Things To Do in Catalina Island
Catalina Island is an island paradise with many things to do. Here you can enjoy everything from sunny beaches to thrilling tours to exciting underwater adventures! What are some of the most popular things to do in Catalina Island? We’re here to tell you about everything you may be interested in.
First off, make plans to visit the towns of Two Harbors and Avalon. The term “town” is somewhat misleading though, technically correct. We’re talking about an island that is about 22 miles long total. Nevertheless, Avalon and Two Harbors are your main points of interest. There is also a rugged region of the island among the interiors.
Catalina Island has a lot of nice features, but when you come to an island, you better believe the beach is the number one attraction! Of all the things to do in Catalina Island, the beach is always at the top of the list. The city of Avalon is only one square mile in size, but it still boasts the finest beaches in all of California. The surf is generally calm around Avalon, because it is on the protected side of the island. These beaches are sandy and deep, perhaps a steeper drop off than normal.
South Beach, Middle Beach and Step Beach are found in the area. South Beach is a small area with a retaining wall and steps. The beach is known for its surges whenever the tide comes in. This is an ideal place for fishing and snorkeling. Step Beach is found north of the Green Pleasure Pier. It is smaller than Middle and South Beach and has a deep drop off into the ocean.
Descanso Beach is the most popular Catalina Island beach site in the area. It is the only beach that accesses a seaside bar and restaurant. The Descanso Beach Club has a romantic atmosphere ideal for weddings and get-togethers. Weston beach is possibly the most beautiful beach of them all. It is best accessed by boat because it requires a 14-mile hike from Avalon.
For an amazing day trip to a great beach area, check out the Little Harbor Trip. You can get in the water, snorkel or just relax on the beach. There are numerous other things to do during this adventure.
Many tourists and residents prefer biking in the Catalina Island area since traffic is a problem. The few roads that are paved tend to be small, so biking on Catalina Island is often the logical choice. And, several years ago, local officials required all motorists to get a permit for their vehicles.
The lovely scenery of the island prompts many to cycle their way to work and to recreational facilities. What are some of the popular spots on the island in which you can see bicyclers traveling? The Avalon area has Pebbly Beach, the Catalina Casino and the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, all of which are ideal for biking.
If you wish to bike on Catalina Island out of town then you will need a Bike Pass from the Conservancy Office on 125 Clarissa Avenue. Once you do this, you are free to travel into the hills and experience many things to do. There you can see such sites as Chimes Tower and Hogsback. You can also camp in this vicinity as one of the things to do in Catalina Island.
Where are some stores that rent bicycles? Brown’s Bikes on Pebbly Beach charges low prices and offers group rentals and baby seats. For electric bikes, our featured choice is Catalina Bikes. However, you must keep the bike within Avalon unless you join the Catalina Island Conservancy.
One of the most popular things to do in Catalina Island is to see the famous bison. Bison are one of Catalina Island’s peculiarities. They were brought to the island in the early 20th century. Many believe that filmmakers brought the bison down in order to shoot footage and then released them into the wild. If you think that bison population in an island setting sounds dangerous to the ecology of the land, then you’re on to something. This is why authorities control the population of bison.
You can experience these amazing creatures on various tours operated on the island. A couple of good options for this are the Cape Canyon Tour and the Inland Expedition. Both offer a unique opportunity to see bison in the wild and more of the scenic beauty of Catalina Island. Bison tours are definitely one of the more awesome things to do in Catalina Island.
Catalina Island boating is a favorite pastime in both the Avalon area and in Two Harbors. When traveling by boat in Avalon, your first stop will be moorings. You are assigned moorings on a first-come, first served basis upon reaching the harbor entrance. If you want to move beyond Avalon, there are many agencies to help you with the move.
The Harbor Department is responsible for the assignment of moorings as well as assisting boaters with security and other matters. The Descanso Bay just West of Avalon around Casino Point has an additional 47 moorings as well as three dinghy docks. Hamilton Cove has 36 moorings and a view of the many beautiful condominiums. For more information on this see the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce site.
East of Avalon is where you can find Lovers Cove, where there is no anchorage or mooring allowed. Instead visitors can kick back and relax, swim, snorkel or cruise in a small boat. There’s no shortage of things to do here.
Boat-In Camping is one of the more exclusive things to do on the island. These are very secluded campsites and are accessible only by boat or kayak. You will need to pack all of your own supplies and gear for the trip. The campsites are checked by a ranger daily. There are nine of these locations around Catalina Island with a total of 17 sites. To make reservations and for more information, check out the Catalina Island Company.
