Exploring Santa Catalina Island

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Advisor - Ashley Besic
Curated By

Ashley Besic

  • Luxury Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Family Travel

  • Solo Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Beaches

  • Babymoons

  • Couples Travel

  • Active Travel

  • Tours

  • Upscale

  • History

  • Foodie

The coast of Santa Catalina with colorful houses and a dock.
Curator’s statement

Santa Catalina Island is one of the eight beautiful islands off the coast of California that can be enjoyed year-round by solo travelers, couples and families looking for a low-key adventure or an upscale getaway. Catalina has it all! Known for its wildlife, dive sites and historic connection to the Wrigley family, the island features two cities: Two Harbors & Avalon. To the north, Two Harbors allows travelers to camp on the beach or enjoy the historic features of The Banning House Lodge. While to the south, Avalon features upscale lodging, a variety of cuisine, palm trees, cabana-lined beaches and Avalon’s circular, art deco Catalina Casino. Whether you’re looking for a day trip while visiting Los Angeles or looking for a way to spend a long weekend, Catalina is perfect for couples seeking a bit of romance and families looking for adventure.

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Insider knowledge

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Where to stay in Santa Catalina Island

Things to do in Santa Catalina Island

Women sitting on a sail boat.

Land Expeditions

Starting off in Avalon, you must go on one of many Discover Avalon tours. These tours are a good way to see this side of the island. Looking for an adventure of a lifetime? Hop aboard a biofuel Hummer and explore Catalina’s pristine wilderness on land tours, like their popular Bison Expedition or Ridgetop Eco Adventure. One of the island’s more low-key sites is the Wrigley Memorial: its 37 acres of native & specialty plants, plus a memorial with sweeping water views.

Two Harbors offers a plethora of activities and adventures for outdoor lovers of all ages. You’ll find everything you need to plan your own adventure at the Dive & Recreation Center, from mountain bikes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, snorkel gear and more.

Ocean Excursions

In Avalon, you can make plans to see dolphins, sea lions and other aquatic life in the crystal clear waters of Catalina’s world-renowned marine environment on the many ocean tours, including the Undersea Sub Expedition and everyone's favorite Glass Bottom Boat Voyage. For the anglers, the island offers a seasonal Flying Fish Voyage and Seal Rocks Sunset Cruise.

Beach Adventures

Tucked away in Descanso Canyon behind Descanso Beach Club you'll find the Zip Line Eco Tour, the challenging Catalina Aerial Adventure and the 32-foot tall Catalina Climbing Wall, as well as the seasonal Catalina Falconry Experience.

From Isthmus Cove or Cat Harbor, you can’t go wrong with the beach options in Two Harbors. Travelers can stop by the Visitor Services to book guided activities & adventures for groups of all ages and fitness levels, from snorkeling and kayaking excursions to hiking and biking expeditions.

Fun for All Ages

Catalina Island Golf Course in scenic Avalon Canyon is the oldest course west of the Mississippi, offering nine challenging holes with spectacular ocean and city views. Avalon’s Golf Gardens Mini Golf has been a favorite family destination for nearly 50 years.

Everyone who visits Catalina should take one of our tours of the iconic Casino: Discover the Casino and Behind the Scenes Casino. For art lovers, you’ll want to visit the Catalina Museum For Art & History where you can also learn about the 8000 years of human settlement on the island.

Three Palms Avalon Arcade is an arcade and a hidden pizza spot with a full bar: everything is all in one spot! Chill with the family, hang out with friends, or enjoy a date with someone special.

If you are a fan of Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery you should make time to Catalina Pet Cemetery!

Places to eat & drink in Santa Catalina Island

Outdoors seating with tables and chair and vases with flowers.

Two Harbors

Dining options include Harbor Reef Restaurant & Saloon, West End Galley and the General Store, where travelers can also pick up groceries and supplies, or order them in advance of their arrival.


Descanso Beach Club

Avalon Grille

Lobster Trap is open for lunch and dinner, the Lobster Trap is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Known for its fresh fish, stop by to tempt your taste buds with the iconic Lobster roll! The Lobster Trap specializes in fresh seafood, but its range of options suits every palate and features a variety of Lost Coast brews and Craft Beer selections.

Original Jack’s Country Kitchen is an old-fashioned diner with a menu of fail-proof, familiar classics, including hearty breakfast options.

Cafe Metropole is a women-owned, eatery that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with patio tables featuring a global range of sandwiches, seafood and vegetarian eats.

Catalina Coffee & Cookies features yummy coffee and dessert with a variety of treats, including self-serve frozen yogurt.

Pancake Cottage is described as a hopping waterfront restaurant that features your classic American breakfast & lunch plates, plus a full bar.

Buffalo Nickel offers great lunch and dinner options in a booth-lined hangout serving familiar favorites like BBQ, burgers, Mexican fare and pizza.

Bluewater Avalon is a popular bistro that offers inexpensive seafood and cocktails in an airy waterfront space with exposed beams and a deck.

Steve’s Steakhouse & Seafood is the island’s steakhouse that offers seafood and pasta dishes in a casual American eatery with a full bar and bay views.

Scoops Homemade Ice Cream is a must if you are looking for hand-crafted, small-batch ice cream and gelato! You can have it served by the scoop or take it home by the pint! Their Acai bowls, chocolate-covered bananas and soft serve are all great options!

Need to Know

Both cities are extremely walkable. You can access most of where you want to go on foot or via a golf cart. To get between the two cities, the conservancy has a shuttle or a ferry that runs seasonally.

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Domestic Travel.