Catalina Island in 2023: Complete Guide to Adventure and Relaxation

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Catalina Island is a beautiful gem off the coast of Southern California. It has a unique mix of stunning natural beauty, fun outdoor activities, and laid-back island vibes. Just 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles, this enchanting destination is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. This all-inclusive guide will cover Catalina Island’s best sights, activities, places to stay, places to eat, and much more. So whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, Catalina Island has something to offer everyone.

Catalina Island Sceine

Top Attractions of Catalina Island

A. The City of Avalon

As the central city on the island, Avalon is a must-see for anyone travelling to Catalina Island. With its Mediterranean-style architecture, palm tree-lined streets, and bustling waterfront, this picturesque town offers an idyllic setting for dining, shopping, and exploring. Be sure to stroll along the iconic Green Pleasure Pier, take a scenic harbour cruise, or soak up the sun on Avalon’s sandy beaches.

Avalon Catalina Island
Avalon City of Catalina Island

B. The Town of Two Harbors

Located at the island’s isthmus, Two Harbors is a smaller, more laid-back alternative to Avalon. With its serene beaches, crystal-clear waters, and surrounding hiking trails, this quaint town is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a quieter getaway. So rent a kayak, embark on a snorkelling adventure, or hike the nearby trails for stunning views of the island’s rugged beauty.

C. Descanso Beach Club

A short walk from Avalon, Descanso Beach Club is a luxurious oasis with private cabanas, chaise lounges, and dining on the beach. You can relax on the beach with a refreshing drink or try one of the club’s water sports, like kayaking, snorkelling, or stand-up paddleboarding. Descanso Beach Club is also home to the thrilling Catalina Aerial Adventure, a series of ropes courses and zip lines amidst the island’s lush vegetation.

D. Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden

Visit the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, a peaceful place that shows off Catalina Island’s unique plants and remembers William Wrigley Jr., who built the island and made it what it is today. Wander through the garden’s winding pathways, marvel at the endemic plants, and take in the panoramic views from the Wrigley Memorial’s observation deck.

E. Catalina Casino

Every trip to Catalina Island is complete with a visit to the iconic Catalina Casino. Since it opened in 1929, this architectural marvel, which has a grand ballroom, a historic theatre, and an impressive art deco mural, has been the island’s social hub. Despite its name, the Catalina Casino is not a place to gamble. “casino” comes from the Italian word for “gathering place.” Take a guided tour to learn about the building’s history, admire its intricate design elements, and catch a glimpse of a classic movie or live performance in the beautifully restored Avalon Theatre.

Catalina Island Casino

Catalina Island Casino

Things to Do

A. Outdoor Activities

Catalina Island’s diverse landscape offers nature lovers and adventure-seekers many outdoor activities. Explore the island’s extensive network of hiking and biking trails, which traverse a variety of terrains and offer stunning vistas of the coastline, canyons, and interior valleys. In addition, guided eco-tours provide opportunities to learn about the island’s unique flora and fauna. At the same time, the more adventurous may opt for a thrilling off-road expedition or a heart-pumping parasailing experience.

Outdoor Activities on Catalina Island

B. Water Sports

Catalina Island is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts with its crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life. Dive into the island’s underwater world with a snorkelling or scuba diving adventure, or rent a kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or sailboat to explore the coastline at your own pace. Fishing enthusiasts can try their luck casting for yellowtail, calico bass, and other local species from shore or aboard a chartered boat.

C. Tours and Excursions

Discover the island’s many treasures through various guided tours and excursions. Embark on a glass-bottom boat tour to view the vibrant marine life of the Avalon Underwater Dive Park, or take a scenic cruise around the island’s rugged coastline, keeping an eye out for dolphins, sea lions, and the occasional migrating whale. History buffs will enjoy a guided walking tour of Avalon’s historic landmarks, while a journey aboard the Catalina Express offers a unique perspective on the island’s storied past.