Over at Two Harbors, you can explore the Isthmus Cove with 242 moorings and anchorage for more than 100 boats, or Little Fisherman’s Cove, or Big Fisherman’s Cove. There are also Catalina Island boating services offered in the summer and dinghy floats offered on the Isthmus Pier, which assists passengers getting off and on.
One of the most impressive and easily identifiable landmarks in Avalon, California on Catalina Island is known as the Catalina Casino. But don’t be fooled by its name. The term “casino” is interpreted to simply mean “gathering place”. There is no gambling at the facility. Rather, you will find a ballroom, museum and theater. Discovering its rich history is one of the things to do in Catalina Island.
This stunning example of architecture continues to be a focal point on the island. It graces all those who enter its doors with its sweeping beauty, fascinating history and exciting events. There are interesting tours you can enjoy during your visit allowing you to explore the casino. The over 1 hour Behind the Scenes tour gives a more in-depth experience of the casino. A more casual 40-minute experience is the Discover the Casino Walking Tour.
Just as it has for decades, the Catalina Casino continues to offer great entertainment. It has long been a top choice for entertainment of all types from first-run movies to Broadway productions. Restored in recent years, the ballroom still maintains the style of grace and romance that recalls Avalon’s past. Seeing this landmark is one of the most popular things to do in Catalina Island.
Seeing Catalina Island via a cruise is a wonderful way to experience the island. There are major cruise lines that service the area. With these you can get the full experience of the beauty of the Pacific Ocean. The island is a popular destination point and port of call.
There are several services in the island that provide evening cruises. Shore Boat sends boats year-round from Two Harbors. Catalina Classic Cruises operates six passenger vessels and is available for private cruises hosting dance parties, holiday parties and corporate events.
You won’t want to miss seeing some of the classic places around the island. Some of the major landmarks are within cruising range including Seal Rocks, and China Point. As you move on, you will reach Silver Canyon Landing and Bulldog Rock. After heading east, you will start to turn west. There you will find Little Harbor and West End.
The Ocean Runner Dolphin Tour is another great option. This tour uses a high-speed vessel that is the same as what the Navy Seals use. It accommodates up to 12 people and provides a thrilling ride amidst the natural beauty. This is one of the more thrilling things to do in Catalina Island.
Eco tours on Catalina Island are guided tours across areas that are known to be pristine or fragile. The method of transport is low impact and focuses on education instead of short-term entertainment. The proceeds from these tours usually go towards local conservation.
Catalina Island is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy organization. The Conservancy is responsible for planning a few eco tours that will appeal to nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. These engaging things to do in Catalina Island create special and memorable moments.
The “Cape Canyon Expedition” and the “East End Adventure” are eco tours offered through Tour Catalina. These feature riding in a unique open-air “Green” Hummer. This vehicle actually operates on recycled vegetable oil from local restaurants. Above all, these tours are fascinating journeys and both offer an opportunity to encounter the island’s world famous bison.
Sport fishing around Catalina Island is one of the area’s greatest attractions. Anglers can catch everything from marlin to calico bass to yellowtail and halibut if they are patient and ready. Some individuals fish from their boat or yacht, while others fish from the coast. Popular locations for Catalina Island fishing are the focus on excursions; Catalina Harbor, Isthmus and even the mainland are some of the preferred locations.
The first thing to realize about Catalina Island fishing is that fish are usually found close to shore. The ideal time for fishing is in the spring season. This is when fish move into shallower waters for the spawning season. During this time, fish will stay around the margins of rocky points and perhaps even kelp beds.
In Avalon, the Green Pleasure Pier offers fishermen a great place to get their tackle, bait and boat rental if needed. Fishing off the pier will also yield a treasure trove of fish if using the right bait for the species of fish you are after. Make sure you ask the tackle shops what bait to use to catch the fish you are after. On the pier, you can always check out the store called Joe’s Rent a Boat for tackle, boats, lures and other equipment.
A Catalina Island family vacation has something for every member of the family. Catalina Island offers adventure, beautiful scenes of nature, and exciting encounters with exotic animal life. When it comes to family fun, there is no limit of things to do in Catalina Island.
Activities include kayaking, parasailing, paddle boarding, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, biking, hiking, and swimming. There are also museums and art galleries to visit. The most popular museum on the island is the Catalina Island Museum. It is devoted to the art, culture and island history going back 8,000 years. The museum features many rotating exhibits, music and dance performances, a variety of lectures by guest speakers. There is also an extraordinary selection of silent, documentary, and international films.
