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15 TOP Issues to Do in Santa Catalina Island by a Native

A boat docked in a harbor and a white building

Welcome to probably the most breathtaking island alongside the California Coast: Santa Catalina Island! Catalina Island is understood for its wealthy historical past, outside actions, underwater sights, eating and procuring hub, and dedication to conservation efforts.

I’ve visited Santa Catalina many instances, so on this put up, I’ll be sharing my high 15 issues to do in Santa Catalina Island, some ideas and methods on find out how to have the very best expertise alongside the best way, find out how to get there, and extra.

We could?

If you’re in a rush

Santa Catalina Island is a large island with so many hidden gems to uncover. For those who solely have a day or two to discover the island, there are a couple of locations and excursions I like to recommend trying out and reserving upfront:

And listed below are the very best accommodations: Fashionable Hamilton Cove Villa (luxurious), Oceanfront Villa (mid-range), Catalina Island Seacrest Inn (funds)

Getting there

A harbor with many boats docked in the water.

Santa Catalina Island is positioned a brief ferry trip away from the mainland of Southern California. For those who haven’t booked your lodging but, I recommend staying at these LA areas and accommodations as LA is probably the most handy start line in your Santa Catalina journey. You’ll must take a ferry or boat to get to the island.

There are a couple of completely different ferry ports from the Catalina Categorical close to the Los Angeles space:

  • San Pedro: 30-minute drive from LA, about 25 miles (40 km)
  • Lengthy Seaside: 30-minute drive from LA, about 25 miles (40 km)
  • Newport Seaside: 1-hour drive from LA, about 42 miles (68 km)
  • Dana Level: 1-hour drive from LA, about 60 miles (97 km). That is the best choice to drive to in the event you’re visiting from San Diego.

PRICE: relies on the port

1. Social gathering it up at Descanso Seaside Membership

1 Descanso Beach Club 1

First on the checklist is Descanso Seaside Membership, an iconic waterfront restaurant and bar on one in all California’s final personal seashores open to the general public. Many locations all through the Golden State have legal guidelines in opposition to consuming on the seashore, and this is among the only a few seashores that permit you to drink and lay on the seashore.

The Descanso Seaside Membership permits visitors to lease a non-public cabana, chaise lounge chairs, seashore towels, and tables with spectacular ocean views, the place you may calm down and sip on one in all their refreshing specialty cocktails like The Unique Buffalo Milk, the Descanso Destroyer, Descanso Lemonade, and the Saldana Michelada.

Through the summer season, the personal seashore has an assortment of widespread DJs which might be a lot enjoyable for guests of their early to mid-20s. Click on right here for extra info and find out how to get your spot subsequent 12 months!

TIP: there are rocks separating the sand at Descanso Seaside Membership from the water at Descanso Cove. If you wish to enter the water, make certain to pack protecting water or reef footwear to keep away from getting lower by the rocks.

2. Lease a Catalina Island Golf Cart

2 Catalina Island Golf Cart

The easiest way to get round Catalina Island is by renting the well-known Catalina Island Golf Carts. You actually get the liberty and adaptability of going anyplace on the island by yourself personal golf cart – a enjoyable little car to drive round whereas stopping on the scenic canyons and hillsides and admiring the views alongside the best way.

I recommend reserving a 4-passenger golf cart a minimum of 1 day upfront. Santa Catalina Island is a highly regarded vacationer vacation spot, and golf carts can simply run out in the event you don’t save yours on time. For those who’re reserving it final minute, same-day leases can be found at their workplace on Crescent Avenue.

4-passenger golf cart leases can be found for US$120/group for two hours. 6-passenger golf cart leases can be found on a first-come-first-served foundation. Drivers should be a minimum of 25 years previous.

PRO TIP: use your golf cart to tour the tops of Avalon. You may watch the ocean lions swimming round Lovers Cove and observe a map towards the Botanical Backyard, Chimes Tower, Zip Line Mt. Ada, and Descanso Seaside and snap some images at every place!

Get a self-guided audio tour and ensure you don’t miss a single beat. In any other case, it’s also possible to guide a personal golf automobile tour which is a superb choice in the event you simply wish to sit again, calm down, and benefit from the trip!

TOUR PRICE: from US$5 per particular person

Get your self-guided audio tour

3. Observe nature at Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Backyard

A building with a fountain in the middle of it.

