Your next mini-vacation is just a quick 1-hour boat ride away. The tiny seaport village of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island is 22 miles off the coast of Southern California. The Catalina Express high-speed ferries offer year-round service and up to 30 daily departures from the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, as well as from Long Beach and Dana Point.
Santa Catalina is one of the eight Channel Islands. It’s known for wildlife, dive sites, and Mt. Orizaba: its highest peak. In recent years, the picturesque town of Avalon has gone through a lot of changes and now the popular island destination boasts a state-of-the-art spa, the renovated cabana-laden Descanso Beach Club, and several noteworthy waterfront restaurants. If you haven’t visited the island in a while, there are more reasons than ever for a quick, easy and fun getaway across the channel.
From adventure to luxury, Catalina Island has it all. Avalon is filled with activities on land and sea.
The Catalina Island Museum
At its new location in the Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building, this museum features the art, history, and culture of Santa Catalina. On the first Friday of the month, the museum stays open late and ticket-holders get refreshments and admission to the digital theater and galleries and experience live performances, film screenings, lectures, and more.
217 Metrople Avenue; 310-510-2414; Web
Island Spa Catalina
In the beautifully restored El Encanto building, is a resort spa with a selection of island-inspired treatments designed to relax and rejuvenate the mind and body. The aquatic motif and island tiles throughout promote a feeling of calmness and reflect Catalina Island’s relaxed seaside vibe. The spa also has an outdoor pool, hot tub, soaking tub, and a spacious rooftop lounge with harbor views.
163 Crescent Avenue; 310-510-7300; Web
Catalina Island Zip Line Eco Tour
Take an exhilarating zip-line ride from the mountains down to the sea. Each of the five consecutive zips highlights the island’s flora and fauna and provides a bird’s-eye view from high above the canyon floor.
1 St. Catherine Way; 310-510-7422; Web
Catalina Island East End Adventure Tour
Enjoy a heart-racing excursion in an open-air bio-fuel Hummer that winds along interior roads and climbs 1,684 feet to East Peak, overlooking Avalon. It’s a knuckle-gripping, Indiana Jones–style ride. Some drivers provide hilarious commentary, while others offer interesting facts about Catalina’s history. You might even spot a few buffalo.
Discovery Tour Plaza, 201 Catalina Avenue; 800-626-1496; Web
Catalina Island Ocean Runner
Experience an outing on a Ribcraft that powers through the water at high speed in search of dolphins, sea turtles, and sea lions. It’s an hour-long, sometimes bumpy ride that is not recommended for women who are pregnant and anyone with neck or back injuries or motion sickness.
1 Green Pleasure Pier, 100 Catalina Avenue; 800-626-1496; Web
The most visible landmark in Avalon Bay, this circular Art Deco building on Sugarloaf Point is home to a movie theater on the first level and a ballroom on the top level. It formerlly hekd the Catalina Island Museum until it moved 2016. Catalina Casino gets its name from the Italian language term casino, meaning a “gathering place.” There is no gambling at the facility.
1 Casino Way; 310-510-0179; Web
Descanso Beach Club
This beautiful beach cove is located just beyond the Casino. Every Saturday during the summer, a DJ spins lively dance music at the afternoon Beach Party. Every Sunday offers live musical performances. Reserve one of the private cabanas or chaise lounges to enjoy the beach in style.
The Club also has easy access to snorkeling, kayaking, the Catalina Climbing Wall, Catalina Aerial Adventure and the Zip Line Eco Tour. Great food and beverages can be enjoyed at the Descanso Beach Club Restaurant or delivered straight to your beach towel!
1 St. Catherine Way; 310-510-7410; Web
Bluewater Grill: Waterfront, sustainable seafood, signature cocktails
306 Crescent Avenue. 310-510-3474; Web
Luau Larry’s: American pub fare, Home of the Famous Wiki Wacker
509 Crescent Avenue; 310-510-1919; Web
Avalon Grille: American fare, pub-style
423 Crescent Avenue. 310-510-7494; Web
Maggie’s Blue Rose: Mexican cuisine, margaritas
417 Crescent Avenue. 310-510-3300; Web
Steve’s Steakhouse and Seafood: Bay view, casual American, full bar
417 Crescent Avenue; 310-510-0333; Web
Antonio’s Pizzeria & Cabaret: Italian, American, seafood and more, patio seating right on the water
230 Crescent Avenue; 310-510-0008; Web
Lloyd’s of Avalon Confectionery: House-made saltwater taffy
315 Crescent Avenue; 310-510-7266; Web
If you want to stay for a bit longer and explore the more rural side of the island, Two Harbors is a spectacular remote location with campgrounds and beautiful beaches. Known as “The Isthmus,” Two Harbors is a small community with a population of just 298. Camping, snorkeling, and hiking are popular activities in this quaint seaside village. Travel between Avalon and Two Harbors can be done by bus, private transportation, ferry, or helicopter.
GETTING TO CATALINA ISLAND
Catalina Express (Ferry Service from the Mainland)
Book online or call (800) 481-3470