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101 Things To Do On Catalina Island

101 Things To Do On Catalina Island

Catalina Island has so much to explore and see.  A perfect place for a vacation, honeymoon, day trip and more.  A perfect getaway and not too far from the mainland coastline of California.  We went there recently and stayed three days and explored every day.  There was still so much we missed.  I can’t wait to go back to this enchanting island.  It is like stepping into Hawaii without the airfare big hotels and crowds.  We took a 3 1/2 hour tour with our guide, Greg, teaching us all about the history of the island.  We went snorkeling, fishing, played miniature golf, shopped.  There is so much to do and the kids had a blast.  They said it was their best vacation ever.   The last time I was on Catalina Island was about 35 years ago.  I went with my mom, sister and a group of my mom’s friends and we camped on our own private beach for two weeks.  Catalina is approximately 88% natural conservatory and can not be built on.  It has two cities, both by the beach.  Avalon has about 4,000 residences and Two Harbors has about 300 residence. We stayed at Hotel Catalina Garden Suites.  It is a vintage building recently renovated.  The room was big with two king beds, a walk in bathroom and a small walk in kitchen area with a mini fridge, microwave, sink and small table with two chairs.  I took my two children, my sister and my nephew on the trip and we all fit nicely with the two beds and two couches in the room.  Next time I visit Catalina I want to check out the city of Two Harbors.  There isn’t as much there in size and number of people but it has a shipwreck, some bays and more.  So much to explore.  .  Next time we’ll stay a whole week.

  1. Go Fishing.  My son bought a $5 plastic thing with a line and hook and $3 for bait and he fished off the side of the Green Pier.  He got lots of nibbles and caught one fish!
  2. Go Parasailing.  There were a lot of people out there doing this (I’m too chicken).  I even saw some with two people in the ‘seat’ under the parachute. You can book this with Island Water Charters.
  3. Tour the island.  There are few ways to do this.  Bus with a group, private tour in a jeep.  Plus you can choose the outside or inside of the islands.  We booked it with Greg from Catalina Transportation Services.  He knew everything about Catalina from the native plants to the history of it.  He said he studies it in his free time so he can give accurate and updated information in all his tours.
  4. Go wine tasting.  There are a few ways to book this plus Catalina has it’s own vineyard (ask Greg for the history of it).
  5. Visit Catalina’s Museum.  They just moved to a brand new building and opened June 18th.  The ASA Blanche Wrigley Schreider Building showcases the history of the island from the Native Americans to today.
  6. Check out local exhibits.  The exhibits rotate but there is always something fun and educational.  Right now you can see Bettie Page Uncovered.  The exhibit will be up through October 16th.
  7. Mingle in the art galleries.  My favorite is A Fishinados.  Everything is ‘fish art.’  I even bought a few souvenirs there.  Everything is handmade by local artists.  They don’t allow photography inside so you’ll have to trust me on how awesome it is and go check it out.
  8. Go shopping.  Because, When In Rome’ right?  Or ‘While on Vacation.’  Get Catalina inspired clothing and more for your family or shop for Christmas gifts.  You’ll find a lot of one-of-a-kind shops.
  9. Get a massage.  This was the most awesome thing ever!  I got a massage in a cabana with the ocean breeze coming in.  Compliments of Massages By The Sea and located in Descanso Beach Club.  It was a nice stroll over there, about 20 minutes from the Green Pier.
    descanso beach club
  10. See a LIVE Concert!  Bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket and The Wailers.  Check out Live Descanso Beach Club for concert dates and to purchase tickets.  The concerts are on a green grass knoll with the ocean 200 yards away.
  11. Learn about hawks, meet an owl, check out the eagles and more at Catalina Falconry Experience.  Participants even get to put on a glove and hold one.
