The island is only an hour ferry ride away from LA, but oceans apart. The island is nearly car free and gone with the cars is the frantic pace of “overtown” as Catalina locals call the mainland. While the main attractions revolve around splashy ocean fun, recent years have brought many new activities to enjoy the island’s laidback vibe.
Most visitors arrive by ferry aboard the Catalina Express fleet. With an extensive schedule departing from Long Beach and Dana Point, your vacation starts once you step on the deck. Relax with a drink or snack and keep your eyes peeled for the dolphins that often follow the boat’s wake.
Get on island time with a water activity. Kayaking and paddle boards are available for rent from Wet Spot Rentals. Paddle over kelp forests and garibaldi. The waters surrounding Catalina Island have been called the world’s healthiest marine environment. Dive in and enjoy with scuba or snorkel rentals. Beginners can spot horn sharks, spiny lobsters and sea urchins while advanced divers can tour small underwater wrecks and a recreation of an archaeological site.
Now that you’ve built up and appetite stroll along Avalon’s charming main street to Maggie’s Blue Rose. Guest come for the housemade tortilla chips and stay for favorites like the chicken verde and the cucumber-jalapeno margarita.
Start your day with Portofino’s continental breakfast.
The island is rightfully proud of it’s newly homed Catalina Island Museum. The permanent exhibition tells the story of Catalina Island including its time as a Hollywood hotspot, its connection the Chicago Cubs and much more. A major exhibit by Dale Chihuly is currently on display.
Climb, swing and scramble from tree to tree in a series of elevated obstacles at Catalina Aerial Adventure. The rope ladders, zip lines and balance beams are suspended among eucalyptus trees and offer a challenge for beginner to advanced adventure seekers.
Just a short walk away, you can soak up ocean views, beachy cocktails and casual cuisine at Descanso Beach Club. If you are in Avalon during the warmer months, you can enjoy live entertainment all weekend long!
Get hooked on classic seafood dishes at Bluewater Grill. The outdoor patio is perched over Avalon Bay’s turquoise waters making this one of Avalon’s most popular dining destinations. Before you go know that they don’t take reservations, but you can call 30 minutes prior to your arrival to be added to the wait list. While the wait can run long, they are just footsteps from the shops on Crescent Ave.
Grab a bike or golf cart for the quick ride to Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Garden. The garden spans nearly 38 acres with an emphasis on California island endemic plants. Many of the plants are rare and several are on the endangered species list.
The centerpiece of the garden is the Wrigley Memorial honoring the memory of William Wrigley Jr., Although best known as a chewing gum magnate, Wrigley established the Catalina Island Conservancy and ensured that the island stayed mostly wild.
From the gardens, you can access the Garden to Sky hiking trail. It’s a moderate 1.2 mile hike to the summit. And the payoff is a breathtaking view of both sides of the island. On clear days hikers can even see views of the other Channel Islands.
Snag an ice cream cone with a freshly made waffle cone from Big Olaf’s for your stroll back to the Catalina Express.