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Catalina Island Info

Discussion in 'SoCal' started by Teamcasa, May 2, 2008.

  1. Teamcasa

    Teamcasa Sr. Moderator ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Near Pasadena, CA
    It is time to update this thread with current information.
    I have closed the old one so you can add the current information to this one.
    If a useful post just needs a little editing, before it is posted here, just PM me the changes and I’ll edit it and post it here.



    Jim McCabe’s Original Post

    Catalina Diving


    Catalina Island (map: http://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0799/pap346/P34603.JPG) is something like 20-25 miles off the coast of Southern California (give or take a few miles depending on where you're going), directly west of Los Angeles. At the southern tip of the island, on the east side, is the main village called Avalon (Catalina Adventure Tours - The Adventure Begins Here - Avalon Map). The village of Avalon lines the crescent shaped Avalon bay. Ferries to Avalon arrive on the “left” (south) tip of the crescent, and the Casino Dive Park is on the “right” (north) tip. The distance around the crescent from the ferry terminal to the Casino is less than a mile, and about a 20 minute walk thru the village of Avalon.

    Getting There

    Ferry: The most popular way to get to Catalina Island from the mainland is to take the Catalina Express (www.catalinaexpress.com), a high speed passenger-only ferry (no autos) which provides service to the main village of Avalon from either Long Beach, San Pedro, or Dana Point. Ferry seats can sell out weeks in advance, so you should call the Catalina Express (800-481-3470) well in advance to make reservations. This is especially true if you plan to travel in the summer. TIP: The earliest morning ferries are your best bet, since you are more likely to get a reservation, and they are typically the least crowded, giving you more room to spread out. Round trip fares are typically around $50 per adult, but check the website for updated fares. One way travel times are around 1:00 from Long Beach, 1:15 from San Pedro, and 1:30 from Dana Point. The ferry is very comfortable, generally a very smooth ride, and they offer snacks for sale onboard. You will also have to pay for parking at the ferry terminal on the mainland, which will cost between $8 - $15 per day.

    Baggage: Catalina Express has specific baggage requirements, but in general for divers they allow one tank per person, and weights must be carried on board with you. Typically the crew members direct divers to place their dive gear outside in an open area along the railing on the bow or stern, and racks are provided for vertically mounting the tanks. When boarding, you may be allowed only one trip to get your gear from the dock, so check first. TIP: Beware, dive gear is typically piled up in the storage area, so if you get on board first you’ll probably have everybody else’s gear on top of yours. You might want to carry your regulator, mask, and other breakables with you. Many divers bring their own tanks to Catalina. However, you can rent all of your scuba gear, including tanks, when you get to Avalon. TIP: If you’re going to bring a tank, you might want to get one of those two wheeled hand trucks and strap your tank to it for transport.

    When you Arrive

    When you arrive at Avalon, you can have any baggage/dive gear transported for you for a fee to the Casino (or anywhere else in Avalon) by Catalina Baggage and Storage (310-510-0766). Their office is located just past the ticket counter near the ferry terminal. Call first to see if they are operating. If they are open they will also store your bags for you for a fee. Another option is store your bags and valuables in the many lockers provided next to the ferry terminal. You will need quarters for the lockers. There is a change machine next to the Catalina Baggage and Storage office, or you can pay for a locker directly at their office if it’s open. There are also a very limited number of lockers at the Casino Dive Park, some of which are broken. However, on a very busy day, or even later in the morning on a non-busy day, the lockers at the Casino are likely to be all taken. Autos are strictly limited on the island so most visitors either walk, or rent bicycles or golf carts. Taxis are also an option.


    Avalon is located on the East ("front") side of Catalina Island. Diving on the east side of Catalina has a couple of benefits: first, it is significantly closer to the mainland when travelling by boat. Second, the prevailing swells from storms in the Pacific are typically from the NW or W, and the front side of Catalina is usually sheltered from those swells, making very calm dive conditions throughout the year. When beach diving conditions on the mainland are poor due to high seas and rain runoff, Catalina diving is usually (though not always) very good. Water temperatures vary from a low of around 56 degrees F to a high in the low to mid 70’s. There are a few options for diving on and around Catalina. If you dive from Avalon you’ll probably deal with one of the following dive shops in Avalon:

    Catalina Divers Supply (www.catalinadiverssupply.com)
    Scuba Luv (www.Scubaluv.biz)

