Top 5 Things to do in Catalina Island, CA

Picture of the famous casino building in Avalon, Catalina Island with text over it that says "Top 5 Things to do in Catalina Island.

Surprisingly, we’ve never made it out to Catalina Island despite living in Southern California our whole lives. Which is why it was the obvious destination for us to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. We stayed in Avalon at the Hotel Atwater. With only two days on the island, we wanted to maximize our activity time so we booked everything a month in advance (not necessary, Rae’s just got a bad case of FOMO) and had our scheduled planned perfectly. Below are our top 5 things to do in Catalina Island, and we’d recommend any of these activities as we had a blast doing all of them!

1. Parasailing

This was so damn fun and the best way to start our morning! There are a couple places on the island to book through but we used Island Water Charters based on the positive reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor. We had a group of 10 on our boat and they flew us two at a time, with each couple getting about 8 minutes in the air. Watching the first couple people take of gets your heart racing, but when you’re finally up there, it’s one of the most calm feelings in the world. You’re just smoothly gliding along, in complete silence, taking in the beautiful scenery. We booked it for the adrenaline rush, but instead got one of the most relaxing moments of our trip.

Parasailing on Catalina Island
Yes, those two little dots are us!

2. Zip lining

There is only one zip lining company on the island so you don’t have a choice in vendor. That doesn’t matter since Zip Line Eco Tour has excellent customer service and is on top of their game when it comes to safety. All five lines actually have two wires and they do a ten point check every time you’re about to zip. We’d highly recommend this for first time zippers due to the added safety measures and we think five lines is a good starting point.

Zip lining in Catalina Island
First one to jump from our group!

3. Ghost Tour

Once again, only one vendor on the island, but once again, excellent customer service. They offer two tour times, one in the day and one at night. We opted for the night tour (spookier, obviously). Our tour guide, Mason was so entertaining and very informative. He had grown up on the island and is part of the last remaining Native Americans indigenous to the island. Not only did we get to hear ghost stories, but some history about the island as well. Make sure you bring cash for a tip at the end!

Spooky picture for ghost tour - Things to do in Catalina
Hunting for those ghosts

4. Golf Cart Rental

Getting around by golf cart is not only common on the island, but really fun. We rented one for two hours and jetted all over the island. This is the only activity we didn’t book in advance, but trust us when we say they go fast. Thankfully, there’s a few places on the main street that rent them, so your odds of getting one are pretty good. We snagged ours at Catalina Auto and Bike Rentals and they even provided a map with a recommended route.

Standing on a golf cart at the top of Avalon - Things to do in Catalina
Used the golf cart to get a great vantage point for Avalon

5. Descanso Beach Club

Does lounging on the beach with a drink in hand count as an activity? We think so. We spent our Sunday morning at Descanso Beach Club before having to leave Catalina Island. Technically it’s illegal to drink on the beach in California but thankfully Descanso’s owns their land so it’s perfectly okay to drink with your toes in the sand. The seaside area is only a small portion of this beach club though; they also have a restaurant, chairs and cabanas for rent, a climbing wall, and it’s the gathering point for the Eco Zip Line Tour we mentioned in #2.

Drinking at Descano Beach Club - Things to do in Catalina
Umbrella did not come with the drinks

Overall, we loved this little island and are so glad we finally made it out. We can’t wait to return since there are still so many other things to do in Catalina Island. If you can’t get yourself out here for a weekend, Josh from “California Through My Lens” has a great post on what to do around the island for a day trip.

Happy Travels,


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