16 Best Things to Do on Catalina Island
Located southwest of Los Angeles, Catalina Island is a beautiful weekend destination, home to sandy beaches, scenic trails, great scuba diving, golf and other activities. Explore the scenic town of Two Harbors, visit the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden, stop by the Nature Center at Avalon Canyon, and learn about the history of the area at the Catalina Island Museum. Here are the best things to do on Catalina Island. Photo: namolik/Fotolia
»Descanso Beach Club
Descanso Beach Club is a secluded beach and cove located behind the Catalina Island Casino, which offers an array of activities and entertainment for the whole family. The private beach is lined with loungers, restaurants, and bars and is the perfect spot for enjoying the beach scene during the day and the vibrant nightlife when the sun goes down.
Descanco Beach Club Restaurant is Catalina's only seaside restaurant and serves excellent food and beverages throughout the day, with an exclusive beach delivery service. The club offers an array of water sports and outdoor activities to enjoy from snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba diving, to climbing on the Catalina Climbing Wall and zip lining. High-end facilities for discerning guests include private cabanas, chaise lounges and beach massages by personalized staff.
Contact: 1 Descanso Avenue, Avalon, CA 90704, 310-510-7410
Photo: Descanso Beach Club
»Starlight Beach, Catalina Island
Located on the west end of Catalina Island, Starlight Beach is a beautiful north-facing beach cove surrounded by rocky cliffs. The rocky beach can be accessed by a trail at the back of the cove and is a “day-use only” beach with no overnight camping allowed.
Campers can find a good campground at the nearby Parsons Landing. The beach offers no facilities and dogs are permitted on a leash. Starlight Beach marks the endpoint of the Trans-Catalina Trail backpacking route and is a popular spot with backpackers celebrating the end of their multi-day trek across the island.
»Catalina Island Casino
Catalina Casino has been the island’s icon for nearly three generations. Opened in 1929 and dominating the Avalon landscape from its perch high above the harbor, Catalina Casino has been beautifully restored to its former glory and stands today as a stunning reminder of Catalina’s glorious past. Exemplifying the style and romance of Catalina Island, the casino has played host to a wealth of world-renowned entertainers, world-class theater productions, and first-run motion pictures and still features first-run movies every night in the original movie theater.
Never intended for or to be used as a casino, the building was built by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. for dancing, attracting the likes of ‘big band’ musicians like Benny Goodman – the King of Swin, who played here for 2,000 capacity dancers. Visitors can explore the rich history of the casino on a Walking or Behind-the-Scenes Casino Tour, which are offered on a daily basis and enjoy one of the many events that are held throughout the year, including the annual New Year’s Eve Celebration and the Catalina Island Jazz Festival.
Contact: 1 Casino Way, Avalon, CA 90704, 310-510-0179
»Avalon Theater, Catalina Island, California
Located in the lower level of the Catalina Casino in Avalon, Avalon Theatre is a classic movie palace that has been featuring first-run movies since 1929. Nestled beneath the Casino Ballroom, the theater seats 1,184 people, is exquisitely decorated in an ‘atmospheric’ style with ancient Roman-inspired tiled mural panels and other Art Deco murals painted by renowned artist John Gabriel Beckman.
Boasting outstanding acoustics, the theater is equipped with a Page Organ Co rank theater organ, which is still regularly used for weekend film performances. Avalon Theater presents film showings every evening of the week and special performances and screenings on the weekends.
Contact: 1 Casino Way, Avalon, CA 90704, 310-510-0179
»What to Do on Catalina Island: Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden
The Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden honors the memory of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., who lived from 1861 to 1932. Operated by the Catalina Island Conservancy, the gardens and memorial are located in the Avalon Canyon and are the gateway to one of the island’s most popular hikes, the Garden to Sky Trail.
