Snorkeling on Catalina Island

Catalina Island Snorkeling

With swaying kelp forests, rocky reefs, and vibrant marine preserves, Catalina Island offers some of the best snorkeling in Southern California. Just 22 miles off the coast, Catalina provides easy access to remarkable underwater worlds teeming with Garibaldi, bat rays, octopus, and more.

Whether snorkeling from shore or joining a specialty tour, Catalina offers endless aquatic adventure without the long haul to far-flung tropical destinations.

Best Snorkeling Tours and Rentals in Catalina Island

While snorkels, masks, and fins can be rented affordably island-wide, joining local guides unlocks the best underwater secrets. Specialized tour operators run daily excursions departing right from Avalon and Two Harbors, improving wildlife access and awareness tremendously.

Catalina Island snorkeling

Diving Catalina

Catalina’s premier outfitter sends cruisers and snorkel groups to handpicked undersea scuba diving spots where Garibaldi, bright orange clownfish flourishing beautifully in Catalina’s temperate waters, frolic alongside bat rays cruising the sandy bottomlands. Guides share knowledge of the intricate ecosystems supporting this menagerie, which is visible thanks to custom dive boat amenities and balanced groups.

Catalina Divers Supply

Family-owned for over 25 years, this Avalon institution is just steps from the Casino’s infectious good vibes that turn first-timers into lifelong ocean explorers. Friendly staffers offer the latest advice guiding where to spot seals, schools of opalescent fish, plus drifting forests of gold and red. They’ll fit all ages with perfectly prepped wetsuits, fins, and gear daily, getting you ocean-ready.

Snorkeling on Catalina Island

Wet Spot Rentals

Outfit yourself solo without missing the local perspective by having Wet Spot’s seasoned staff recommend the best spots to snorkel your skill levels. Their trusted repute means scoring discounts on quality gear rentals, allowing casually checking out Casino, Lover’s Cove, and prized but quick day trips toward less-visited Two Harbors on Catalina’s opposite coast steered by those in the know.

4 Best Snorkeling Destinations on Catalina Island

Myriad coves and points around Avalon offer snorkelers and swimmers sheltered shores, but these four marine preserves deliver Catalina’s most vibrant diversity and amenities right from onboard seasoned visitor boats or directly off the beach:

Snorkeling on Catalina Island

Casino Point Dive Park

Just offshore the iconic Casino ballroom soaring circular above Catalina’s harbor, this protected basin allows spotting Garibaldi, moray eels, bat rays, and sponges a quick kick into the channel perfect for families and new snorkelers benefitting from high visibility and more manageable current.

Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve

Adjacent Avalon’s famous glass-bottom boats accelerated regrowth of local marine life ecosystems also makes Lover’s Cove essential for spotting vibrant damsels, clownfish, lobster, and wavering anemones thanks to banning spearfishing within its boundaries.

Two Harbors – “Catalina’s Other Side”

On Catalina’s remote west coast, accessed via a 90-minute ferry from San Pedro, the quaint village Two Harbors delivers exceptional connectivity with nature thanks to swimmable coves, coastal shipwrecks, and reliably excellent visibility beckoning sea lions, Garibaldi, and transiting whales visible from August into October.

Descanso Beach Club

This private 41-acre oasis and aqua adventure hub offer access to an exclusive offshore kelp bed ecosystem populated by octopus, crabs, and countless tropical fish enjoying the forests’ safety to explore while paddle boarding or swimming peacefully.

Night Snorkeling at Casino Point

Catalina Island snorkeling

A mystery world awakens once the sun dips below Catalina’s horizon line. Strange lobsters emerge from rocky dens, and lithesome moray eels and angel sharks glide across the sandy bottomlands of Casino Point’s marine sanctuary.

Local guide companies like Discovery Tours make exploring Avalon Harbor’s nocturnal side accessible by strapping LED lights, perfect for spotting the aliens, the creatures who surface once darkness falls.

What to Expect When Snorkeling on Catalina Island

Catalina rewards visiting snorkelers with reliably good visibility, calm coves, and plenty of marine wildlife drawn close, thanks to ample protections. Yet first-timers should still heed critical considerations:

Equipment Rentals

Snorkeling on Catalina Island

Bringing your snorkel gear from home does save money compared to renting. However, quality mask, snorkel, fin, and wetsuit rentals are available all over Catalina Island for reasonable rates if you don’t have personal gear.

Pricing is usually based on hourly or daily rental periods. As an example, snorkeling equipment pricing would be:

Equipment2 HoursWhole Day
Complete set: Mask, snorkel, fins, plus wetsuit$22$35
Partial set: Mask, snorkel, and fins only$18$25
Wetsuit only$18$25
Basic set: Mask and snorkel$10$20

Including a wetsuit even during warm periods is critical since ocean water can be cooler around Catalina. Rental shops aim to outfit visitors fully for comfort and safety.

Catalina Island snorkeling

Spot Wildlife Ethically

Look but never touch Catalina’s benevolent marine inhabitants like giant sea bass, bright orange Garibaldi, and transiting sea turtles. Harassing creatures threaten entire fragile communities reliant on this uniquely protected island habitat. Simply tread gently with fins nearly noiseless, watching wild worlds flourish.

Know Entry Fees

Standard beach access remains free, but marine preserves with restrooms and amenities like Casino Point change entry fees seasonally. Enjoy the most significant savings by visiting May through June or September through October.

Watch Weather and Water Temps

Prepare wetsuits for cooler months when average temperatures hover just 60 Fahrenheit, even during summer, compared to winter lows nearing 50 F. Afternoon winds kick up waves along Catalina’s more exposed coves. Plan morning outings accordingly.

Touring the Waters Around Catalina Island 

Thanks to dedicated conservation efforts stemming back to the Pleistocene era, Catalina provides a thriving refuge where snorkelers can admire pufferfish hovering through forests of kelp, shimmering schools of opalescent fish, and skates cruising curious along the sandy shores fringing its coves.

Snorkeling on Catalina Island

Visiting this unspoiled isle rewards those willing to ferry across the ocean channel with brilliant biodiversity waiting below without even needing to leave the country.

Catalina Island Snorkeling: FAQs

When is the best time to snorkel on Catalina Island?

The warmest ocean temperatures lasting through September mean peak snorkel season falls from June through September. But visiting during May and October means lighter crowds and cheaper accommodations.

Where can you snorkel on Catalina Island?

There are exceptional snorkel sites circling the entire island. However, the marine preserves around Avalon and Two Harbors on Catalina’s west coast have abundant sea life thanks to the prohibition of hunting and dedicated monitoring.

Can I snorkel for free on Catalina Island?

Yes, you can snorkel from Catalina beaches without paying, provided you bring your gear. Otherwise, rents average $20 per set daily. Guided specialty tour excursions let you see iconic sites with naturalist guides at reasonable rates, typically under $100.

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