Snorkeling on Catalina Island

by CaliCase Team on April 16, 2022

Catalina Islanf Harbour

The crystal clear waters around Catalina Island are known as great spots for snorkeling. Officially known as Santa Catalina Island, the tiny island, located off the shores of Los Angeles, California in the Pacific Ocean, has plenty of protected coves, harbors, and beaches–and the warm waters are brimming with exotic sea life!

Snorkeling is a great way to explore the undersea wildlife around Catalina Island with many protected areas to safely swim, snorkel, and play in the Pacific. And with plenty of tours and affordable lodging options, Catalina is a great destination for watersport lovers on any budget.

There are a handful of hotels and campgrounds on the island, but a snorkeling adventure can be a great day trip while visiting Long Beach, Newport Beach, LA, or other South California destinations. 

To get to the island, ferries depart regularly from several points off the California coast. There are also airplane rides available. Cars are not allowed on Catalina without a permit, but there are car services and golf cart rentals available—and suggested—to help you get around the island. 

You can also jump to the section What People Say About Snorkeling on Catalina Island with a video of marine life.


Best Snorkeling Tours and Rentals in Catalina Island


Diving Catalina



Nestled within the serene Casino Point Dive Park, Diving Catalina invites you to embark on a watery adventure tailored to all ages and skill levels. Their offerings include guided scuba diving, scuba training courses, and specialty dives.

For those drawn to the allure of snorkeling, consider their affordable tours starting at just $59. Additionally, they present an enchanting opportunity with the PADI Discover Mermaid program. Here, you'll master safety techniques, acquire mermaid swimming skills, and delight in bubble tricks led by certified PADI Mermaid Instructors.

If you prefer to explore the underwater world at your own pace, Diving Catalina also offers comprehensive equipment rentals. From masks to tanks, they've got you covered. Plus, for those who want to immortalize their aquatic memories, GoPro camera rentals are available, ensuring your underwater adventures are captured with clarity.

Here are some of their customers' reviews. Russell Brown said "My two 15-16 year old nephews had a blast on their first discovery scuba diving class with Dave at Diving Catalina." Another reviewer also stated, "Larry was awesome! He was so patient and funny. He helped make us comfortable after a bad diving experience. He also taught us a lot and made everything light and interesting. 10 stars!" .

To reserve your tour, visit Diving Catalina's official website.


Catalina Divers Supply

Catalina Divers Supply, with over 60 years of experience, is the longest-running full-service diving facility on the island. Their pivotal role in establishing and nurturing the Casino Point Underwater Park has cemented Catalina Island's status as a premier diving destination. "Amazing diving experience! We dove with Susie & she was engaging, calm, & fun all in one. She took her time to make sure we were all being safe & highlighted some cool things in Catalina Dive Park." said one from the review.

Catalina Divers Supply offer an extensive range of adventure tours, from scuba diving to snorkeling, they cater to divers of all levels. For beginners, comprehensive training courses are available. Additionally, their equipment rental services are on hand to elevate your underwater adventures. Booking your tour now through their website.


Wet Spot Rentals

Wet Spot Rentals, a family-run business, has been offering summer fun on Catalina Island since 1991. Founded by Chip and Michelle Upton, they started with a humble booth and a small rental fleet, including pedal boats and snorkel gear. They introduced kayaks to the island's rental market and have continued to expand their offerings over the years. Even today, you can often find their sons, Michael and Zack, working alongside the family. Wet Spot Rentals provides kayak rentals, stand-up paddle board rentals, snorkel gear, and wetsuit rentals, making it a one-stop destination for aquatic adventures.  Sabrina Gomes stated"Great rental shop in Catalina! My family and I were able to rent 6 sets of snorkeling equipment including fins, snorkel and masks for the two hour special they have. The staff was very knowledgeable of the area and the wildlife around."  Explore further details on the Wet Spot Rentals website.


4 Best Snorkeling Destinations on Catalina Island


1. Casino Point Dive Park


Casino Point Dive Park

Image Source: Catalina Scuba Snorkeling Tour

Casino Point Dive Park is a popular dive spot located off the coast of Southern California. The park features a variety of marine life, including kelp forests, giant sea bass, and brightly colored fish. The area is also known for its clear waters and interesting underwater topography, which includes walls, caves, and canyons.

One of the best spots for snorkeling at Casino Point is the shallow waters right off the beach. This area is perfect for beginners, as it's easy to access and has a lot of interesting marine life to see. You'll likely spot a variety of fish, such as garibaldi, blacksmiths, and opaleyes. Keep an eye out for the occasional sea lion or harbor seal as well!

