Located about 20 miles off the Southern California coast via a one-hour boat trip from Long Beach, Catalina Island offers lots to do, on land and on the water. Reminiscent of Mediterranean islands, and enjoying a similar climate, it’s ideal for relaxing and experiencing total bliss as well as taking part in outdoor adventures and fabulous city attractions, including shopping, dining and entertainment. Whether you’ll be spending a weekend, a week or more, these things to do are sure to make for an incredible escape from the chaos of the mainland.
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Explore a Spectacular Underwater World (Nearby Hotels)
Catalina Island famously offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in the continental U.S. The water is clean, clear and filled with abundant marine life, with two of the best spots found at Casino Point and Lover’s Cove. The latter boasts one of the heaviest concentrations of fish found anywhere off the west coast, and it’s been ranked one of the top 10 places for snorkeling on Earth by CNN.
Take a Boat Tour (Nearby Hotels)
Catalina Island Company offers a variety of boat tours, including opportunities to search for dolphins on the Ocean Runner Tour, or take a Glass Bottom Boat voyage, viewing an array of fish including the California flying fish and the Garibaldi, a bright orange fish that’s the official marine fish of California, without getting wet. There are also nighttime cruises to search for flying fish, thrilling jet boat rides, and leisurely trips out to Two Harbors on the island’s east end.
Catch a Show at the Catalina Casino (Nearby Hotels)
The Catalina Casino is an iconic landmark on the island, opened back in 1929. It dominates Avalon and has been beautifully restored, serving as a spectacular reminder of Catalina’s past. Though it was never intended to be used as a casino, it has hosted a long list of internationally-renowned entertainers, world-class theater productions and first-run motion pictures. Today, first-run movies run every night in the original movie theater. Visitors can take a behind-the-scenes tour or attend the many special events held throughout the year, like the Catalina Island Jazz Festival.
Hit the Trails (Nearby Hotels)
Catalina offers some great hikes too, with trails for hikers of all abilities, each offering beautiful views of the rolling hills and the Pacific. The Trans-Catalina Trail, a 38.5-mile route that traverses the island from Avalon to Starlight Beach at its western end, provides the opportunity for a fabulous backpack escape with five campgrounds that are maintained by the Santa Catalina Island Company along the way. If you don’t have the time or inclination for a multi-day adventure, you can choose to hike just a single leg of the trail, or head to the Two Harbors area where you’ll find a range of day hikes, from easy to challenging.
Catalina Food Tours (Nearby Hotels)
If you like good food – and who doesn’t?! – Taste of Catalina Food Tours offers walking food tours that will bring you to some of the very best cafes and restaurants on the island. Tours include unique tastings, bites, and craft brews. Not only will you meet the chefs and taste some of the most delectable dishes, but you’ll get to learn about many of the island’s historic landmarks and tales of its early days. The guides share their knowledge of each destination visited which includes highly acclaimed entrees, desserts, and beverages.
Golfing (Nearby Hotels)
The Catalina Golf Course is not only one of the most scenic in the country, but it’s the oldest still operating course west of the Mississippi. Built in 1892 by the Banning Brothers, the par 32, 2,100-yard course hosts nine challenging holes with two sets of tees for 18-hole play. It also features a fully-stocked pro shop, club rentals, lessons, and electric and pull carts. If you have little ones with you, bring them to its Miniature Golf Gardens, an 18-hole mini-golf course with a lovely garden setting, for a fun introduction to golf.
Stroll Through the Botanical Garden (Nearby Hotels)
Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Garden sits at the end of Avalon Canyon Road, about a 30-minute walk or a short trolley ride from downtown Avalon. The memorial sits atop a hill overlooking Avalon for spectacular views of the bay, stretching all the way to the mainland. It honors the memory of William Wrigley Jr., best known as the founder of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of chewing gum in the world. Wrigley also played a key role in the history of the island, bringing about numerous improvements. The Garden has a focus on the Channel Islands’ endemic plants, many of which are extremely rare, including some that are on the Endangered Species list.
Catch a Show at the Avalon Theatre (Nearby Hotels)
Located in the Catalina Casino’s lower level, the Avalon Theatre is a classic movie house that began featuring first-run movies back in 1929. Tucked under the Casino Ballroom, it’s exquisitely decorated in atmospheric style with ancient Roman-inspired tiled mural panels and other Art Deco murals painted by acclaimed artist John Gabriel Beckman. Famous for its incredible acoustics, the theater hosts a Page Organ Co rank theater organ that’s still used today for weekend film performances. Film showings are presented every evening of the week, with special performances and screenings on weekends.
Indulge in Island Spa Treatments
If you want to take the relaxation factor up a notch, head to Island Spa Catalina. Set within the historic El Encanto building, the 15,000-square-foot spa features a wide ranging menu of carefully selected treatments and rejuvenating therapies that utilize the island’s natural botanical ingredients, like hot quartz sand therapy and the Sea Oxygen De-Age facial treatment which incorporates marine-based ingredients that are custom-blended to gently remove impurities while hydrating the skin and minimizing the appearance of fine lines. Custom massages, a spa shop and salon services, including manicures, pedicures, hair and makeup options are available too.