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Scuba Diving Vacation at Catalina Island California - Giant Kelp Forest at Casino Point Dive Park

Updated on April 6, 2012

Scuba Diving Vacations

Nothing beats going on vacation and dropping into the water for a dive.  Diving in a place like Avalon on Catalina Island, a few miles off the coast of southern California is one of the adventures that you will never forget.

The crystal clear water, the protected dive park and the quaint town make this a perfect option for adults and children alike.  If your family doesn't scuba dive, they can enjoy the wonderful shops and outdoor adventures in the area.  There is plenty to do for everyone!

A quick one-hour ferry ride from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, Avalon is packed full of fun.  Enjoy everything from snorkeling, boat rides, hiking, kayaking and of course, scuba diving!

Giant Kelp Forest
Giant Kelp Forest

Catalina Island

Avalon Harbor

A markercatalina island -
Santa Catalina Island, Palos Verdes, CA, USA
get directions

The ferries drop you off on one side of the harbor. Casino Point is on the other side of the harbor, located at the building with the circular roof.

Casino Point Underwater Park

Scuba diving in Avalon Harbor is a dream! The crystal clear waters and diverse wildlife is a true wonder!

There are many reasons why diving this park should be immediately added to your bucket list:

  1. This is a fairly easy shore dive. Along the park are plenty of areas to set your gear and get suited up. During the busier times of the week, a local dive shop opens a kiosk right at the dive site which allows for easy rentals and air refills.
  2. This is a fairly easy shore dive! Yes, I said it again! This is the only place I have dove where you walk down a few concrete steps (with a hand rail) to get to the water's edge. The only reason I would not categorize this as EXTREMELY easy is due to the wave action. Frequently, you will see small waves at the entrance. You should time your entrance carefully, typically entering the water immediately after the wave peaks. This allows the surge to carry you out a few feet as the wave recedes. It takes a bit of practice, but you'll catch on very quickly.
  3. The underwater park is exquisite! The park is completely roped off and boats are not able to enter the area. This makes it extremely safe for divers. Swimming through the kelp forest is an amazing experience and one that must be treasured. Remember to go slow and stay within close proximity to your dive partner just in case you need assistance if you are tangled in the kelp.
  4. Fun things to see! There are many fun items to try to locate throughout the park. Besides the wrecks, there is a plaque dedicated to Jacques Cousteau in the middle of the roped area. It took a bit of work to find it, but it is well worth the effort!
  5. The surface interval can't be beat! After completing your dive, you should spend enough time topside to gas off before diving again. There is no better place to do that than a few steps away from the bustling downtown of Avalon. Rent a kayak, go snorkeling, or just walk around the town exploring the quaint shops and delicious restaurants. Don't worry about your gear as there are public lockers at the dive site that may be rented very cheaply.

Casino Point Underwater Park
Casino Point Underwater Park

Transportation to Catalina Island

Most people take the ferry from San Pedro, Long Beach or Dana Point.  Call ahead to make reservations and enjoy a nice, leisurely boat ride to the island.  

The ferry companies allow you to take scuba gear with you, even though it is can be very heavy.  Be respectful and pack several large garbage bags for the ferry ride back.  Odds are your gear will be dripping salt water and may not be contained in your dive bag.  Instead, pack your wetsuit and other items in a plastic bag and stick that in your dive bag.  It will capture the water and not allow it to spill on the ferry.  Just make sure you empty it out when you get home - nothing smells worse that a wetsuit that has been steeping in salt water for a day or two.  

Avalon Harbor
Avalon Harbor | Source

Transportation of Dive Gear

After packing my wetsuit, BC, weights, fins, mask, regulator, spare parts and other accessories, my dive bag gets heavy.  Walking from the south end of the harbor where the ferry drops you off to the north side of the harbor where Casino Point is located is only about 3/4 of a mile.  Not bad, unless you are dragging a heavy dive bag.  If you have to stop in the middle of the harbor to get your tanks, you will be extremely tired by the time you are ready to dive.  

Hopefully, you visited on a busy day and the kiosk at the Casino is open, so you don't need to transport the tanks!

But there is a wonderful trick to handling this walk.  Hire a luggage transport.  For only a few dollars, the company will take your scuba gear in their truck and drive it to the dive spot.  When you are done diving, just make a call and they will come to pick it up and bring it back to the ferry dock for you.  They will keep it secured until you arrive.

For a few dollars, this is hands-down the best service on the island.  Just make sure you get their phone number so you can call for a pick-up.

There are a few companies that handle this for you.  Just ask the ferry workers where these are when you land on the island.  They will be more than happy to help.

Tanks, Refills and Rentals

Midway along your walk to the Casino diving location is a long pier that juts out into the harbor.  On the pier is a full-service diving shop.  You can pick up tanks there and use one of their rolling carts to bring the equipment to the dive spot.

If you visit on a busier day, the dive shop opens a kiosk right at the Casino.  They will rent the tanks a mere couple of feet away from where you will drop in!

Most people are comfortable in 7mm wetsuits, so plan accordingly.  The warmer months are in September and October and you can get away with a 5mm during that time.

The Dive Chamber at Two Harbors
The Dive Chamber at Two Harbors

Isthmus Dive Chamber

The diving in Avalon is not very deep, but you must always be ready for an accident.  Have your DAN insurance up to date and make sure your dive partners know what to do if there is a problem.  

