A few years ago, I went snorkeling for the first time at Lover’s Cove in the city of Avalon on Catalina Island.
Lover’s Cove is a protected marine preserve next to Avalon Harbor. It features a rock reef, kelp forest, and a vast variety of marine life including sea urchins, sea stars, lobsters, octopus, and several types of fish including California’s state fish, the Garibaldi. It is one of the most popular snorkeling sites on Catalina, due to its large diversity and abundance of sea life.
It’s completely free to snorkel in Lover’s Cove. Bring your own gear, or rent it from one of the many locations throughout Avalon for a small fee (most places are cash-only). On our visit, a mobile rental facility was available at the cove, complete with rental lockers and fish food for purchase. (This may be seasonal. I’ve seen a number of online reviewers complaining of not having a safe place to store their belongings. In this case, you can rent gear and lockers from locations at Avalon pier.) We visited on a Saturday in August, when tourist season was in full swing.
You can get great deals on snorkeling gear package rentals throughout Avalon. My fins, mask, snorkel, and shorty wetsuit were less than $15 for a two-hour rental. You will definitely want a wetsuit; water in this area is around 70° F in August, which is the warmest it gets. In the winter months, the temperature gets down to the upper 50’s!
Additionally, be sure to change into your swimsuit before heading out to Lover’s Cove. There are no changing areas at the cove itself, and you’ll want to have it on already to wear under your wetsuit.
We chose not to buy any fish food during our snorkeling adventure and found that we still encountered a variety of marine life. A lot of the families and children there at the time of our visit had purchased fish food and seemed to be enjoying themselves with it. One kid entertained himself by throwing fish food onto my husband who was swarmed by fish. Luckily, the fish are harmless. They can bite, but if you’re wearing a wetsuit (and gloves, when handling the food with your hands), you’ll be fine.
One thing I recommend is to bring a waterproof camera. If you don’t already own one, many of the shops on Catalina island sell them for reasonable prices. I purchased a reusable film camera with a waterproof housing for less than $20. I captured all the photos in this post using the camera, and I still use it to this day.
If you’re planning a getaway to Catalina Island, be sure to visit Lover’s Cove for a few hours of snorkeling. It’s a perfect, inexpensive, and beautiful activity that anyone can enjoy.
Quick Facts about Lover’s Cove:
Open year-round. 10am to 5pm daily.
Best time to go: During the summer months, when the water is warmest.
Getting There: Take the Catalina Express to Avalon from Long Beach, San Pedro, or Dana Point. Lover’s Cove is an 8-minute walk from the ferry landing. (Everything in Avalon is walkable).
Gear Rental Costs: $15 to $25 for a mask, snorkel, fins, and shorty wetsuit for up to two hours. $20 to $30 for a full day’s rental.