Great dive sites can be found all around Catalina, but the most popular is without a doubt just offshore from the island’s most iconic building. Read on for 11 fun facts about the Casino Point Dive Park.
It has a lot of names: Whether you call it the Avalon Dive Park, Catalina Dive Park, Casino Dive Park or --- its official name – the Casino Point Dive Park – it’s still one of the most intriguing dive destinations in North America.
It’s been around for a long time: The original owners of Catalina Divers Supply, Carl & Maggie Koehler designed the park in 1962. It took a few more years, until 1965, for the park to be officially recognized. At the time it was the only municipal park dedicated to recreational scuba diving. These days, Catalina Divers Supply, along with several individuals, take responsibility for maintaining the park.
Snorkelers welcome too: Although it’s the “dive” park, there are plenty of other underwater enthusiasts who love to explore via snorkeling. And why not? There’s a lot to see in the park’s shallower waters.
There’s something for everyone: From first time divers to those who’ve explored dive sites around the world for years, the Casino Point Dive Park offers something for everyone. Several wrecks and a depth up to 85 feet mean that even the most experienced divers can be challenged; on the other hand, the protected location make the park suitable to intro dives and dive classes.
The Casino Point Dive Park is popular: If you’ve been here on a Saturday in July, we don’t have to tell you that there are a whole lot of divers who love this dive spot. On a busy weekend, there will be hundreds of divers in and around the dive park. Want to avoid those crowds? Midweek is usually less busy, as are the months between October and May.
Those stairs are the best: Although they may get crowded, those stairs have saved a lot of torn wet suits and bruised knees. Before the stairs were installed, getting in and getting out meant carefully timing the sometimes-significant surges. It wasn’t so bad getting in but clambering out after a long dive was tiring. At this point most divers don’t even want to contemplate diving without those stairs. Some even say there should be separate set of stairs, one of for entry and one for exit.
Following proper etiquette will minimize the aggravation and maximize the fun for everyone: Those popular stairs are a good place to start for a few quick etiquette tips – just not on the stairs. The stairs should only be used to enter and exit the water, not plan your dive, teach a class or – especially – catch some rays. Enter the water on the right and exit on the left. You’ll find some descent lines in the park as well. Those belong to the local dive shops. Use them only if you must and be aware of those who else is using them.
The park is always changing: This is definitely not a one-and-done destination. Currents, climate and Mother Nature’s own resilience all have an impact on the marine ecosystem that thrives around Catalina Island and the Casino Point Dive Park is no different. Colder waters encourage the kelp to grow. Warmer waters bring intriguing visitors like green sea turtles. One of the most encouraging developments has been the resurgence of wreckfish, also known as giant black seabass. These gentle behemoths were fished almost to extinction but have slowly been returning in greater numbers.
Everything is protected: If you have spent any time at all in the park, you know that the marine life here is practically tame. Because it has been protected for decades, initially by tradition and more recently by law, the wildlife has little fear of humans.
It is part of a larger system of protected areas: The Casino Point Dive Park is a Marine Protected Area, one of 124 such areas in the state. There are nine Marine Protected Areas around the island, including a State Marine Reserve at Long Point and eight State Marine Conservation Areas. Avalon has two of those State Marine Conservation Areas, the Casino Point Dive Park and Lover’s Cove.
If you haven’t done it yet, it’s best to go with those who know: To get the most from your first dive in the Casino Point Dive Park, it’s best to go with someone who knows the park’s secrets. Click here to book a guided dive with Catalina Divers Supply today.