  12. Over 21?  Take a Happy Hour Cruise.  Wine tasting and beer bar plus the best views from the water.
  13. If you are in Avalon you’ll miss the sunset (it sets on the other side of the island) but you can see it reflect off of the clouds. Perfect time to get some awesome pictures.  While you are out there check out an evening Flying Fish Tour.  Go out on a boat for two hours at dusk to check out these winged fish.
  14. Go on a Scavenger Hunt.  This can be done walking, golf cart, Segway and more Catalina has five scavenger hunts to choose from.  You can schedule it with Urban Adventure Quest.
  15. Rent a Golf Cart and explore.  Since Catalina is mostly a nature conservatory the two cities are small and streets do not accommodate cars too well.  Most visitors travel on foot or rent a 4 or 6 person golf cart.
    catalina golf carts
  16. Rent Bikes.  Get some exercise and ride from pier to pier or around the city.  Some of the streets are steep (you might have to get off and push your bike) but there is a lot to see.
  17. Go Snorkeling.  We explored Lover’s Cove and Casino Point Dive.  Catalina Diver Supply company offers 24 hour rentals for snorkel gear and wetsuits.  Since the waters in Catalina are really cold these wetsuits are extra thick.  They also have scuba setups.
  18. Have kids that are easily bored while shopping or waiting for food?  Make up an I-Spy Game.  See how many statues you can find.  Guess if someone walking by is a resident or tourist.
  19. Go on a water tour and check out the sea lions.
  20. Take a tour offered by the local businesses.
    a. Two Harbors Tour.
    b. Cape Canyon Tour.
    c. East End Adventure.
    d. Undersea Tour.
    e. Avalon Scenic Tour.
  21. Get out at night and enjoy the sky!  Search constellations more.  I love the cell app Star Walk for star, planet, satellite and constellation identification.
  22. Rent Electric Bikes.  These are great if you want to be on a bike with the shining sun and ocean breeze but aren’t in the shape to peddle the hills.
  23. Take a Food Tour.  Taste of Catalina Food Tours is a fun adventure for foodies. This is for adults and teens and is an informative 3-hour tasting and cultural walking tour.
  24. Take a Glass bottom Boat Tour.  This was easy and fun.  Great for all ages.  The captain even feed the fish so more would come under the boat. The tour is approximately 40 minutes long and the kids had a blast.
  25. Dive in at Descanso Fresh… dive in the dessert bar that is!  Fresh desserts from ice creams and smoothies to infused 21-and-up Desserts.
  26. Guess where this Statue photo was taken!  If you know please post in the comments!  Hint- It is inside of a restaurant and from the outside window you might guess, by how eclectic the place looks.
    catalina statue
  27. Zipline across the inside of the island.  There are five lines total, taking you from the top down to Descanso Beach Club.  Tickets need to be purchased in advance.
  28. Tour the airport!  Did you know Catalina has an airport? I didn’t!  It even has a gift shop and small cafe.
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  29. Outside the airport you can check out some murals with the history of the island on them as well as a miniature replication island.
    2016-06-15 14.06.23
  30. Search for Bison.  Learn the history on why these wild beasts are here and try to spot some on a jeep or bus tour.  Right no there is 150 on the island.  There used to be over 300 but the bison are on birth control pill to limit population do to the California drought.
  31. Take a Helicopter Tour.  Not only can you travel to Catalina via helicopter (15 minute ride) you can also schedule an aerial tour around the island.
  32. See the Eagles and the bird rescue habitat.  Right now they have three birds you can see.  Due to broken wings the birds can’t be released to the wild and will live out their lives in captivity.
    catalina birds
  33. View the LiveCam bird nests.  Right now there are eight cameras on eagle nests on the island.
  34. Try out a new sport call SNUBA and take a tour of the ocean floor.
  35. Rock Climb!  Descanso Beach Club has 8 separate routes on their rock climbing walls.
  36. Surf.  Rent a surfboard, boogie board or body surf!  The water is perfect and there is public access to the beach all over the island.
  37. Check out the old Stage Coach building on the route to Middle Ranch. It was a place for overnight stops back when stage coaches traveled the island.  Right now it is closed for repairs but can be viewed from the outside.