Catalina Island Conservancy is an previous personal land belief based in 1972 as a nonprofit group. They provide training, sources, and a lot of leisure Catalina Island actions which might be properly value trying out while you’re on the island.

Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Backyard are 2 of absolutely the must-visit sights I like to recommend!

The Botanic Backyard was privately owned by Ada Wrigley in 1935 till the backyard was transitioned into public entry within the 70s with a purpose to deal with the native plant species of Catalina Island. Right now, the Catalina Island Conservancy permits guests to stroll by means of all the desert backyard.

The Wrigley Memorial is within the middle of the Botanic Backyard, standing as an iconic landmark honoring the reminiscence of William Wrigley Jr. You’ll discover wonderful views overlooking the Avalon Canyon and throughout the San Pedro Channel. Stroll right here as you’re exploring the backyard, and snap a photograph or 2 alongside the best way. Purchase your tickets upfront from the official web site.

NOTE: in the event you’re searching for mountaineering trails, the Botanic Backyard is the entryway to the island’s hottest hike, the Backyard to Sky Path! It’s about 6 miles round-trip (10 km), so in the event you plan on mountaineering, I recommend exploring the backyard and memoria early within the morning earlier than heading to the trailhead.

PRICE: US$12 for adults, US$7 for kids

4. Admire artifacts at Catalina Island Museum for Artwork & Historical past

a white building on the street with plants in front of it

For over 70 years, the Catalina Island Museum for Artwork & Historical past has been the last word place for guests to discover the very best of the island’s historical past, instructional packages, digital occasions, and extra.

For those who’re planning a weekend in Catalina Island, that is an absolute must-visit spot for households to be taught in regards to the compelling tales and unfolding of Catalina’s historical past. It’s positioned within the coronary heart of downtown Avalon, conveniently positioned close to the Avalon Bay and ferry ports, so you may head over right here as one of many first places you go to when you arrive.

A couple of stuff you’ll discover on the Catalina Island Museum for Artwork & Historical past are historical past exhibitions, music and dance performances, documentary movies, conversations with visitor audio system from all all over the world, artwork collections, and wonderful Catalina artifacts from the island’s connection to World Struggle II and the Chicago Cubs from the Twenties to Fifties.

The museum is open from Tuesday – Sunday, from 10 a.m. to five p.m. I recommend visiting on a weekday to keep away from the big crowds! Purchase your tickets right here.

TIP: if you need a extra ~spooky~ historical past lesson, I recommend reserving this haunted Catalina ghost tour as an alternative! A neighborhood historian will take you thru the island’s most haunted places and share spine-chilling tales of the island’s previous.

PRICE: US$18 for adults, free for kids (0 – 15) admitted with grownup.

5. Get a behind-the-scenes have a look at the Catalina Island On line casino

An aerial view of a building with boats in the water.

The Catalina Island On line casino opened in 1929 and nonetheless runs 100 years later as an iconic vacation spot for vacationers coming to Santa Catalina Island! Thousands and thousands of individuals go to yearly to expertise their island nightlife scene, from having a movie show, scrumptious eateries, and dancing.

Sarcastically sufficient, the Catalina On line casino was by no means an precise on line casino for playing however moderately a “gathering place” (the definition of the Italian phrase on line casino) for guests and locals on the island.

The on line casino presents a basic admission tour! this strolling tour expertise by means of the on line casino will uncover the ins and outs of the enduring landmark, strolling you thru its wealthy historical past.

NOTE: occasions are held each single day on the Catalina On line casino, I recommend checking on-line earlier than visiting!

VIP TOUR PRICE: US$38 per particular person for adults

6. Go parasailing above the Pacific Ocean

A person parasailing on a boat with a colorful parachute.

Catalina Island is dwelling to a lot of outside water actions, and parasailing is not any exception! Catalina Excursions presents a tremendous parasailing expertise on the Inexperienced Pleasure Pier for guests from 600 or 800 ft (183 m or 244 m) up within the air.

You get a panoramic view of the island’s shoreline and an opportunity to drift instantly above the Pacific Ocean. It’s a ton of enjoyable for all the household (ages 6 and over to take part, 5 years previous to affix as a passenger), and I couldn’t suggest it sufficient!

The expertise lasts for about 1 hour and quarter-hour and has a most weight capability of 450 kilos (204 kg) between 2 folks. They’ll stroll you thru the method and ensure you’re secured and able to go however make certain to do your half by dressing appropriately (comfortable) and following instructions.

