Story and Photos by Love Catalina Island Tourism Authority
Catalina Island is a picture perfect island paradise and a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Southern California—just 22 miles off the coast—where you’re transported to a Mediterranean-style island experience. From the moment you arrive, your island life begins with breathtaking blue waters, green mountains and a welcome stroll through the pedestrian-friendly town of Avalon or village of Two Harbors, with beachfront dining, inviting cocktail establishments, and unique boutique shops.
Once you’ve checked into your ocean view hotel, island bungalow or neighborhood vacation rental, get a lay of the land with a joy ride in a golf cart (the preferred mode of transportation for locals) and explore the town and scenic hillsides. Plan to stay awhile, because Catalina Island has both a legendary past and amazing adventures like nowhere else.
Roam Wild on Catalina Island
Known for its outdoor activities, Catalina is home to miles of hiking trails and water activities that give you space to roam. Serious hikers can opt for the Trans Catalina Trail, a 38.5-mile trek through the Island’s interior that typically takes three to five days, between Avalon and Two Harbors with camping spots next to pristine beaches along the way. To learn more about the amazing plants, wildlife and bison found on the island’s interior, Eco Tours give you a much deeper understanding of the 61 endemic species of plants and animals that are only found on Catalina Island.
Some of the most popular Catalina Island things to do on land include hiking, biking, golf, art & museums, and zip lining for the ultimate adrenaline rush. This water paradise has endless activities that include fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. For a happening beach vibe, soak in the sun on a chaise lounge at Descanso Beach Club or schedule a relaxing spa treatment to settle into the island life.
Lights, Camera … Catalina!
Catalina Island has been the location for more than 500 Hollywood movies, reaching back more than a century to Hollywood’s silent era, while also proving popular for the shooting of TV programs, documentaries and commercials. But the island has not only held allure for location scouts. It has also proven irresistible to Hollywood’s stars, such as John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe, who have gravitated to the island for its appealing qualities: peace, quiet, sunshine, secluded coves, pristine waters and boating. Another interesting and lasting impression of this unique history was the introduction of the North American Bison to the island. The bison were brought to Catalina for the film “The Vanishing American” in 1924 and never left. Now a herd of about 150 bison roam the island’s interior.
Rich History & Iconic Landmarks
From chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. to author Zane Grey, Catalina Island has been home to some of history’s most interesting figures, and a favorite vacation spot for others. Explore Avalon’s rich history, famous landmarks, and fascinating architecture. Take in the Catalina Museum for Art & History and explore the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden.
The Catalina Island Casino is without a doubt Catalina Island’s most recognizable landmark which is actually not a gambling facility but a “place of gathering.” The Casino played host to dozens of Big Bands through the 1930s and 1940s. Guests came by steamship to Catalina Island to dance the Charleston and later Jitterbug on the huge parquet floor to the music of Glenn Miller, Harry James, Kay Kyser, and many others over the years.
Island of Romance
Catalina Island is the perfect romantic getaway. Known as the “Island of Romance,” after the popular “26 Miles Across the Sea” lyric by The Four Preps, it’s easy to plan a romantic getaway to Catalina Island. The town of Avalon offers a unique romantic setting with a distinctive European charm. Many of the hotels and inns offer romantic amenities such as champagne on ice with roses upon arrival, fireplaces, jacuzzi tubs, private balconies, and ocean views to spark your romance. Plan your own fairy tale such as a memorable champagne toast overlooking the picturesque harbor, have an intimate dinner and stroll along the moonlit shore.
Beautifully Secluded Two Harbors
Two Harbors on Catalina Island’s West End, is full of exciting activities and adventures ready to explore. Uniquely nestled between two ports that is its namesake. Ruggedly beautiful and infinitely peaceful, this charming village is surrounded by turquoise waters and emerald green mountains that welcome visitors to its sandy shores.
Home to only 298 people, this village is the only other developed area on the island besides the town of Avalon. This small size makes for a cozy and quiet beachside stay that many visitors appreciate. Considered an “Outdoor Lover’s Paradise,” the village offers a plethora of outdoor activities for nature lovers of all sorts. From boating, to hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, camping, snorkeling or world-class SCUBA diving.
Two Harbors accommodations include the historic Banning House Lodge & Villas, a 12-room bed and breakfast that offers panoramic views of the harbor with daily breakfast and complimentary shuttle from the village. Two tranquil villas that can accommodate up to 8 guests are also available for rent. For the adventurer, beachside camping is available at the Two Harbors Campground.
For history buffs, this area has a robust and colorful story. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, the Isthmus was also home to Spanish explorers, fur traders, Civil War Union Army and even pirates!
Plan Your Perfect Catalina Island Vacation
Getting here is an adventure all its own with a passenger ferry or helicopter ride across beautiful Southern California waters. Once you arrive, our hotels and accommodations will surprise and delight with their island feel and laid back hospitality. From shopping to thrilling adventures on a zip line or paddle board, Catalina Island is brimming things to do. Unwind at the end of the day with a meal at one of the many restaurants.
Check out our Catalina Island vacation packages to make planning your vacation stay easy. Whether you’re coming for the weekend or for a week, find all your travel plans on the official travel website at LoveCatalina.com.