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What Can You Do On A Day Trip To Catalina Island


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Nani Metcalf



Welcome to Catalina Island, a hidden gem just off the coast of Southern California. This picturesque island is a paradise for day trippers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the mainland and soak up some sun, sand, and adventure. With its crystal-clear waters, rugged coastline, and charming town of Avalon, Catalina Island offers a plethora of activities and attractions to suit every traveler’s interests.


Whether you’re seeking relaxation on the beach, exploring nature trails, or immersing yourself in underwater wonders, Catalina Island has something for everyone. In this article, we will guide you through the best things to do on a day trip to Catalina Island, ensuring you make the most of your visit.


Before we dive into the activities and attractions, let’s talk about how to get to Catalina Island. The island is accessible by ferry or helicopter. Ferries depart regularly from ports such as Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point, offering a scenic journey across the ocean. Helicopter service is available from Long Beach and San Pedro, providing a faster and more exhilarating mode of transportation.


Once you arrive at Catalina Island, you’ll find yourself in Avalon, the main town and hub of activities on the island. Avalon boasts a quaint and charming atmosphere, with its colorful buildings, narrow streets, and stunning waterfront views. It’s the perfect place to start your day trip adventure.


As you explore Avalon, you’ll notice an array of shops, boutiques, and art galleries that line the streets. Treat yourself to some retail therapy and browse through unique souvenirs, locally made crafts, and stylish clothing. When hunger strikes, indulge in the delicious dining options available, ranging from fresh seafood to delectable island cuisine.


But perhaps the main draw of Catalina Island is its natural beauty. The island offers several beautiful beaches where you can bask in the sun or take a leisurely swim. Relax on the sandy shores of Descanso Beach or dip your toes in the calm waters of Lover’s Cove. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try your hand at snorkeling or diving to explore the vibrant marine life that thrives in the island’s waters.


If you prefer exploring on land, Catalina Island has a network of hiking trails that showcase the island’s diverse landscape. From the challenging Trans-Catalina Trail to the scenic Garden to Sky Trail, there’s a hike for every level of adventurer. As you wander through the island’s interior, keep an eye out for native wildlife, including the iconic Catalina Island fox.


For a unique and immersive experience, consider embarking on an undersea tour or glass-bottom boat excursion. These activities allow you to witness the island’s underwater wonders without getting wet. Marvel at colorful fish, mesmerizing kelp forests, and even the occasional glimpse of a seal or sea lion.


With so much to see and do on Catalina Island, it’s no wonder that day trippers keep coming back for more. So pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure on this enchanting island.


Getting to Catalina Island

Getting to Catalina Island is part of the adventure itself. The island is located approximately 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, and there are a few options for reaching this idyllic destination.


The most common way to get to Catalina Island is by ferry. Several ferry companies operate daily trips from ports such as Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point. The ferry ride offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and takes roughly one hour, depending on your departure point.


If you’re looking for a faster and more luxurious option, you can also choose to travel to Catalina Island by helicopter. Helicopter service is available from Long Beach and San Pedro, and the flight takes around 15 to 20 minutes, offering a thrilling aerial perspective of the island.


It’s important to note that ferry and helicopter schedules may vary depending on the season, so it’s recommended to check the availability and make reservations in advance.


Once you’ve arrived at Catalina Island, you’ll find yourself in the charming town of Avalon. The town is relatively small and can easily be explored on foot. If you prefer not to walk, there are golf carts available for rent, which is a popular and fun way to get around the island.


If you’re planning a day trip to Catalina Island, it’s advisable to plan your activities and itinerary ahead of time to make the most of your visit. The island offers a wide range of thrilling adventures and relaxing experiences, so it’s a good idea to prioritize what interests you most.


Keep in mind that getting to Catalina Island may incur additional costs, such as ferry or helicopter tickets, as well as parking fees in the departure ports. It’s also worth noting that the island has limited public transportation options, so it’s recommended to bring a map or utilize a GPS device to navigate your way around.


Whether you choose to travel by ferry or helicopter, the journey to Catalina Island is an exciting start to your day trip. Sit back, relax, and prepare to be enchanted by the natural beauty and adventure that awaits on this idyllic island.


