Catalina Island, also known as Santa Catalina Island, is an island paradise just off the coast of Southern California. It is approximately 22 miles SW of L.A. can be reached by boat or helicopter from 5 ports in Southern California, including the one at Long Beach Harbor.
Forms of Travel to Catalina Island:
Transport by helicopter is the fastest method of travel and only takes around 15 minutes. Use Island Express Helicopters or travel via open cockpit biplane from SkyThrills.
Boating options include private charter yachts, high speed boats, and ferry. Travelling to Catalina Island by ferry is very popular as it is so easy to do. You can get a ferry from Long Beach by using the Catalina Express. And then it takes about an hour to go right from Long Beach Harbor to Catalina Island. The Catalina Express is a ferry company which consists of a fleet of 8 high speed vessels and offers up to 30 departures daily, all year round. Passengers enjoy this method of travel to Catalina Island as it is very quick, as well as comfortable. Although people recommend forking out a little extra for the lounge seating for better comfort, plus you also get a drink and snack. The only downside is that it can get pretty cold, so it’s a good idea to bring a jacket.
Once you reach Catalina Island, you can get around by foot easily in the main city of Avalon. Or, you can take a taxi, shuttle bus, trolley, rent a golf cart, or bicycle, to get to where you want to go.
How to Get around Avalon and Explore the Island
Once you arrive at Catalina Island, you will most likely head to its main town, Avalon. Getting around Avalon is easy to do as its size is only one square mile. It is easy to navigate and most venues are a short walking distance. Walking is actually the preferred method of travel in Avalon, so here is the place to slow down, relax, and enjoy yourself, as you stroll through Avalon.
If you need however, there is a Taxi stand in middle of Avalon and a scheduled Trolley service available. You can also find taxis as soon as you hop off your boat. And you can take a taxi to every location in Avalon.
A fun option is to rent a bicycle or golf cart. Golf carts are a popular form of travel for those wanting to explore some of the mountains around Avalon.
Those looking to sight see can take a tour on an open air tram or cozy motor coach. And there is a charter taxi van and shuttle bus service for those wanting to travel outside the main town of Avalon.
More adventurous types, who want to explore the island on foot, can go hiking or biking on their own, but permits are required. Trail maps and permits can both be obtained at the Catalina Conservancy House in Avalon.
When staying for more than the day, check with your accommodation to see if any transport is provided. Most of the hotels will either have a courtesy shuttle service or offer a free baggage service.
Stay more than a day! Accommodation Options
Catalina Island is a great place to get away from it all and relax in beauty, even if it’s just for a day. But many people love to stay for a weekend or even longer. It makes a great place for a romantic getaway, or a little family weekend away, or a trip with friends. It even makes for a wonderful trip for one’s self to get away from the stresses of life and relax. Plus there’s plenty to see and do, so you’ll never get bored.
There is a very wide range of accommodation available, so it is easy to find something which is right for you, and something for every budget.
You can find romantic and luxury lodging at one of the beachfront hotels, or resorts. Beautiful and charming accommodations can be found at one of the bed and breakfasts or inns. You can also rent yourself a luxury villa, condo, beach cottage, or home, some with breathtaking ocean views. Those on tight budgets, or who love to be outdoors, can find camping grounds as well as camp sites only accessible by water travel. Lodging is also available.
Things to Do on Catalina Island
Fun Activities on Land, Air & Sea:
There are so many fun activities on Catalina Island for all walks of life. From sporting activities, to scenic activities, to relaxing activities, there is something for everyone.
Activities on Land:
Those wanting to spend their time on land can enjoy being active by going hiking, biking, or playing golf. Those looking to unwind on the island, can do so in bliss as they relax on the beach, go for a moonlit walk, or and even get a massage on the beach. Those wanting to see a bit more of the island can take a tour of the island to view the sights. See a Native Plant nursery in the interior of the island, or beautiful vistas along the coast. You can also see flying eagles and wild buffalo, and even foxes on Catalina Island. If you love exploring, there are a number of ways you can do so, including going hiking on trails to beautiful hidden harbors. Those who prefer to stay in town, can delight in island cuisine, visit art galleries, check out the shops, or enjoy the variety of entertainment offered.
