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