Exploring Avalon

Once you arrive at Catalina Island, your day trip adventure begins in the charming town of Avalon. This picturesque town is the main hub of activity on the island and offers a delightful blend of natural beauty and small-town charm.


Avalon is known for its colorful buildings, narrow streets, and stunning waterfront views. Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade that lines the harbor and soak in the serene atmosphere. Step into a local cafe and indulge in a cup of coffee while enjoying the view of boats bobbing in the crystal-clear waters.


One of the must-visit attractions in Avalon is the Catalina Island Museum. Located near the waterfront, this museum showcases the rich history, culture, and art of the island. Explore the exhibits, which range from historical artifacts to contemporary artworks, and gain a deeper understanding of the island’s unique heritage.


As you continue to explore Avalon, you’ll discover an array of shops, boutiques, and art galleries that line the streets. Treat yourself to some retail therapy and browse through unique souvenirs, handmade crafts, and stylish clothing. From beachwear to jewelry, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye and makes for the perfect memento of your day trip to Catalina Island.


When hunger strikes, Avalon has a fantastic selection of dining options. From casual beachside cafes to upscale waterfront restaurants, you’ll find a variety of cuisines to satisfy your taste buds. Indulge in fresh seafood, savor island-inspired dishes, or simply enjoy a juicy burger with a side of beachside views.


Avalon is also home to the Catalina Casino, a historic landmark that dominates the skyline. Despite its name, the Catalina Casino isn’t a gambling establishment but rather a stunning art deco building that houses a theater and a ballroom. Take a guided tour to learn about the history and architecture of this iconic structure, or catch a movie or live performance if you’re visiting during one of their scheduled events.


If you’re seeking relaxation and beach time, head to Descanso Beach. Located just a short walk from the bustling streets of Avalon, this sandy oasis offers the perfect spot to unwind and soak up the sun. Rent a beach chair or a cabana, sip on tropical cocktails at the beachside bar, and enjoy the tranquil sounds of the ocean.


Overall, exploring Avalon is a delightful experience that offers a mix of culture, shopping, dining, and relaxation. Immerse yourself in the charm of this coastal town, and you’ll understand why Catalina Island has become a beloved destination for day trippers seeking a rejuvenating escape from mainland life.


Activities on the Beach

When it comes to beach activities, Catalina Island offers a slice of paradise for day trippers. With its pristine sandy shores, crystal-clear waters, and pleasant Mediterranean climate, the island is a haven for beach lovers of all ages.


One of the top beach destinations on Catalina Island is Descanso Beach. Located just a short walk from Avalon, this picturesque beach offers a range of activities to enjoy. Settle down on a beach chair and soak up the sun while listening to the gentle lapping of the waves. If you prefer a bit more privacy and luxury, rent a private cabana and indulge in a luxurious beachside experience.


For those who enjoy water sports, Catalina Island has plenty to offer. Rent a kayak and explore the coastline at your own pace, taking in the breathtaking views of the rugged cliffs and hidden coves. Stand-up paddleboarding is another popular activity, allowing you to glide across the calm waters while getting a full-body workout.


If you’re looking to get a little more adventurous, try your hand at snorkeling. Catalina Island is home to a diverse marine ecosystem, teeming with colorful fish and vibrant kelp forests. Grab a snorkel, mask, and fins, and get ready to dive into an underwater wonderland. Lover’s Cove, a protected marine preserve, is a popular snorkeling spot where you can spot a variety of sea creatures in their natural habitat.


For those seeking an adrenaline rush, Catalina Island offers the opportunity to go parasailing. Take flight and soar above the island’s azure waters, enjoying panoramic views of the coastline and the surrounding natural beauty. It’s an exhilarating experience that is sure to be a highlight of your day trip.


If relaxation is your main priority, find a secluded spot on one of the island’s quieter beaches such as Hamilton Cove or Two Harbors. Unwind with a good book, take a leisurely swim, or simply feel the sand between your toes as you take in the tranquility of the surroundings.


To make the most of your beach day trip, be sure to pack essentials such as sunscreen, a beach towel, and plenty of water. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning coastal vistas and memories of your time on Catalina Island.


Whether you prefer lounging on the sand, exploring the underwater world, or trying thrilling water sports, the beaches of Catalina Island have something for everyone. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty and tranquility of these pristine shores, and create unforgettable memories on your day trip to this enchanting island.


