Renowned as a “Hidden Paradise in Southern California”, Catalina Island is the epitome of fun and relaxation.
Purchased in 1919 by William Wrigley Jr. (Chewing Gum Billionaire and former owner of the Chicago Cubs), the purpose of Santa Catalina Island was a means to create a unique travel destination for all.
Carrying that legacy into the modern era, Catalina Island remains one of the nicest and luxurious places to visit in California.
While there are plenty of wonders and fun things to do on Catalina Island, there are also a lot of fun facts that go along with its history.
For instance, a herd of buffalo was brought onto the island for a Will Ferrell movie, and still roam the island to this day.
So don’t be surprised if you see a few beasts grazing the fields!
Ronald Reagan also spent most of his younger years living on Santa Catalina Island, way before he moved to LA and became President.
One of the most interesting things, however, is that William Wrigley Jr. built a casino on Catalina Island that was never meant to gamble in.
Instead, it has been utilized as a Dance Hall and full-fledged Movie Theater since its inception and is said to have featured the first motion picture with sound.
With so many historical references and beautiful natural scenery, you would be hard-pressed trying to find another island off the SoCal coast as gorgeous as Catalina Island.
The possibilities on Catalina Island are infinite- and rightfully so.
With an average temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit all year long, you can find yourself doing a number of fun activities near or around the main Catalina Island attractions.
And don’t worry!
Even though there are a lot of fancy places to visit, you will have no problem finding cheap things to do on Catalina Island, or even free things to do when venturing around the mainland.
So sit back, relax, and prepare yourself for an adventurous journey through the historic, playful, and cultural island known at Santa Catalina.
Things To Do On Catalina Island
1. Descanso Beach Club
If you are looking for one of the most relaxing activities Santa Catalina Island has to offer, then look no further than the Descanso Beach Club.
The Descanso Beach Club is a private beach and cove that features a plethora of relaxing and romantic things to do on Catalina Island.
Known best for its incredible grade of nightlife, enjoying the California sun on a fully serviced paradise isn’t too shabby either.
When visiting Descanso Beach Club, one of the coolest things to do is partake in some of the outdoor activities, which include things like Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, and their infamous Zip Line Tour.
If you are boarding at the Descanso Beach Club, the Pavilion Hotel is a combination of Modern Luxury and a quaint island style.
Most of the rooms are equipped with a private balcony, so you can enjoy the sun or warm night sky anytime you’d like.
In general, the Descanso Beach Club is located near most of the relaxing areas of Catalina Island, is a great place to get a world-class experience.
No need to rush, the cabanas and massages will be there whenever you are ready!
Address: 1 St Catherine Way, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
2. Catalina Island Golf Carts
If you have no idea what to do for fun today, rest assured, you will love this!
Having the ability to hop in a four-passenger Golf Cart and peruse across the island makes adventuring a bit more appealing.
Even if you need to upgrade to a six-passenger cart, this is a must do if you are looking to find your preferred section of the island, or simply looking to kill a few hours this weekend.
There are so many things to see on Catalina Island that considering a Golf Cart option instead of a more traditional form of transportation may make all the difference during your vacation.
Address: 625 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
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3. Catalina Island Casino
Three generations have passed, and the Catalina Island Casino continues to shine gracefully.
Opening its doors in 1929, the Catalina Island Casino is the primary location and one of the main points of interest for any traveler.
Not only does the Catalina Island Casino embrace you with fun activities via social gatherings, but it is also one of the most romantic things to do if you are visiting with a significant person.
The Movie Theater is a sure way to get a few cuddles in, or if tours are more your style, feel free to book a “Behind the Scenes” tour as well.
Upon entering the Catalina Island Casino, you are greeted with high walls and artful architecture from tiled murals.
Belonging to the Wrigley family, the Casino has an awesome view of the ocean, which is very impressive during a clear sunny day.
If you are lucky enough (or plan accordingly) you might be able to attend one of the main events the Casino throws in their Grand Ballroom.
Address: 1 Casino Way, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
4. Parasail Catalina
Ranging anywhere from $25 to $80, the Catalina Island Parasailing Adventure is another one of the best things to do on Catalina Island.
Soaring between 600 and 800 feet above the California grassland is an adrenaline rush of its own, but there are many things to see when looking across the Santa Catalina Island attractions from an aerial view.
That experience alone is like no other.
Not for the feeble-minded, but definitely worth it for the thrill seeker.
Address: 105 Pebbly Beach Rd, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
5. Bison Expedition
There is no shortage of places to go or stuff to do when you are visiting California, let alone Santa Catalina Island.
Of course, hitting the beach and bars may forever be on the to do list, but when was the last time you went on a Bison Expedition?
