Just one hour in a high-speed passenger ferry from the coast of Los Angeles at Long Beach, Catalina Island tempts visitors with a treasure trove of historic buildings, sunny beaches, and quaint shops. But gems lie just beyond this island getaway's shoreline, like an undersea world of swaying kelp, enormous black sea bass, bright orange garibaldi (the state fish), and two historic shipwrecks.
Local outfitters like Catalina Divers Supply offer SCUBA and snorkeling rentals, as well as guided trips and fully equipped dive boats. The Casino Point Dive Park, off Casino Point, is a justly popular dive spot; look for spiny lobsters and harmless horn sharks. For a fun alternative that’s great for adventurous kids ages eight and up, head to Avalon’s Descanso Beach to check out the watery world with a guided SNUBA tour. In this half-breed between snorkeling and SCUBA, a special breathing apparatus and tube let you breathe normally without requiring your own tank.
If you really don't want to get wet, take a ride in the one of the island's semi-submersibles. Tours are offered from both Catalina Island Company and Catalina Adventure Tours. The subs dip five feet below the surface of Avalon Bay and glide through Lovers Cove, a local marine preserve. There’s also a fleet of glass-bottom boats offering 40-minute cruises; ask about the flying fish night tours offered during summer months.