Guided tours are another option many enjoy. However, just as many families prefer to rent a golf cart or watercraft to explore the area on their own. Golf carts aren’t considered vehicles, so you don’t need a permit. You can transport your family all around Avalon using a golf cart.
One distinctive guided tour, the Cape Canyon Expedition, will take you to the interior of Catalina Island. This is where you can feast your eyes on the rugged outback and learn its history. You will unwind as you experience the secluded beaches and hidden coves.
Kids will find a nearly endless supply of things to do in Catalina Island. After landing in Avalon, a golf cart rental is a good idea for exploring the Island. Make sure to visit Lloyd’s of Avalon Confectionery on Crescent Avenue. There, you will find spun taffy, fudge and other sweets. So, Catalina Island with kids offers a little of everything!
The Submarine Tour on the Nautilus is amazing. It takes place aboard a semi-submerged vessel, meaning you get to see marine life up close plus a protected kelp forest. The torpedo buttons aboard the ship are a fish feeding system allowing you to feed these aquatic creatures. There is also an evening tour after dark.
You can visit marine life up close on the Glass Bottom Boat tour with the Sea View and use food drop tubes that let you feed the fish. The night tours are thrilling to children of all ages, as the nocturnal creatures appear under 18,000 watts of light!
Camping is also a fun pastime on Catalina Island with kids. Avalon offers some excellent campgrounds that will take kids on a real life adventure. Check out Emerald Bay, Gallaghers Cove, White’s Landing and Buttonshell Beach for the best locations. You can take a safari bus or a boat to other campsites around the Island.
The Cape Canyon Tour will take you to the outback where you will take in amazing canyons, beautiful coastlines and native wildlife. You might see bison, wild boars, turkeys, island foxes, deer and perhaps a bald eagle along the way. You will definitely see many picturesque images, as you travel upward to the Airport-in-the-Sky. Also, arriving there, you can visit the Nature Center and cast your eyes upon one of Catalina’s original Indian sites.
This is one of the favorite things to do in Catalina Island. Glass bottom boats are unique creations that allow you to see the water you are floating over. A trivia fact is that Catalina Island was the very first location that used a glass bottom boat. The first prototype Catalina Island glass bottom boat was invented and used in 1896. For many years, the MV Phoenix was the only glass-bottom boat in Avalon, operated by the SCI. However, it was retired in 1994.
Now there are many high-tech glass bottom boats in Catalina Island, many of which are now semi-submersible for even closer oceanic experience. These newer vessels not only have glass floors but also seats that sink down under the water surface. Guests can view fish and other marine life while floating on the water. Check out the Glass Bottom Boat Tour for more information.
Who says that an island getaway vacation has to be all about guided tours? Who says that a few rounds of golf aren’t relaxing? In fact, golf may be one of your main things to do in Catalina Island and the main reason for your vacation. If you are interested in playing golf then the island has plenty of green to offer.
The Catalina Island Golf Course is a nine-hole, par 32 course with a length of 1,930 to 2,104 yards depending on where you tee off. There is a lot of nice shade over the course which features some narrow fairways with tall trees and rolling hills.
If you are interested in an 18 hole miniature golf experience that is fun for the entire family, Golf Gardens Mini Golf is the place to go. It rates internationally one of the most beautiful and challenging miniature golf courses around. The course is open every day of the year, weather permitting. So, if you are looking for a great way to some fun on Catalina Island, this is the place to go.
Kayaking is a great way to sample the coast of the Catalina Island. Not only do you get a sea level view of the island, but you can also experience the thrill of the glide. When you kayak, you make little noise. So, you are treated to an up-close view of wildlife like sea lions and pelicans. New designs in single and double kayak vessels make controlling these boats easy.
The best area for kayaking on Catalina Island is on the eastern shore. The water here faces the mainland and feels much smoother than in other areas. You can explore the Isthmus or the shores of the harbor area. Remember when choosing a kayak, that narrow models are faster, whereas wider ones are slower and more stable. You can launch the kayak from another boat or from the beach area.
Wet Spot Rentals is a kayak rental company located in Avalon next to the Avalon Boat Landing. They have been family owned and operated on Catalina Island for over 25 years and can help you with all your kayaking needs. Wet Spots Rentals is open daily April through September, weather permitting.
Nightlife on Catalina Island is always hot, even though the climate is Mediterranean. The clubs, theaters and live productions in Catalina and Avalon always keep things sizzling. For starters you can visit the Avalon Theatre. This theater shows first-run movies for a low price. However, the real attraction is the theater’s monumental art-deco murals. These have been the talk of the island since the mid 20th century.
