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The Ultimate Guide to Catalina Island: Explore Outdoor Adventures and More

a small boat in a body of water with a mountain in the background

Catalina Island, located just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning natural beauty and outdoor adventures. From hiking and kayaking to snorkeling and zip lining, there is something for everyone on this idyllic island. In this guide, we’ll explore the top attractions and activities on Catalina Island, as well as provide tips for planning your trip.

Getting to Catalina Island

The most popular way to get to Catalina Island is by taking the Catalina Express ferry from Dana Point Harbor or Long Beach. The ferry ride takes about an hour and offers beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. You can also take a helicopter ride from Long Beach or San Pedro, which takes about 15 minutes.

Where to Stay

Catalina Island offers a variety of accommodation options, from luxury resorts to cozy bed and breakfasts. The most popular areas to stay are Avalon and Two Harbors. Avalon is the main town on the island and offers a bustling atmosphere with plenty of restaurants, shops, and activities. Two Harbors is a more secluded area, perfect for those looking for a peaceful getaway.

Some popular places to stay on Catalina Island include:

  • The Pavilion Hotel: Located in the heart of Avalon, this boutique hotel offers luxurious rooms and suites with ocean views.
  • Banning House Lodge: This bed and breakfast in Two Harbors offers charming rooms and a peaceful atmosphere.
  • Hotel Metropole: This historic hotel in Avalon offers stunning views of the harbor and is just steps away from the beach.

Top Attractions on Catalina Island


Whether you’re looking for a romantic evening stroll or a lively adventure, Avalon has something for everyone. One of the town’s most alluring attractions is the Avalon Harbor, a serene spot that’s perfect for a leisurely walk or a romantic dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants. For those who love history and architecture, a visit to the Catalina Casino is a must. Although it’s not a casino, this iconic building is a movie theater and event venue that offers fascinating guided tours. From the top of the casino, visitors can enjoy awe-inspiring views of the island’s breathtaking landscape. For those looking for some fun in the sun, the Descanso Beach Club is an exclusive private beach club that offers an array of thrilling water activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, and stand-up paddleboarding. With its stunning natural beauty and charming atmosphere, Avalon is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of Catalina Island.

a small boat in a body of water

Two Harbors

This hidden gem offers a wide range of activities and attractions that cater to everyone’s interests. You can explore Isthmus Cove, a picturesque cove that provides an array of water sports such as boating, swimming, and snorkeling and allows you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the sea. The Catalina Island Conservancy, on the other hand, offers guided hikes and tours of the island’s interior, where you can witness the island’s diverse flora and fauna and gain insight into its rich history. Furthermore, if you’re a hiking enthusiast, Banning House Lodge, a historic bed and breakfast, awaits you with open arms, providing a perfect starting point for your hiking trip. Additionally, its magnificent ocean views are sure to leave you awestruck.

a body of water with a mountain in the background

Outdoor Adventures on Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with a variety of activities to choose from. Some popular outdoor adventures on the island include:


Catalina Island offers over 165 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging treks. Some popular hikes include:

  • Garden to Sky Summit: This 7.5-mile round trip hike offers stunning views of the island and takes you to the highest point on Catalina Island.
  • Hermit Gulch Trail: This 2.5-mile loop trail is perfect for beginners and offers beautiful views of the ocean and Avalon.
  • Trans-Catalina Trail: This 37.2-mile trail takes you through the interior of the island and offers stunning views of the coastline.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Catalina Island is known for its rich marine life, which makes it a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts. Some of the best spots for exploring underwater include Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve, which is a protected cove and a home to various fish, sea stars, and other marine creatures. Another popular dive spot is the Casino Point Dive Park, which offers easy access to a variety of underwater attractions, including a sunken barge and a kelp forest. Finally, for those looking for a more guided experience, the Descanso Beach Club offers snorkeling and scuba diving tours for all skill levels.

a group of people that are standing in the water

Zip Lining

For a thrilling adventure, try zip lining through the canyons of Catalina Island. The Catalina Island Zip Line Eco Tour offers five zip lines that take you through Descanso Canyon and offer stunning views of the ocean and the island’s interior.

Dana Point Whale Watching

If you’re traveling to Catalina out of Dana Point, consider extending your trip with a whale-watching tour. Dana Point is “The Whale Watching Capital of The World” and the best location to see whales in their natural habitats. Dana Wharf, located next to the Catalina Ferry, is the premier whale-watching tour company in Dana Point. 2-Hour tours offer guests the opportunity to get up close to magnificent marine life.

Tips for Planning Your Trip

  • Book your ferry or helicopter ride in advance, especially during peak season.
  • Consider purchasing a Catalina Express Fun Pack, which includes round-trip ferry tickets and discounts on popular activities.
  • Pack comfortable shoes and clothing for outdoor activities.
  • Bring sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
  • Make reservations for popular restaurants in advance, especially during peak season.

Catalina Island is an ideal destination for those who love the outdoors and seek to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Its natural beauty is breathtaking, and the variety of activities available make it a popular spot for tourists. If you’re planning a trip, Catalina Island is definitely worth considering. Book your trip today and experience everything this idyllic island has to offer.