The gardens are spread over 38 acres of rolling landscapes and focus on endemic plants species from the Channel Islands off California, many of which are on the Endangered Species List. The Wrigley Memorial is the centerpiece of the Botanic Garden, a 130-foot tower that was built in 1934 using local materials. The memorial honors the man, who founded the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, the largest manufacturer of chewing gum in the world and who had played an instrumental role in the history of Santa Catalina Island.
Contact: 1402 Avalon Cyn Rd, Avalon, CA 90704, 310-510-2897
»Catalina Island Things to Do: Nature Center at Avalon Canyon
The Nature Center at Avalon Canyon is one of two nature centers established by the Catalina Island Conservancy to protect and restore the natural fauna and flora of the Island. Located at 1202 Avalon Canyon Road, the Nature Center features a wealth of informative exhibits and displays that focus on the natural history and conservation efforts on the Island.
A Resource Center is available for students and teachers, and there are a variety of interactive, hands-on activities for all ages to explore. Graphic exhibits include images of the wild, scenic side of the island, including rugged landscapes and secluded coves with their crystal waters, as well as images of its animals, plants, geology and marine life. The Nature Center is an easy 20-minute walk along Avalon Canyon, which can also be accessed with a golf cart, trolley or bicycle and is open seven days a week from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
Contact: 1202 Avalon Canyon Rd, Avalon, CA 90704, 310-510-0954
Photo: ZaZa studio/Fotolia
Trans-Catalina Trail is a 37.2-mile trail which traverses Santa Catalina Island from Avalon on the eastern tip of Starlight Beach at the western end. On reaching the end of the hike, hikers need to make their way back to Two Harbors to catch a boat back to the mainland, which adds another nine miles, making the total mileage a bit over 46 miles.
Ideal for a long weekend backpack getaway, the Two Harbors area offers day hikes ranging from easy to difficult, catering for both the casual hiker and serious trekker and hiking permits can be purchased at the Two Harbors Visitor’s Services Office. The trail features five campgrounds maintained by the Santa Catalina Island Company along the route, several with boat-in campsites, including Two Harbors, Parsons Landing, and Little Harbor.
»What to Do on Catalina Island, CA: Catalina Island Museum
Founded in 1953, Catalina Island Museum was established to collect, preserve and interpret the rich history and cultural heritage of Santa Catalina. Situated in Avalon's historic Casino Building, Catalina Island Museum showcases thousands of years of history through a wealth of engaging and visually exciting exhibits and displays.
The Museum also hosts a variety of lectures, workshops, or special events for visitors to learn, understand and gain a personal perspective of the unique history of the special island. A small gift shop sells a range of souvenirs and memorabilia for visitors to take a piece of Catalina home with them.
Contact: 1 Casino Way, Avalon, CA 90704, 310-510-2414
Photo: Catalina Island Museum
»Two Harbors, Catalina Island
Named after the two harbors in the town, Isthmus Cove, and Catalina Harbor, Two Harbors is a rustic seaside village situated on the isthmus of Catalina Island. Located 20 miles from Avalon, the harbors are separated by a half-mile-wide strip of land and Two Harbors can be accessed from the mainland via high-speed ferry from San Pedro.
Two Harbors offers a wealth of comfortable accommodations, ranging from bed and breakfasts, cottages and campgrounds, as well as a variety of restaurants, cafés, and pubs. Visitors can enjoy a variety of recreational activities, including kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the beautiful waters around the island, as well as hiking, mountain biking, camping, and pleasure boating. Other services in the town include a modern Visitors Service Center and special event services, which are run throughout the year.
»Catalina Island Activities: Taste of Catalina Food Tours
Taste of Catalina Food Tours offers exciting walking food tours to some of Catalina’s best restaurants, cafés, and eateries. Owned and operated by Head Foodie Erin Eubank, Catalina’s walking tours explore some of Avalon’s best culinary spots and include unique tastings, bites, and crafted brews.