Catalina Island Birds

Birds in Catalina Island

D. Shopping

Catalina Island’s charming boutiques and galleries offer a delightful shopping experience. Browse for unique island-inspired clothing, jewellery, and home decor, or search for the perfect souvenir to commemorate your visit. Art enthusiasts will enjoy perusing the works of local artists at the island’s many galleries. At the same time, those with a sweet tooth can indulge in a tasty treat from one of Avalon’s delectable candy shops.

E. Nightlife

Though Catalina Island is known for its laid-back atmosphere, there are still plenty of options for those seeking a lively evening out. Enjoy live music, dancing, and refreshing cocktails at one of the island’s bars or nightclubs, or catch a classic film at the historic Avalon Theatre. For a more relaxed experience, unwind with a glass of wine at a waterfront restaurant or toast to the sunset on a romantic harbour cruise.

Catalina Island at Night

Catalina Island at Night

See More: Exploring Coney Island in New York: A Comprehensive Guide

Destination of Catalina Island

A. History of Catalina Island

Catalina Island’s rich history dates back thousands of years, with the native Gabrielino-Tongva tribe inhabiting the island long before the arrival of European explorers. The island changed hands several times throughout the centuries, eventually coming under the ownership of William Wrigley Jr., who played a significant role in the development of Avalon and the iconic Catalina Casino. Today, the island remains a popular destination for tourists seeking a taste of California’s bygone glamour and natural beauty.

B. How to Get There

Catalina Island can be reached via a one-hour high-speed ferry from several Southern California ports, including Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point. Helicopter and private boat services are also available for those seeking a more luxurious mode of transportation. Once on the island, visitors can navigate the charming streets of Avalon by foot, golf cart, or bicycle, while shuttle services and guided tours provide access to more remote areas.

Catalina Island on Google Map

C. Best Time to Visit

Spring and fall are the best times to go to Catalina Island because the weather is nice and there aren’t as many people. Summer offers the warmest temperatures and a bustling social calendar, bringing more extensive crowds and higher prices. Winter can be a quieter and more affordable time to visit, but some attractions and activities may be limited or unavailable due to seasonal closures.

D. Accommodations

Catalina Island offers many accommodations to suit every taste and budget. From luxurious oceanfront hotels and quaint bed and breakfasts to family-friendly inns and rustic campsites, there is something for everyone. Popular options include the iconic Hotel Atwater, the elegant Pavilion Hotel, and the charming Catalina Island Inn. For a more secluded experience, consider staying at the Two Harbors Campground or the remote Banning House Lodge.

Foods and Drinks

A. Avalon Grille

On Avalon’s bustling waterfront, Avalon Grille offers a sophisticated dining experience with fresh seafood, premium steaks, and innovative Californian cuisine. Enjoy a meal on the outdoor patio or inside the stylish dining room, accompanied by a selection from the extensive wine list or a signature cocktail.

B. Bluewater Avalon

Situated over the water at the end of the Green Pleasure Pier, Bluewater Avalon serves fresh, sustainably caught seafood in a picturesque setting. Dine on classics like fish and chips, clam chowder, and the famous Bluewater Louie Salad while enjoying panoramic views of the harbour and beyond.

C. The Lobster Trap

The Lobster Trap is a favourite of both locals and tourists. It has a casual atmosphere and a menu full of delicious seafood dishes. From fresh-caught lobster and crab to fish tacos and clam chowder, this cosy eatery is the perfect spot for a satisfying meal after a day of island adventures.

D. Two Harbors Galley

Nestled in the serene town of Two Harbors, the Two Harbors Galley offers delicious casual fare with stunning ocean views. Enjoy burgers, sandwiches, and fresh salads on the outdoor patio or order a picnic lunch for your next island excursion.

E. Descanso Beach Club Dining

Dine in style at Descanso Beach Club, where a menu of fresh, California-inspired cuisine awaits. Savour dishes like fish tacos, avocado toast, and ahi poke bowls while lounging on the beach or relaxing in a private cabana. Pair your meal with a refreshing signature cocktail or a glass of wine from the extensive list.


