<- Back

Explore Catalina Island: A SoCal Hidden Gem

Catalina Island: A SoCal Hidden Gem
Camille Reddick
Camille Reddick
December 22, 2023

Located just southwest of Los Angeles in California's Channel Islands, Catalina Island is famed for its stunning coastal cliffs, beautiful beaches, and sun-kissed rolling hills. While coming to Catalina Island simply to take in the natural beauty is more than worth it, this Southern California gem is also home to some interesting architecture and historic sites. Visitors have more than 42,000 acres of open space to explore in total. Here's a rundown of the best things to do here!

1. Explore the Trailhead

A three-story center called the Trailhead is the epicenter of the Catalina Conservatory. This is the place to obtain all the biking and hiking permits you might need during your adventure. Visitors can also obtain information about the best ways to explore the island. You can even run up to the rooftop observation deck and garden to enjoy some gorgeous views!

2. Hike to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden

People hiking on Catalina Island

Located at the top of Avalon Canyon, this stunning public garden features a wide range of succulents and other native plants. The views here are also spectacular! While this is a popular hiking spot, many people use rented golf carts to explore the trail.

3. Tour the Catalina Casino

Step back in time to a more glamorous age with a tour of the Catalina Casino. This historic landmark and museum was never a "gambling" casino. It was simply given this name to signify its role as a gathering place. As the largest building on the island, the casino is highly visible as you approach Catalina from the mainland. Praised for its Art Deco style, the casino features a ballroom, murals, and the historic Avalon Theatre. The Avalon Theatre was the first movie theatre in the country to be designated specifically for talking films! Catalina Casino is only accessible by booking a tour.

4. Enjoy Shopping and Dining

People eating

Known locally as Front Street, Crescent Avenue is Avalon's main street. This is where you'll find many of the best restaurants and shops in Catalina. It's also where you can enjoy great beaches, the famed Serpentine Wall, and the Wrigley Fountain. Popular Crescent Street restaurants include The M Restaurant, Steve's Steakhouse and Seafood, and Avalon Grill. You can also satisfy a sweet tooth at Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co. on Crescent!

5. Board an Ocean Tour at the Green Pleasure Pier

Catalina Island pier

Catalina's Green Pleasure Pier is the hub for all ocean tours and diving excursions! Jutting 400 feet into the ocean, the structure has been a hot spot for fishermen and tourists since it was constructed in 1908. One of the most popular Catalina adventures is a glass-bottom boat tour to Lover's Cove Marine Preserve that allows guests to cruise through waters teeming with vibrant sea life and colored fish! Some local tour providers even offer undersea tours in semi-submersible vehicles in the waters surrounding Catalina.

6. Take a Land Tour Around Catalina Island's Wilder Parts

Most of the land tours offered by excursion companies in Catalina depart daily from Tour Plaza in Avalon. If you love nature, there's nothing better than a Catalina nature tour that brings you on an island safari in an open-air vehicle. As you cruise through coastal canyons and outback within the Catalina Conservancy, you may spot blackbuck antelope, island foxes, and wild bison!

Getting to Catalina

Catalina visitors can take advantage of year-round boat transportation from Catalina Express, which departs daily from Dana Point, Long Beach, and San Pedro. With dozens of departures happening daily, it's easy to customize your itinerary for a day trip or overnight getaway! These travel packing tips and hacks will ensure you can easily board. Of course, the only thing anyone really needs to pack for Catalina is a taste for adventure!

Blog Archive