Things To Do on Catalina Island
We keep going back to Catalina Island ourselves because there is just so damn much to do! On this page we’re going to try and do the island justice by giving you the basic info on some our favorite Catalina Island activities. More details can be found on other pages – but – this is your starting point.
The first thing you will notice about Catalina Island (in addition to its natural beauty) is that it is totally set up for tourism. When you arrive, it’s almost impossible not to notice all of the businesses that line the short walk into town, offering bike rentals, scuba diving lessons, kayak rentals, golf cart rentals, and so on. Right when you disembark from the ferry, you will see kiosks in the covered area next to the dock that offer inland tours, submersible tours, Casino tours, all available bundled or a la carte. Once you make it into town and take a stroll on the Green Pleasure Pier, check out the boat rentals, snorkeling rentals and sport fishing kiosks located on the pier.
But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. The variety of things to to do on Catalina Island is staggering. It really depends of you are a water person (like me – I’m a fish through and through) or if you prefer to stay on land and enjoy Avalon, and the inland areas. Lets tackle about the fish people first – and discuss some of the exciting water based activities.
Catalina Island is saltwater sport fishing heaven. It is widely held that Catalina is actually the birthplace of modern sport fishing, with so many varieties of fish available in the surrounding waters. If you are looking for some serious action, there are a number of fishing charter boats available for hire to get you out into the deeper water where you’ll find marlin, white sea bass, barracuda, dorado, and yellow tail. Fishing right off the pier is also a favorite activity, or if you rent a small boat, you can hook into some nice fish right outside the mouth of the harbor as well.
Renting a paddleboat or a stand up paddleboard is a great way to bum around the harbor and have some fun. Rentals are available on the pier. Small motorboats and jet skis are also available for rent if you want to go outside the mouth of the harbor and do some exploring. The rentals companies limit you in range, and you can’t go closer than about a football field to the shoreline in a motorboat.
If you really want to see the underwater beauty of the island, snorkeling or diving is the answer. You can actually see quite a lot if you just want to keep it simple and snorkel, and you will most definitely see spotted bass and bright orange Garibaldi. Lovers Cove (just the left of the harbor as you approach the island) is a favorite spot for snorkeling, for it’s calm, safe waters, with a variety of fish. If you want to get certified and try scuba diving, classes are held daily out in front of the Casino, and there a few places in town that do rentals. For more experienced diver, the island is really a giant playground, with ship wrecks, underwater walls, caves, all teeming with fish of all different types.
Its hard not to notice the big yellow submarines docked at the pier, and cruising in and out of the harbor. These are the semi-submersible boats that run as many as six tours per day. It’s great for young and old alike, and you get to see a variety of fish up close from the comfort of your window seat 6 feet under the surface. Last time I was there, we had a party of 6, and it does get a bit expensive for a 45 min tour. A couple of us had already done it before, so we all decided to rent a boat instead – cheaper
Sailing around Catalina Island offers a totally different experience. While Avalon and Two Harbors are the only two towns, there are a number of beautiful, secluded coves and bays that offer camping, and a totally private experience. It’s quite common for sailors from the mainland to make the 22 mile trip over and spend a few days exploring an relaxing. Anchorage around the island is available, but it can get busy, so you’ve got to plan ahead, especially around holidays.
Kayaking is a popular way to see the coastline up close, and the animals that call those areas home. Sea lions, seals, many species of birds, and dolphins can all be seen hanging out close to shore. I personally love kayaking because it is just so peaceful and calming, especially for those of us that live in LA and deal with the hustle and bustle every day. In a sea kayak, I’ve packed camping gear and traveled from campsite to campsite around the island. Check out Catalina Island Kayak Expeditions – call 310 510 1226 or visit www.kayakcatalinaisland.com
And then there’s jet ski’s and parasailing. Not my style these days, but hey – if you wanna go for the thrill ride – it’s there. You can rent Sea Doo jet skis from Catalina Jet Ski & Electric Bike Rentals- call 310-510-2221. Book in advance for Parasailing from Parasail Catalina, call (310) 510-1777 or visit www.parasailcatalina.com.
Another way to tour the island is on a high speed inflatable with Catalina Ocean Rafting. They have several different tours including a snorkeling tour, 3-hour island tour, and more… Call them at 310 510 0211 or 1 800 990 RAFT or visit www.catalinaoceanrafting.com.
Flying Fish Boat Trip Tour. A nighttime boat ride aboard the 1924 wooden open-deck Blanche W. is truly one to remember. The original World War One-era, 40-million candlepower searchlights entice the fish out of the water to perform a spectacle that few will ever see. The trip itself is 45 minutes long and departs at 8:45 nightly during the summer months. This is one you want to book in advance – call 800 626 1496.
That just about covers the fish, now lets deal with you land lubbers. Terra firma is your friend on Catalina Island, and there are great restaurants, day spas, boutiques, and historic sites to visit. If you’re looking for something more active, you can rent a bike, go hiking, try camping, or go horseback riding. Golf is also a popular activity on the island – and Catalina features southern California’s oldest golf course.
If you golf, then the Catalina Island Golf course is one you just have to play. Originally built by the Banning Brothers in 1892, the well maintained 2,100-yard course has nine challenging holes, and two sets of tees for 18-hole play. There is a fully stocked Pro Shop there, if you need rentals or a new set of clubs. The course boast the proud title of being the former home of the Bobby Jones Invitational Tournament. Call 310 510 0530 fro more information on booking your golf vacation on Catalina Island.
Prefer mini-golf? Catalina has that too. Open every day (weather permitting) Golf Gardens is located at 10 Island Plaza right in downtown Avalon. Call (310) 510-1200 for more information or to book. It’s actually a fun little course and a great to kill an hour in the middle of the day.
Glass bottom Boat