E-book your tickets forward of time right here, and don’t neglect to deliver your digicam!

PRICE: US$69 per particular person for adults going 600 ft (183 m), US$79 per particular person for adults going 800 ft (244 m). US$25 per particular person to trip alongside.

7. Style Luau Larry’s specialty cocktails

Able to have a enjoyable evening on the town? Luau Larry’s (map) is the place to be! Situated only a quick stroll away from the seashore, this tropical bar overlooks the Avalon Harbor. It’s at all times so full of life and packed, providing among the finest drinks in Avalon, dwell leisure, and native favourite drinks like Buffalo Milks and Wiki Wackers.

Come right here to seize a drink after a protracted day exploring the gorgeous island. Buffalo Milk is an superior drink that it is advisable to attempt a minimum of as soon as – it’s made with Pinnacle vodka, Kahlua Dekuyper Creme de Cacao, milk, and recent bananas. If you’d like a fruitier drink, Wiki Wackers is their hottest drink made with Cruzan aged gentle rum, Parrott brandy, pineapple/orange juice, and grenadine.

NOTE: the authorized consuming age is 21! Make certain to deliver your ID for verification and drink responsibly!

8. Study one thing new on the Nature Middle at Avalon Canyon

8 Santa Catalina Island Interpretive Center

The Santa Catalina Island Interpretive Middle is a wildlife and nature middle with probably the most fascinating information of marine life historical past and academic sources that guests can discover.

You’ll discover issues like recordings of whales, dolphins, and sea lions, info on Catalina Island’s distinctive topography, how the island has a mission to preserve and defend its pure magnificence by means of the Catalina Island Conservancy, and extra.

The complete constructing is 500 ft (152 m) above the bottom, nestled in Avalon Canyon. So take your time and benefit from the view from up high!

The Avalon Canyon Nature Middle on the Interpretive Middle provides you entry to the island’s movies and previous images. Go to with a naturalist, and you’ll even get mountaineering permits whilst you’re right here. I recommend coming right here in the beginning of your day to get a glimpse at what to anticipate on the park and all the mandatory permits you want (in the event you plan on doing the extra sophisticated hikes).

NOTE: the Nature Middle was closed in the mean time of writing. Please verify the official web site for updates.

9. Make your personal tiles at Silver Canyon Pottery

The Catalina Tile Expertise by Silver Canyon Pottery is a novel exercise that gives you a chance to be taught in regards to the island’s tradition. The hands-on lesson walks you thru tile making, the place you’ll get an opportunity to make the proper time to take dwelling as a Catalina Island memento.

This place is especially superior as a result of there’s a lot historical past in Avalon that impressed the making of this small enterprise’ tiles. Right now, about 40% of the tiles in Avalon had been reproduced by Silver Canyon Pottery.

There are 2 methods you may make your personal tiles right here:

  • Group Tile-Making Expertise – this expertise is a lot enjoyable for teenagers, adults, {couples}, and everybody searching for an interactive, genuine Catalina Island expertise. The expertise comes with round-trip transportation from downtown Avalon (the studio is positioned solely about 1 mile/lower than 2 km away), 2 tiles per particular person, and transport of completed tiles.
  • Personal Catalina Tile Class – this is identical expertise, meant for larger teams as much as 12! For those who’re touring with household and/or buddies, I recommend reserving this personal class as an alternative.

10. Expertise scuba diving with fish

A scuba diver in the water near a castle.

Catalina Island’s crystal blue waters are the world’s healthiest marine atmosphere, making for the last word scuba diving vacation spot! You’ll discover all types of marine life roaming round, like iconic orange garibaldi fish (aka Catalina goldfish), bat rays, large kelpfish, and extra.

Being the first underwater park within the US, On line casino Level Dive Park presents scuba diving and snorkeling experiences for guests to benefit from the clear waters and peek on the sea life that calls it dwelling.

I recommend coming right here earlier than and doing all of your ocean excursions earlier than going to Catalina On line casino. It’s a brief stroll (or golf cart trip) away for the reason that On line casino Level Dive Park is instantly subsequent to Catalina On line casino.

The paid expertise features a skilled teacher, scuba diving tools, and a wetsuit. You should be a minimum of 12 years previous to scuba dive right here! It prices US$129 per particular person, however if you need your underwater expertise to be filmed, the fee jumps to US$149.

