Updated on February 7, 2020

Only 22 miles from the busy metropolitan monster city of Los Angeles lies the rugged, desert island of Santa Catalina. The island is well known for it’s world class diving and healthy marine environment.

As a Californian native, I had been asked numerous times if I had been diving in kelp forests. I learned to scuba dive in New Zealand and had never been diving in California but this question gave me to a curiosity of what made kelp forest special. This summer I discovered just that when I spent 3 months living on Catalina working as a scuba diving instructor.




Kelp forests make California diving special. These magical underwater gardens are home to the majority of the coastal marine life. The pillars of kelp create a maze for divers to weave in and out of. The best part is if you come to a dead end, unlike rock swim throughs, you can just push your way though, making your own path. 

Kelp can grow up to 20 inches (.5 meter) a day! Simply looking up through the transparent leaves of the giant pillars of kelp and watching the rays of light shine though is impressive.

Here is some of the marine life you might come across while diving Santa Catalina Island.



Location: Santa Catalina Island, California (U.S.A.)

Getting there: There are two major ports of entry to the island, Avalon and Two Harbors. Both are accessible by ferry.

Experience Level: There are sites to entertain every skill level. Beginner divers can stick near the coast and enjoy the shallower kelp forests. More experienced divers can experience a variety of sites such as ship rock, blue caverns and eagle reef that are more challenging due to depth and possible strong currents. Don’t forget your dive watch as it’s not possible to rent one in the island. Bringing your own scuba mask is also recommended.

Conditions: With a surface water temperature ranging between 68-72 degrees (20-22° C) during the summer months, Catalina Island is considered one of the more “tropical” destinations for diving in California. I was wearing a 7mm wetsuit with a 5 mm hooded vest and was comfortable on most dives, with the exception of some deep dives where the temperature drops to the low 60s. 




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