Santa Catalina Island, or Catalina, is a quiet and scenic island about an hour west from the Southern California Coastline. Known for its wildlife, hiking trails, and beautiful ocean waters, Catalina is the perfect destination for a quick escape. Here is a complete travel guide to planning and visiting Catalina Island.
HOW TO GET TO CATALINA
The most common way to get to Catalina is to catch the Catalina Express Ferry from one of three different ports in Long Beach, San Pedro, or Dana Point. There is also a Catalina Flyer which departs from Newport beach. The Ferry is rather large and spacious making for a comfortable hour long sail to the island. Of course, you can sail your own private boat or even take a Helicopter for more luxurious ways to visit.
BEST TIME TO GO TO CATALINA
Catalina has similar temperatures to the beach towns of Los Angeles making for beautiful weather year round. Of course, the ideal time is to come in the summer months when the waters and air temperatures are warmer.
LA is known for May Grey and June Gloom where there will be a lot of fog and marine layers so it is best to come after the May and June months. September is one of the better months as the weather is warm and the area will be quiet as kids go back to school.
The main tourist area for visiting Catalina is Avalon where most of the boats and ferries will dock. This is home to the most hotels, restaurants, bars, and shopping on the island.
Two Harbors is another ferry and boat stop which is closer to the mainland coming from San Pedro or Long Beach. This area is not nearly as built up as Avalon but you will find a nice beach with a lounge area and restaurant. You can take a high speed boat, the Cyclone, between Avalon and Two Harbors which is about a 35 minute ride. This area is more of a gateway to outdoor hiking trails, mountain biking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and camping.
THINGS TO DO ON CATALINA
JetSki2Catalina - take a jet ski from Long Beach direct to Two Harbors. A 2 hour ride one way will bring you on a thrill ride across the Pacific Ocean to Catalina. You will hopefully see wildlife on the way before arriving and enjoying a few hours exploring the island. This is a super fun way to combine a thrill activity with visiting Catalina.
Rent a Golf Cart - there are very few cars on the island and most residents and tourists will get around and explore the island by Golf Cart. Catalina Island Golf Carts is a great place to rent a golf cart and it is located just steps away from the Ferry port. You can rent carts for $60/hr. You can quickly see most of the island in one hour but you will probably want two hours to stop at the viewpoints and explore the best spots on Avalon.
Descanso Beach Club is your perfect destination for enjoying a day lounging by the water in a fun atmosphere. Be sure to rent chairs or cabanas in advance if you are planning to spend a day on the weekend.
Water Activities - one of the best things to do on the island is to explore all of the beautiful ocean waters. The waters are super clear and calm along Catalina making it perfect to enjoy some of the best activities like Paddle Boarding, Jet Skiing, Kayaking, and more.
Explore under the surface - the water is super clear with abundant sea life making it the perfect place for snorkeling or even better, Scuba Diving.
Mountain Biking / E Biking - one of the best ways to explore the island and get off the beaten path is on the mountain biking trails or cruising on a super fun electric bike.
Hiking & Camping - there are so many amazing trails for every level of hiker on the island. There is tons of space, trails, and views making it the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors.
WildLife Expeditions & Zip Lining - There is an amazing Zip Line park as well as daily excursions of the island including looking for Bison. Fun Fact, a movie was shot on the island where they brought in Bison for the film. The animals have spread all over the island which they call home and roam freely. If you get off the beaten path you will certainly have an opportunity to see one of these animals.
Visit the Wrigley Mansion - you will notice a lot of Chicago Cub Paraphernalia on the Island. The reason for that is because the owner of the Cubs and Wrigley Field once bought nearly every share of the Santa Catalina Island Company. He wanted to transform Catalina into a playground for all building infrastructure, reservoirs, hotels, and other attractions. This was even once the spring training home of the cubs back in the early 1900s! You can still see the Mansions sitting atop the hills on Avalon.
HOTELS ON CATALINA
There are a few great Hotels and accommodations on Catalina perfect for an extended island getaway.
Zane Grey Pueblo sits high above Avalon boasting some of the best coastal views. They have a year round pool (which most do not offer), a rooftop, and beautiful guest rooms.
Bellanca Hotel sits steps from the beach and downtown area. This is a perfect spot if you are looking for a premiere location but also not in the middle of all the noise and action.
Pavilion Hotel is in the heart of all the action being steps away from the beach, pier, and restaurants. They have a beautiful hotel and property and even offer a free wine and cheese happy hour.
Hotel Atwater is conveniently located by the downtown and has historic features as it was built by the Catalina Island Company and Mr. Wrigley back in the 1920s.
Other options are vacation house rentals perfect for larger groups.
Catalina Island is a great place to visit and escape the busy cities of Southern California. This quick trip will bring you to the slow paced quiet and scenic outdoors or serve as a fun getaway destination with friends.