Encounter the sights, sounds and stories behind the island’s well-known historical landmarks, visit a variety of restaurants around the Bay, meet the chefs behind the culinary masterpieces and taste some of the delectable fare that is served. Follow informed, spirited guides around Avalon, who will share their knowledge of each location, which features critically acclaimed entrees, desserts, and beverages for you to enjoy. Private tours for groups or special occasions can be arranged, and it is advisable to wear comfortable walking shoes and clothing.
»Land Adventures on Catalina Island
From spectacular panoramic vistas to unique and unusual wildlife, Catalina Island boasts a wealth of activities and attractions for every taste. Catalina Island’s Land Adventures offer a variety of ways to enjoy the beautiful landscapes from scenic drives into Catalina’s protected wilderness and extreme off-road adventures to zip line eco-tours and exciting night drives in search of the island’s nocturnal creatures.
Tours and adventures include The Avalon Scenic Tour – a perfect introduction to the island for first-time visitors; the Skyline Drive; the Inland Expedition – an unforgettable adventure into the heart of Catalina's rugged interior; and the East End Adventure - an unforgettable trip to the summit. The Cape Canyon Expedition is an extreme off-road adventure in eco-friendly, all-terrain vehicles while the Summit Night Adventure explores the world of the island’s night creatures. Five zip lines strung across three-quarters of a mile offer adventurers a chance to zip line above the canyon floor, or test their skills on the challenging Rock Climbing Wall.
»Catalina Snorkel & Scuba
Diving Catalina offers a variety of scuba-diving and snorkeling experiences for all levels of diver. Tours offers include Introductory Scuba Dives - an orientation to scuba diving that allows non-divers the experience of scuba diving in the ocean; Guided Scuba Dives Tours in the Avalon Underwater Park; Catalina Island Snorkeling Tours and Power Snorkeling in the Casino Point Dive Park.
The Casino Point Dive Park is a marine sanctuary and a snorkeler's paradise with crystal clear waters, magnificent undersea gardens and coral reefs and myriad fish and invertebrates. The Avalon Underwater Dive Park is ideal for scuba-diving and offers guided scuba tours, special scuba camps for children and scuba equipment rental. Located next to the world-famous Casino Building, the Underwater Dive Park offers some of the best shore diving in California and has become a mecca to scuba divers and snorkelers worldwide.
Contact: 34 Middle Terrace Road, Avalon, CA 90704, 310-510-8558
Photo: Andrea Izzotti/Fotolia
»Catalina Segway Tours
Explore Avalon in a unique and exciting way on a Catalina Segway Tour. A variety of tours is offered for all ages, ranging from Avalon Scenic and Hogway Tours to Off-Road Adventure Tours, which venture into different parts of the city. Beginning with a brief introductory and safety session at the Tour Plaza in the center of Avalon, guests are given communication devices to keep in touch with their guides at all times.
Scenic tours include visits to the Avalon boardwalk, the Catalina Casino and the Avalon Tuna Club, and beautiful views of the waterfront and from the top of the Avalon Canyon. The Hogback Tour visits the Catalina Canyon Resort and the Country Club, Philip K. Wrigley's Family Home, Descanso Beach, Chimes Tower and Hog's Back Gate. The specially designed off-road Segway XT Adventure explores the rugged terrain, wooded canyons, and hills of the Avalon Canyon, which are home to an array of fauna and flora and the Bird Park. Catalina Segway Tours also offers private group tours and caters for special occasions.
Photo: Catalina Segway Tours
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»Catalina Island Golf Course
Originally built by the Banning Brothers in 1892, the Catalina Island Golf Course is the oldest operating golf course west of the Mississippi reflecting the island’s charm and history in its beautiful rolling greens. Formerly designed as a three-hole course, the course was expanded to nine holes in the early 1900s and later to 18 holes in 1929, however due to falling into disrepair during World War II, the course was redesigned to nine holes.