While it is one of the more popular tourist attractions around the island, it is usually one of the best choices you didn’t know you needed to make while visiting.
A convertible hummer takes you around the natural wildlife of the island and grants you the opportunity to see amazing creatures and amazing views.
Having the ability to travel around the winding hills of the drier parts of Catalina Island will help you to appreciate the natural elements of California a bit more as well.
While the Bison and variety of wildlife inhabiting the dry lands are incredible to see up close, the ascension back down into Avalon is one of the most breathtaking views California has to offer.
Address: Avalon, CA, United States
6. Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden
In honor of William Wrigley Jr. the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden is located in the Avalon Canyon and is designed within a hike called the “Garden to Sky Trail”.
Cascading across thirty-eight acres of lush meadows, it is home to many endemic species of California plants, to which many are endangered.
There is also a tower that houses the actual Wrigley Memorial and is a must see if interested in learning more about one of the most successful men in history.
Address: 1400 Avalon Cyn Rd, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
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7. Catalina Island Helicopter Tour
So yes, almost every city around California will offer some sort of helicopter tour.
However, the Santa Catalina Island landscape will leave you in awe every time.
During the Catalina Island Helicopter Tour, you will be at the mercy of some of the most incredible sights California has to offer.
You will be able to spot dolphins and whales that inhabit the protected waters of Channel Island, as well as soar over mountainous terrain while hearing the remarkable story of the island’s history.
The Helicopter Tour is one of the most fun things to do on Catalina Island and should be a top priority if you are simply looking for stuff to do, or trying to find different points of interest for your vacation schedule.
Address: Avalon, CA, United States
8. Mt Ada
Another one of the iconic tourist attractions is Mt Ada, as it used to be William Wrigley Jr’s mansion.
It is now a six-bedroom bed-and-breakfast for travelers who like to stay in luxurious atmospheres.
If you are looking to book a stay at Mt Ada, be sure to look for reservation months prior to your actual travel dates, as the Summer and Spring seasons will fill up rather quickly.
However, even if you are not staying at Mt Ada, you can still experience the grand presentation of the ex-mansion.
During the weekends, the Inn invites island-goers to a special brunch or lunch dining experience and is completely open to the public.
Address: 398 Wrigley Rd, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
9. Luau Larry’s
What would an island off of the California coast be without a tiki bar?!
With so many magnificent things to do around the island, Luau Larry’s will bring you back down to earth with good food and great drinks.
With a menu full of traditional bar offerings (wings, fries, etc.) you will have the much-needed comfort foods your soul desires.
However, we recommend ordering the “Wiki Wacker” which is a rum-based specialty of Luau Larry’s.
The best part is you will receive a palm frond to signify to the other beach-goers that you’ve been getting frisky with Wiki Wackers.
Address: 509 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
10. Bluewater Grill
With over 25 years’ worth of food and dining experience, the Bluewater Grill is a staple on Santa Catalina Island.
Bluewater Grill has a menu full of delicious seafood items and follows ethical and sustainable methods when it comes to its fishing practices.
While the restaurant prides itself on a classic preparation, they do add somewhat of a modern aesthetic to the overall cooking and style of the restaurant.
Address: 306 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
11. The Lobster Trap
Finding a place in California that sells $4 pints and daily food specials is already a rarity, but between 2 pm and 5 pm, The Lobster Trap has a home away from home atmosphere that welcomes you with open arms.
One of the greatest things about The Lobster Trap is that you can enjoy good eats in the middle of the day, or during the early morning hours as well.
If you are traveling to Catalina Island for fun sometime after Labor Day but before July 1st, you can grab a burger and a beer for $11.
And without a selection of Lost Coast and Craft Beers, it is definitely worth the time to check out another great Catalina Island establishment.
Address: 128 Catalina Ave, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
12. Steve’s Steakhouse
Where there are great steaks there is usually great seafood to match, and Steve’s Steakhouse is no exception.
Not only are the panoramic views from the restaurant to die for, but the exquisite menu and elite preparation of every item on it make Steve’s Steakhouse a must do whenever you visit Catalina Island.
The food here is beyond top tier, and the atmosphere makes it one of the places to go for an authentic Catalina Island dining experience.
Address: 417 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
13. The Naughty Fox
Just think about “Tempura Fried Lobster Tail Handrolls” and then make a reservation.
Located in the Bellanca Hotel, the Naughty Fox is home to some of the best food on Catalina Island.
Not only because the ocean view outdoor seating is the most immaculate in town, but their menu is driven by a Master Chef consensus rather than a traditional beach vibe mentality.