    The Casino Dive Park

    Virtually dive Casino Point

    This is the easiest, most convenient, and many would say the best option. There is a dedicated, roped-off dive park in the village of Avalon. It is located right next to the Casino, which sits on a breakwater on the north side of Avalon. It’s about a 20 minute stroll from where the ferry drops you off. Many divers get off the ferry, head over to the Catalina Baggage & Storage office, give them their dive gear, then stroll over to the Casino, maybe stopping for breakfast on the way at one of the coffee shops along the water. By the time you arrive at the Casino your gear will probably have arrived, so you’re ready to dive. There is a large paved area where divers congregate and gear up. Most folks just leave their bags and non-valuables on the ground while diving without worry of theft. There are a very limited number of lockers available, and require 3 (?) quarters every time you access the locker. There are stairs leading down to the water so that divers can make an easy entry and exit. Remember to use the right hand stairs to enter the water, and left hand stairs to exit. Also, please don’t congregate on the stairs, and keep them clear so other divers can pass. There is also a restroom nearby in the Casino, and a number of restaurants a short walk away in the village. Catalina Divers Supply operates a rental/fill station (a large trailer) at the Casino. Call them first to check hours. Typically it opens at 8am on weekends, and is only open Fri-Sat-Sun in the off season (before June). TIP: If you bring your own tank, you may have to wait in a long line to get a refill during busy weekends. If you rent from them, you are more likely to have a quick refill turnaround, merely swapping for an already filled tank. Also, they sell a plastic coated map of the dive park at the trailer for around $6, which shows depths and interesting sites, including wrecks inside the park. CAUTION: When diving be VERY careful not to stray outside the park boundaries, since there is a lot of boat traffic in the immediate area. Visibility in the park is typically much better than you’ll find while beach diving off the mainland. It may vary from more than 40 ft. to less than 20 when plankton is blooming on hot days. You’ll find a lot of marine life, kelp forests, and interesting wrecks in the dive park. If you need a dive buddy, you can also hire someone from the dive shops to give you a tour. When you are finished diving and want to head back to the ferry, give a call to Catalina Baggage and Storage (310-510-0766) and they will come pick up your gear.

    Boat from the mainland

    In contrast to the high speed ferry, dive boats typically take twice as long (around 2 hours) to get to the “front side” (east side) of Catalina, and don’t dock at Avalon. Trips to the “back side” (west side) can take over 3 hours each way. Most dive sites around Catalina are very close to shore, since the island slopes off very quickly and the sea bottom gets quite deep. The following are some of the more popular dive boats:

    The Great Escape
    The Bottom Scratcher
    The Sundiver
    The CeeRay
    The Magician
    The Sand Dollar

    Other dive boats: http://www.californiadiveboats.com

    Boat from Avalon

    The dive shops on Avalon also run dive boats which leave from the pier in Avalon harbor. This may ultimately be a more expensive option, since you will pay for not only the ferry to Avalon, but also a separate boat trip. See the dive shop websites above for more details.


    Accomodations are usually fairly expensive on Catalina, and many hotels require a minimum stay. You can also get a boat/hotel/dive package from either of the dive shops listed above. The Chamber of Commerce (310-510-1520) may be of some help with accomodations. There are a number of “diver friendly” hotels in Avalon (http://www.catalina.com/scuba.html#Friendly):

    Diver Friendly Hotels:

    Seaport Village Inn
    A favorite for some divers. Features dive gear transport from boat landing, group rates, gear wash down area, heated patio spa, BBQ picnic area and classroom gear storage. Also has an elevator to make carrying your gear much eaiser. Call 310-510-0344.

    Hotel Atwater
    Inexpensive, group and discount rates, baggage service to boat. Packages available. Closed much of the off season. 800-626-0720.

    La Paloma and Las Flores
    Shuttle from boat, wash down area, storage, showers available after checkout. Call 800-310-1505.

    Pavilion Lodge
    Baggage service to boat. Packages available. 800-626-1496.

    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
  2. Teamcasa

    Teamcasa Sr. Moderator ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Near Pasadena, CA
    General Web Links to Catalina Diving Information

    Water Temps:
    US NODC Coastal Water Temperature Guide
    NDBC - Station 46025
    Water temp chart

    On-Island Dive Shops:
    Catalina Divers Supply www.catalinadiverssupply.com
    Scuba Luv www.Scubaluv.biz

    Google Earth - Dive Sites
    Dive Sites on Island

    Current Conditions:
    Sea swell model http://cdip.ucsd.edu/?nav=recent&sub...item=san_pedro
    Tide Chart: http://www.mobilegeographics.com:81/locations/279.html
    Weather http://www.wunderground.com/US/CA/Catalina.html
    NDBC Bouy Info NDBC - Station 46025

    Island Activities:
    Chamber Day http://www.chamberday.org/




    Marine Channel 16
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2009
  3. Teamcasa

    Teamcasa Sr. Moderator ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Near Pasadena, CA
    Suggestions on the best time of year to dive.


