Located just 22 miles from Los Angeles, Catalina Island is a delightful getaway with a boatload of fun, kid-friendly activities on land and water. While it’s an easy day trip, staying the night gives you more time to explore the pedestrian-friendly town’s calm beaches, waterfront shops and restaurants, and numerous activities.
Avalon, Catalina Island’s main city , is about one square mile in size and most things are within easy walking distance.
Getting There is Half the Fun
Catalina Island is accessible via Catalina Express boats from three ports: San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point. It’s just a one-hour boat ride aboard vessels decked out with comfortable seating, a snack bar and restrooms. Helicopter service is also available with departures from Long Beach, San Pedro and Orange County Airport. For boat reservations, call 800-429-4601 or book online at www.CatalinaExpress.com.
Once you’re on the island, there’s no shortage of fun things to do with kids. These top 10 activities are a great way to explore the island top to bottom.
This iconic Catalina activity is the perfect way to get an overview of the island. Since Avalon is mostly car free, golf carts are very popular with residents and visitors. Rent a cart and follow a map to navigate the island’s streets and hills for stunning views. Be sure to stop at the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden (named for William Wrigley, Jr., the chewing gum giant).
Rent kayaks and paddle on your own or join a family-friendly guided tour to explore the coastline and coves while learning about Catalina’s history. Several companies offer tours and rent kayaks. Remember to bring your water proof camera!
Three spectacular snorkeling spots are within walking distance of the pier. At Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve, swaying kelp forests are home to colorful fish, sea cucumbers and sea urchins. Casino Point Dive Park, an undersea garden especially popular for SCUBA, is great for snorkeling too. Descanso Beach is a launch pad for kayaking, snorkeling and diving. You can also learn to Snuba, which combines snorkeling and diving minus heavy equipment.
Semi-Submersible SS Nautilus
Even if you don’t snorkel, you can still see marine life and feed fish from aboard this vessel, which cruises about six feet below the ocean surface. The vessel’s fish food feeding system has torpedo buttons so you can feed the fish from your seat. This excursion is one of several offered by Catalina Adventure Tours.
Zip Line Eco Tour
Adventurous families will get a bird’s eye view of the island as they soar 300 feet above the canyon floor on five separate zip lines at speeds up to 40 mph. The five zips take about two hours.
Glass Bottom Boat
Everyone onboard gets great views of colorful fish and marine life in swaying kelp forests while seated comfortably in a large vessel.
Peddle along the coast on flat terrain for about one mile to the helicopter landing. Grab lunch and watch helicopters take off and land from the Buffalo Nickel Restaurant.
Three Palms Avalon Arcade
Looking for indoor family fun? The island’s only family entertainment center features state-of-the-art games, four lanes of bowling, an electronic gallery and a restaurant.
Catch a first-run movie at this unique theater located in the lower level of the landmark Catalina Casino. Check out the Art Deco murals adorning the walls. Movies are shown nightly at 7:30 pm.
Small beaches, cute shops and casual restaurants line the pretty waterfront. Antonio’s Pizza & Cabaret is a favorite with families for its tasty traditional Italian dishes and marina views. Build your own pizza, play oldies on table-top juke boxes and munch on peanuts. Kids love throwing the peanut shells on the floor. For sweets, head to Lloyd’s of Avalon Confectionary for salt water taffy, caramel apples, and more. Don’t miss Big Olaf’s homemade waffle cones.