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Island Travel & Tourism

Best Places to Visit and Things to Do in Catalina Island

  • May 23, 2024
  • 12 min read
Best Places to Visit and Things to Do in Catalina Island

Ready to unlock the full potential of your Santa Catalina Island getaway? Here, we have compiled a bucket list of the top things to do in Catalina Island that promise to elevate your getaway. With its stunning landscapes and wealth of activities, Santa Catalina Island beckons adventurers from far and wide.

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker craving outdoor excitement or a leisure-seeker seeking relaxation, Catalina has it all. So, before planning your trip, discover the top places to visit and activities to do in Catalina Island for an unforgettable journey.

Top Tourist Attraction in Catalina Island

New Harbor, Santa Catalina - things to do in catalina island

Discover Avalon

Avalon welcomes travelers with open arms, showcasing its coastal charm and diverse array of adventures. The bustling harbor bustles with life, its waters reflecting the colorful boats bobbing gently along the docks. As visitors wander the waterfront promenades, the salty breeze tingles their senses, beckoning them to embark on a journey of discovery. Whether they opt for a leisurely stroll through the lively streets, immerse themselves in the translucent waters for a snorkeling excursion, or traverse rugged hiking trails that unveil panoramic views of the coastline, Avalon promises an unforgettable experience tailored to each adventurer’s desires.

In Avalon, every corner holds a promise of adventure, inviting travelers to delve into its vibrant tapestry of sights and sounds. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the harbor, laughter mingles with the sound of lapping waves, creating a symphony of excitement and tranquility. Whether indulging in a leisurely afternoon of seaside dining, exploring the depths of the ocean on a snorkeling expedition, or embarking on a scenic hike to discover hidden vistas, Avalon ensures that every moment is infused with wonder and delight, leaving visitors with cherished memories to last a lifetime.

Discover Two Harbor

Welcome to Two Harbors, Santa Catalina Island’s hidden gem, where adventure and tranquility await around every corner. As you step onto the sandy shores, you’ll be greeted by a scene straight out of a postcard, with colorful cottages lining the streets and the gentle hum of island life filling the air. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade, where the azure waters of Catalina Harbor and Isthmus Cove sparkle in the sunlight, beckoning you to explore their beauty.

Two Harbors is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of activities to indulge in. Lace up your hiking boots and embark on a journey along the rugged coastal trails, where breathtaking vistas and hidden coves await your discovery. For those craving underwater exploration, dive into the crystal-clear waters for a snorkeling adventure, where you’ll be greeted by a kaleidoscope of colorful marine life. After a day of exploration, find solace on the sun-drenched shores of Catalina Harbor Beach, where the soothing rhythm of the ocean provides the perfect backdrop for relaxation.

Historic Casino of Santa Catalina Island

The Historic Casino of Catalina Island stands as a timeless icon of elegance and glamour, offering visitors a glimpse into the island’s rich history and heritage. Despite its name, the casino is not a gambling establishment but a cultural center that has been a centerpiece of Avalon’s skyline for nearly a century. As you approach the casino, you’ll be struck by its majestic Art Deco architecture, adorned with intricate details and adorned with murals that depict scenes of Catalina’s past.

Step inside the casino, and you’ll be transported back in time to an era of opulence and sophistication. Explore the grand ballroom, where glittering chandeliers hang from the ceiling and the sounds of live music once filled the air. Take a guided tour to learn about the casino’s fascinating history, from its construction in 1929 to its role as a gathering place for Hollywood’s elite during the golden age of cinema. And don’t forget to visit the Avalon Theatre, a beautifully restored movie palace that still hosts screenings of classic films and live performances to this day. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, the Historic Casino of Catalina Island is a must-visit destination that promises to leave a lasting impression.

Visit the Santa Catalina Island Museum

The Santa Catalina Island Museum offers visitors a captivating journey through the history, culture, and natural beauty of Catalina Island. Nestled in the heart of Avalon, this cultural institution is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the island’s rich heritage, from its Native American roots to its emergence as a beloved tourist destination.