The naughty fox will wow you out your sandals, and is one of the best places to eat near the coastline.
Address: 111 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
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14. Bistro at the Atwater
Right around the waterfront, you will find the Bistro at the Atwater sitting cozily under the California sun.
Unlike the traditional restaurants, you will find scattered near and across Catalina Island, the Bistro at the Atwater is an ideal place to pick up a picnic-style sandwich or salad.
There are also a number of sweet and savory baked goods available all throughout the day.
If you are looking to pick up something quick and light to eat on the go, Bistro at the Atwater may be just the thing you are looking for.
Address: 119 Sumner Ave, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
15. The Avalon Ball
Part of the Art Deco Society based in La, the Avalon Ball is a blast from the past.
Held in the Catalina Island Casino Ballroom, the Avalon Ball used to host 3000 people on its dancefloor as legendary artists blessed the space with incredible music.
Under a barrage of rainbow lighting, the tradition is still continued to this day!
If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind experience while visiting Santa Catalina Island, your list of places to go should include this 1920s recreation of vintage pastimes.
The entire space is approximately 10,000 square feet, so if you aren’t worn out by the time the event is over, it’s time you start turning it up a notch!
Address: 1 Casino Way, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
16. Three Palms Avalon Arcade
Let’s be honest.
When was the last time you went to an arcade?
Even if this is a “vacation”, no need to be overly attached to the sun every given second.
The Three Palms Avalon Arcade will give you the nostalgic feelings of joystick and button-smashing fun that you haven’t had in forever.
The games are going and the beers’ a flowing, so take a couple hours off before you get burned to a crisp!
Address: 205 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
17. Golf Gardens Mini Golf
Avalon’s Golf Gardens is the perfect place to bring your family, especially if you are looking to burn some of your child’s energy with fun and excitement.
If you are on Santa Catalina Island today or will be this weekend, it is a perfect time to visit their mini-golf course and take advantage of the California sun and cool breeze.
This mini-golf course is void of any silly clowns or goofy towers, instead, it is made for the mini-golf connoisseur.
Granted, there are a number of places to go that you can’t find anywhere else on the planet.
But for those longer stays on the island, it may be in your best interest to mark this place down on the calendar.
Address: 10 Island Plz, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
18. Enchanted City Tour
Ready for a few extraterrestrial stories and other mysterious adventures around Catalina Island?
Well, look no further than the Enchanted City Tour.
Throughout the island, there are multiple undertones of Alien activity, and some have even confessed to seeing UFOs in the California night sky.
Led by an experienced tour guide, you will hear history intertwined with excerpts from a book called the “Mysterious Island Catalina”, written by Jim Watson.
You’ll be seated comfortably in a coach and chauffeured around to various landmarks and scenic views, as the details of conspiratorial encounters are laid out to you piece by piece.
California is no stranger to these types of stories, so it’s no wonder that Catalina Island would be one of the points of interest pertaining to alien encounters or unexplained phenomena.
Address: 1 Cabrillo Mole, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
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19. Nature Center at Avalon Canyon
California is known for having some of the most interesting parks and mountain ranges on the planet.
Established and maintained by the Catalina Island Conservancy, this flora and fauna-filled piece of nature contains history and passion all in one place.
The Nature Center at Avalon Canyon is made specifically for those looking to be enthralled by the wonders of the earth.
It is an interactive place that houses a ton of learning resources along with an amazing outdoor experience.
The Nature Center houses the first-ever Interpretive Center constructed by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation and tells the official story and natural history of Santa Catalina Island.
While there are self-guided tours around the facility, it is an interesting time learning about the rugged terrains and mountainous regions that juxtapose themselves across an infinite blue ocean.
The immersive geology of the Channel Islands that includes marine and land symbiosis are all well documented within the Nature Center of Avalon Canyon.
The entire concept of “Biodiverse Hotspots” (which are rare throughout the world) can be observed, explored, and studied right here on Catalina Island.
Address: 100 Avalon Cyn Rd, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
20. Catalina Museum For Art & History
California, in general, has a rich history built around sunshine and endless beaches.
When you are 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, it’s easy to forget all of the art that has either originated or flourished within the State.
If you are on Santa Catalina Island today or this weekend and are interested in the Arts, the Catalina Museum For Art & History is one of the best places to visit.
From rare photographs to rotating exhibits featuring yesteryear’s most prominent artists, the Catalina Museum For Art & History is a great way to spend a few hours in bliss.
The Catalina Museum For Art & History is the ONLY organization that focuses its attention on the century-long history of Catalina Island.
The exhibits enclosed in the walls of the museum are always impactful pieces of Catalina’s evolution and present evidential references for everyone to view with their own eyes.