  38. Tour the Native Plant Nursery.  A group of volunteers grow all of the island’s native plants in the nursery and often explore the island digging up non-native plants and planting native ones.  No non-native plants can be planted on the island.
  39. Get amazing photos of the boats, ocean and skyline!  Catalina has the view for it all.
    catalina sunset
  40. Take a Skyline Drive Tour to see the vistas, canyons and airport.
  41. If you visit the airport you must try the DC3 Airport’s famous cookies!  Not kidding.  Best ones ever! The Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Walnut was my favorite.
  42. Go to the Movies!  The Avalon theatre plays recently released movies for young and old alike!
  43. Explore the Casino and schedule a behind-the-scenes tour backstage.  The Casino is not for gambling but takes the traditional sense of the word, a building or room used for social amusements.  It is over 80-years-old and just had a renovation.
    catalina casino
  44. Play golf.  Catalina’s golf course was built in 1892 and is 2100 yards with 9 holes (two sets of tees to play 18 holes).
  45. If golf isn’t your thing try out miniature golf.  It is 18 holes with all sorts of native plants.  Nice shade for hot days too.  If you get a Passport booklet there is a coupon you can use too!
    miniature golf
  46. Have some pizza and get off your feet while the kids play at the arcade and sports zone.
  47. Play on the beach.  Swim, build sand castles, search for crabs or shells, play tag.
  48. Rent a watercraft:
    a. Paddleboat.
    b. Kayak.
    c. Motorboat.
    d. Fishing boat.
    e. Paddle Boat.
  49. Go Tubing.
  50. Visit Two Harbors.  Most tourists stay in Avalon but there is another city on Catalina, Two Harbors.  It is a lot smaller but still has many activities.  *Avalon has 4,000 residence and Two Harbors has 300 residence.
  51. Go Sport Fishing.  Take a 1/2 day or full day trip and see what you can catch.
  52. Try to spot the Garibaldi fish!  This fish is gorgeous and stands out with its bright orange color. You can see it snorkeling, scuba diving and from the glass bottom boat.
    Garibaldi
  53. take an evening Walking Tour and look for Catalina ghosts!
  54. Dine at the water at Descanso Gardens.  We had lunch at Descanso Fresh and while we waited for our food to come the kids played at the waterline.
    Descanso Fresh
  55. Catalina is known for ‘5 Places With Spectacular Views.’  See if you can find all five of them.
  56. Make S’mores!  Our hotel, Hotel Catalina Garden Suites, had a firepit with chairs in the courtyard.  It is lit every night and guests are invited to roast s’mores.
  57. Visit the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden.
  58. Just relax.  Get a good book and relax on the beach.  Descanso Gardens has family cabanas available to rent too.
  59. Take the Trans Atlantic Hike across the whole island.  This is a 22 mile hike so something you need to pack and plan ahead for but the sites are amazin.
  60. Visit Catalina’s two public playgrounds.  The City Park and the People’s Park.  The People’s Park also has picnic tables.
  61. Take a Heli-Bike Tour near Two Harbors.
  62. Take a group tour of the island on a Segway.
  63. Tour the ocean floor on the Nautilus.
  64. See if you can find all of Catalina’s Native Fish with your family:
    a. Garibaldi.
    b. Flying Fish.
    c. Yellowtail.
    d. Pacific Mackerel.
    e. Male Sheephead (these are really cool) black and red fish).
    f. California Halibut.
    g. Kelp Bass.
    h. California Barracuda (my son caught one of these fishing).
  65. Find more about underwater Catalina with Catalina Island: The Indispensible Guide to What’s Really Down There book.
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  66. Take a Mystery Tour.  Learn about Catalina Island celebrities, UFO sightings, Ghosts and more.
