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Your Complete Guide to Catalina Island

a small boat in a body of water with a mountain in the background

Located only an hour southwest from Los Angeles is Southern California’s best kept secret for an easy getaway. Santa Catalina Island, often referenced as simply Catalina Island, is one of California’s few Channel Islands with wildlife, hikes and the ocean. The easy access to the island and endless activities on the island provide the perfect opportunity for a weekend or even day trip! If you’re seeking gorgeous views and tranquility, look no further, as Catalina Island is the perfect place for you. 

How to Get There

Paradise is only an hour away via ferry! Since Catalina is indeed an island, the only two modes of transportation are by ferry or helicopter. The ferry leaves from multiple cities in Southern California: Long Beach, San Pedro, Dana Point and Newport Beach. There are three modes of transportation to choose from: The Catalina Express, Catalina Flyer and IEX Helicopters. Both of the ferries provide daily trips to the two main locations in Catalina, Avalon and Two Harbors, and can be purchased online. The helicopter service is provided out of Long Beach, San Pedro and Orange County.

Avalon vs. Two Harbors

As previously stated, there are two locations to dock at Catalina Island: Avalon and Two Harbors. Avalon is known to be the main incorporated city on the island and more of a resort community. Two Harbors, also known as “The Isthmus” is a small village in Catalina that is also classified as a resort community. So how do you choose?

Avalon is definitely the more popular tourist location out of the two choices. Located on the southeast end of the island, Avalon offers beaches, hotels, restaurants, a spa, golf course, and both land and ocean activities. The majority of the beaches, shops and restaurants are located along Crescent Avenue, the main street in Avalon. 

Two Harbors, although quaint, also provides a premium experience. Located on the west side, Two Harbors is only 22 miles from Avalon. Two Harbors is definitely the place to be for those that love the outdoors. Since it is located on a narrow strip of land between Isthmus Cove and Catalina Harbor, campers prefer to set up on this end of the island. Accommodations for campers include campgrounds and camping cabins. However, if camping isn’t for you, you can still stay in a resort at the Banning House Lodge, Villa Santa Cruz or Villa Santa Rosa! 

You can’t go wrong with wherever you decide to stay in Catalina. If you can’t decide, there are luckily ferries that offer day trips from one side of the island to the other!

animal on the water

Ocean Activities

As expected when visiting an island, there are multiple ocean activities to divulge in! Since Avalon is the primary resort city on the island, the activities are more scenic. You can lay out on the beach, book a Catalina Bus Tour, a Glass Bottom Boat or even a Sealife Safari! Since Two Harbors is more for those that love the outdoors, the possibilities range from kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, paddle boarding or even scuba! 

What You Can Do as a Family

Regardless of which end of the island you stay at, Catalina is the perfect place to spend with family. Besides all of the water activities, Catalina is known for its gorgeous scenic views, which tourists often soak in after completing one of the many hikes in Avalon! Some of the hikes include the Trans Catalina Trailhead, Garden To Sky Summit and Hermit Gulch Lookout. Other than hiking, you can take your family shopping, to incredible restaurants on Crescent Avenue or to the beach! Since Two Harbors is so water-oriented, it’s highly suggested to visit the west side of the island if your family is big on water activities. 

For many reasons, Catalina is a great place to go for vacation. There are a ton of fun activities to do throughout the day with incredible views. To elevate your Southern California vacation, look into whale watching in San Diego for memories that will last a lifetime.