If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, head over to the kelp forests located just beyond the beach. Here you'll find yourself surrounded by towering kelp stalks and a whole new world of marine creatures, including sea urchins, starfish, and maybe even a curious octopus.

For those looking for something a little deeper, you can swim out to the edge of the underwater canyon that runs parallel to the beach. Here you'll find some interesting rock formations, and if you're lucky, you might spot a bat ray or leopard shark cruising by.

Keep in mind that the park is located within a marine protected area, so it's important to respect the environment and its inhabitants. Also, the current can be strong in certain areas and if you're not a strong swimmer or are new to snorkeling, it's recommended to stay close to shore or go with a guided tour.


2. Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve

Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve

With crystal clear waters, vibrant marine life, and a protected marine ecosystem, Lover's Cove is a snorkeler's paradise.

One of the best spots for snorkeling at Lover's Cove is the eponymous Lover's Cove itself. This sheltered bay is home to a diverse array of marine creatures, from colorful fish to playful sea lions. Glide through the water and you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Garibaldi, the California State Marine Fish.

If you're feeling adventurous, head over to the giant kelp forest located just beyond the cove. Here, you'll find yourself surrounded by towering kelp stalks, creating an otherworldly environment that is teeming with life. Watch out for playful sea otters as they frolic in the kelp, and don't forget to keep an eye out for the magnificent leopard sharks that call this area home.

For those looking to explore something a little deeper, swim out to the edge of the underwater canyon that runs parallel to the beach. Here you'll find some interesting rock formations, and if you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a curious octopus or a sleek black sea bass.

Just remember, Lover's Cove Marine Preserve is a protected area, which means that fishing, collecting, and other activities that may harm the marine environment are prohibited.


3. Two Harbors - "Catalina's Other Side"


Two Harbors is a small, picturesque village located on the northern side of Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of Southern California. The town is named after the two harbors that border it, Isthmus Cove and Catalina Harbor. It is a popular destination for boaters and campers, and it offers a variety of recreational activities such as hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing. Two Harbors also hosts several annual events, such as the Buccaneer Days festival, which features live music, games, and a parade.

A great spot for snorkeling is the Isthmus Reef. Located just a short swim from shore, this shallow reef is teeming with fish and other aquatic creatures. You can find giant sea bass, schools of sardines, and even the occasional leopard shark swimming through the clear waters.

If you're feeling more adventurous, head over to Cherry Cove for a thrilling underwater experience. This spot features an underwater cliff that drops off into the deep blue abyss. You can snorkel along the edge of the cliff and see a variety of marine life, from playful sea lions to graceful rays and even the occasional passing whale or dolphin.

You can rent snorkeling gear with Catalina Island Company or book a tour with Diving Catalina.


4. Descanso Beach Club 

Image source: Catalina Island Company

If you're looking to explore the underwater world of Santa Catalina Island, Descanso Beach Club is the perfect spot to do it. Not only does it offer a gorgeous beach with clear turquoise waters and pristine sand, but there are also several amazing snorkeling spots to check out.

Right off the beach, you'll discover a variety of fish species, including garibaldi, opaleyes, and blacksmiths. And if you're lucky, you might even spot a leopard shark or two cruising by!

If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, take a swim out to the kelp forest located just beyond the beach. The towering kelp stalks create a magical underwater forest and attract a whole new world of marine creatures, such as sea urchins, starfish, and maybe even a curious octopus.

And for those looking for something even deeper, swim out towards the buoy and explore the underwater canyon. Here you'll find some interesting rock formations and if you're lucky, you might spot a bat ray or a school of fish.

To access the beautiful beach at Descanso Beach Club, a fee of $2 is required as it is a private beach. If you're interested in renting snorkeling gear, you can do so for a fee of $20 to use all day, which includes a mask, snorkel, and fins set. For those who want to rent a kayak with snorkeling gear, the club offers a 4-hour package for $89. Check the club's latest offers on their website.


What People Say About Snorkeling on Catalina Island? 


Video Source: @travisinblue

We researched on the web what people are saying about snorkeling on Catalina Island and here is what comes up:

Many people praise the clear waters and abundance of marine life, with some even calling it their favorite place to snorkel. 

However, there are some mixed reviews when it comes to the water temperature and currents. Some people mention that the water can be a bit cold, but it's worth it to see all the fish. Others caution that certain spots, such as Two Harbors, may not be ideal for beginners due to the strong currents.

Overall, the comments suggest that snorkeling at Catalina Island is a beautiful and rewarding experience. With clear waters, beautiful scenery, and an abundance of marine life, it's a must-try activity for anyone visiting the island.