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California Diving

California Diving and the Channel Islands


Diving California and the Channel Islands and can be a unique and memorable experience. California diving is so diverse. You can cruise through a beautiful kelp forest and dive shipwrecks and plane wrecks with an interesting history. Maybe catch your limit of lobster, spear that big halibut or go diving at one of the oil rigs. With the many miles of California coastline you can also shore dive from mellow to extraordinary. Either way it’s all fun and there is something for everyone.

a perfect giant stride California scuba diving is more diverse and colorful then most would think. With its marine life, rocky reefs, pinnacles, walls, sandy plains, wrecks and the Channel Islands there is much to see. For the diver there are many opportunities. Truly there is something for everyone anytime of the year. There is good beach diving along much of the coast and some great boat dives leaving from a number of harbors, mainly going to the Channel Islands and sometimes to outstanding local offshore dive sites.

Diving the Channel Islands

rigThe Channel Islands are like a diver’s playground. Altogether, the Channel Islands span a distance of 160 miles from Point Conception to San Diego, and lie between 11 and 60 miles offshore.

They comprise two distinct groups: four Northern islands (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Anacapa) and four Southern islands (Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, San Nicholas and San Clemente). All four of the Northern islands and Santa Barbara Island from the Southern group belong to the Channel Islands National Park, while San Clemente and San Nicholas are owned by the military. Santa Catalina is mostly owned by the Catalina Island Conservancy with the remainder falling under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County.

California Coastal Diving

Diving the California coast can be just as rewarding as a good boat dive at one of the Channel Islands and sometimes even better. Like anything it is all about location and timing.  Some people wonder why dive the coast when the islands have great diving and that is because lots of divers just seem to get stuck in the same old rut and never really venture out to see and do something different. Over the years Ken the owner of Channel Islands Dive Adventures has done many shore dives from northern Los Angeles County to Monterey. Some were easy and some probably will not ever be done again. It is all a learning process.

From all the exploration over the years Ken’s MOST favorite areas are the offshore deeper reefs south of Ventura at the Deep Hole area and the Central Coast between Avila Jade Cove and Big Sur. The reason for this is access, beauty and just how spectacular these areas are. Access can be difficult but if you can manage it the sites are beautiful especially because most get very few divers.

To help out we have some excellent info for Coastal Dive Sites-Ventura to Malibu and Coastal Dive Sites-Avila (Port San Luis) to Big Sur with us finishing up info on our Big Sur to Monterey info.

Wrecks of the Channel Islands

California is not what would be considered a great wreck diving destination. This is due to many of the wrecks being broken up from years of ocean and weather conditions and a number of them just aren’t very accessible but what they do offer is history. Many are within the National Park, State or Vandenberg Military base boundaries and it is look and take pictures only. For the Honda wrecks next to Vandenberg they are closed off to the public indefinitely which happened just after the Sept. 11th attack.

All the wrecks we have list in our resource section are within recreational diving depths although some are very hard to get to. There are a number of deeper wrecks plus others down south out of San Diego that we don’t have listed but with some good searching you can always find out more info about them.



Marine Protected Areas

Diving the Oil Rigs

When to dive California and the Channel Islands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe weather conditions in Southern California and the Channel Islands are usually mild but can change quickly anytime. The best diving conditions generally are during the fall and winter. Divers are lucky to have the islands close because on most days there is somewhere to get a good day of diving in. Water temperature and visibility also varies throughout the year. The warmer water and greater visibility usually are in the Southern islands such as Catalina and San Clemente Islands. Because of the deep water up-welling’s at Point Conception, the Northern islands like San Miguel have the coldest water temperatures.

bg-body-02During the fall between September and November is typically when the east winds (Santa Ana’s) blow.  This brings warm dry air offshore from the desert to the ocean. Because of this it pushes the top layer of water out away from shore, allowing the ocean up-welling’s to bring the cleaner colder water in. This makes for great diving conditions. On a good day the diving conditions can rival any warm water location. Of course without the warm water. Water temperatures vary between the islands with fall generally having the warmest water and best visibility.

santa cruz islandWinter time is December through March. December and January usually having some spectacular diving days before the storms come through. February and March are the stormy rainy months. When the storms come they bring large swells and surf that stir up the water and cause the visibility to drop dramatically both at the islands and beaches.

anacapaApril and May are springtime. This brings a renewed freshness that shows with all the plants and flowers blooming around the Channel Islands. The islands are beautiful at this time of year, although the diving conditions are less than stellar. The visibility is reduced and the water temperatures are usually at their lowest.

John's Underwater Pictures 025Summer is when most divers like to go diving. In contrary, summer is when the conditions are not at their prime for diving. During June through August the water temperature starts to warm up. At the same time it lets the plankton bloom which creates days with some not so good visibility. The main thing about the summer is after a day of diving, you have the hot sun to look forward to warm you up.

Where does Channel Islands Dive Adventures fit into all this

There are many more places to dive then just around the islands.  There are wrecks at some of the islands and offshore from the coast. There are Oil Rigs in the channel between Long Beach and Catalina. There are awesome offshore reefs along the coast and so much more for the person looking for something different. This is where Channel Islands Dive Adventures fits in. We focus on single and multi-day trips to unique spots around the Channel Islands and coastal areas.

For a schedule of our scuba trips to the Channel Islands please check out our Dive Calendar.

We love wrecks, deep reefs and other places most others will not do trips to. This is our specialty and for more information on all of them please check out the links below.