Catalina Island Scuba Diving is one of our best dive sites in the world
If you want to experience some of the best scuba diving in California, look no further than a scuba diving experience on Catalina Island. The island is home to some of the best diving on the West Coast and some of the best diving in California.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is not tropical diving. The waters are cooler, ranging from low 50sF/10C during the winter months to mid 70sF/23C in the height of summer. That being said, the cooler, nutrient-rich waters are home to vast and diverse marine life, and visibility can be excellent, varying between 12-18m/40-60F. of the year, the best time for visibility is during the winter months, when visibility is at its best and the number of divers and visitors are at their lowest.
The easiest way to access Catalina Island is by ferry. There are several services that operate between several towns in Orange County and the island. On the ferry, keep an eye out for strange whale sightings.
Casino Point Dive Park
One of Catalina Island’s best and most popular scuba diving destinations is Casino Point Dive Park, which takes its name from its location next to the old Hollywood Casino. The park’s boundaries are marked with buoys and it covers an area of 2.5 acres, making it ideal for multiple dives per day. The depth at the site varies from shore to an impressive 95ft/28m. due to the depth, location and general diving conditions, the site is perfect for all levels of divers.
Local laws limit the taking and retrieval of the site, which has made it home to rich marine life over the years. The star of the show is the giant kelp which is fascinating to swim in. Among the rocky reef you can find senorita fish, abalone, lobsters, etc.
The other star of the show at Casino Point Dive Park is the giant bar. These huge creatures reach an impressive length of 2.5m/8.5ft and weigh a whopping 560lbs/254kg. Watching these gentle giants glide through giant kelp is one of the highlights of any Catalina Island scuba diving trip.
Farnsworth Bank is home to Purple Hydrocoral (Allopora californica) and is one of the few places where this cold water coral grows. This rare species is one of the few purple hard corals that grow in cold water. Experts say the coral species found at Farnsworth are unique to this site alone.
Farnsworth Bank is one of the deepest dives you would undertake on your Catalina Island scuba diving trip. The dive site starts at a depth of 66ft/20m and reaches a maximum depth of 150ft/46m. the depth of the conditions makes this dive unsuitable for inexperienced divers.
While the purple hydrocoral (Allopora californica) is the star of Farnsworth Bank, the site has so much more to offer. You may also encounter schools of barracuda, sea lions, giant bass and even electric rays among all the other creatures and life on site.
Johnson’s Rocky Pinnacles
One of the best kept secrets of any scuba diving trip to Catalina Island. Johnson’s Rock Pinnacles area is a well-kept secret for some boat skippers. The site is a serious deep dive to a series of nearly vertical pinnacles that rise from the seabed and end underwater.
One of the main peaks of the pinnacles sits at 75ft/23m, while another culminates at a depth of 65ft/19.5m. The pinnacles rise from the seabed to a depth of 140ft/42m. the vertical faces of the pinnacles make for an interesting and challenging dive. Unfortunately, like some of the other best dive sites off Catalina Island, this makes Johnson’s Rock Pinnacles a suitable dive only for advanced divers.
The dive site has interesting geography and marine life. There is a large overhang and cave on the saddle between the pinnacles. While diving, you may encounter a range of marine life ranging from rocky reef fish to lobsters, scallops and other creatures.
Point of the blue cave
One of the highlights and hidden gems of scuba diving on Catalina Island, Blue Cavern Point is a stunning dive site teeming with marine life. Due to its location and being one of the strictest nature preserves in California, the site is virtually pristine and offers one of the best reefs off Catalina Island.
The site is a dump dotted with caves, caverns and tunnels; most of them are on a drop section that varies from 30ft/15m to 75ft/25m. due to its protection, you cannot anchor on the site, which makes for an interesting and challenging drift dive. Dropping off and retrieving a live boat and drift diving along a wall with a strong current is an interesting challenge that usually requires divers with at least some experience.
The site features an exceptional array of marine life and corals, including spectacular hanging gorgonians. While diving at Blue Cavern Point you may encounter harbor seals, sea lions, giant bass, soup sharks, calico and sheepshead bass, lobsters and a host of other fish.
If you are planning a scuba dive on Catalina Island and you are an experienced diver, adding Blue Cavern Point to your itinerary is a must and a dive you won’t regret.
Catalina Island Scuba Diving Jewel: Valiant Wreck
The Valiant Wreck is the perfect dive that combines incredible diving with a hint of treasure hunting, making it one of the most exciting dives of any Catalina Island scuba diving trip. The luxury yacht sank after a fire in 1930. Located just outside the Port of Avalon, it is in good condition for a ship that has been in the water for nearly 100 years.
The myth of treasure aboard the Valiant stems from a substantial insurance claim made after the sinking of the ship for diamond jewelry worth several thousand dollars. So far, there have been no reports of the treasure being found, so maybe it’s still waiting for a lucky diver.
The 162ft/50m wreck sits upright on a sandy slope with her stern at 70ft/21m and her bow at a depth exceeding 100ft/30m. Due to the depth of the dive, the Valiant allows for perfect nitrox diving. Diving the Valiant is usually only possible during the winter months as it is in an area with heavy boat traffic, which makes it too dangerous during the summer months.
The hull of the wreck is strewn with holes and over the years many sea fans have grown out of the wreck. The wreck is populated with lots of marine life, including molluscs and lobster. The way the light shines through the holes in the wreckage makes the Valiant a dream dive site for underwater photographers and a memorable scuba dive site on Catalina Island!
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Our Top Dive Sites of the World guide is brought to you by Suunto. We recommend using a Suunto dive computer scuba diving or snorkeling at one of these dive sites. Suunto is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of dive computers providing dive instruments for recreational, technical and freediving. You can learn more about Suunto.com.