Kelp clings to the 10- to 20-foot-high, round boulders scattered about. However, diving Channel Islands National Park isn’t necessarily any better – the California giant kelp forest extends throughout all of the Channel Islands and is common all around Catalina. The Channel Islands are off the coast of California, USA, near Los Angeles. With average vis upward of 40 feet and temps that don't drop below about 55 degrees, this is a Northern California diver's dream. The Channel Islands are coldest between February and late June (around 50°F / 10°C). The best visibility is September to November. The United States has some incredible diving, including diving with manta rays in Hawaii. Many products featured on this site were editorially chosen. Eco Dive Center was well organized and the equipment I rented was in good working condition. Big Sur Great fun! In California, kelp forests shape waves by absorbing some of their energy to produce optimal conditions for surfing, a multimillion-dollar business. Underwater pinnacles are covered with abundant marine life, including strawberry anemones and a variety of nudibranchs, and you’ll find bright orange garibaldi playing hide-and-seek among the stands of kelp. The Northern Channel Islands are comprised of a group of four small islands —Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel — within the portion of the Santa Barbara Channel designated as the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, which also includes Santa Barbara. #divecatalina #diveanacapa #kelpdiving #channelislands #divela #experientialtravel #travelcollecting #diving #scuba #california The site lies just inside the boundary of the Hopkins State Marine Reserve but isn't conducive to shore diving. You can rent dive gear at Two Harbors and do shore diving by yourself (with a buddy, of course). Diving in the giant kelp forests of California is one the world’s top diving experiences. Traffic in LA is notorious for being terrible, so factor in additional time just in case. So it's no suprise that underwater, Big Sur is a wild paradise of steep marine terraces and hidden coves. 1. Maximum depth 38 feet/ 11.5 m.  There was lots of kelp and bright garibaldi fish that this area is well known. Boomers’ Giant Kelp Forest. The Anacapa Islands are beautiful – jutting straight out of the ocean, and I was excited as we approached them. Anacapa The swimming marine life ranges from seals, sea lions and otters to torpedo rays, rockfish and lingcod. With typically excellent visibility, you won’t have to dive very deep to see … I had descended without any issues and was now about 30 feet/ 9 meters underwater. Buy the Tusa Imprex knife here. It costs $140 for 3 dives (gear not included, but can be rented at their dive shop) for Anacapa and/ or Santa Cruz.  You can check out their trip schedule here. I usually just lie there on the bottom and look up at the sunlight. Sign up for Scuba Diving’s weekly email and never miss another story. The pillars of kelp create a maze for divers to weave in and out of. Only a short drive south from Monterey, Big Sur is just remote enough to remain unspoiled. I like the BigBlue dive torch – it’s small but fairly powerful. Read more diving/ snorkeling experiences: James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents. These eight dive sites and regions throughout the U.S. and Canada are a reason to get excited about diving local for years to come. Buy the Los Angeles/ southern California Lonely Planet here. NOTE: These times are approximate and are for early morning, so traffic is light. Of course, the best choice is different for everyone. There are a lot of awesome experiences you can have in Los Angeles other than diving. In front of me was a wall of giant kelp. The Channel Islands are eight islands off the coast of California around L.A. Los Angeles’ airport is LAX. These include Catalina Island, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Monterey Bay. A kelp forest is like a cathedral with stained glass windows. Dive the Wreck Alley, local kelp forests, and Mexican Coronado Islands aboard San Diego's premier dive boat. When descending, don’t step straight off the boat; you must look for an opening and always look down before you descend. The boat left at 7:30 am and we were staying in central L.A., so we had headed out at 5:30 am to make sure I was there in time. I was distracted by the flash of color, when suddenly something bigger and darker dashed up to me. Hopkins Reef is so close to shore, you can wave to people peering from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's back deck while you're on the surface preparing to descend. Lover’s Point, Pacific Grove. Shafts of light penetrate the kelp forest to illuminate massive lingcod, and otters and harbor seals are common dive companions. There is free parking – important since you will most likely have a car to get around. Diving straight from Santa Catalina Island, 2. The booties that you have to wear also keep your feet warm. Point Lobos http://www.DiveIntoYourImagination.com/travel Explore the lush kelp forests, giant black sea bass, and playful sea lions of California's Channel Islands! These magical underwater gardens are home to the majority of the coastal marine life. There will often be a crevice or hole to explore. Most dive centers also have prices (and equipment) for snorkelers. Learn how your comment data is processed. You have to be precise when you enter to prevent you from becoming tangled. Entanglement is the fear of most new kelp divers—an unfounded fear. When the waters are coolest, in the high 50s and low 60s as they are in late spring and early summer, a host of invertebrates like nudibranchs, cowries, sea cucumbers, urchins and sea stars hangs out in relatively shallow waters before retreating to colder and deeper climes in late summer. The 3-dive trip leaves at 3:00am from Santa