On the other side of the island is the Isthmus Dive Chamber.  This decompression chamber is run, in part, by USC and is staffed by highly trained people.  They are ready, 24 hours a day to help divers in distress.  The harbor patrol or the lifeguards are also available if you need assistance and can coordinate your transportation to the Chamber.

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    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 3 years ago from California

      Catalina has some of the best diving in California. The water is fairly warm and there is a never ending list of things to see. Avalon is on the protected side of the island and barley ever has any bad days. It's a great dive for beginners and those advanced alike.

      Great information! I especially like how you included info on the nearest chamber.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 3 years ago from East Coast

      Thank you, Edward, for your comment. It sure is hard to stay away from such a beautiful place!

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Ed Palumbo 3 years ago from Tualatin, OR

      Avalon's Casino Point was a favorite shore dive for my son and I when we lived in Orange County. I've since relocated, but I migrate south from the Pacific Northwest to revisit the site. I enjoyed your Hub and look forward to more.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast

      Memories! I used to live in San Diego and have been to Catalina on more than a couple of ocassions - I love it there! I have to say, though, that the closest I came to scuba diving was the glass-bottom boat - it doesn't compare, but was still nice. Coming from Florida and scuba diving in the warm ocean I never quite could step foot in the (freezing) Pacific! Great hub!

    • the clean life profile image

      Mark Bruno 6 years ago from New Jersey Shore

      The layout of this hub is awesome. great job and much important information!! Thanks for sharing.

      Voted UP and Awesome

    • mauihawaii profile image

      mauihawaii 6 years ago from Maui, Hawaii

      Nice Article. Congratulations.

    • Mutiny92 profile image
      Author

      Mutiny92 6 years ago from Arlington, VA

      Thanks Moby! I would miss the ocean as well. Nothing beats a nice dive through these beautiful kelp forests!

    • MobyWho profile image

      MobyWho 6 years ago from Burlington VT

      Congratulations on the great design of your Hub - and I miss the water!

    • Mutiny92 profile image
      Author

      Mutiny92 6 years ago from Arlington, VA

      Thanks Pamela! I appreciate the kind words!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      This is an excellent hub and congratulations on your well deserved win. I love the lay out of your page as it looks very professional.

    • Mutiny92 profile image
      Author

      Mutiny92 6 years ago from Arlington, VA

      @Charlu - I haven't done much underwater photography, but my dad does. He loves it and has some great pictures of a kelp leaf fish that he took when we dove here at Avalon.

      @G33K - thanks! I love diving and it is a great sport.

      @Cat - I appreciate it!

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Great hub! You've provided so much useful info for both seasoned divers and those new to it. Thanks!

      Congratulations on your nomination :>)

    • profile image

      G33K 6 years ago

      Very nice article. I just wanna go scubba diving !

    • Charlu profile image

      Charlu 6 years ago from Florida

      Awesome hub Was voting and needed to read first I am also a wanna be who lives in Florida and loves underwater photography. Like a whole different world Thanks again

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      The only family member of mine that ever scuba dived was my youngest brother. It looks so beautiful. Thanks for this informative and well deserved contest winning hub about scuba diving at Catalina Island California.

    • FJALLBACKA profile image

      FJALLBACKA 6 years ago from Fjallbacka Sweden

      Great hub. Avalon-fantastic capital. Buffalo chewing on spearmint grass. Ever been to Santa Michael that was in the book "The Song of the Blue Dolphin."

    • Native Gardener profile image

      Native Gardener 6 years ago from Topanga Canyon, California

      Great hub. Makes me want to go out there this weekend! Though I don't scuba dive, I do enjoy taking in the view of the harbor. And the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens is one of the "Places to go to See Native Plants in California".

    • emdi profile image

      emdi 6 years ago

      great hub. Thanks for sharing

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Reminds me of when I used to live in southern California...and congrats!

    • Mutiny92 profile image
      Author

      Mutiny92 6 years ago from Arlington, VA

      Thanks K9! Unfortunately, most abalone are overfished nowadays. Black Abalone is even an endangered species now.

      Glad you liked it daffodil!

      I appreciate the kind words Paradise!

      nmcquill: Scuba diving is a lot of fun and a great hobby that you can do for years. Being underwater in some of these beautiful areas is an unbelievable experience!

    • nmcquill profile image

      nmcquill 6 years ago from Iowa

      Very nice article :) Makes me want to scuba dive!

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      Great hub, I can see why it's a contest winner! Happy diving, everyone!

    • daffodil2010 profile image

      daffodil2010 6 years ago

      oh, this hub is for me! thanks for sharing.

      clicking!

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

      My father and I use to dive off of Catalina by bird rock back in the 80's; so beautiful and peaceful. The Abalone were delightful back then(of course we snorkeled for them, no diving allowed for Abs). This hub brought back so many awesome memories and woke-up my love for diving. The Catalina area has come a long way since the 80's BTW. Nice work here, and a very deserving win!

      K9

    • Mutiny92 profile image
      Author

      Mutiny92 6 years ago from Arlington, VA

      WannaB, My son is going camping there in a few months with Scouts and is very excited! I enjoy going to Two Harbors a lot. It is so peaceful up there!

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I'm not a diver, but I have been to a private camp on Catalina for a number of years. I've also done some of the tourist things, such as the inland tour, which gave me an appreciation of the island's history and taken me to parts I might otherwise not have seen. There's lot's to do there -- even on the land.

    • Mutiny92 profile image
      Author

      Mutiny92 6 years ago from Arlington, VA

      Thank you very much Simone!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Whoah- I had completely forgotten that there is scuba diving off Catalina. Awesome Hub!