TIP: if touring with youthful youngsters, think about occurring a semi-submarine cruise as an alternative! You may nonetheless get an inside have a look at the abundance of marine life on Santa Catalina Island, however kid-friendly and simpler for households. This expertise is nearly US$100 cheaper than the scuba diving expertise, so undoubtedly test it out in the event you’re touring on a funds.

PRICE: from US$50 for adults, US$11 for kids (3 – 11), and US$6 for infants (0 – 2).

E-book your loved ones submarine tour

11. Go backpacking alongside the Trans-Catalina Path

aerial view over the bay with docked boats

Trans-Catalina Path (see path map) is a scenic path between Avalon and the other facet of the island, Two Harbors (from east to west). There are 5 campgrounds positioned alongside the path that are perfect for backpackers.

You probably have an adventurous spirit and wish to do one thing in Catalina out of the vacationer norms, I recommend getting ready forward of time to embark on this hike.

You’ll climb by means of Avalon Canyon and during Silver Peak, admiring scenic Pacific Ocean views alongside the best way. You’ll must plan a minimum of a couple of days mountaineering by means of the path since there’s about 10,000 ft (3,050 m) of elevation acquire, and practically 40 miles (64 km) of strolling isn’t all that straightforward. Solely go backpacking by means of the path in the event you’re in respectable form and have expertise on lengthy trails like these.

Plan your hike across the cooler months, like the autumn or winter. Your expertise can be that a lot simpler if you will get a pleasant breeze cooling you off and fewer solar beaming down in your pores and skin. Carry sturdy mountaineering boots (these Zamberlan mountaineering boots are one in all my favorites in the mean time), a trekking pole, tons of water, a sun-protecting hat, and sunscreen.

If you wish to hike however aren’t fairly prepared for the lengthy trek, I recommend doing a guided journey tour. You’ll get a peek on the untouched countryside of Catalina Island for a 2-hour automobile trip across the island. You’ll get a very good have a look at all the pieces with out the battle!

TOUR PRICE: US$53 per particular person

Let’s go on a guided tour

12. Watch fish move by a glass backside boat

fish viewed from a glass bottom boat

Catalina Island Excursions presents a lot of wonderful experiences. Their ocean excursions permit you to set sail on an tour in Lovers Cove Marine Protect.

Throughout this boat tour, you’ll discover a wide range of sea life cruising by means of the cove for about 40 minutes. Not like different boat excursions, this boat has a glass backside, so you may see by means of small tunnels all through the vessel. Don’t fear, you’re not stepping on glass the entire time! It’s a separate a part of the boat that passengers can solely look by means of.

I recommend reserving your reservation upfront because it’s a mega-popular expertise amongst vacationers visiting Santa Catalina Island. You may even guide a nighttime tour! Learn extra about it and guide your journey right here!

NOTE: if you need a extra adventurous water exercise whilst you’re right here, get jet ski leases from Catalina Jet Ski for a trip of a lifetime! Severely, jet skis are a lot enjoyable, and Santa Catalina Island is the last word place to do it. You may thank me later.

PRICE: US$27 for adults, US$23 for kids

13. Go to the opposite facet of Avalon: Two Harbors

An aerial view of a beach with boats docked.

Avalon is the primary metropolis that vacationers come to go to on Catalina Island. Two Harbors is the west finish, the place many vacationers miss!

It’s a village that separates Isthmus Cove from Catalina Harbor. I recommend you go to this facet of the island on a day journey utilizing the Uncover Two Harbors Cyclone Energy Boat tour supplied by the Go to Catalina Island Firm.

Nevertheless, plan upfront as a result of the 40-minute boat trip is simply obtainable in the summertime and early fall. In any other case, you may arrive at Two Harbors from the mainland in San Pedro moderately than the opposite 3 ports talked about earlier going to Avalon.

Two Harbors presents a wide range of outside actions like mountain biking, boating, fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, and extra. Harbor Reef Restaurant (map) is the place to be if you wish to calm down with waterfront views and a drink. In addition they have historic accommodations just like the Banning Home Lodge, Villa Santa Cruz, and Villa Santa Rosa so that you can admire Catalina’s historical past and their Spanish mission structure.

There’s a lot historical past protecting this facet of the island, so make sure to ask the locals and browse all about it right here. You’ll actually admire the richness of the island 100x extra when you realize all the pieces that it’s been by means of!