Activities on Water:
If you love to spend your time enjoying and exploring the water, you will find an array of activities available to you. For the sportier individual, there is parasailing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding and more. Don’t worry if you those activities aren’t for you though, there are many other ways to enjoy the ocean. You can paddle through the clear waters, go sailing, or enjoy some fishing. For those who’d like to get a closer look of the beautiful waters, can do so on the beautiful waters! Take a tour on a glass bottom boat to see the colorful fish and thriving marine plants. Or take a boat adventure tour where you can go coastal sightseeing or view the dolphin and sea lion wildlife. You can even go on an astronomy tour of the night sky with Catalina Coastal Tours.
Activities by Air:
You can get a thrill and an amazing view of Catalina Island by using Island Express Helicopters to travel to and from Avalon on Catalina Island. Those looking for something a bit different may get a kick out of SkyThrills! This is a charter company which flies open cockpit biplanes with modern day engineering. Use these to fly to and from Catalina Island in style for a memorable experience. Also offered are scenic tours of Catalina Island and an Aerobatic Thrill Ride for the bold. Parasailing is also available from several companies. You can also take a tour, shuttle, small plane, or bike or hike it to the center of the island to the Catalina Island Conservancy’s, Airport in the Sky. Here, near the highest point on the island, you can enjoy lunch or breakfast, or have a little shop at DC3 Gifts & Grill. Also a must, is to walk through the Nature Center to learn a bit about the island’s history and see the beauty of the native plant garden.
The Island Dining Experience
Enjoy dining on Catalina Island as you soak up the great island atmosphere. There are over 30 restaurants to choose from, so it’s easy to find something to suit everyone’s taste and budget. Island cuisine ranges from casual and picnic style dining, to exquisite and elegant dining. Not to mention the variety of sweets and desserts available for a sweet delight. Whether its breakfast, lunch, a snack, or dinner you are looking for, there are plenty of choices for you.
The entertainment on Catalina Island varies, as you have your year round entertainment venues, year round weekend events, as well as concerts and festivals that happen at certain times of the year.
Year round entertainment activities include live music at various venues during the afternoon or evening, and beach parties every weekend with a live DJ at the Descanso Beach Club. You can also go see a movie or take part in some karaoke. As for the changing entertainment, there is usually always something going on, you just need to find out the schedule. You can go see one of the many concerts being shown, or have a laugh at one of the Laugh Factory Comedy Shows at the Country Club.
Shop by the Water
Enjoy a unique shopping experience as you go oceanfront shopping in Avalon. There are many things you can shop for. Those looking for clothing can take a browse for Island clothing, Vintage clothing and contemporary clothing. There’s also a large range of sporting wear, as well as hats and bags. Not to mention, a lovely variety of jewelry and sunglasses. It even has a toy store! And if you want something to remind you of your trip, or a lovely gift for someone special, you will find plenty of specialty gift and souvenir stores.
For those looking for something unique and special for themselves or to bring back for someone, will love the handmade ceramics or gourmet foods at the specialty gift store Ciao-Baci. Or you can treat yourself to the lovely handmade soaps, scented candles and bath and body goodies found at the Catalina Pottery, Bath & Body. And art lovers will want to stop by the Ruth Mayer Gallery which features many beautiful artworks of Ruth Mayer Fine Art, including artworks of the sights of Catalina Island.
Those wanting a more centralized shopping experience and looking to spend a fun afternoon with the family, should visit the Metropole Market Place. This adorable cobblestone village is open every day and not only has shops but it also has an arcade and miniature bowling! Dine at one of the cafes or restaurants, enjoy a baked treat, or indulge in a delicious specialty coffee. You can also shop for specialty gifts, for jewelry, or clothing. Visit an art gallery or the beauty salon, there’s even a Day Spa!
How to Find out More
The best place to find out more about the activities, accommodations, and venues available on Catalina Island is to visit the Catalina Island’s Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau at catalinachamber.com.