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Hello everyone. I have been diving for 10 years and my girlfriend just got certified last summer in Bonaire (absolutely amazing). We will be in LA in February from Atlanta and I thought, "How can we go all the way to the Pacific Coast and not get at least one dive in?" We have never been to LA nor have we dove on the West Coast. We will just have a day for diving so are there any recommendation on a trip to say Catalina vs. local/shore dives? Any dive shop recommendations? I keep finding lots of boat charters, not dive shops that rent gear too. Is it uncommon to have guided dives? I am used to diving the Caribbean and Hawaii. If we did a day of shore diving, where should we rent gear from? Is there a site that shows where we can shore dive? I'm really interested in seeing some kelp and Garibaldi... is that a definite?
Thank you so much for your help!
I'll answer this from the viewpoint of an occasional visitor to LA. First off, DO dive there! It's worth it.
Second, if you want the best experience of kelp, Garibaldis, etc., you will need to get offshore. Although there are lots of fascinating things to see shore diving there, they aren't the "sunlight pouring down through the kelp" picture you have in your mind. You can find that in the Catalina Dive Park, or off any of the boats.
If you want guided dives in this area, you need to hook up with someone from the forum, or hire a DM. The boats do not put staff in the water -- they brief the site, and you are on your own. The good news is that there are a LOT of Southern California divers here on ScubaBoard, so it shouldn't be impossible to find someone who will join you for some diving.
As far as gear rental, I'll let the locals speak to that; I have always brought everything but tanks and weights, and I borrow those.
Schedule permitting, I'd recommend doing Catalina Island as a 2-day trip with overnight stay. You don't want to rush having fun.
On Day #1, you'll take an early morning ferry over to Avalon. Drop off your luggage at your hotel. Walk over to one of the two dive shops, rent gear, and ask that the shop transport it to Casino Point for you.
It would be in your best interest to hire a dive guide for at least the first dive at the UW Park. He'll be able to help ensure that you are properly weighted for the extra neoprene (at least a 7mm full wetsuit) you'll be using. He'll also give you tips on navigating around the UW Park. Alternatively, you can make a post here on ScubaBoard to see if you can hook up with a SoCal local who is willing to show you around.
Air fills can be purchased at the filling station at the Point. Call ahead to make sure that the dive shop employees will be there during your trip. FYI, they are always there on weekends.
Make sure you do at least one late afternoon dive in the UW Park. Seeing the sunlight dance around the kelp in shallow water is truly spectacular.
On Day #2, you can do a few more dives in the Park in the morning if you like.
In the early afternoon, I'd recommend doing some non-dive-related activity. A hike over to the Wrigley Memorial is fun. Renting ocean kayaks over at Descanso Beach is also a good time.
Catch an early evening ferry back to the mainland.
My take as a local- do a boat dive. Shore conditions can change day to day. Normal visibility is 15ft or so, some days more, some less. The chances of it being great to dive that one day you have is 50/50, and surf entries here are NOT Bonaire - surf can make it challenging. Also, as has been stated the view on the coast (unless you go to some specific spots) will not give you that kelp forest experience you want. You can do the Avalon dive park, which is wonderful, but the cost is the same as a boat dive by the time you figure the ferry costs, parking, meals. I love Avalon but for a one day shot, boat diving is hard to beat. Out of Long Beach - Sundiver Express (Dive Boat Sundiver) goes out most Fri, Sat and Sun for about $100/person. That's 3 dives, tanks and weights, fills, and food with free parking at the landing. Leaves at 7am and back 4:30-5pm. They also rent gear, and have DM's (for a cost) if you need one (although if you post here when you are sure you are going, someone is almost always available to show you around)., so you can literally show up and dive. The advantage is if the conditions are not great they will find someplace diveable on the island.
Some Catalina boats have bunks you can sleep in the night before, too, which can save on hotel costs and make the early-morning departures a little easier. I've done this on the Sand Dollar and the Pacific Star (both San Pedro).
Hello everyone. I have been diving for 10 years and my girlfriend just got certified last summer in Bonaire (absolutely amazing). We will be in LA in February from Atlanta and I thought, "How can we go all the way to the Pacific Coast and not get at least one dive in?" We have never been to LA nor have we dove on the West Coast. We will just have a day for diving so are there any recommendation on a trip to say Catalina vs. local/shore dives?
Shore/beach diving is a lot of work in SoCal and frankly down right dangerous for people who aren't used to wearing heavy wetsuits with lots of lead and newbies like your girlfriend. Do a boat dive: it's convenient and less hassle.
Any dive shop recommendations? I keep finding lots of boat charters, not dive shops that rent gear too.
Depends on where you plan on staying, we can recommend dive shops. Some boat charters also rent gears. Also, if you were to do a boat dive and it's already chartered by a dive shop instead of open boat, you can rent gears from that dive shop as well. Some boats do have gears for rent too. Let us know what your final plans are and we can give you more solid recommendations.
Is it uncommon to have guided dives? I am used to diving the Caribbean and Hawaii.
Yes, it's uncommon but not unheard of. You can request for dive guide and pay extra for said service. However, if you let us know what day in advance, maybe one or two of us can join you and save you the dive guide cost.
If we did a day of shore diving, where should we rent gear from? Is there a site that shows where we can shore dive? I'm really interested in seeing some kelp and Garibaldi... is that a definite?
Thank you so much for your help!
You can google search and you will see lots of recommendations for shore diving. However as I've said above, shore diving could be quite rough to down right dangerous to people not used to it. It's not like wading into a still watered tropical beach.
My recommendation is to do a boat dive to Catalina Island. It's convenient and you get to go to multiple sites.
You can always go to the city of Avalon on Catalina and dive at the Casino Point dive park. You can take the Catalina Express over and rent all your gears at either ScubaLuv or Catalina Divers Supply then do a very easy shore dive at the Point. But then that's all you'd do. Then you have to worry about food & drinks (the closest burger joint doesn't open during off season), and what to do with all your gears while you go off for lunch.
On the dive boat, snacks/drinks/food are right there at your fingertips.
Let me know when in February and I'll see if I can play the tour guide for you.
Local shore diving conditions can really suck this time of year. I think last weekend was 2' at Laguna, it varies a lot due to storms, run off, etc... Sometimes its fine, other times its a lost cause and a bad storm can mess up vis for days.
I second the dive boat to Catalina. Unless the weather is really nasty you have conditions that range from acceptable (15') to fantastic (40+) off the island. The captains pretty much know how to select from the many dive sites to protect you from the weather / currents. When they choose a site that is a preserve, the size and number of critters is really impressive. The only downside is you are limited to Fri-Sat-Sun at the best and some boats are Sat only.
Local shore diving conditions can really suck this time of year. I think last weekend was 2' at Laguna, it varies a lot due to storms, run off, etc... Sometimes its fine, other times its a lost cause and a bad storm can mess up vis for days................................
This was true last weekend- 6ft surf at the beach sites- flat and 30ft-40ft viz off shore at the island.