Visibility is generally between 30-40ft.

Lover’s Cove is a favourite dive site, where it is common to see Garibaldi goldfish, lobster, starfish and perhaps even an octopus. Ship Rock is another favourite, where you can see anything from seals to electric rays. At Descanso Bay, divers can explore the 162-foot long Valiant yacht, which sank due to a fire in 1930. The boat sank with over $60,000 in jewlerey, little of which has been recovered to date. Trinkets and coins often emerge during a dive – though none can be taken.

Joey Bass, Credit

Many divers are drawn to the region for the chance to swim through the giant kelp forests. Here, you can see populations of calico bass, senorita fish, sheephead, opaleye, blacksmith and garibaldi.

Moving out towards the sandy bottom area at the end of the rocky reefs, divers often see angel sharks, bat rays, banded guitarfish and halibut.

Liveaboard Diving

A handful of liveaboards include Catalina within their broader tour. These boats also tend to visit sites around Farnsworth Bank, San Clemente Island, Santa Barbara Island, San Nicolas Ilsnad, Begg Rock, Cortes and Tanner Banks.

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How To Get There

Santa Catalina is connected to California through passenger ferries that take roughly an hour to cross. Ferries depart from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point (see: www.catalinaexpress.com)

Zane Grey Pueblo Catalina Island, Credit

The island has a small airport, though it caters largely to seaplanes. Helicopter services also connect the island to Long Beach and San Pedro. Cruise ships also dock in the port. 

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Where to Eat & Drink

There are plenty of choices for restaurants and cafes in Avalon and Catalina more broadly. Catering to anything from budget to total luxury, meals often become a central part of the Catalina experience. A few local favourites include:

Food! Credit

▪ Steve's Steakhouse

▪ Bluewater Grill

▪ The Lobster Trap

▪ Antonio's Pizzeria & Cabaret

▪ Buffalo Nickel

▪ Mama's Bakery And Deli

▪ Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co.

There is equally as much variety when looking at the island’s nightlife, most of which is located on or near the main street. The Chi Chi Club is the only dance club and popular on summer nights. Luau Larry is an island institution, with its tacky décor and signature drinks. The Blue Parrot has a slightly different vibe in the summer, with a number of live blues bands.

If looking for something more low key, the Casino Theatre shows cheap movies with impressive art deco murals around the building.

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Other Activities

Catalina attracts nearly a million visitors annually. For non-divers curious about the ocean, glass-bottom boats touring the reefs and shipwrecks are a very popular activity, as is snorkeling and kayaking. There are a few submarines operating as well.

A number of companies offer bus tours of the interior, while others may prefer to set out on foot or with a bike on one of the many hiking and biking trails. Golfing, horseback riding and ziplining are also popular on land activities.

Ready to walk for a Pancake, Pancake Cottage, Catalina Island, Credit

Surfing is not especially popular here, though parasailing is picking up rapidly. Beaches on the backside of the island offer the most idyllic conditions for both activities.

For those looking to unwind, there are a number of spas and yoga retreats around the island.

Bubble maker courses and introductory dives are available for those with children.

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Rates on Catalina are lowest midweek since this is a popular weekend destination for those living on the mainland.

Crowded, Credit

There is a hyperbaric chamber on Catalina. It is located on the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center and is one of two chambers in the US that exclusively treats divers.

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Basking Shark Diving

The Dive Report site shows basking sharks are present in September in Catalina Island. However, none of the dive shops mention them, and I could not find anything else online about operators or tours to see basking sharks. Can anyone provide a tour or dive operator for basking shark encounters, or recommend dive sites where they might be spotted? Thanks!

Angela Trainor

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I spend three weeks trying to find a place to dive off the coast of California with blue whales, and it was pretty difficult. Catalina was the only place where it was legal to dive with blue whales, but none of the dive centers even took boats out into the ocean. I was very disappointed and discouraged by this. I honestly found more dive centers in Phoenix, Arizona that were willing to plan a trip to Catalina for this kind of expedition. The only center that plans dive trips with the blue whales in the united states charges $10,000 a person which i cannot afford frankly. Does anybody else know places safe to swim with the bluies that are also friendly to female tourists?

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