Best Activities on Santa Catalina Island, CA
Southern California's Island vibe
We try to get to Santa Catalina Island, California, at least once a year. It's approximately 26 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, and a great place to see pristine underwater kelp forests or just relax. It's got that laid-back island vibe, and very few vehicles other than the occasional golf cart. There are multiple locations that offer ferry boats to the island via the Catalina Express. We usually embark from Long Beach, but you may also choose San Pedro or Dana Point here in Southern California.
Along with shops and restaurants, there are many activities on the island. You can take the Garibali Public Bus to the Wrigley Memorial Botanic Garden, enjoy ziplining down a canyon, go parasailing past the harbor, or snorkel or scuba dive at the marine sanctuary, Descanso Beach, and Lovers Cove. You can rent a wetsuit and snorkel gear at Descanso Beach Ocean Sports, where you can also rent kayaking equipment. This year, we attended the 33rd Annual JazzTrax Festival in the casino ballroom. It was a spectacular event!
If you don't want to snorkel or scuba, you can still witness the abundant underwater life with a semi-submersible boat ride. If you're there during the Summer months, you can witness the fabled flying fish at night! Another activity for the evening is catching a movie at the nostalgic art deco theater inside the casino.
We strongly recommend spending a night or two on the island. Once the day-trippers have left, you'll find the harbor town of Avalon much more peaceful and relaxing. Though there are many lodging options on the island, we prefer the Old Turner Inn bed and breakfast. It's centrally located, yet back a few blocks from the noisy waterfront mall. They also allow you to keep your bags under the living room piano should your ferry boat arrive or depart outside of normal check-in/check-out hours. Our favorite room is the Queen Suite.
Catalina Island was once owned by William Wrigley, Jr., and during it's heyday from the 1920's through the 1950's was the site of Hollywood films, lavish celebrity parties in the casino, and even the Chicago Cubs Spring training camp! For more about the history of the island, visit the Catalina Island Museum. Today, Santa Catalina Island is an escape for many Southern Californians and also a world-class destination. While times have changed, the island remains timeless. You really must experience our beloved Catalina for yourself.