  4. Brollins

    Brollins Divemaster

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Central Coast of California
    Just returned from diving in Catalina. Bought a ferry/hotel/dive package at Visit Catalina Island - Hotels, Packages, Tours, and more. and I can't say enough good things about the whole experience. I have a wife and two boys (16 and 11). We departed from San Pedro and traveled to Avalon. The package included transportation to and from Avalon with the Catalina Express. The lodging was at the Pavilion Hotel. The hotel is very diver friendly. The highlight for us was the friendliness and experience with Scuba Luv. We dove off their boat, the King Neptune on Monday for three dives. The Captain and crew were incredible. Kid friendly to say the least. My 11 year old had a blast on the boat and appreciated the assistance (and patience) that the crew demonstrated while getting him in and out of the water. Captain Bob took the time to search out good dive sites with visiblity and minimal surge and current. We spent Tuesday diving the Avalon dive park for 3 day dives and one night dive. There is so much to see at the dive park. Scuba Luv was kind enough to loan hand carts to transport gear to and from the dive park. The lockers at the dive park are a real value if you plan to night dive. All in all, this was a fantastic mini-vacation for our family. The 3 night package was very reasonable when you consider all that was included.
  5. Zach10k

    Zach10k Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Boston, MA
    Avalon isn't the only option... for the same round-trip ferry price, you can go to the tiny little drinking hole of Two Harbors, the only other town on Catalina island. The local divemaster is very friendly, and the underwater environment is pristine, thanks in part to the nearby MPA around the USC Wrigley Institute. Lots of great diving... check out "Ship Rock" if you're out there. When you get back you can throw back a few at the Harbor Reef bar with the locals, who seem to be in a constant state of hangover recovery....
    sawhalen likes this.
  6. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest Scuba Legend

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Santa Catalina Island, CA
    Unless the situation changes at CDS, they no longer do dive packages (cross-channel boat, hotel, diving). Scuba Luv does (310-510-2350).

    I have a suggestion. The sticky lists accommodations but not restaurants. I'd like to put in a plug for a new one, The Lobster Trap (located where Flip's Sushi used to be). I've eaten there twice and felt the food and service was great. I have no financial interest in the restaurant, just like it. Of course there are a host of others: Villa Portofino, The Country Club, Steve's Steakhouse at the upper end; Antonio's, El Galleon, The Landing, etc. etc.
  7. Brollins

    Brollins Divemaster

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Central Coast of California
    I used the website indicated in my post. It was quick and easy. There were other divers that were single and looking for a dive buddy. Shouldn't be a problem for you on the boat or at the park. When you book the package, I would be sure to mention that you want to dive with Scuba Luv. I found Scuba Luv to be very accomodating and user friendly. Have fun.
  8. SharkWhisperer

    SharkWhisperer Angel Fish

    # of Dives:
    Location: So. Cal.
    I must interject (with notable prejudice) The finest Dive Shop, albeit smaller, is Dive Catalina with Ron Moore.
    The Shop is tucked away in the "New" buildings located on the walk in from the Express docks. Across from the Basketball courts, and nestled in between the bike/cart rentals and "Afishinado" is Ron's shop.
    Ron has been diving Catalina for over 30 years, and is a well known award winning videographer. He was divemaster for CDS for many years and developed a wide spread following. He's also California Diving News "Diver of the Year" recipient.
    Stop in and say hello to him, tell him you'd like a guided dive and he will bend over backwards to accomadate you. He's got several knowledgable and friendly divemasters working with him as well, and if you're looking for a Black Sea Bass, or feeding bat rays, look for Shannon.
    I just thought Ron's shop should be mentioned here, as it's often overlooked for the bigger, busier shops (CDS and Scubaluv).
  9. SharkWhisperer

    SharkWhisperer Angel Fish

    # of Dives:
    Location: So. Cal.
    I must add, that although Ron is a great teacher, the shop is small and compared to CDS or Scuba Luv his prices might be higher. I am going to try CDS this summer for some of my ADP drills. I'll be in Avalon for a month, and possible able to host 1 or 2 overnight guests for diving.
  10. cathm

    cathm Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Central Coast, Australia
    Is it still possible/ worthwhile to dive Catalina in November? I will be there for a couple of days on a stopover and wondered if it´s worth the trip.


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