Nightclubbing on Catalina Island is very lively. The Marlin Club is the oldest bar in Avalon serving drinks and great times for over 60 years. You can’t miss it, it is only steps away from the Green Pleasure Pier. It was built to resemble a Merchant Marines vessel that was used during World War II. Inside, you will get the historical island feel with the early 50’s Art Deco styling of an underwater seascape painting.
The El Galleon Restaurant also serves drinks and regularly has live karaoke, so come on in, have a great lunch or dinner and try out singing your favorite song. And, the Chi Chi Club is a 21 and over hotspot and offers dancing and music, open daily until 2 am.
If you are visiting Catalina Island, then you will be interested to know where the best restaurants are. Let’s start by saying that the food here is highly diverse. This is an exotic island with a very wide selection of restaurants to choose from. So, trying different restaurants is one of the tastiest things to do in Catalina Island.
If you are in a hurry, you can always get a quick fantastic bite to eat. Try Coney Island West offering hotdogs, burgers and fries. Other Catalina Island restaurants offering a fast meal are Avalon Seafood – Fish & Chips and Eric’s On The Pier.
If you want Mexican food, then check out the family friendly Mi Casita on Claressa Avenue. It offers traditional Mexican breakfasts, lunch and dinners. Coyote Joe’s on Catalina Avenue is another favorite local spot for authentic Mexican dining.
If you are in the mood for dramatic views of Avalon Harbor and fine Italian food, then check out Ristorante Villa Portofino. This restaurant is open all year round and offers a cocktail bar and Northern Italian style fishes. So, you will enjoy being served in the beautiful and warm Tuscan-Italian inspired dining room.
The highly-rated Lobster Trap, located on Catalina Street, offers seafood favorites for locals and vacationers alike. The Descanso Beach Club is surrounded by Descanso Canyon and exquisite views of the Pacific Ocean. It is Avalon’s only beach side Catalina Island restaurant serving appetizers, entrees and signature cocktails. You can also sit in a private cabana or chaise lounge. There you can have your food quickly delivered to you by their gracious and professional staff.
If you head out of town, you can still find great Catalina Island restaurants. These local eateries are sure to keep you full and happy. The Buffalo Nickel restaurant is located out of town off Pebbly Beach Road. It has two convenient pickup locations in Avalon to shuttle you to their award-wining cuisine. This is your chance to try real buffalo chili and buffalo burgers!
If you are heading out to Two Harbors then look for a great meal at the Harbor Reef Restaurant located off the Catalina Isthmus. Have a wonderful lunch with a fantastic view and dig into a bowl of clam chowder. Or, try one of our favorites and bite into a delicious Yacht Club sandwich.
Why not plunge into the ocean scuba diving when you visit the inviting waters of Catalina Island? If you have never scuba dived before then the first step will be to take a course for certification. These courses are like tours; the teachers show newcomers how to safely dive and do so in a protected environment.
If you are looking for diving instruction then look up diving shops like the Catalina Divers Supply. This service offers certification, introductory dives and rentals. After this step, new divers can decide if they wish to dive with an experienced dive master, take a workshop class, do a night dive or a deep dive.
If you are looking to go diving, Dive Catalina operates the “Catalina Grace” diving boat. This vessel is 36 feet long and carries a capacity of 11 divers. Your day diving experience leaves around 9:00 am and returns approximately at 3:00 pm. You will be provided a two tank dive and all dive trips include your tanks, weights, lunch and drinks. Dive Catalina provides introductory dives, dive classes, guided dives and much more.
Things to do in Catalina Island definitely includes shopping. Odds are you will want to buy some souvenirs to take home with you. So, what are some of the best Catalina Island shopping locations? Let’s start by discussing some of the stores in Avalon, the main city that makes up the island.
There are plenty of local artists you can support in Avalon. Afishinados Gallery Store is a wonderful place to find locally made fish art in glass. They also make nautically themed jewelry showcasing starfish, jelly fish, flying fish, marlins to all sorts of unique pendants, rings and necklaces. Afishinados also produces its own American Made line of clothing for infants, kids and adults.
If you are looking for an interesting and fun shop to visit off Crescent Avenue, check out Bay of the Seven Moons. This store offers a large selection of jewelry, masks, cultural artifacts and natural apothecary. Another can’t miss place to visit is Rain Dance Art offering an art gallery. It even hosts daily 1 hour art and wine tours in Avalon.