Step inside the museum, and you’ll be greeted by a treasure trove of exhibits and artifacts that paint a vivid picture of Catalina’s past. Learn about the island’s early inhabitants, including the Tongva people, through displays of archaeological finds and cultural artifacts. Explore the island’s role in Hollywood history, with exhibits dedicated to famous films shot on location in Avalon. Discover the fascinating story of the Wrigley family, who played a pivotal role in shaping the island’s development.

Visit Descanso Beach Club

The Descanso Beach Club epitomizes the essence of relaxation and luxury on Catalina Island. As visitors step onto the powdery sands, they are greeted by the soothing melody of waves crashing against the shore and the gentle caress of the ocean breeze. Lounge chairs beckon beneath swaying palms, inviting guests to unwind and bask in the tranquility of their surroundings.

For those seeking adventure, the Descanso Beach Club offers a plethora of water sports activities to satisfy every craving. From paddleboarding and kayaking to snorkeling amidst vibrant marine life, there’s no shortage of exhilarating experiences to be had. After working up an appetite, guests can indulge in a culinary journey at the beachfront restaurant, where fresh seafood and tropical cocktails tantalize the taste buds against a backdrop of sweeping ocean views.

Throughout the summer months, the Descanso Beach Club transforms into a vibrant hub of entertainment, hosting beach parties, live music performances, and outdoor film screenings. Whether lounging in a cabana with a refreshing drink in hand or dancing under the stars, visitors are guaranteed an unforgettable experience at this idyllic seaside retreat.

Thing to Do in Catalina Island

Zip Line Adventure, Zipline - Things to Do in Catalina Island

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Experience the vibrant underwater world surrounding Santa Catalina Island through snorkeling and scuba diving adventures. Dive into crystal-clear waters teeming with colorful marine life, including fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional seal. Explore underwater caves, rocky reefs, and kelp forests, discovering the diverse ecosystems that thrive beneath the surface.

Catalina Island Zip Line

Soar above the island’s rugged landscape on an adrenaline-pumping zip line adventure. Enjoy panoramic views of Catalina’s dramatic coastline and lush interior as you zip from platform to platform, experiencing the thrill of flight in a breathtaking island setting.

Kayaking

Explore Catalina’s pristine coastline and hidden coves at your own pace on a kayaking excursion. Paddle through calm waters, weaving between towering cliffs and sea caves, and discover secluded beaches accessible only by water.

Hiking Adventure

Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails to discover Santa Catalina’s scenic beauty up close. Trek through rugged wilderness areas, lush forests, and panoramic overlooks, and immerse yourself in the island’s diverse flora and fauna.

Paddleboarding

Experience tranquility on the water with a paddleboarding excursion around Catalina Island. Glide along the surface of the ocean, enjoying the serenity of the open sea and soaking in views of the coastline from a unique vantage point.

Parasailing on Santa Catalina

Take your Catalina Island experience to new heights with a thrilling parasailing adventure. Soar high above the shimmering waters of the Pacific Ocean, enjoying breathtaking aerial views of the island’s rugged coastline and iconic landmarks. Feel the rush of adrenaline as you glide through the sky, suspended by a colorful parachute, and create unforgettable memories of your time on Catalina Island.

Glass-Bottom Boat Tour

Explore the mesmerizing underwater world surrounding Catalina Island without getting wet on a glass-bottom boat tour. Peer through the clear glass panels of the boat’s hull to observe a vibrant marine ecosystem below, including colorful fish, swaying kelp forests, and perhaps even playful dolphins or majestic sea lions. Learn about the island’s marine conservation efforts and fascinating underwater habitats from knowledgeable guides, making this an educational and awe-inspiring experience for visitors of all ages.

Famous Buffalo Milk Cocktail

Treat your taste buds to the iconic flavors of Catalina Island with a sip of the famous Buffalo Milk cocktail. Indulge in this delectable concoction, made with rum, vodka, Kahlua, and cream, as you soak up the laid-back island atmosphere and enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Whether enjoyed at a beachside bar or as a refreshing accompaniment to a seaside meal, the Buffalo Milk cocktail is a must-try culinary delight for visitors to Catalina Island.