TIP: yearly, Two Harbors holds its annual Buccaneer Days pageant. For those who’re visiting in October, this can be a enjoyable 2-day occasion the place you’ll costume up as a pirate, get pleasure from dwell music, enter to win a dressing up contest, hunt for some treasure, and extra. Plan forward to affix Catalina’s Pirate Social gathering!

14. Strive your self at Catalina Aerial Journey’s challenges

Catalina Aerial Journey Park is an superior outside impediment course expertise at Descanso. You’ll really feel such as you’re in the course of the woods though you’re only a quick stroll away from the Descanso Seaside Membership’s bar.

You’ll discover a sequence of impediment programs up within the air, surrounded by the aroma of Eucalyptus bushes. You’ll get to run round and swing within the air for a day of enjoyable.

There are 5 programs of rope ladders, log bridges, zip traces, steadiness beams, and extra made for the ability degree you favor.

Listed here are a few different actions I recommend doing whilst you’re right here:

  • Zip Line Eco Tour is among the top-rated actions in Southern California! It takes you 600 ft (183 m) up within the air and thru the canyon, passing bushes at about 35 mph (56 kph). It’s a 2-hour expertise the place you’ll additionally be taught in regards to the distinctive vegetation and animals of Santa Catalina Island.
  • Catalina Climbing Wall is 32 ft (10 m) of mountain climbing! They make it straightforward for you by colour coding areas designed to your ability degree. Whether or not you’re a newbie or a professional rock climber, this can be a enjoyable exercise for everybody!

If you wish to play indoor video games and keep away from the warmth, spend 1 – 2 hours at Three Palms Avalon Arcade! They’ve traditional arcade video games for all the household to get pleasure from for a couple of hours.

15. See the rugged canyons on a Ridgetop Eco Journey

The Ridgetop Eco Journey takes you on a journey by means of the island on their open-air biofuel Hummer trip! Not like different excursions obtainable on the Go to Catalina Island Firm, this tour takes you thru the wilderness and rugged canyons of Catalina Island.

You’ll see East Peak and Divine Street whereas catching a glimpse of the breathtaking ocean and canyon views alongside the best way. You can even really feel good figuring out that 10% of the proceeds of this tour go in direction of the Catalina Island Conservancy.

PRO TIP: maintain an eye fixed out for the wildlife and produce a digicam to snap images!

After your Ridgetop Eco Journey, think about visiting the Avalon Golf Gardens for a brief mini-golf session, positioned a brief stroll away. This mini golf course has been a staple in Avalon for over 50 years. I recommend stopping by for a recreation or two!

👪 Household-friendly rating: excessive
🎢 High family-friendly attraction: Semi-Submarine Journey
👧 Finest interactive exercise: Catalina Tile Expertise
🕺 Nightlife: Catalina On line casino and Luau Larry’s
🍹 Finest bar: Descanso Seaside Membership

FAQs about issues to do in Santa Catalina Island

a beach with a mountain in the background

🌎 Is it value going to Catalina Island?

Completely! Catalina Island is among the most stunning locations in all of Southern California. Locals come for day journeys, and weekend journeys, and vacationers from all over the world come to see the crystal clear waters and distinctive topography of the island.

🐚 What’s Catalina Island identified for?

Santa Catalina Island is most identified for its wealthy historical past, distinctive natural world, water actions, and the Catalina On line casino.

🤿 What are the very best outside actions on Catalina Island?

The very best outside actions on Catalina Island are scuba diving, snorkeling, mountaineering, boating, and jet snowboarding.

🌴 When is the very best time to go to Santa Catalina Island?

I like to recommend visiting Catalina Island from April by means of Might or September by means of October. It’s the proper time for sunny climate whereas not being too crowded with vacationers.


A woman is taking a picture of a harbor.

Now I’m assured you’re completely prepared to go to Santa Catalina Island! Catalina Island is one in all my favourite day journeys as a San Diego native – there’s a lot to admire right here!

For those who like all of this stuff to do in Santa Catalina Island, make certain to guide as far forward as doable to keep away from costs from going up and spots being crammed. The island can get fairly expensive, so do what you may to suppose forward and save $$$.

Thanks for occurring this journey by means of Catalina Island with me, and luxuriate in your journey!


Esabel S.

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tourist parasailing

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collage of 2 images with: mom and girl snorkeling and aerial view over a harbor full of boats surrounded by hills and buildings

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