Barbara. But that was before coming to California eight years ago and diving its giant kelp forests. If you make a purchase through these links, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. I like Tusa Imprex fins. Kelp diving, however, requires knowledge of a few diving techniques to make it more enjoyable and safe. Exploring the underwater walls off Boomers, a playground for cute harbor seals. Divers can visit coves acting as sea lion rookeries, walls, seagrass beds, caves and swim-throughs, rocky patches filled with bristle stars, sea mounds and pinnacles, and much more. I needed to rent some of my equipment, so had to go there the day before the dive. Buy the Los Angeles/ southern California Lonely Planet here, Buy the Scuba Pro (unisex, 5mm) booties here, 6 Must Have New York Food Experiences: FUN FOOD CRAZES FROM NEW YORK CITY, The Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park: HIKING THE HOODOOS, Quality of interaction with culture/ environment. Jade Cove is actually not one but a series of coves at the edge of Los Padres National Forest, 65 miles south of Monterey. Kelp diving in the Channel Islands in California. Buy the BigBlue dive flashlight here. We can’t possibly write about them all, but here are five amazing places in California to dive in kelp. It was awesome! Read my Disclaimer for more information. First, let me start by saying that diving in kelp is not dangerous, but it does present its hazards —hazards that can be easily overcome. The Octopus Garden is an educational holiday light display perfect for the ocean lover in your life. Jacques Cousteau has been quoted as saying that these islands feature some of the best temperate-climate diving in the world. Diving in the giant kelp forests of California is one the world’s top diving experiences. My aim is to not only inspire you to have amazing experiences when you travel, but to also give you the practical information and resources you need to have them. Our scuba diving service project involves diving in at least two areas: the calm waters in Monterey Harbor, which are teeming with invertebrates, and the protected … Deep water close to shore means great visibility because of the absence of swells. California’s Channel islands is known for its kelp forests, its a beautiful oasis in the sea. Encounters with sea lions and harbor seals are common. I slowly swam into the kelp, gently pushing the swaying vertical fronds apart. Cuba’s pristine Gardens of the Queen is a place where divers can experience sharks galore, snorkeling with crocodiles and the magic of discovery. Kelp forest diving in the La Jolla Cove Ecological Reserve or Scuba Diving and Snorkeling its Sea Cave and La Jolla Point are always exciting. Check my Guide to Choosing the Perfect Hotel for tips. The giant seaweed forests are around the Channel Islands. Discover what a five-star underwater experience is like at this Mexico divers’ paradise. It’s in Westwood (where Kevin grew up ?) For some reason, to me, that three-minute safety stop seems to last forever. It’s functional and bland, but close to the harbor, so a very convenient departure point for early morning boat trips or ferries. You need to board before midnight and sleep onboard. California’s temperate waters are among the best in the world for kelp diving. Dive into Big Adventure with a Small Town Feel in Baja Sur’s Loreto, Mexico. I was very comfortable with my Scubapro booties. Anacapa Island actually consists of three smaller islets, East, Middle, and West Anacapa Islands. Boat diving the wrecks will hard to forget. Book a flight to LAX here. There are several operators. The westside of Santa Catalina Island … Dive into the Pink raised over $20,000 during its annual photo competition to support DAN’s study on returning-to-diving fitness after contracting COVID-19. There wasn’t much marine life other than the kelp, but I was in heaven. They have a shop in Culver City. It's calm at this site — unless the wind and swell picks up — and divers are practically guaranteed encounters with playful harbor seals here because they breed and live in a nearby rookery. THE INSPIRATION: Channel Islands SCUBA diving, California, The verdict: Kelp forest California diving, TC ‘experiential travel’ score: Channel Islands Diving, PRACTICAL TIPS: Channel Islands SCUBA Diving and Los Angeles, The Channel Islands and Channel Islands National Park. It's a great area for novice and intermediate divers looking for consistently calm water, reasonable depths and a choice of shallow or deep reefs. Malibu Divers: Kelp Forest Diving Trip - See 37 traveler reviews, 31 candid photos, and great deals for Malibu, CA, at Tripadvisor. Climb aboard the Spectre Dive Boat with Calboat Diving, and take a journey to the Channel Islands, where you’ll swim through a kelp forest … Everything. Only 6 hours of driving time separates us from these highly productive ecosystems. If you are looking for new fins, buy the Tusa Imprex fins here. Torqua Springs, Catalina What's so great about Point Lobos? Blue Holic SCUBA also has one or two trips/ month to San Miguel / Santa Rosa Island. I actually got a knife specifically for this dive. Kelp forests make California diving special. I like to travel light without a whole bag of dive gear, because this was just on part of a bigger trip. Diving through the California kelp forests was incredible. A cheaper option is Garden Cottage B&B. There was no shortage of things to look at and enjoy. Hollywood – Dana Point: 1 hour 20 minutes, Hollywood – Ventura Harbor: 1 hour 10 minutes, Hollywood – Santa Barbara: 1 hour 50 minutes. Two great choices of places to stay in L.A. are: Selby Ave Guest House has a perfect rating of 10 on Booking.com! I had no idea where the ports were and where they were in relation to downtown LA, and to the different Channel Islands when I first started planning my trip. You should NEVER dive in kelp without