Family Vacations to Catalina Island, California

Avalon Harbor, Catalina, California
Avalon Harbor, Catalina, California (Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Getty)

Catalina Island Family Travel Tips

During a visit to Santa Catalina Island (usually called Catalina Island or simply Catalina) you’ll experience quaint, laid-back charm and a slower pace of life, as well as the natural beauty that has made the island famous. Located off the coast of California, about 22 miles from Los Angeles, a visit to this rocky island is almost like stepping back in time.

The island is known for its lush vegetation—including several species that only grow on Catalina—as well as clear waters perfect for diving, snorkeling, and other recreation. The island is also home to a number of native species and a herd of American Bison. Much of the island (about 42,000 acres) is in the control of the Catalina Island Conservancy, and great care is taken to conserve the land and its natural wildlife. The use of vehicles on the island is restricted: feet, bicycles, and golf carts are the primary modes of transportation on most parts of the island. Tourists can hire a taxi to get around and cars are allowed without restriction in Avalon, the island’s only city.

Though the residential population is small, about a million tourists make Catalina their temporary home each year. Ferries carry guests from Orange and Los Angeles counties on the hour-long trip across the harbor. Hiking and biking are popular activities, as is spending the day at Descanso Beach, or one of the island’s other beaches. For even more adventure, try snorkeling in the clear waters of Lover’s Cove Undersea Gardens; and, for a truly different experience, try Discovery Tours Flying Fish Boat Trip.

The Catalina Island Museum gives tourists an education in the area’s history and culture. The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens provide information about one of the island’s most influential personalities as well as an up-close look at native Californian plant life. For a rustic experience, venture to Two Harbors, a small resort village on the island’s north side.

Published: 24 Mar 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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