Diving California’s Channel Islands is one of the most unique diving experiences in the world. Especially if you have never dived the California waters before. The waters around these islands are generally cool and clear and are filled with incredible variety and quantity of sea life. Nothing can compare to diving in the crystal-blue wonderland of a kelp forest…
The Channel Islands consist of the Northern and Southern Channel Islands. The Northern Islands are made up, in an east to west chain, of Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands. This chain of islands is ruggedly spectacular. The Southern group is made up of, in order of size from smallest to largest, Santa Barbara, San Nicolas, San Clemente and Santa Catalina Islands. Catalina Island is the only island in all the Channel Islands with a substantial permanent population concentrated in it’s only town, Avalon. The southern group is much more loosely organized, geographically speaking. Essentially, they are ridges in the sea bottom rising up to break the surface in varying degrees.
Animals and plants resemble those in northern Mexico. Beautiful kelp and good fish life. The islands are accessible by dayboat from from Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles). You can also join a liveaboard for a few days.
When to Visit Channel Islands
California may be noted for its sunshine but do not be fooled, it does get cool in California. Full cold water gear is best for for these dive spots. Along the coast and over the ocean you can expect these general conditions: May to mid-July
Cool overcast skies in the mornings and evenings, highs in high 60s to low 70s, lows into high 50s.
July thru October
Generally clear days with occasional overcast, highs into the 80s, lows into 60s.
November thru April
Varied weather including rain, cool clear days and overcast, highs from high 50s up to low 70s, lows into 40s.
Regardless of the time of year, the diving is excellent. Visibility is usually very good, averaging between 30 and 100 feet. The clear open ocean water that surrounds most of the islands keeps the water a deep blue color. The best times of year for clear water are the months of August thru October or before the seasonal rains. If the rains come late, November and December are good diving months as well. With the right conditions, visibility of over 70ft is not unusual at the right locations. The poorest months for clear water are March thru June because of plankton blooms and storms but even at this time of year it is not hard to find dive spots with visibility of 30 feet or better. A 1/4-inch wetsuit is generally recommended.