  67. Sign your kids up for Catalina Sea Camp.
  68. Take a Sunset Cruise.
  69. Stroll the Green Pier.  Dine, fish, sit on the benches and just enjoy people watching.
  70. Go for a swim!  There is a lifeguard on duty June-September 9am-7pm on the public beaches in Avalon.
  71. Rent jet skis!  Jump the waves, look for flying fish, sea lions and dolphins or just enjoy the open ocean.
  72. Visit a Cemetery.  To each their own, but Catalina actually has a cemetery and a hospital.
  73. Go to church.  If you happen to be there on a Sunday you can check out a local church service.  Catalina has six different churches to choose from.
  74. Attend an AA Meeting.  Not for all, but for recovering alcoholics it is nice to know there are meetings you can attend while on vacation.
  75. RUN!  Did you know Catalina welcomes runners?  Catalina has more than 50 miles of rugged coastline and more than 42,000 acres.  This invites runners from 5k’s to marathons!  Catalina hosts 5 major running events a year.
  76. If you are on any of the land tours you can try to spot the Catalina Island Fox.  Small and cute but a bit shy.  I heard they are often spotted near the Catalina Airport cafe, in the seating area outside.  They hang out trying to get some crumbs of leftover food.
  77. Check out the festivals of arts in the square.
  78. Explore a shipwreck or attend a shipwreck! 🙂  Two Harbors has a Shipwreck Festival in March.
  79. Have a picnic.  Pick a place at the beach or on a hike.  Descanso Gardens and a lot of the local restaurants will even sell you to-go sandwiches and snacks.
  80. Check out the World War II Bunker. facing the water and abandon and not accessible but you can check it out from the outside.
  81. Relax in Soaking Pools at Island Spa Catalina.
  82. Take a Wine and Cheese Tour.
  83. Camp!  Campsites are available for rent by the day or week.  For a family or big groups, like Boy Scouts.
  84. Try Buffalo milk at Harbor Reef Restaurant.
  85. Visit the Inn on Mount Ada.
  86. Take a Land-Sea Tour.
  87. Try Bison Jerky.
  88. Visit the Catalina Nature Center.
  89. Travel to Mount Orizaba.  It is 2069 feet in elevation and is the highest point on the island.
  90. Snorkel in the Marine Preserve.  Scuba diving is not allowed but you can snorkel here.  We saw tons of fish and some sort of sea cucumber.
  91. Get under in a Submarine!  Take a tour on the Seawolf for an undersea expedition.
  92. Take a Night Zip.  Try a night tour on a zipline at heights of more than 300 feet above the canyon floor with one run that is 1,100 feet long at speeds up to 40 MPH.  Did I tell you it is at night? Definitely for the brave of heart.
  93. Take a night tour on Catalina’s biofuel Hummer under the canopy of stars.
  94. take a Sundown Isthmus Cruise.  Cruise from Avalon to Two Harbors viewing the 14 mile coastline.
  95. Have some pizza.  There are no chain restaurants on the whole island!  Support mom and pop shops while dining.  There are plenty of places to choose from plus grocery stores if you prefer to shop and eat in your hotel or rental.
  96. Enjoy your hotel’s history! A lot of the hotels in Catalina are very old and have a lot of history behind them.  We stayed at Hotel Catalina Garden Suites. The hallways and office showcase photos from the past with pictures of old-time Catalina and celebrities that visited.
    hotel catalina garden suites
  97. Find the Oldest House in Catalina.  Our tour guide, Greg, pointed it out to us. People still live there so just drive by and don’t step on the property.
    oldest house in catalina
  98.  Propose! Find a private spot with a spectacular view and propose to your significant other to marry you!
  99. Check out the tiles on the walk to the Casino.  Gorgeous tiles of Catalina’s animals, plants and more stretch out along the walking path.
    catalina tile timeline
  100.  Find the Deagan chimes. They can be heard from all over Avalon since 1925 and chime from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
  101. Take a ferry.  There are many ways to get to Catalina Island.  The Catalina Express transports visitors from San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point with times available throughout the day.

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