Top 5 Things to do in Catalina Island, CA

Catalina Island from above with houses on the mountain and boats in the water

Surprisingly, we never made it out to Catalina Island despite living in Southern California our whole lives. This is why it was the obvious destination for us to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary! We only had the weekend to celebrate so we wanted to make sure we did the best things to do in Catalina Island.

How to Get to Catalina Island

Getting to Catalina Island is extremely easy! All it takes is a one-hour ferry ride from either any of the following cities: Long Beach, San Pedro, Dana Point, and Newport Beach.

There are two companies that offer ferry services, the Catalina Express and the Catalina Flyer. Be sure to check both of their websites to find what port and time suites your travel needs.

inside of a ferry on the water with mountains outside the window


Things to Do in Catalina Island

We stayed in at Hotel Atwater located at 125 Sumner Ave, Avalon, CA 90704. Even though we were mostly out exploring, we enjoyed our time in the hotel as well! The rooms were clean and it was conveniently located to the main walking area in Avalon.

With only two days on the island, we wanted to maximize our activity time so we booked everything a month in advance. Booking this far ahead is not necessary but always a good idea if you have your heart set on a certain activity.

So without further ado, 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

Parasailing is one of the more adventurous things to do in Catalina Island. We had an absolute blast! There are a couple of 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 of people take off gets your heart racing, but when you’re finally up there, it’s one of the calmest 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.

Two people parasailing over the water - one of the best things to do in Catalina Island

Pro tip: if you love adventuring on Catalina Island, you’ll need to plan your next trip to Sint Maarten!

2. Zip Lining

There is only one zip-lining company on the island so you don’t have a choice in the vendor. That doesn’t matter since Zip Line Eco Tour has excellent customer service and is on top of its 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 measure. Plus, we think five lines is a good entry-level run if you’re just starting out.

Two people zip lining off a platform, one of the best things to do in Catalina Island

3. Ghost Tour

Taking a ghost tour was one of our favorite things to do in Catalina Island. Our tour guide 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!

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 are 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

5. Descanso Beach Club

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 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, and a climbing wall.

Book Your Catalina Island Trip Now

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’re on the fence about planning a trip to this perfect getaway, don’t be! Start planning your activities, book your ferry ride, and get out to Catalina Island ASAP.

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