Hiking and Nature Trails

If you’re a nature enthusiast, Catalina Island is a paradise for hikers and outdoor adventurers. The island boasts a network of scenic hiking trails that offer breathtaking views, diverse landscapes, and opportunities to spot native wildlife. Lace up your hiking boots and get ready to explore the natural wonders of Catalina Island.


One of the most popular trails on the island is the Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT), a rugged 37.2-mile trail that spans from one end of the island to the other. The TCT offers a challenging and rewarding trek, taking you through diverse terrain, including mountains, canyons, and coastal cliffs. Along the way, you’ll encounter stunning vistas, unique plant life, and perhaps even glimpse the native Catalina Island fox.


If you’re looking for a shorter hike, there are several trails that can be completed in a few hours or less. The Garden to Sky Trail is a moderate trail that takes you from Avalon to the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden. As you ascend, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the town and coastline.


For a leisurely stroll surrounded by natural beauty, head to the Nature Center at Avalon Canyon. The Nature Center offers an informative exhibit about the island’s flora and fauna, as well as various nature trails that wind through the surrounding wilderness. Keep your eyes peeled for Catalina Island’s iconic bison, which roam freely in this area.


Another notable hiking destination is the Hermit Gulch Trail, which starts near the heart of Avalon. This trail takes you through lush canyons and offers glimpses of charming cottages tucked among the trees. It’s a great option if you’re short on time but still want to experience the island’s natural beauty.


As you explore the hiking trails of Catalina Island, always remember to come prepared. Wear comfortable shoes, dress in layers, and bring plenty of water and snacks. It’s also a good idea to carry a map or use a GPS device to ensure you don’t get lost.


Whether you’re seeking a challenging trek or a leisurely nature walk, Catalina Island’s hiking trails provide a chance to immerse yourself in the island’s untouched wilderness. Embrace the peacefulness and serenity of nature as you discover the hidden gems that await around every corner.


Snorkeling and Diving

Catalina Island is a haven for underwater enthusiasts, offering some of the best snorkeling and diving experiences in Southern California. With its clear waters, abundant marine life, and diverse underwater landscapes, the island is a paradise waiting to be explored beneath the surface.


Snorkeling is a fantastic way to witness the vibrant marine ecosystem of Catalina Island without the need for specialized equipment or certification. Lover’s Cove, a protected marine preserve, is a popular snorkeling spot renowned for its clear waters and diverse array of marine life. Strap on your snorkel, mask, and fins, and prepare to be amazed as you swim among colorful fish, playful sea lions, and stunning kelp forests.


If you’re a certified scuba diver or interested in learning, Catalina Island offers a wealth of dive sites to explore. The island’s crystal-clear waters provide excellent visibility, allowing divers to truly appreciate the rich underwater environment. Experienced divers can venture to sites such as Casino Point Dive Park, which features a fascinating underwater park complete with artificial reefs and an abundance of marine life.


If you’re new to diving or have never tried it before, Catalina Island is a great place to take a scuba diving lesson. Several dive shops on the island offer introductory dives and certification courses, allowing you to discover the amazing world beneath the waves under the guidance of expert instructors.


For those who prefer a more relaxed approach to underwater exploration, Catalina Island offers the unique opportunity to take an underwater tour or ride a glass-bottom boat. These experiences allow you to witness the beauty of the underwater world while staying comfortably dry. Marvel at the colorful schools of fish, graceful kelp forests, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of a majestic ray or sea turtle.


When planning your snorkeling or diving adventure, it’s important to consider the season and weather conditions. Catalina Island’s waters are generally calm and inviting during the summer months, making it an ideal time for snorkeling and diving. However, be sure to check the local conditions and consult with dive operators to ensure the best possible experience.


Before setting out on your snorkeling or diving excursion, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Follow all guidelines and regulations provided by the dive operators or marine preserve areas. Ensure that you have the necessary equipment, such as a well-fitting mask, snorkel, and fins, or a complete scuba diving kit if you’re diving. Remember to respect the marine environment and never disturb or touch the marine life.


Exploring the underwater world of Catalina Island is a captivating experience that will leave you with unforgettable memories. Whether you choose to snorkel, dive, or opt for an underwater tour, prepare to be mesmerized by the beauty and diversity that lies beneath the waves.