Aerial Adventure

Embark on a thrilling aerial adventure over Catalina Island, offering unparalleled views of the island’s stunning landscapes and natural wonders. Strap into a helicopter or small aircraft and take to the skies, soaring above rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and emerald-green hillsides. Marvel at the beauty of Catalina from a bird’s-eye perspective, capturing unforgettable memories and breathtaking photographs of your unforgettable journey.

Salons and Spa

Indulge in relaxation and rejuvenation at one of Catalina Island’s luxurious salons and spas. Treat yourself to a range of pampering treatments, including massages, facials, and body wraps, designed to melt away stress and tension. Unwind in serene surroundings as skilled therapists work their magic, leaving you feeling refreshed, revitalized, and ready to fully enjoy the rest of your island getaway.

Take a Bison Expedition

Embark on a unique adventure through Santa Catalina Island’s rugged interior on a bison expedition. Join experienced guides as they lead you off the beaten path in search of the island’s iconic bison population. Traverse scenic trails and remote wilderness areas, keeping a lookout for these majestic creatures as they roam freely in their natural habitat. Learn about Catalina’s conservation efforts and the history of the bison on the island, making this a fascinating and educational experience for nature enthusiasts of all ages.

Relax on the Beach

Unwind and soak up the sun on one of Catalina’s pristine beaches, where soft sands, gentle waves, and stunning ocean views provide the perfect backdrop for rest and relaxation. Choose from a variety of idyllic beach destinations, each offering its own unique charm and amenities. Whether you prefer to lounge in the sun, swim in the sparkling waters, or simply stroll along the shoreline collecting seashells, Catalina’s beaches offer a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Summary

Santa Catalina Island offers an abundance of opportunities for exploration and adventure, making it a top destination for travelers seeking unforgettable experiences. From snorkeling and scuba diving to zip-lining and kayaking, there are countless things to do in Catalina Island that cater to every interest and preference. Whether you’re drawn to the vibrant underwater world, the thrill of high-flying adventures, or the tranquility of beachside relaxation, Catalina has something for everyone.

With the exciting activities available on the island, you’ll not only create lasting memories but also gain a deeper appreciation for Catalina’s natural beauty and rich history. So, whether you’re embarking on a bison expedition, indulging in a spa day, or simply relaxing on the beach, Catalina Island promises an unforgettable getaway filled with excitement, relaxation, and exploration. So, pack your bags and get ready to discover all the incredible things to do in Catalina Island on your next vacation.

Frequently Asked Question

What are the best things to do in Catalina Island?

The best things to do in Catalina Island include snorkeling, zip-lining, kayaking, hiking, paddleboarding, parasailing, glass-bottom boat tours, and exploring the island’s charming towns and scenic vistas.

Are there age or skill requirements for certain activities?

Yes, age and skill requirements vary depending on the activity. Some activities, like snorkeling and paddleboarding, are suitable for all ages and skill levels. However, activities such as zip-lining and scuba diving may have specific age or skill prerequisites. It’s recommended to check with the activity provider beforehand.

What should I bring for outdoor activities in Catalina Island?

For outdoor activities in Santa Catalina Island, it’s essential to bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, comfortable clothing, sturdy shoes (for hiking), and plenty of water to stay hydrated. Depending on the activity, you may also need additional gear or equipment, so it’s best to inquire beforehand.

What are some family-friendly activities in Catalina Island?

Family-friendly activities in Catalina Island include glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling, kayaking, exploring the island’s towns, picnics on the beach, visiting the Catalina Island Museum, and participating in educational nature programs.

Is it possible to visit Catalina Island for a day trip?

Yes, it’s possible to visit Catalina Island for a day trip from the mainland. Several ferry services operate daily between Santa Catalina Island and ports in Southern California, making it convenient for day-trippers to explore the island’s attractions and activities.

What are some must-try culinary experiences in Catalina Island?

Must-try culinary experiences in Catalina Island include enjoying fresh seafood like fish tacos and clam chowder, indulging in the famous Buffalo Milk cocktail made with rum, vodka, Kahlua, and cream, and dining at waterfront restaurants offering a variety of cuisines.

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