“Catalina Island exceeded all my expectations! The charming city of Avalon, with its lovely shops and restaurants, was the perfect base for exploring the island. We enjoyed snorkelling in the crystal-clear waters and hiking the breathtaking trails. I can’t wait to return!”

Emily R.

“My family and I had an incredible vacation on Catalina Island. Our kids loved the beach and the glass-bottom boat tour, while my husband and I enjoyed relaxing at Descanso Beach Club. The laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural beauty made for a truly unforgettable getaway.”

Laura S.

“Two Harbors was the highlight of my trip to Catalina Island. The town’s serene ambience, beautiful beaches, and surrounding hiking trails provided the perfect escape from city life. I highly recommend visiting Two Harbors for a peaceful retreat!”

Mark D.

“The Catalina Casino tour was a fascinating glimpse into the island’s history and architecture. The guide was knowledgeable and engaging, and the views from the balcony were breathtaking. Don’t miss this unique experience!”

Angela H.

“The dining scene on Catalina Island was impressive! We had fantastic meals at Bluewater Avalon and Avalon Grille, and the Lobster Trap served some of the best seafood I’ve ever had. The variety of cuisine and atmospheres made each dining experience memorable and enjoyable.”

Brian K.

“Catalina Island is a hidden gem off the coast of Southern California. The island’s natural beauty and outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking made for an adventurous and refreshing vacation. I can’t recommend this destination enough!”

Sarah T.

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In this comprehensive guide, we’ve explored the many facets of Catalina Island, a captivating destination off the coast of Southern California. From its top attractions like the enchanting city of Avalon, the scenic town of Two Harbors, and the luxurious Descanso Beach Club, to the myriad of activities such as outdoor adventures, water sports, and vibrant nightlife, Catalina Island offers a truly unique and unforgettable experience.

The island’s diverse dining scene, featuring gems like Avalon Grille, Bluewater Avalon, and The Lobster Trap, ensures a gastronomic delight for every palate. As you explore this island paradise’s history, natural beauty, and charm, it’s clear that Catalina Island is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a memorable and magical getaway.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the top attractions on Catalina Island?

Some of the top attractions on Catalina Island include the city of Avalon, the town of Two Harbors, Descanso Beach Club, Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, and the Catalina Casino.

What outdoor activities are available on Catalina Island?

Catalina Island offers various outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, parasailing, and fishing.

How can I get to Catalina Island from the mainland?

You can reach Catalina Island via a high-speed ferry from several Southern California ports or opt for a helicopter or private boat service.

What is the best time to visit Catalina Island?

The best time to visit is spring and fall, offering mild weather and fewer crowds. Summer is warmer with more events but can be busier, while winter is quieter but may have limited attractions and activities.

Are there any annual events or festivals on Catalina Island?

Catalina Island hosts several annual events, including the Catalina Wine Mixer, Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival, Catalina Film Festival, and the Avalon Ball.

Is Catalina Island family-friendly?

Catalina Island offers various family-friendly activities and attractions, making it an excellent destination for visitors of all ages.

Where can I find accommodations on Catalina Island?

Accommodations on Catalina Island range from luxurious oceanfront hotels and charming bed and breakfasts to family-friendly inns and rustic campsites.

What dining options are available on Catalina Island?

Catalina Island offers diverse dining options, including upscale restaurants, casual eateries, and beachside dining, focusing on fresh seafood and Californian cuisine.

Are there any guided tours available on Catalina Island?

There are numerous guided tours and excursions available, such as glass-bottom boat tours, scenic cruises, walking tours, and off-road expeditions.

Can I rent equipment for water sports on Catalina Island?

Several rental shops on the island offer equipment for water sports, including snorkelling gear, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and more.

Hi there! My name is Sushanta Das, and I'm a passionate traveler and explorer. I've always had a deep curiosity and thirst for adventure, which led me to start my travel blog.

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