Once the former home of the Bobby Jones Invitational Tournament, the scenic par 32, 2,100-yard course has nine challenging holes with two sets of tees for 18-hole play and takes about an hour to complete. The club also features a fully-stocked Pro Shop, electric and pull carts, rental clubs, and lessons given by PGA-certified professional. The club also features Miniature Golf Gardens, which offers a fantastic introduction to golf and great fun for the kids.
Contact: 1 Country Club Dr, Avalon, CA 90704, 310-510-0530
Photo: Alex Staroseltsev/Fotolia
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»Airport in the Sky, Catalina Island
The Airport in the Sky is Catalina Island's only airport open to the public; however, it is only used for general aviation and freight flights. Located 10 miles from Avalon, the airport sits 1,600 feet above sea level on a mountaintop at the center of the Island and features the DC-3 Grill and Gifts, a restaurant famous for their Buffalo burgers, sandwiches, and world famous cookies and a small gift shop.
Visitors can reach the airport on a Skyline Drive Tour, the Safari Bus or by walking over from Black Jack. Commissioned by the Wrigley Family, the airport was officially opened in 1946, with its 3,250-foot-long runway constructed by blasting and leveling two adjacent peaks and using the resulting debris to fill in the gaps. The gift shop offers a variety of souvenirs and memorabilia for visitors to take home and the Catalina Aero Club organizes a celebratory fly into the Airport in the Sky every month.
Contact: 1 Airport Road, Avalon, CA 90704, 310-510-0143
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»Silver Canyon Pottery, Catalina Island, CA
Silver Canyon Pottery was founded in 1988 by Island local Robin Cassidy, who is renowned for her work in restoring the tiles of downtown Avalon, which were famously produced on the island during the 20s and 30s. Situated in Pebbly Beach, the studio is located in the former Catalina Pottery and Tile factory, which produced a broad range of ceramic works including dinnerware, figurines and decorative tile between 1928 and 1939.
Silver Canyon Pottery continues the tradition by creating many of the tiles used in the restoration of historical installations throughout the island town. Guests can visit the pottery studio and discover how the beautiful products are made on popular studio tours, which also explore the fascinating history of Catalina Brick, Pottery, and Tile. Budding artists can learn all the tricks of the trade when it comes to making pottery, following instruction from local artists, learning how to mold, throw and fire their own creations. An extensive library features a range of books about Catalina that visitors can enjoy at their leisure on the colorful studio deck overlooking the sea.
Contact: 502 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704, 310-510-9498
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16 Best Things to Do on Catalina Island
- Descanso Beach Club, Photo: Descanso Beach Club
- Starlight Beach, Catalina Island, Photo: Courtesy of fortwendyphoto - Fotolia.com
- Catalina Island Casino, Photo: Courtesy of dbvirago - Fotolia.com
- Avalon Theater, Catalina Island, California, Photo: Courtesy of peych_p - Fotolia.com
- What to Do on Catalina Island: Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden, Photo: Courtesy of makistock - Fotolia.com
- Catalina Island Things to Do: Nature Center at Avalon Canyon, Photo: Courtesy of ZaZa studio - Fotolia.com
- Trans-Catalina Trail, Photo: Courtesy of determined - Fotolia.com
- What to Do on Catalina Island, CA: Catalina Island Museum, Photo: Catalina Island Museum
- Two Harbors, Catalina Island, Photo: Courtesy of rck - Fotolia.com
- Catalina Island Activities: Taste of Catalina Food Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Olo - Fotolia.com
- Land Adventures on Catalina Island, Photo: Courtesy of Atomazul - Fotolia.com
- Catalina Snorkel & Scuba, Photo: Courtesy of Andrea Izzotti - Fotolia.com
- Catalina Segway Tours, Photo: Catalina Segway Tours
- Catalina Island Golf Course, Photo: Courtesy of Alex Staroseltsev - Fotolia.com
- Airport in the Sky, Catalina Island, Photo: Courtesy of ana_kolesnikova - Fotolia.com
- Silver Canyon Pottery, Catalina Island, CA, Photo: Courtesy of nellysenko - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of namolik - Fotolia.com
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