Some of the most recent exhibits consisted of the Titanic display that featured real artifacts, people, and stories that were incorporated with the “Unsinkable” Titanic, all the way down to Canvas Art displays from Gary Miltimore, that sit cohesively with the island vibes of Catalina.
So go out and explore the Island, but make sure to pay homage where homage is due.
Address: 217 Metropole Avenue, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
21. Flying Fish Voyage
Hopping on a boat and doing something marine worthy is a top priority when visiting Catalina Island (or any island, for that matter).
The Flying Fish Voyage keeps that door wide open for you and your friends to see something unique in those California waters.
On a vessel called “The Cyclone”, be prepared to venture out and experience a nighttime parade of flying fish!
Fair warning, however, these trips tend to sell out FAST, so if interested, it is recommended to book your tickets a month or two in advance.
The only thing faster than the ticket sales is the speed at which the fish fly out of the water!
Clocked at a whopping 37 miles per hour, the tour boats have to be equipped with powerful lights to encourage the fish to make their leaps.
While the busier seasons are between May and September when the ocean is the hottest, the act of attending one of these voyages is founded in the culture of Catalina Island.
The Flying Fish Voyage is another great way to experience a traditional component of Catalina Island’s history, as this nighttime fish tour started way back in the early 1900s.
Address: Avalon, CA, United States
22. Silver Canyon Pottery
Operating since 1988, Silver Canyon Pottery studio began as a simple production space.
Silver Canyon Pottery would later become invested in reproducing the tiles throughout Catalina, which, back in the day, were badly maintained and in terrible condition.
The “Catalina Tile Experience” allows visitors the opportunity to take a deeper look into one of Catalina Island’s most iconic companies and prominent reconfigures of the island’s aesthetic.
If pottery and landscaping interest you, you can also schedule a private tour for you and your family, and obtain an even more intimate understanding of Silver Canyon Pottery’s purpose and contributions to Santa Catalina Island.
Address: 22 Pebbly Beach Rd, Avalon, CA 90704, United States
23. Take a Walk Down the Waterfront
Never forget that one of the best things about being on a sunlit island is that strolling down the beaches and through the parks is usually one of the free things to do on Catalina Island.
Catalina Island’s Avalon Waterfront is decked out with little shops and scenic restaurant views.
And while it is considered one of Catalina’s tourist attractions to simply walk outside, there is a multitude of pebbly beaches and diamond clear waters to walk across or dive into.
If you have yet to experience a Catalina Island sunset, it can be one of the most awakening experiences in your lifetime!
To take a few photos with the Casino and horizon as the backdrop is definitely a next-level idea to wrap it all up.
Address: Avalon, CA, United States
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How To Get To Catalina Island
Whether you are coming from Long Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point, or almost any area of Southern California, there is a multitude of ferry routes that can take you over to Santa Catalina Island.
If you are looking for the ultimate experience, you can book a 15-minute helicopter ride as well.
However, it is mostly recommended to hop on the Catalina Express as it tends to be the fastest boat option, as well as occupying most of the boat fleet that travels back and forth to Catalina Island.
If the Helicopter Ride was a little too pricey, you might also be interested in upgrading your Catalina Express travels to the “Commodore’s Lounge” where extra leisure is the top priority, along with free beverage and snack options.
Start Planning Your Trip To Catalina Island
When all is said and done, the mere act of being on Santa Catalina Island is a vacation on its own, even if you only utilize the free things to do.
The fact that there are so many cool things to do while visiting is just icing on the cake.
Catalina Island began as a billionaire’s dream and has transitioned into the paradise Wrigley himself would be very proud of.
Twenty-two miles off of the California coast sits a marvelous chunk of land that intertwines history, music, and nature all in one place, and continues to encapsulate the best parts of the West Coast.
While tourism is the vast majority of the island’s success, the grassroots components of Santa Catalina Island are what truly make this place incredible.
The array of tasty restaurants decorating the boardwalks and fantastic scenic lookouts are entrancing options for every visitor.
The architecture of the Catalina Island Casino and the jaw-dropping location it is built upon is by far one of the best pieces of Catalina Island.
If you happen to find yourself in, near, or around SoCal and you are looking for exciting places to go, the Catalina Island attractions will have you wishing you would have taken the trip sooner.
Our best advice?
Don’t worry about what to see or what to do and let the warm breeze send you in every direction possible.
While having fun is the main goal for every trip, taking the opportunity to balance the fun with a true appreciation for the history of Catalina Island will serve you well after the trip has come to an end.
Please enjoy your travels and take full advantage of every Catalina Island attraction there is.
At least now you know what to do on Catalina Island.
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