you and your buddy having a knife. Anacapa Island underwater world in July 2014. Channel Islands diving (and snorkeling) is possible all year round. They are actually the closest of the eight Channel Islands to shore (when reached from Ventura Harbor) and it only took about 1.25 hours to get there. I did the trip to Anacapa rather than Catalina only because this was the trip running on the day I had available. When you are ready for your trip, check out my Essential Packing List. The Aqualung Mask did away with this, so I LOVE it. You can check out their trip schedule here. Not sure what to choose? The water’s cold and currents and tides can be tricky, but the payoff can be huge: Whales and sharks love these waters, sea lions and harbor seals make their home at a number of rookeries, and the kelp forests both nearshore and offshore offer the promise of unexpected surprises as well as great beauty. A bright orange fish swam past. There's a variety of diving: shallow reefs, deep kelp beds, walls, pinnacles, caves and sandy coves with the state's largest variety of sea stars. The history of this archipelago stretches as far back as 7500 BP. What its like to dance with seal lions and swim in giant forests of kelp? The most beautiful spot to kelp dive in San Diego is … Book A Dive Tour. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. The southern Channel Islands have the clearest water, with visibility up to 80 feet (24 meters) of visibility. Maximum depth 36 feet/ 11 m.  More kelp of course (which was the main thing I wanted to experience), but there were lots of other cool things like giant lobsters and sea cucumbers. Diving San Miguel Island and/or Santa Rosa Island, The best choice for Channel Islands diving, Best time of year for Channel Islands SCUBA diving, The major dive sites in the Channel Islands, California. However, the best underwater visibility in the Channel Islands is between July and January and sometimes into February. So, I made this map: I use booking.com because they have a great selection and good prices. Two other fun things to do in the Channel Islands are: I did the Channel Islands kelp diving as a day trip as part of a bigger vacation to Los Angeles. Giant kelp forests are all around Catalina Island. Diving Catalina Island as a day trip from LA, 3. The fact that their dive shop was central, rather than out by the port, made this more convenient. Boats for Anacapa Island SCUBA diving and Santa Cruz usually leave from Ventura Harbor north of LA. Shore dives are at the Avalon Dive Park daily at 8:00am, 10:00am, 12:00pm, and 2:00pm (2 hours each dive) The price of $115 per person or $135 for a private experience includes all equipment. An Introductory Scuba Dive is an orientation to scuba diving that allows those who don’t have dive certification to experience diving in the ocean. If you are looking for a new mask, buy the Aqualung Mask here. DIVE CALIFORNIA is owned and operated by German native Michael Timm and offers services such as guided SCUBA & Snorkel-Tours as well as a variety of Scuba & Freediving courses through PADI & SSI. – it’s a nice area and centrally located. I dived in November and visibility was good. In some areas, depths can ramp up to 300 feet just a few hundred yards from shore. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links. The five northern Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara Islands) make up the Channel Islands National Park. Their boat dives are Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Prices for boat dives from Catalina is $107 for 2 dives (gear NOT included) and $85 for snorkelers (includes gear). This is the trip I did and I was extremely happy with their service. Check out all of the fun Catalina expediences here. Diving in the kelp forests of Southern California never ceases to amaze me. The trips from Santa Barbra and from Catalina Island take up more than a day. Diving Anacapa Islands and/ or Santa Cruz Island, 4. It looked at me, then turned and darted away, almost immediately disappearing into the kelp. It is really helpful to know this though, when deciding what option to choose. Another great dive to end the day. Apart from stunning photography opportunities, divers can see Pacific harbor seals, black sea bass and sea otters. Public transportation is terrible and things are spread out. Enjoy the Introductory Scuba Dive in the Casino Point Dive Park, one of few underwater parks in the world, and marvel at the complex marine environment found in the kelp forests. The diving is better in the west of the island, The Navy often closes most of the island, so it is often not open for diving, The best place in Southern California to see sea lions because of its sea lion rookery, San Nicolas Island is very exposed, and the Navy closes most of it off, so it is not common for dive boats to go here. Whether you looking to explore the beauty of the La Jolla kelp forest with its diverse marine life at the La Jolla Cove like the playful Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, crevices filled with Spiny Lobsters, Nudi Branchs, … The main options (including how to get to the Channel Islands) are: Catalina Island SCUBA diving can be done from the island or from the mainland. There are actually lots of fun things to do on Catalina in addition to diving, including a zip line, a food tour and a bison tour. Check out visa requirements for the United States here. Planning and packing for diving at the Channel Islands off the coast off L.A. Additional consideration: Travel Insurance, Guide to Channel Islands SCUBA Diving California, Check out all of the fun Catalina expediences here, underwater photography course at Catalina Island: book here. Even after 500+ dives in these temperate waters, there always seems to be something new to witness every time I dip beneath the waves. 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