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Top 5 Things to do on Catalina Island
May 19, 2023

UPDATED MAY 2024. Adventure, relaxation and fun—all on a “hidden” oasis just a short escape from the bustle of Southern California, this secluded spot is none other than Catalina Island.

There is so much to do and see, plus plenty of opportunities for relaxation, we had to gather some of our top picks for a day trip or even an extended stay. Let’s dive off the beaten path and into the Pacific! Come with us and see why Catalina Island is a must do extension of your Southern California vacation.

Catalina Island Quick Details

Have you ever visited Catalina Island? Catalina and the City of Avalon are just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California and have so much to offer. This small, Mediterranean-like island is the perfect place to spend a day while on your Southern California vacation.
  • Catalina Island is about 22 miles from the coast of Southern California
  • Most people utilize Catalina Express, a sleek, comfortable passenger ferry for transportation
  • Catalina island is just 22 miles long and 8 miles across
  • One way travel takes just about an hour
  • Offers a mild subtropical climate with warm temperatures year-round

How to Get to Catalina Island

Catalina’s proximity to other Southern California attractions like Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood makes it the perfect destination to slow things down and enjoy a different pace after the theme parks.

The most popular way to get to Catalina is via Catalina Express, the passenger ferry. Catalina Express offers multiple round trip voyages each day from the following ports:
  • Long Beach
  • San Pedro
  • Dana Point

If you're staying near Disneyland, we recommend traveling from the Long Beach location. In about an hour you’ll feel the excitement of arrival and the stress of city life melting away. Our Catalina Express tickets come at a discounted rate Get Away Today guests.

Other transportation options, although a bit more pricey include a quick flight on a private plane or sailing over on a private boat. If you opt for a private flight you’ll arrive at Catalina Island’s Airport in the Sky which sits on a mountaintop, 1,602 feet above sea level! Catalina Island is also a regular weekly stop for cruises, so you may be joined by some additional guests depending on when you visit.

Now that you’re on Catalina Island, even if it’s only daydreaming about it, let’s discover just how much there is to do (or not do, depending on your style) on this little island in the Pacific.

Explore Catalina Island by Golf Cart

If you left the mainland behind, chances are you sat in Southern California traffic during your visit. One thing you’ll be hard pressed to find on Catalina is gridlock or rush hour of any kind. That’s because the city of Avalon regulates how many cars can be on the island. It’s so limited you will only spot a few cars, if that! Instead, you'll see locals and tourists driving golf carts all around. It’s one of the many things that makes Catalina so adorably fresh and fun.

That’s why exploring Catalina in your own golf cart makes our list of top things to do on Catalina Island.

1. Golf Carts on Catalina. Renting a golf cart and driving around Catalina Island is one of the most popular things to do. Catalina is a beautiful island with so much to offer. The island is small enough that you can drive around the entire city of Avalon in about an hour. You will be able to see amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, Southern California on a clear day and the island landscape as well.

This family friendly ride and way of transportation is an activity you do not want to miss! You can rent a four or six passenger golf cart to explore the island at your own pace. Rentals can be made online or once you reach the island. There are several locations just a quick walk from the dock. Because they are so popular, golf cart rentals are best secured in advance.

View Catalina Island from a Zip Line

A little thrill goes a long way on Catalina Island!

2. Catalina Zip Line. If you’re looking for something to get your day going, look up to the sky! Take a ride on the first zipline in Los Angeles County (that’s right, Catalina is officially still L.A.) and one of the most scenic in California.

On Catalina’s zip line you’ll enjoy five consecutive zips high above Descanso Canyon, all while taking in incredible views of the Pacific Ocean far below. The tour also includes information about Catalina’s unique ecosystems and the efforts to protect them. The Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour is operated by the Catalina Island Company and can be booked directly or through other island tour operators. In total, you will travel close to three quarters of a mile pushing speeds of 40mph. You don’t want to miss out on this unforgettable ride!

Explore Catalina Island Under the Sea

With Get Away Today as your travel companion, you’ve likely explored a bit of under the sea life at Disneyland Resort’s Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. But now it’s time to take a closer look at the real marine life of the Pacific.

3. Catalina Semi-Submersible Submarine Tour. This submarine expedition brings you face to face with the abundant sea life surrounding the island. Climb aboard a semi-submersible and cruise five feet below the surface. The spacious, climate-controlled cabins provide every passenger with their own seat and port hole. With space to roam about the cabin and enjoy other viewpoints, you won’t feel as claustrophobic as other submarine voyages.

On top of the comfortable viewing atmosphere, Catalina's marine environment is considered one of the healthiest in the world. This means you’ll likely see some amazing sea creatures including bright orange Garibaldi, spotted calico bass, urchins, rockfish, and bat rays, just to name a few.

Hike Catalina Island Trails

Fresh and clean ocean air with over 200 miles of trails to explore. It’s no wonder Catalina Island is such a popular destination for hiking.

4. Catalina Hiking Trails. Catalina Island has over 200 miles of trails across the island and there is something for every skill level.

If you are really looking for a challenge, there is a 37.2 mile trek along the back of the island. If a more leisurely walk is something you prefer, there are different loop trails you can follow giving you a taste of the backcountry.

Hiking is a favorite activity on Catalina Island, where you can see plants and animals from all over the world, including some that are native only to Catalina Island. With a wide variety of trails to choose from, you can’t go wrong with taking a hike while visiting the island.

Local Shopping on Catalina Island

Most of Avalon’s shops are tucked within a few city blocks, making shopping in Catalina a fun and leisurely experience to enjoy during the day.

5. Shop Catalina Island. As you stroll along the scenic waterfront you’ll find shops and boutiques offering everything from island apparel and works by local artists to ice cream and restaurants. We prefer shopping in Catalina's quaint little shops stocked full of local artisan works you can’t find at home.

We recommend Afishinados Gallery Store filled with one-of-a-kind, hand-made fish art and designs by local and regional artists. Afishinados Gallery and Store is curated completely by Karen King and there are no mass produced products in the store. If you find something you like, don’t hesitate to pick it up because chances are it won’t be there next time.

Another great spot to check out is Bay of the Seven Moons which sells hand-crafted jewelry and carefully chosen cultural artifacts. They have been on Catalina Island since 1991 and have a gallery full of treasures to explore.

Book Your Catalina Island Escape

If you have ever considered traveling to Catalina Island, don’t wait any longer! Let Catalina whisk you away to paradise in minutes! Just 22 miles off of the coastline of Southern California, you can travel across the sea in comfort and style. Whether you’re exploring on a day trip or spending a few days on island time, the golf carts, zip lines, underseat tours, hiking trails and quaint shops will be waiting for you. Book online or call our agents at 855-GET-AWAY today to schedule your trip to Catalina or add it on to your Southern California vacation package!

Top 5 Things to do on Catalina Island

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