Undersea Tours and Glass-Bottom Boats

If you’re not a fan of getting wet but still want to explore the underwater wonders of Catalina Island, don’t worry! The island offers undersea tours and glass-bottom boat excursions that allow you to witness the fascinating marine life and underwater landscapes without getting your feet wet.


One popular option is to take an undersea tour. These tours provide a unique and immersive experience by taking you below the surface in a semi-submersible vessel. Sit back and relax as you descend into the depths, gazing through large viewing windows that offer uninterrupted panoramic views of the underwater world.


During the undersea tour, you’ll have the opportunity to observe the vibrant marine life that inhabits the waters surrounding Catalina Island. From schools of colorful fish to mesmerizing kelp forests, you’ll witness a bustling ecosystem teeming with activity. Knowledgeable guides onboard will provide insightful commentary, sharing interesting facts about the marine life and the delicate balance of the underwater world.


For a different perspective, hop aboard a glass-bottom boat. These boats are designed with glass panels in the bottom, allowing you to gaze directly into the depths below. As the boat glides across the water, you’ll have a front-row seat to the captivating marine life that passes beneath you. Keep your eyes peeled for playful sea lions, graceful rays, and maybe even the occasional dolphin or whale.


Undersea tours and glass-bottom boat excursions are suitable for all ages and don’t require any special equipment or training. They provide a comfortable and accessible way to explore the underwater world, making them an ideal option for families, non-swimmers, or anyone who wants to experience the beauty of Catalina Island’s marine environment in a unique way.


When planning your undersea tour or glass-bottom boat excursion, it’s best to check the availability and book in advance, especially during peak seasons. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the fascinating marine life and the awe-inspiring sights you’ll encounter during your journey beneath the waves.


Whether you choose an undersea tour or a glass-bottom boat excursion, you’re in for an unforgettable experience. Prepare to be amazed as you peer through the windows and gain a whole new perspective on the captivating underwater world surrounding Catalina Island.


Shopping and Dining

Exploring the charming town of Avalon on Catalina Island isn’t just about enjoying the natural beauty and outdoor adventures. It’s also an opportunity to indulge in some retail therapy and savor delicious culinary delights. From unique boutiques to mouthwatering dining options, Avalon offers a delightful blend of shopping and dining experiences for day trippers.


As you stroll along the streets of Avalon, you’ll discover a variety of shops and boutiques that cater to different tastes and interests. From stylish clothing and resort wear to one-of-a-kind artwork and handmade crafts, there’s something for everyone. Explore the local stores to find unique souvenirs or shop for trendy coastal-themed items to take home as a memento of your day trip.


Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Catalina Island Museum’s gift shop, where you can find an array of Catalina Island-inspired merchandise, books, and artwork. It’s a great place to pick up an item that captures the spirit of the island and its rich history.


When it comes to dining, Avalon offers an array of options to satisfy every palate. From casual beachside cafes and food stands to upscale waterfront restaurants, you’ll find a wide selection of cuisines to choose from.


If you’re a seafood lover, Catalina Island offers an abundance of fresh and delicious options. Indulge in mouthwatering dishes like grilled fish, seared scallops, or a classic seafood platter. Pair your meal with a glass of wine or a handcrafted cocktail as you take in the stunning ocean views.


For those who prefer international flavors, you’ll find a range of cuisines available. From Italian and Mexican to Asian fusion and Mediterranean, there’s a culinary adventure waiting for you on Catalina Island.


Looking for a quick bite or a sweet treat? Avalon has plenty of options for that too. Grab a slice of pizza, enjoy a juicy burger, or satisfy your sweet tooth with an ice cream cone or a freshly baked pastry.


When dining in Avalon, be sure to reserve your table in advance, especially during peak seasons. In addition to the restaurants located in the heart of Avalon, you’ll also find dining options at the waterfront, offering breathtaking views to accompany your meal.


Whether you’re in the mood for shopping or dining, Avalon has you covered. Immerse yourself in the local culture, flavors, and atmosphere, and let the town of Avalon delight your senses on your day trip to Catalina Island.


