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Does Catalina Island Have Sharks?

I recently took a trip to Catalina Island. One question that kept popping up in my head when I was in the water was, “Does Catalina Island have sharks?” I’ve done my research, spoken to the locals, and even taken a dip in the waters myself. Here’s what I found.

Catalina Island is home to various shark species, including leopard, horn, swell, and infrequently, great whites. Swimming is considered safe due to the minimal risk of attack (4 incidents in 23 years, all involving kayaks). To experience swimming with sharks, particularly Leopard Sharks, consider joining a guided dive offered by Catalina Divers Supply.

So, let me share with you everything I learned about sharks on Catalina Island and the best places to swim and dive around this stunning destination.

Is It Safe To Swim in Catalina Island?

My photo from the Descanso Beach Club in Catalina
My photo from Descanso Beach in Catalina

It is absolutely safe to swim in Catalina. While there are sharks in the waters around Catalina Island, the chances of encountering a dangerous shark are extremely low. The island is known for its crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, and excellent snorkeling and diving spots.

As with any beach, it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and follow any safety guidelines posted by local authorities. If you’re ever unsure about the safety of the waters, chat with the locals or ask a lifeguard for advice.

In the past 23 years, there have only been 4 shark attacks in all Catalina Island, all of them being people on kayaks (Shark Research Committee).

Does Catalina Have Sharks?

The short answer is yes, Catalina Island does have sharks. But don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds! The waters around the island are home to several species of sharks. Let’s take a closer look at these magnificent creatures that call Catalina Island their home:

  1. Leopard Sharks: These harmless and beautiful sharks are known for their distinct leopard-like markings. They are bottom-dwelling sharks, usually found in shallow waters near sandy beaches and rocky reefs. Leopard Sharks are not dangerous to humans, and many divers enjoy swimming alongside them. July and August are the best times to see these guys.
  2. Horn Sharks: Another harmless species, Horn Sharks are small, nocturnal sharks found around rocky reefs and kelp forests. They have a distinctive horn-like structure above their eyes, hence their name.
  3. Swell Sharks: These small, docile sharks are named for their ability to “swell” or inflate their bodies when threatened. They can often be found hiding in rocky crevices during the day and are generally not dangerous to humans.
  4. Great White Sharks: While sightings around Catalina Island are rare, Great White Sharks do occasionally make an appearance. They are usually found in deeper waters and do not pose a significant threat to swimmers and divers near the shore.

Can You Scuba Dive or Swim With Sharks in Catalina?

Leopard shark
Leopard shark

For those of you seeking a bit of an adrenaline rush, you’ll be happy to know that you can actually scuba dive or swim with some of the shark species in Catalina Island.

Some diving centers, like Catalina Divers Supply and ScubaLuv, offer guided dives in areas known for Leopard Shark sightings. These beautiful creatures are docile and generally not a threat to humans, so it’s an incredible experience to swim alongside them.

Remember, when diving with any marine life, it’s essential to maintain a respectful distance and avoid touching or disturbing the animals. Always follow the guidance of your dive instructor and adhere to local conservation guidelines.

Scuba Diving Companies in Catalina

There are several reputable scuba diving companies in Catalina that offer guided dives, scuba certifications, and equipment rentals. Here are three of the top diving centers on the island:

  1. Catalina Divers Supply: As one of the oldest diving centers on the island, Catalina Divers Supply offers a wide range of diving and snorkeling services. They provide guided dives, scuba classes, and equipment rentals for all skill levels.
  2. Dive Catalina: Dive Catalina is another well-established diving center, offering guided dives, certification courses, and equipment rentals. They also provide snorkeling trips and kayak tours.
  3. ScubaLuv: This family-owned diving center offers personalized dive experiences, including guided dives, private charters, and PADI certification courses. ScubaLuv also offers snorkeling trips and equipment rentals.

Top Places To Swim in Catalina

Catalina Island offers a variety of beautiful spots to swim, snorkel, and dive. Here are some of my top recommendations:

Descanso Beach

My photo from the Descanso Beach Club
My photo from the Descanso Beach Club

Just a short walk from the Avalon boat landing, Descanso Beach is one of Catalina Island’s most popular spots for swimming and relaxation. The sandy beach is lined with swaying palm trees, offering a picturesque backdrop for your day in the sun.

The calm, crystal-clear waters are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. If you’re looking for a bit of luxury, rent a cabana or lounge chair at the Descanso Beach Club, where you can also enjoy a refreshing drink or a tasty meal at their oceanfront restaurant.

We really enjoyed it here! The guacamole was amazing.

Lovers Cove

Situated just east of Avalon, Lovers Cove is renowned for its abundant marine life and excellent snorkeling opportunities. This protected marine reserve is home to a variety of colorful fish, making it a favorite spot for both beginner and experienced snorkelers.

The calm, sheltered waters make swimming a breeze, and the rocky shoreline provides stunning underwater landscapes to explore. Don’t forget your underwater camera, as you’ll want to capture the beautiful sea creatures that call Lovers Cove home.

Casino Point Dive Park

A haven for scuba divers, Casino Point Dive Park is located just steps away from the iconic Catalina Casino building. This marine reserve features several underwater attractions, including a sunken ship, a plane wreck, and an assortment of artificial reefs, providing ample opportunities for underwater exploration.

With easy shore access and varying depths, this dive park caters to divers of all skill levels. While Casino Point is primarily known for scuba diving, the clear waters also offer excellent snorkeling opportunities. Note that swimming is not the main focus at this location, so it may not be the best choice if you’re seeking a spot solely for swimming.

Little Harbor

Our view from little harbor campsite
Our view from Little Harbor Campground

Tucked away on the island’s backside, Little Harbor is a serene and secluded oasis perfect for those looking to escape the busier spots around Avalon. It’s a 4.5-mile hike from Two Harbors.

The calm waters, soft sand, and surrounding hills create an idyllic setting for a peaceful swim or snorkel session. We went here to camp before, consider spending the night to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Little Harbor.

In addition to swimming and snorkeling, you can also rent kayaks or paddleboards to explore the nearby coves and coastline.

Two Harbors

Nestled on the island’s isthmus, Two Harbors is a small, charming village with a laid-back atmosphere. The village features a crescent-shaped beach with calm, crystal-clear waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

The nearby reefs are teeming with marine life, making it an ideal spot for underwater exploration. After your swim, you can rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards from the local dive shop to further explore the surrounding coves.

Complete your day at Two Harbors with a refreshing drink or meal at the Harbor Reef Restaurant, which offers picturesque views of the harbor.

Gallagher Beach

Located on the northeastern side of the island, near the town of Two Harbors, Gallagher Beach is a small, secluded spot ideal for those looking for a more private swimming experience. The clear waters and rocky coastline make it perfect for snorkeling and exploring the underwater world.

Final Thoughts

Catalina Island does have sharks, but swimming and diving around the island are generally safe and enjoyable experiences.

Don’t let the presence of sharks deter you from exploring the beautiful waters of Catalina Island. I hope this guide helps you plan an unforgettable adventure on this stunning island.