Diving Catalina - Casino Point Dive Park

  • Updated: March 16, 2019
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

March 16th, 2019
Casino Point Dive Park

This weekend was one of the precious few free ones I get this time of year due to the demands of volunteering with the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course.  As a result I was determined to make the most of  the two days and so Jen and I planned a day excursion to Catalina on Saturday to dive the Casino Point Dive Park followed by a drive north to catch a dive boat Sunday out of Ventura to dive Channel Islands. So effectively a mini dive vacation.

Casino Point is located at the northern end of Avalon harbor and I've been hearing for years how great the shore diving is there.  I'd tried to plan a trip out there a few times since I got certified only to have said plans smacked down by bad ocean conditions but finally everything was lining up.
We had an early morning since we had to catch the ferry over to Avalon.  We paid $75 a person to a ride on the Catalina Express on the 6 am boat and we booked a return on the 7:30 pm boat.  The return ended up being a little later than we really needed but it worked out.  (Also for the record they do let you rebook for an earlier return boat for a nominal fee but it's dependent on them having room on the earlier boat and today they didn't)

I had a quick breakfast burrito from the Express Grill in the departure terminal while we waited and the boat boarded around 5:45 am.

The crew directed us to stow our dive gear on the very back of the boat then we settled in for the long ride out to Avalon.

We arrived at 7:10 am, shouldered our slightly heavy dive gear, and set off.

It's a bit of a haul to get from where the Catalina Express docks to the dive park.  There are people you can pay to drag you and your gear but Jen objected to the $11 cost (*sigh*) and so we did it the hard way.  On the plus side it was a bit on the cold side so the long walk and heavy dive bags helped warm us up.

We'd been told the dive park had everything we needed so we went straight there and grabbed a spot in the shade.

Rentals were available right around the corner at Catalina Divers Supply.  I just needed a tank while Jen had to rent everything except the basics.  By 9 am we were geared up and ready to go.

The main entry is a set of cement stairs with handrails.  Depending on the tide the lower step can either be under water or there can be a fair step down which can make entries and exits a bit exciting combined with the waves hitting the shore. (And yes we were on the wrong side of the stairs. We were avoiding a bit of a dramatic issue on the entry side.)

Every single time I go out to Catalina I'm surprised by the visibility considering I spend a lot of time diving off the shore of Laguna Beach in 5-10 ft conditions.

We dropped down, briefly saw the Jacques Cousteau Memorial Plaque, and continued out past a number of groups that looked to be certification classes.

For the first dive we went off to the northwest looking for the Kis Met / Glass Bottom Boat Wreck, swim platform, and anything else worth seeing.  The second time we went out towards the Sue-Jac Wreck.

There were massive amounts of fish everywhere from the neon orange Garibaldi to schools of smaller fish.

The wrecks were small and not the most impressive compared to other dives I've done but still a near exercise to find.

The Kis Met / Glass Bottom combo actually has a swim through you can do.

We were having a fun if slightly chilly day when we came across the main part of the kelp forest off to the southeast of the stairs.  At that point the day went from being a great to amazing.

I'd been in kelp before but nothing to this scale with 40 ft strands stretching from the sand up to the surface.

The area it covered was sizable and there were fish everywhere.

Sadly I didn't do a great job of capturing the effect of effectively flying between the columns of kelp

We did three dives with a break in between each spent huddling inside all of our layers trying to warm up.  According to my dive computer the water temperature got down to 56 degrees which felt damn cold even with our 7mm wetsuits.

It turned out the rental location closed at 4 which worked out since we were rather chilled after 3 dives and were debating if we wanted to go out again.  So we returned our gear, grabbed a quick shower at the public showers along the way back into town, and then grabbed a serviceable if non-spectacular dinner at the Blue Rose.

We were ready to leave well before our 7:30 pm return boat and we inquired about rebooking on the earlier boat.  They said it was sold out and offered us standby.

Instead we hung out at the end of the dock and tried not to fall asleep while watching the harbor traffic come and go.

The boat ride back was a bit less enjoyable than the ride over thanks to a group of drunk women wearing matching red hats who kept loudly cursing and getting scolded by the crew.

We were back in Long Beach by 8:30 pm, threw everything into Jen's little Mazda 2, and then headed north towards Ventura.

Sunday's dive boat left out of Ventura at 7 am meaning the drive from Orange County was significant enough we elected to get an AirBNB room along the way.  We ended up in a rather nice multiroom house where each bedroom was rented out separately.  We arrived at 10:30 pm and left at 5 am and never saw anyone we were sharing the house with.

Next up we'd be riding out on the Spectre to do some dives at the Channel Islands!

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