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Everything You Need To Know About Snorkeling on Catalina

Updated: 1 day ago

Avalon—the charming town on Catalina Island—has a scenic walkway along Avalon bay, beach access, and plenty of opportunities for on-the-water activities from kayaking to swimming to fishing. However, you haven’t seen all of Catalina if you haven’t explored the amazing underwater wonderland that surrounds it. Kelp forests thrive in the coves around the island. The waters are chock full of fish and sea life. Snorkeling is a great way to explore the underwater world and to see the amazing marine life around Catalina Island. Read on to learn everything you need to know about snorkeling on Catalina.

1.) Respect the sea life. Catalina has many marine protected areas (MPAs), which are areas of coastal ocean set aside to protect ocean life and habitat. Studies have shown that designating areas as MPAs has helped to increase diversity of species, increase fish populations, and even has made these areas more resistant to invasive species. In most MPAs, it is illegal to injure, damage, take, or possess anything from the water. In other words, enjoy your snorkeling as a respectful ocean visitor on Catalina. Be sure to keep litter or debris out of the ocean too.

2.) Get your gear. Ensuring you have all the right equipment for snorkeling is a must. Most snorkelers use a mask, a snorkel, and fins. Be sure to not buy cheap snorkel gear; you don’t want a mask or snorkel that constantly fills up with water. One option on Catalina would be to rent great equipment from Catalina Divers Supply on the island. A snorkel package includes a mask, snorkel, fins, and a wetsuit for a few hours or the entire day.

3.) Mask Maintenance. While snorkeling, you’ll want to be able to see well. One of the worst things that can happen mid-snorkel is a foggy mask. Certain defogging gels or even drops of baby shampoo can work for clearing a mask. Ideally, your mask will fit so well that it won’t fill up with water. However, it is helpful to have a plan for getting water out of your mask: Once you are at the surface with your head out of the water, lift the bottom of your mask to drain the water out. The pros at Catalina Divers Supply can help you make sure your gear—including your mask—fits well.

4.) Practice makes perfect. Before you get out into the coves around Catalina, it’s a good idea to practice a bit with your snorkeling gear. You can do this in a swimming pool or in the relatively calm waters of Avalon bay. Get a good feel for how everything works, and do a practice round of snorkeling first.

5.) Check the conditions. The waters around Catalina—while on the cool side—are usually quite clear. In the summer months, water can be warmer with better visibility. On a good day, visibility can be 80 to 100 feet. While waters around Catalina’s snorkeling areas are relatively calm, be aware of any storms, recent storms, or high tides.

6.) Protect yourself from the sun. Even though wetsuits and gear offer some coverage, it’s a good idea to use sunscreen while you’re out snorkeling. The sun can be strong, especially in the summer months, and using a good, waterproof sunscreen can save you from a snorkeling sunburn.

7.) Lots of locations. Catalina has so many great spots to go snorkeling. The Casino Point Underwater Park was designed in 1962 by the original owners of Catalina Divers Supply. It is an underwater garden with easy access into the ocean and abundant marine life. Lover's Cove is a more secluded snorkeling experience, in a rocky cove just across the bay from Casino Point. Descanso Beach and Two Harbors are other locations that offer great snorkeling as well. There are plenty more little coves and areas that are good snorkel spots, and Catalina Divers Supply can help you plan your ocean adventure.

8.) Bring a buddy. Beginners—and even seasoned snorkelers—should not go out in the ocean alone. It’s always a good idea to snorkel with a partner and to let others know where you’re headed to snorkel.

9.) So much to see: By simply standing over the surface and looking into the water, you’re able to see the iconic, bright orange Garibaldi swimming through the water around Catalina. Once you’re in the water with a mask and snorkel, the sea life of Catalina is even more spectacular. There is nothing quite like the graceful moves of a bat ray as it swoops by a snorkeler. Snorkeling could bring you face to face with the opalescent brilliance of a school of opal eye fish. Admire the hues of the underwater flora like the gorgeous California Golden Gorgonian. A whole world awaits underwater in Catalina.

10.) Focus on floating: Snorkeling around Catalina is best done with a relaxed island attitude. Speeding through seaweed and swimming too fast is not only tiring, it can cause sea life to swim away. By focusing on floating, and lightly kicking your fins, a snorkeler should be able to calmly cruise through the water; breathing should remain easy and relaxed as well. If there’s any anxiety or stress as you snorkel, be sure to take some slow, deep breaths. You can even float on your back for a bit to take a break.

11.) Get a guide. Catalina Divers Supply offers a great tour for snorkelers. It includes gear rental and is available to those ages 8 and older. All snorkelers must know how to swim and be comfortable in deep water. A professional divemaster can help lead you through the waters of the Casino Dive Park.

Do you want to have a great snorkeling adventure on Catalina Island? Snorkelers can join boat dives aboard the Scuba Cat to explore some of the greatest snorkel and dive spots around the island. Check out the adventures on our website, and book your time in the ocean soon! Got more questions? Give us a call at 310-510-0330.

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