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Catalina Island

Photo of Catalina Island

About Catalina Island

Officially Santa Catalina Island, just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, is a bit of a world unto itself. It feels a bit Mediterranean with clear seas and rocky coastline and if you come in summer then prepare for it to be busy with day-trippers. Once they all head home the romance returns. Many of the best places to stay on Catalina Island can be found in or near the tiny main town, Avalon. But if you’re looking for an escape then have a look on the western coast. You might find the best place for you is around the tiny settlement of Two Harbors which is also very popular with the boating and sailing sets.

Catalina Island’s beautiful and unique ecosystem is probably the main reason it’s so popular. As a nature reserve 80% of the area is protected by the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy. This protection doesn’t end on the shoreline either, the protected waters around the island are a haven for snorkelers and scuba divers. The main diving site is on Casino Point by the famous casino built by William Wrigley Jr., of gum fame, who used to own the entire island.

One of the interesting features of Wrigley’s casino is that there are no gambling facilities! Instead you'll find a movie theatre, a ballroom and the Catalina Island Museum. The name casino is taken from the Italian definition meaning ‘social gathering place’.

If you’re not a fan of snorkelling or diving you may prefer to go out in a semi-submarine or glass-bottomed boat to see the underwater wildlife. On land there are plenty of walking trails leading you into the interior of the island, some which are also suitable for bikes. Plus there’s a golf course and a number of very nice beaches.

What not to miss:

  • Search for the abundant marine life while snorkelling, scuba-diving or on a glass-bottomed boat.
  • Visit the Catalina Island Museum located in a disused casino.
  • Unwind on the picturesque beaches.
  • Explore the miles of scenic hiking trails.

As you'd expect during peak summer months the best places to stay in Catalina Island get very busy, so plan ahead and book early.

For sea front location

  • The Pavilion Hotel is a 71 room hotel with a nautical feel and a beautifully tropical sea front location. This is a great spot for boating, surfing or swimming and of course fishing.

Travel information

  • From LA it takes only one hour via high-speed ferry or 15 minutes via helicopter.
  • Best time to visit - Catalina Island is a year round destination however the summer season is the busiest, with warm sea conditions. Autumn is known as the “secret season” among locals – the temperature is still warm, but the crowds are gone.
  • If you plan to hire a car, we recommend you visit our online partner Rentalcars for the best prices.

    Still not sure?

    Best Hotels in Catalina Island

    • Pavilion Hotel 71 rooms from £184

      Avalon, Catalina Island

      A nautical setting in manicured tropical gardens on the sea front. A dreamy film set town mirrored in the light rooms with all mod-cons, private bathrooms and breakfast. Restaurants, pool and spa treatments close by. Water sport activity heaven: sailing to surfing, boating and swimming.

      Fishing  -  Fly fishing boat trips are popular and readily avaliable.
      Diving  -  SNUBA dive experience is the one.
      Local markets  -  Atwater for markets and shops.
      Recommended by  -  CN Traveller
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