Tours and Excursions

Exploring Catalina Island on a day trip offers a wealth of opportunities for adventure and discovery. From guided tours to thrilling excursions, there are plenty of options to enhance your experience and make the most of your time on the island.


One of the most popular tours on Catalina Island is the Island Tour. This comprehensive guided tour takes you around the island’s main attractions, providing insight into the island’s history, flora, and fauna. You’ll have the chance to visit points of interest such as the Catalina Island Museum, the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden, and even the famous Catalina Casino. Sit back, relax, and let the knowledgeable guides take you on a journey through Catalina Island’s rich heritage.


If you’re seeking a more adventurous experience, consider taking an off-road tour. Hop aboard a jeep or open-air vehicle and venture into the island’s interior, exploring rugged terrain and off-the-beaten-path locations. Feel the rush of excitement as you navigate through dusty trails, soak in stunning panoramic views, and learn about the island’s unique ecosystems from your expert guide.


For those who love the water, there are various boat tours and excursions available. Embark on a thrilling coastal cruise to explore hidden coves and secluded beaches. Marvel at the towering cliffs and rock formations as you zip across the turquoise waters in a speedboat or sail gracefully on a catamaran. Some tours even offer the chance to spot marine wildlife like dolphins and whales, adding an extra element of excitement to your day.


If you prefer a more leisurely pace, consider taking a scenic cruise along the coastline. Relax on board a glass-bottom boat and observe the fascinating marine life and underwater landscapes without getting wet. Marvel at the colorful fish, vibrant kelp forests, and curious sea creatures that inhabit the waters surrounding Catalina Island.


For those seeking an adrenaline rush, why not try your hand at zip-lining? Catalina Island is home to an exhilarating zip-line eco-tour that takes you soaring through the treetops at high speeds. Experience the thrill of gliding across the island’s rugged landscape, catching glimpses of spectacular vistas along the way.


When planning your tours and excursions, be sure to check availability and make reservations in advance, especially during peak seasons. Consider your interests, the duration of the activity, and any necessary physical requirements to ensure an enjoyable and unforgettable experience.


Whether you’re interested in guided tours, adrenaline-pumping adventures, or leisurely cruises, Catalina Island has a variety of tours and excursions to suit all preferences. Step outside your comfort zone, embrace the sense of adventure, and let the island captivate you with its natural beauty and thrilling experiences.



A day trip to Catalina Island offers an escape from the mainland and a chance to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and charm of this idyllic paradise. Whether you’re relaxing on the beach, exploring the town of Avalon, or embarking on thrilling adventures, Catalina Island has something for everyone.


Start your day trip by choosing the most convenient mode of transportation, whether it’s a scenic ferry ride or an exhilarating helicopter journey. Once you arrive in Avalon, take your time to explore the colorful streets lined with shops, boutiques, and art galleries. Treat yourself to locally made crafts, stylish clothing, and unique souvenirs.


Indulge in the island’s culinary delights and experience a diverse range of dining options. From seafood specialties to international cuisines, there’s something to satisfy every palate. After a satisfying meal, consider visiting the Catalina Island Museum to delve into the island’s rich history and art scene.


For outdoor enthusiasts, Catalina Island offers a plethora of activities to enjoy. Bask in the sun on the sandy shores of Descanso Beach, try your hand at snorkeling or diving to explore the vibrant marine life, or venture into the wilderness on scenic hiking trails where you may even spot the iconic Catalina Island fox.


If getting wet doesn’t appeal to you, you can still experience the underwater wonders through undersea tours or glass-bottom boat excursions. Sit back and let the knowledgeable guides take you on a mesmerizing journey through the island’s marine ecosystem without getting your feet wet.


End your day trip with a scenic coastal cruise, a thrilling off-road tour, or an adrenaline-pumping zip-line adventure. Revel in the stunning coastal vistas, rugged terrain, and the sense of exhilaration that comes with exploring Catalina Island’s diverse landscapes.


Remember to plan your day trip in advance, make necessary reservations, and pack essentials such as sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and a sense of adventure. Catalina Island offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, adventure, and relaxation that guarantees an unforgettable experience.


So, whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat, thrilling escapades, or a little bit of everything, Catalina Island has it all. Escape the everyday and embark on a day trip to this enchanting destination, and let Catalina Island captivate you with its beauty, charm, and endless possibilities.