Descanso Beach Ocean Sports Snorkeling on Catalina Island

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Something I have always wanted to try on Catalina Island was snorkeling. It was early spring, and of course, the ocean water was freezing, but amazingly with wetsuits on, it becomes bearable and absolutely fun! I am talking about going 9 AM in the morning with children and not being bothered by the temperature of the water. We were only planning to be out there about an hour but that was not long enough. We didn’t have to go very far to see an abundance of sea creatures right off the coastal waters of Avalon, California! My husband and I both agree that this is our new favorite activity on the island. DESCANSO BEACH OCEAN SPORTS had everything we needed – mask & snorkel, fins, wetsuits for both adults and children, boogie boards, and water shoes (highly recommended because of the rocky bottoms unless you are using fins).

Getting into the wetsuits were a bit of a challenge, and it felt silly doing it out in the open, but a staff member helped zipped us up. If you are shy, they have changing rooms a short walking distance away. We had our bathing suits on underneath, and the wetsuits are a bit snug, but that is what kept us warm. Only a few times, we had to switch out the sizes, and she told us the easiest way is to peel it like a banana. Get someone to help you. They even carry sizes for children.

The children had the option of using a mask with snorkel or the boogie board with a window. Because it was their first time, I wasn’t sure if they would keep their heads under water long enough to see fish. They’re not great swimmers so we stayed in the shallow end with the boards. They didn’t do too well, but tried it both ways. I think the boogie board might have been easier for them, and I didn’t trust them being on their own so waited patiently until they were done and went ashore before I attempted to go myself. Unless you know what you are doing, the fins are hard to walk with and since I had my kids with me, I needed to be able to stand up so I opt for the shoes. My husband didn’t want shoes at first, but he eventually caved in and was happier with his experience. You can still swim with the shoes by the way.

Even though it was a cloudy morning, we saw various fish just being close to the rocks. I can’t believe I was swimming close to California’s state fish, the bright orange Garibaldi. There were so many along the rocks and they were easy to spot. I regret not going the day before when it was nice and sunny to see more. I have to admit that I was nervous at first and although it was self-guided, one of the employee watched us the whole time to make sure we were okay.

Getting to Descanso Beach Ocean Sports was a short walk past the Casino. They have other experiences, tours and equipment rentals besides snorkeling like Kayaking and Standup Paddle Boarding (SUP). My husband and I were thinking about getting our own snorkeling gear for next time, but the hourly rentals is not too expensive, and we don’t have to lug around extra gear. For example, renting the wetsuits start at $12/hour, the mask with snorkel starts at $5/hour, and boogie board starts at $5/hour (see fee schedule below). Plus how much is a wetsuit anyhow, and we will have to start carrying an extra suitcase just for gear. One last thing, we were looking for cell phone covers everywhere when they had them for $10! We loved this activity and would do it again. They say peak season is June-September, but if you happen to go off season, you can still enjoy snorkeling like we did.

Happy Travels! – Mary


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