This might not be the most popular option, given you’re on vacation. But some people like to earn that buffet. Catalina Island offers a variety of options to get up and moving. You can hike, swim, or golf. Or, just walk the streets. The town is relatively small, but great for stretching your legs and sightseeing for a few hours
Trade down your massive cruise ship for a much smaller, more nimble boat. That will allow you to get up close and explore Catalina Island in all its glory. You’ll have a few options to get out on the water, and the best choice will depend on your priorities. For a thrill, check out the Ocean Runner Adventure. For an Undersea Tour, board the Semi-Sub. To see flying fish, here’s your best option. And for a stiff drink with a view, this shore tour is your best bet.
Clear waters offer a great opportunity to dive or snorkel during your visit. Lover’s Cove and Descanso Beach are popular areas to jump in nearby Catalina Island Cruise Port. You can also venture to the other side of the island to Two Harbors. It’s been known to offer some of the world’s best scuba and was voted “World’s Healthiest Marine Environment” by Scuba Diving Magazine.
The island offers some great options to explore nature. You’ll find amazing hikes winding you up the steep mountain face and rewarding you with spectacular views of the harbor. To see more of the island, we recommend exploring via jeep. You’ll be in port for a short amount of time so will need some wheels to get deep enough to see eagles, bison, fox, and more. We recommend the Safari Island Adventure Tour. Or, if looking to get the blood pressure up a bit, check out Catalina Island’s natural beauty from above. The Zip Line Eco Tour includes six “zips” as you learn about the surrounding wildlife and ecosystem.
Catalina Island was opened for commercial activity in the late 1800’s and has been a mecca for celebrities and high society folk ever since. A majority stake of the island was purchased by William Wrigley (chewing gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner) and multiple landmarks are still on display in the city center of Avalon. Some of these include the Wrigley Memorial, Chimes Tower, and Casino (not for gambling but for performances). All are in great shape and worth a visit while in port
This beach is the place to go for some action. Descanso Beach Club offers cabanas and other amenities for rent (kayaks, snorkels, paddle boards, etc). They also charge a small fee to use their beach area. But, it’s worth it if staying local and looking for your best beach option close to port. The walk from your terminal is about one-half mile, so budget 20 minutes or so. There’s also a great bar at the top of the beach, perfect for cooling down and people watching.
Located on the opposite side of the island, Two Harbors features a narrow, sandy beach far from the cruise ship crowds. Here you’ll find a visitor center where you can rent all kinds of water activities including snorkels, paddle boards, boats, kayaks, mountain bikes, fishing poles, scuba gear, volleyballs, and more. Conveniently, Two Harbors also has a restaurant, bar, and store. Once here, you’ll have everything you need for a great day at Catalina. And if you miss your ship, they even have campgrounds available. Let’s hope that’s not necessary.
This is the closest beach to Green Pleasure Pier (your Catalina Island Cruise Terminal). You’ll see it immediately when tendering to port and as soon as you walk away from the terminal. The smaller beach is fine to grab some sun in between other events. The adjoining pier is where you’ll ship off for Submarine tours and Jet boats. So if killing time, it’s a great option. But, if looking for a beach day we’d recommend venturing a bit further from port.
Situated on Catalina’s west side, Two Harbors serves as a serene getaway from the action back near Catalina Cruise Port. For those looking to sweat a little, rent some mountain bikes, kayaks, or paddle boards from Visitor Services. If you make your way to the top, you’ll find spectacular views of both sides of the island. Once you get back down, grab some snorkeling gear and get ready for some of the best underwater views in the world. Two Harbors is roughly 20 miles from port.
Just outside Catalina’s main city of Avalon, you’ll find a landscape that looks like the backdrop for Jurassic Park. And like the characters in the movie, you’ll want to tour via jeep. Fortunately, the only animals that can eat you are the Bison. Even more fortunately, they prefer grass to humans. This is the best way to see most of the island and the amazing views it offers.
Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour is an amazing option while in port. You’ll soar 600 feet above canyons and vast swaths of nature as you get the aerial tour of Catalina Island. On this two-hour excursion, you’ll learn about the local ecology in between your five breathtaking zips. The tour takes place just above the Descanso Beach area, a great place to spend some time before or after your zipline adventure. You can find pricing and availability for the Zip Line Eco Tour here.
Surprisingly, golf is an option at this very small cruise port. This narrow, long course meanders through the sweeping canyons and provides fantastic views. The course was originally built with just three holes and expanded since the early 1900’s. Tiger Woods actually played here multiple times when young. Greens fees are relatively inexpensive at just $40 for 9 holes. Make sure to book this excursion well in advance to reserve a spot during the short time you’ll be visiting.
You won’t get rich here, but you may get fulfilled. This breathtaking, 12-story structure is the backdrop of Catalina Island and the main focus when capturing the coastline on camera. Built in the early 1900’s, the entertainment venue once featured major acts like Duke Ellington and benny Goodman. Today, it plays host to large events like the Jazz Festival and fancy weddings. Within the structure, you’ll also find a 1,200 person movie theater and the Catalina Island Museum.
Green Pleasure Pier is the terminal at which your tender will arrive. You’ll be among other water taxis, fishing charters and ferries at this smaller dock. Conveniently, Downtown Avalon (Catalina’s only city) is a five minute walk from your terminal. On foot, you can get to the clear other side of the city and back in roughly an hour or two. For a quicker mode of transportation, jump on one of the golf cart taxis you’ll see frequently zipping around Catalina.