Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog

Spring Diving on Catalina Island

a group of people going on a dive


Catalina Island, just 26 miles from the southern California mainland. It is world-renowned for its clear waters and plentiful kelp forests that make diving Catalina one for the bucket list. Our coastal waters are perfect for snorkelers, open water or advanced divers. Even a first time, no experience needed introductory SCUBA dive can be enjoyed! However, there are also many entertaining things to do topside when you need to catch a surface interval or travel with someone who cannot experience the many offerings of the ocean’s bounty.


The month of May is also the last opportunity to take advantage of any weekday discounts for Avalon hotels, tours or attractions. Rates are sure to increase when the summer prices go into effect. Spring break and improved weather puts a higher demand on the cross-channel boats, so plan ahead, reservations are recommended. Due to Catalina’s low-lying peaks, the clouds pass by as does most of the rain that comes our way. There has been a recent spell of winter downpours that have enabled the hillsides to flourish. Grass, plants, and wildflowers can all still be seen. However, time is of the essence as the warm dry summer approaches most of the gorgeous colors will fade to tan and brown.


Life on Catalina isn’t all about diving, it is a unique blend of locals and visitors. They engage in the dance of commerce revolving around a long list of services and activities. The Wrigley family is celebrating its centennial, 100 years of ownership of the Santa Catalina Island Company. William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum magnate, fell in love with the island. He bought a controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919. He played a vital role in the development of Santa Catalina Island, as it is today. Wrigley improved the island with public utilities, new steamships, a hotel, the Casino building, and extensive plantings of trees, shrubs, and flowers.

His legacy lives on and the island is still a major destination with nearly a million visitors passing through every year! They are also celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Island Company as a tour provider on Catalina. Since 1894, they built the first roads into the island’s untouched interior and started offering guests exhilarating rides on horse-driven stagecoaches. Today, Catalina Island Company highlights the beauty, history and charm of California’s Island Escape™ with a variety of experiences and adventures that our visitors from around the globe may sample.


Here is a top 5 list of surface activities worth adding to your itinerary. If you are visiting in May and need a break from diving Catalina’s gorgeous kelp forest check these out. We kick off the month with the Catalina Island Rugby Festival, a rough-and-tumble event attracting athletes from around the world. This year it will be held on May 4th. It is sure to treat spectators to an awesome display of strength and agility. The town fills up quickly for this, so if you plan to stay the night book ahead. Be prepared for it to feel like the crowds of summer have arrived.

If you are a fan of nostalgia, then come out for the weekend of May 18th. You can observe the Avalon Ball goers dressed to the nines celebrating the roaring twenties big band era which made the Avalon casino ballroom famous. Maybe you’ll want to buy a ticket, head down to the thrift store, grab yourself a get-up and dance the night away. The historic structure paved the way for other monuments like Radio City Music Hall. This big night takes place in concert with the 32nd Annual Silent Film Benefit. Although the Casino Theater was the first ever built to showcase talking motion pictures, that was still a novelty in 1929. The silent film benefit, also held on May 18th, is a fun activity for all ages.

If you are ready to spice things up come out for the weekend of May 25th for the Avalon Rotary Club’s annual chili cook-off. This family-friendly event features live music, games and not just a chili competition but also a salsa category. It is held on the beach so remember your hats, glasses and sunscreen. Wrapping up the month is the Taste Around Avalon, which will be held on Thursday May 30th. This is a great way to sample food and beverages from most of Avalon’s restaurants. One restaurant, a past winner for the annual festival, Steve’s Steak House, is a great spot to enjoy the harbor views as you dine above Crescent Avenue. That is what the locals call “front street”. The servers are usually all long-term locals and know how to show guests a great time.


As for the average conditions when diving Catalina in May, it’s a good time to enjoy the changing of the seasons and annual migrations. The average sea temperature for the month ranges from 60-64 F. Water visibility can range from 30-80 feet during these Spring conditions. This is also a good time to pass on an important warning from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: “The California Department of Public Health issues an advisory against the sport harvest of mussels for food from May 1 to October 31. The viscera are where the toxins for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) tend to accumulate. Clams and scallops may be eaten during the quarantine period but the viscera should be discarded.” So don’t go pulling shellfish from harbor pier pylons or other coastal areas.

If you are into sport fishing, you can usually catch the White Sea Bass bite at the East End of Catalina. Occasionally the skilled free-diver may succeed at spearfishing along the kelp forest’s edge. Anglers will be able to find Kelp Bass or Rock Cod with ease. With the warming water we have already begun to see the Giant Black Sea bass in the Casino Dive Park. The City of Avalon and Avalon Harbor Department help to maintain the dive park for all to enjoy. We appreciate all locals and visitors doing their part to keep litter in cans and out of the seas. This, as with many coastal areas, is a designated no take zone. All who wish to fish are encouraged to research the laws regarding restricted zones to ensure compliance with local and State laws.


Catalina Is Calling. Are your ready for a grand adventure or just a quick escape from the daily grind?

Diving Catalina offers guided SCUBA and snorkeling tours as well as equipment rentals for licensed divers. No certification? No problem! You can book an introductory SCUBA dive that allows you to explore our beautiful Casino Dive Park with no experience needed. Bring your love of the ocean, a swimsuit, towel and sunscreen; Diving Catalina will provide all you need to enjoy an underwater adventure full of memories to last a lifetime. SCUBA certification classes are also available when you are ready to take your desire to explore the deep blue to the next level. Dive courses can be completed on your own as you work through the academics online! You then spend a few days on the island mastering your skills in a beautiful open ocean training area. Check out our home page for all your Snorkel and SCUBA needs on Catalina Island.

  • Posted in: