Best Things to Do in Catalina Island: Top 12 Attractions

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Catalina Island
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Are you thinking about visiting Catalina Island this year? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Catalina Island. These breathtaking sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Welcome to Catalina Island, a sun-kissed gem floating off the coast of Southern California. It attracts travelers with its sapphire waters, rugged landscapes, and the promise of adventures both on land and sea. Just a short ferry ride from the bustling streets of Los Angeles, this island paradise offers a tranquil escape that feels worlds away from the urban sprawl. Whether you’re seeking relaxation on pristine beaches, thrilling water sports, or exploring charming coastal towns, there are endless things to do in Catalina Island.

For those seeking a blend of relaxation and thrill, Catalina Island is the perfect destination. Dive into its crystal-clear waters and discover a vibrant marine world, hike its scenic trails offering panoramic views, or simply lounge on its pristine beaches with a cocktail in hand. Every corner of the island whispers tales of history. This includes everything from the charming town of Avalon to the rustic village of Two Harbors.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history enthusiast, or someone just looking to soak up the sun, Catalina Island has something for everyone. In this guide, we’ll explore the best things to do in Catalina Island, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this Californian treasure. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Catalina Island.

The top places to visit in Catalina Island right now
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Best Places to Visit in Catalina Island

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Catalina Island? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this enchanting vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Catalina Island places to visit.

Are you dreaming of snorkeling in crystal-clear waters and hiking scenic trails? Or would you prefer exploring the island’s quaint shops and vibrant local culture? Whatever you’re planning, these must sees in Catalina Island can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Catalina Island that you should know about.

1. Descanso Beach Club

Envision a place where the Pacific Ocean gently caresses the shore, where golden sands welcome your footsteps, and the rhythmic hum of waves sets a tranquil backdrop. That’s what makes Descanso Beach Club so captivating.

It’s not just about the sun and sand, though they’re certainly a draw. This club is one of the cool destinations in Catalina Island. Dive into an array of water sports, from kayaking to paddleboarding. And if you’re in the mood for an underwater adventure, snorkeling here promises encounters with a mesmerizing marine world.

But if relaxation is the name of your game, the cabana rentals are your haven. Here, you can recline with a tropical drink in hand, letting the world’s worries melt away. As evening approaches, the club’s ambiance shifts, becoming a hub of music and dancing, capturing the essence of Catalina’s vibrant nightlife.

For those compiling a list of Catalina Island things to do, Descanso Beach Club is an unmissable gem.

Exploring Descanso Beach Club is ine if the best things to do in Catalina Island.
Descanso Beach Club captivates with its golden sands, gentle waves, and tranquil ambiance, creating a captivating seaside haven.

2. Two Harbors

Perched on the narrow isthmus of Catalina Island, Two Harbors is a world away from the hustle and bustle. This quaint village, with its serene coves and untouched landscapes, offers a slice of paradise for those eager to experience the island’s natural beauty.

Dive into the crystal-clear waters, and you’ll discover why this spot is a favorite for snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts. The marine life here is vibrant, offering glimpses of colorful fish, playful seals, and intricate coral formations. It’s a must see in Catalina Island for anyone with a penchant for underwater exploration.

On land, hiking trails beckon adventurers. They wind through scenic landscapes, leading to vantage points that offer panoramic views of the Pacific. And if you’re wondering where to go in Catalina Island for a taste of its local cuisine, the harbor-side restaurants won’t disappoint. Fresh seafood, paired with island-inspired cocktails, makes for a delightful culinary experience.

For those who prefer a laid-back day, renting a kayak or paddleboard and exploring the coastline is a treat. Every turn reveals hidden beaches and secluded spots, perfect for a quiet moment of reflection.

In essence, Two Harbors is a testament to Catalina Island’s diverse offerings, ensuring every visitor leaves with cherished memories.

Two Harbors offers a tranquil escape from the bustle, featuring serene coves and untouched landscapes.
Two Harbors offers a tranquil escape from the bustle, featuring serene coves and untouched landscapes.

3. Catalina Island Museum

Imagine diving deep into the rich history and culture of Catalina Island, all within the walls of a modern architectural marvel. That’s precisely what the Catalina Island Museum offers. Located in the heart of Avalon, this museum is a treasure trove of artifacts, art, and immersive exhibits.

From the island’s early Native American inhabitants to its Hollywood golden age, the museum’s collections tell a captivating story. It’s a Catalina Island attraction that history buffs and casual visitors alike shouldn’t miss. One of the standout exhibits is the history of the iconic Catalina Casino, a symbol of the island’s glamorous past.

Art enthusiasts will appreciate the rotating exhibits showcasing works from renowned artists, both local and international. And if you’re pondering about the best things to do in Catalina Island in the evenings, the museum often hosts special events, film screenings, and lectures.

Outside, the museum’s gardens are a peaceful retreat. Sculptures dot the landscape, and native plants bloom, offering a tranquil space to relax and reflect.

Visiting the Catalina Island Museum is more than just a trip to a museum; it’s a journey through time, capturing the essence and evolution of this enchanting island.

Delve into the island's history and culture at Catalina Island Museum, a treasure trove of artifacts, art, and immersive exhibits.
Delve into the island’s history and culture at Catalina Island Museum, a treasure trove of artifacts, art, and immersive exhibits.

4. Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden:

A visit to Catalina Island isn’t complete without exploring the vibrant flora of the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden. Situated just a short distance from Avalon, this lush oasis showcases the unique plants native to the Channel Islands and the surrounding coastal region. It’s a must see in Catalina Island for nature lovers and those looking to escape the hustle and bustle.

The garden’s paths wind through a variety of plant collections, each more enchanting than the last. From cacti to wildflowers, the diverse vegetation paints a vivid picture of the island’s ecological richness. As you stroll, you’ll likely spot the Catalina Island fox, a charming creature that calls this paradise home.

At the heart of the garden stands the impressive Wrigley Memorial, a tribute to the chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., who played a pivotal role in the island’s development. The memorial offers panoramic views of the island, making it a popular spot for photographs.

For those pondering about the unique things to do in Catalina Island, a visit at the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden is a delightful blend of history, nature, and breathtaking vistas. It’s a serene retreat that captures the island’s essence in every leaf and stone.

Explore the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden, a lush oasis showcasing native plants.
Explore the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden, a lush oasis showcasing native plants.

5. Catalina Aerial Adventure

Imagine soaring through the treetops, feeling the rush of the wind against your face, and taking in the breathtaking views of the island from above. That’s exactly what you’ll experience at Catalina Aerial Adventure. For thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts alike, this is one of the coolest activities in Catalina Island.

Set amidst a grove of towering eucalyptus trees, this aerial park boasts a series of challenging obstacle courses. From swinging logs to wobbly bridges, each route offers a unique set of challenges that test your balance, agility, and courage. And if you’re up for an extra dose of adrenaline, the zip lines will have you zipping through the canopy with exhilarating speed.

But it’s not just about the thrill. As you navigate the courses, you’ll be treated to some of the most stunning views of the island. The lush greenery below, the azure waters in the distance, and the occasional sight of a hawk soaring overhead make this adventure truly unforgettable.

For those thinking about the coolest things to do in Catalina Island that combines excitement with natural beauty, the Catalina Aerial Adventure is a top pick. It’s an experience that will leave you with memories to cherish and stories to tell.

Experience the exhilarating thrill of soaring through treetops and taking in island views from above at Catalina Aerial Adventure.
Experience the exhilarating thrill of soaring through treetops and taking in island views from above at Catalina Aerial Adventure.

6. Glass Bottom Boat Voyage

Have you ever wondered about the vibrant marine life that thrives beneath the waves? The Glass Bottom Boat Voyage offers a window into this mesmerizing underwater world. It’s a must see in Catalina Island for anyone curious about the ocean’s hidden treasures.

As the boat glides over the clear waters, you’ll be treated to a view of colorful fish, playful sea lions, and intricate coral formations. The boat’s knowledgeable guides share fascinating tidbits about the marine ecosystem, ensuring you not only enjoy the view but also learn something new.

One of the highlights of the voyage is Lover’s Cove, a marine preserve known for its rich biodiversity. Here, schools of fish dart around, creating a mesmerizing dance of colors. It’s a sight that leaves many visitors spellbound.

For those pondering where to visit in Catalina Island for a blend of education and entertainment, the Glass Bottom Boat Voyage is a top contender. It’s an excursion that appeals to both young and old. This makes it perfect for families, couples, or solo travelers. Dive into this adventure, and you’ll come away with a newfound appreciation for the ocean’s wonders.

Exploring the Glass Bottom Boat Voyage is one of the best things to do in Catalina Island.
Explore the mesmerizing underwater world with the Glass Bottom Boat Voyage.

7. Catalina Island Zip Line Eco Tour

Imagine soaring high above the lush canyons and pristine landscapes of Catalina Island. With the Catalina Island Zip Line Eco Tour, that dream becomes a thrilling reality. It’s one of the cool destinations in Catalina Island, giving adventurers a bird’s-eye view of the island’s breathtaking beauty.

Starting from a height that’s equivalent to a 5-story building, participants zip from platform to platform, covering a distance of nearly three-quarters of a mile. As you glide through the air, the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the island’s rugged terrain are nothing short of spectacular.

Safety is paramount, and the experienced guides ensure that everyone is securely harnessed. They also share intriguing facts about the island’s history and ecology, adding an educational twist to the adrenaline-pumping experience.

For those wondering about the best things to do in Catalina Island that combines excitement with nature’s splendor, the Zip Line Eco Tour is a top pick. It’s an exhilarating way to witness the island’s diverse landscapes and get your heart racing. So, strap in and get ready for a ride that you’ll reminisce about for years to come!

Experience the thrilling Catalina Island Zip Line Eco Tour, a must-do adventure for a bird's-eye view of the island's stunning beauty.
Experience the thrilling Catalina Island Zip Line Eco Tour, a must-do adventure for a bird’s-eye view of the island’s stunning beauty.

8. Catalina Casino

Stepping onto Catalina Island, one iconic structure immediately captures your attention: the Catalina Casino. Contrary to what the name might suggest, this isn’t a place for gambling. Instead, it’s a hub of entertainment, history, and architectural splendor.

Built in 1929, the Catalina Casino boasts an impressive Art Deco design that has stood the test of time. As you explore its interiors, you’ll discover the world’s largest circular ballroom, where countless celebrities have danced the night away. The building also houses a beautifully preserved theater, known for its exceptional acoustics and classic murals.

For those pondering Catalina Island places to visit, the Casino should be high on your list. Guided tours are available, offering insights into the rich history of this landmark. You’ll hear tales of bygone eras, from big band performances to the early days of cinema.

Beyond its historical significance, the Casino offers panoramic views of Avalon Bay. This makes it a favorite spot for photography enthusiasts. It’s a testament to the island’s glamorous past and a must-see in Catalina Island for anyone with an appreciation for history and architecture.

Discover the iconic Catalina Casino, a hub of entertainment, history, and architectural splendor.
Discover the iconic Catalina Casino, a hub of entertainment, history, and architectural splendor.

9. Undersea Expedition

Imagine diving deep into the ocean, surrounded by vibrant marine life, without ever getting wet. The Undersea Expedition in Catalina Island offers just that! This semi-submersible vessel takes you on a journey beneath the waves, providing a window into the underwater world that surrounds the island.

As you descend, you’ll be greeted by a colorful array of fish, kelp forests, and maybe even a playful seal or two. The clear waters of Catalina Island are teeming with life, and this expedition provides a front-row seat. The knowledgeable guides on board will point out various species and share fascinating tidbits about the marine ecosystem.

Coolest things to do in Catalina Island when you want a mix of adventure and education? The Undersea Expedition is a top pick. It’s an experience that appeals to both kids and adults, making it a perfect family activity.

The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes, but the memories? They’ll last a lifetime. As you resurface and step back onto dry land, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the wonders that lie beneath the ocean’s surface. It’s a Catalina Island attraction that shouldn’t be missed!

Discover vibrant marine life through Undersea Expedition, a semi-submersible vessel that offers a window into the underwater world.
Discover vibrant marine life through Undersea Expedition, a semi-submersible vessel that offers a window into the underwater world.

10. Ocean Runner Ribcraft Tour

For those seeking a thrilling adventure on the waters of Catalina Island, the Ocean Runner Ribcraft Tour is a must-try. This high-speed boat tour takes you on a heart-pounding ride along the coastline, offering breathtaking views of the island’s rugged cliffs and hidden coves.

As the boat zips through the waves, you’ll feel the wind in your hair and the adrenaline pumping through your veins. It’s one of the coolest activities in Catalina Island for thrill-seekers. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, sea lions, and other marine life that often accompany the boat, playfully racing alongside.

The knowledgeable captain will share intriguing stories about the island’s history, its famous residents, and the mysteries that lie beneath the waves. Best places in Catalina Island aren’t just on land; the surrounding waters hold their own allure.

The tour lasts about an hour, but the excitement and memories will linger long after you’ve disembarked. So, if you’re wondering about the unique things to do in Catalina Island for an exhilarating experience, the Ocean Runner Ribcraft Tour should be high on your list!

Experience a heart-pounding adventure with the Ocean Runner Ribcraft Tour, a high-speed boat ride revealing rugged cliffs and hidden coves.
Experience a heart-pounding adventure with the Ocean Runner Ribcraft Tour, a high-speed boat ride revealing rugged cliffs and hidden coves.

11. Avalon Scenic Drive

Imagine cruising along a picturesque road, with the vast Pacific Ocean on one side and the lush green hills of Catalina Island on the other. That’s exactly what you’ll experience on the Avalon Scenic Drive. This drive offers some of the best places to go in Catalina Island to soak in panoramic views and immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty.

Starting from the charming town of Avalon, this scenic route takes you through a series of winding roads. As you drive, you’ll see hidden gems of the island at every turn. From vantage points that offer sweeping views of the coastline to quaint spots perfect for a picnic, there’s no shortage of Catalina Island attractions along the way.

One of the highlights of the drive is the chance to spot the island’s diverse wildlife. From grazing bison to playful foxes, nature enthusiasts are in for a treat. And if you’re wondering what to do in Catalina Island that combines both relaxation and adventure, this drive is the answer.

So, hop in a golf cart or a car, and let the Avalon Scenic Drive take you on a journey through the heart of Catalina Island’s mesmerizing landscapes.

Embark on the scenic Avalon Drive, where the Pacific Ocean and lush hills create a picturesque route for soaking in panoramic views.
Embark on the scenic Avalon Drive, which is one of the best things to do in Catalina Island.

12. Catalina Island Golf Course

For those who love the sport or simply want to try their hand at it in a breathtaking setting, the Catalina Island Golf Course is a must-visit. As one of the unique places in Catalina Island, this golf course boasts a rich history dating back to 1892. This makes it the oldest operating golf course west of the Mississippi!

Set against a backdrop of rolling hills and the shimmering ocean, every swing and putt here feels like a dream. The course offers nine challenging holes that cater to both beginners and seasoned golfers. And if you’re pondering where to visit in Catalina Island for a leisurely day out, this golf course, with its serene ambiance and picturesque views, is the perfect answer.

Apart from golf, the club also offers a delightful dining experience at its clubhouse. After a game, you can relax and enjoy a meal, gazing out at the panoramic views of the island. It’s one of those Catalina Island attractions that offers a blend of sport, relaxation, and natural beauty.

So, grab your clubs and head to the Catalina Island Golf Course for an unforgettable golfing experience amidst nature’s splendor.

Visiting the Catalina Island Golf Course is one of the best things to do in Catalina Island.
Visit the Catalina Island Golf Course, the oldest operating golf course with a serene ambiance and picturesque view

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Catalina Island

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Catalina Island? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Catalina Island:

How do I get to Catalina Island?

The most popular way to reach Catalina Island is by ferry from ports in Long Beach, Dana Point, or San Pedro. There’s also a helicopter service for those looking for a quicker and more scenic route.

What activities do they have on Catalina Island?

Catalina Island, located off the coast of Southern California, is a popular destination known for its beautiful landscapes, outdoor activities, and relaxing atmosphere. Here’s a list of activities and attractions you can enjoy on Catalina Island:

Outdoor Activities in Catalina Island:

  1. Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: The clear waters around the island offer excellent opportunities to explore marine life. This includes the famous kelp forests.
  2. Hiking and Biking: With numerous trails, Catalina Island is great for hiking and biking. The Trans-Catalina Trail is a popular choice for more adventurous hikers.
  3. Kayaking and Paddleboarding: Explore the coastline by kayak or paddleboard, with rentals and guided tours available.
  4. Fishing: Charter a fishing boat or fish from the pier to catch a variety of local fish species.
  5. Golfing: Play golf at the Catalina Island Golf Course, the oldest operating golf course west of the Mississippi.
  6. Zip Lining: The Zip Line Eco Tour offers thrilling rides with stunning views of the island.
  7. Horseback Riding: Guided horseback tours provide a unique way to explore the island’s interior.
  8. Beach Relaxation: Spend a day on the beach, swimming, sunbathing, or playing beach volleyball.
  9. Camping: Several campgrounds and boat-in camping spots offer a more rugged way to experience the island.

Tours and Sightseeing in Catalina Island:

  1. Glass-Bottom Boat and Semi-Submersible Tours: Get a glimpse of the underwater world without getting wet.
  2. Jeep Eco Tours: Explore the island’s wilderness with a guided jeep tour.
  3. Catalina Casino Tour: Visit the iconic Catalina Casino, not a gambling house but a grand gathering place with a theater and ballroom.
  4. Wildlife Tours: Look for the island’s famous bison, foxes, and other wildlife on specialized tours.
  5. Avalon Scenic Drive: Take a relaxing drive or guided tour around the picturesque town of Avalon.

Cultural and Leisure Activities:

  1. Shopping and Dining: Explore shops, galleries, and restaurants in Avalon and Two Harbors.
  2. Spa Treatments: Indulge in a spa day for relaxation and rejuvenation.
  3. Museums and Art Galleries: Learn about the island’s history and culture at the Catalina Island Museum or local art galleries.
  4. Botanical Garden: Visit the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden to see native plants and a beautiful memorial.
  5. Nightlife: Enjoy live music, bars, and entertainment in Avalon.

Is Catalina Island family-friendly?

Absolutely! With a plethora of activities ranging from beach outings to adventurous tours, there’s something for every family member to enjoy.

Is it worth going to Catalina Island for a day?

Yes, a day trip to Catalina Island can be a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. This is especially true if you plan ahead and prioritize what you want to see and do. Here’s why a day trip to Catalina Island is appealing and some tips to make the most of your visit:

Pros of a Day Trip to Catalina Island:

  1. Proximity: Catalina Island is accessible by a one-hour ferry ride from several ports in Southern California. This makes it convenient for a day trip.
  2. Scenic Beauty: Even in a short visit, you can enjoy the stunning coastal views, charming town of Avalon, and beautiful beaches.
  3. Activities: You can fit in a few key activities like snorkeling, a glass-bottom boat tour, renting a golf cart to explore, or taking a short hike.
  4. Dining: Enjoy a nice meal at one of the island’s restaurants, offering fresh seafood and other local favorites.
  5. Shopping: Stroll through the shops and boutiques in Avalon for unique souvenirs and gifts.
  6. Cost-Effective: If you’re on a budget, a day trip allows you to experience the island without the cost of accommodations.

Tips for a Successful Day Trip:

  1. Plan Ahead: Research activities and make any necessary reservations in advance, especially during peak seasons.
  2. Check Ferry Schedules: Be mindful of the ferry schedule to ensure you have enough time on the island and don’t miss your return trip.
  3. Pack Accordingly: Bring essentials like sunscreen, swimwear, comfortable walking shoes, and anything else you might need for your chosen activities.
  4. Prioritize: Choose a few key activities or sights that interest you most, so you don’t feel rushed.
  5. Consider a Guided Tour: If you want to see as much as possible, consider a guided tour that highlights the island’s main attractions.

Can I stay overnight on the island?

Yes, Catalina Island boasts a variety of accommodations, from luxury resorts to quaint bed and breakfasts. It’s recommended to book in advance, especially during peak seasons.

Catalina Island offers diverse accommodations, from charming boutique inns to seaside resorts.
Catalina Island offers diverse accommodations, from charming boutique inns to seaside resorts.

What’s the best time to visit Catalina Island?

While the island is beautiful year-round, spring and fall offer mild weather and fewer crowds, making it an ideal time for a visit.

How long should you spend in Catalina?

The amount of time you should spend in Catalina Island depends on what you want to see and do, as well as your overall travel plans and preferences. Here’s a general guide to help you decide:

Day Trip:

A day trip to Catalina Island is entirely feasible and can be a great way to get a taste of the island. You can explore the town of Avalon, enjoy a few key activities like snorkeling or a glass-bottom boat tour, have a nice meal, and perhaps take a short hike or rent a golf cart to explore.

Weekend Getaway (2-3 Days):

A weekend on Catalina Island allows you to enjoy more of what the island has to offer at a relaxed pace. You’ll have time to explore both Avalon and Two Harbors, take part in outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, or diving, and perhaps enjoy a special tour like a Jeep Eco Tour or Zip Line Eco Tour. You can also indulge in some leisurely shopping, dining, and relaxation on the beach.

Extended Stay (4-7 Days):

An extended stay gives you the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the Catalina Island experience. You can explore different hiking trails, take your time with water activities, enjoy multiple tours, and even spend a night or two camping if you wish. This length of stay allows for a deeper exploration of the island’s natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural attractions, without feeling rushed.

What is Catalina Island best known for?

Catalina Island is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, encompassing pristine beaches, diverse marine life, and the iconic Catalina Casino. Additionally, it offers a myriad of outdoor activities, from snorkeling in its clear waters to hiking its scenic trails. This makes it a favorite getaway for both adventure seekers and relaxation enthusiasts.

Is it worth going to Catalina Island?

Absolutely! Catalina Island offers a unique blend of breathtaking landscapes, vibrant marine life, and a rich history, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking both adventure and relaxation just off the California coast.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Catalina Island

Ah, Catalina Island, a gem off the coast of California that promises adventure, relaxation, and memories to last a lifetime. From its pristine beaches to its rugged interior, every corner of this island beckons with a new experience. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, a nature enthusiast, or someone just looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, Catalina Island has something special in store for you. As you plan your trip, remember to soak in every moment, for this is a place where memories are made, stories are born, and the magic of travel truly comes alive. Until next time, keep that wanderlust burning and let the shores of Catalina Island await your return.

The top things to do in Catalina Island for all types of travelers
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