Looking for that special gift as part of your Catalina Island shopping experience? Stop by Catalina Souvenir Shop conveniently located off Crescent Avenue to get your postcards and one of a kind keep-sakes. On Crescent Avenue you can also find clothing stores such as Del Sol Catalina. They sell cool t-shirts that change color in sunlight.
The full Catalina Island spa treatment usually includes a massage, fitness classes, pedicures and manicures. The most spa-friendly area of the island is Avalon. There are a couple full service hotels that offer spa treatment. The Holiday Inn Resort offers the amenity of an onsite spa with daily spa services. These are customized to you preferences and lifestyle.
The Hotel Metropole is a beachfront hotel that offers the A Touch of Heaven Day Spa. This is an exceptional experience incorporating the beauty and spirit of the island. Simply Nirvana Massage Therapy on Metropole Street focuses on body wraps, body scrubs, stone therapy, aromatherapy, reflexology and a variety of massages.
Island Breeze Spa and Salon is right in the heart of a city. They treat their guests to waterfalls, island breezes, hair styling, and a variety of massage and spa treatments.
Last and certainly not least, indulge yourself in total relaxation at the Catalina Sea Spa. Voted the #1 spa on TripAdvisor, visit here for the quintessential island spa experience. This will take your vacation to the next level of relaxation and re-energize your body, mind and soul.
When you are in a setting as beautiful as Catalina Island, then why not take your time and soak in the scenery? Now is as great a time as any to take a walking tour. The city of Avalon is small and offers many architecturally ingenious houses. Some houses still remain on the 20-foot-wide lot created by George Shatto in the 19th century. You will find most of these homes around the Green Pleasure Pier.
You can take a leisurely walk that takes you from Crescent to the shoreline to East Whittley. Not far out of the way off Metropole Avenue, you can stop in and visit the Catalina Island Museum and see their many exhibitions and find out their upcoming variety of art and cultural events.
In addition, you can take a walk to the Catalina Casino and plunge yourself in to the rich island history by exploring the Casino building. The Catalina Casino offers their own three walking tours daily, including the Discover the Casino Walking Tour. This will take you to see the numerous and spectacular Art Deco murals inside the building. And, view the beautiful, iconic and world famous Casino Ballroom.
There are plenty of water sports in the island area including snorkeling, swimming, wave running, water-skiing, paddle boarding and more. Enjoying the water is one of the main things to do in Catalina Island.
If you enjoy swimming and snorkeling, you will want to make your way over to Lovers Cove, Avalon. This is the only part of the coast that allows snorkeling and all activity is free. If you have kids or are nervous about snorkeling for the first time, then head over to Ron Moore’s Snorkeling Catalina. You can have an escort assist you and offers guided snorkel tours. These include tours day and at night, boat snorkel trips and much more.
Catalina Jet Ski & Electric Bike Rentals handles all of your WaveRunner needs. Your water sports adventure starts at the Green Pleasure Pier in beautiful Avalon Harbor. Just imagine racing your Sea Doo up to 60 miles an hour on the open water! Paddle boarding can be enjoyed at the Green Pleasure Pier and you can secure your adventure with Joe’s Rent-a-Boat.
Then there is the Parasail Tour which can lift you to new heights. This will take you on a high flying breathtaking view of Catalina Island and the thrill of a lifetime. Just imagine seeing the panoramic views of Catalina Island as you gently lifted up to 800 foot high flight.
The Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden is a creation influenced by the late William Wrigley, Jr., a major developer of Catalina Island. He spent millions of dollars in developing the island and promoting tourism. Today, the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden covers 38 acres of beautiful flora life. You can access this garden from downtown Avalon. In fact, a tram system goes between Island Plaza and the gardens.
There is a monument dedicated to Wrigley here and it was built from native Catalina materials. The monument stands 232 feet wide and 180 feet deep. It is a lookout tower and gives visitors the perfect view of the garden and the canyon floor. The garden itself is actually an expansion of the garden of the Wrigley family. Now the garden has hundreds of plants on display.
When putting together a list of things to do in Catalina Island, visiting the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden could easily be at the top!
As you can see, no matter what you’re looking for regarding things to do in Catalina Island. There is even more to experience that what is listed here. Just click on the links to get more details. You can also visit the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce site for more information about things to do and activities. And don’t forget to check out all the tours available through Tour Catalina.
Certainly, no matter what you choose to do, you are sure to have a great time whenever you Visit Catalina!