Top 8 Things to Do in Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a spectacular gem featured on many Mexico cruises. The 75-square-mile island is set amid the sparkling Pacific Ocean 22 miles off Southern California. It boasts year-round sunshine, the charming town of Avalon, rich wildlife in its rugged interior and offshore waters, and ample options for fun activities. If you are cruising to Catalina Island, you might plan to spend the day snorkeling, hiking, visiting heritage sites or simply relaxing on the beach. There are so many things to do and discover in Catalina Island that it’s difficult to choose, but here are eight great ideas to consider.

aerial view of catalina island including the avalon bay and the catalina island casino

On the Water

The waters surrounding Catalina Island are teeming with marine life ranging from huge pods of dolphins to bright orange Garibaldi fish flitting about the kelp forests. Enjoy the marine environment — and soak up the sunshine and ocean breezes — while playing on, in, over or under the water. It’s no wonder water sports and tours are among the most popular of all Catalina activities.

1. Paddle on the Pacific

Grab a paddle and hop aboard a kayak to explore the island’s remote coastline on the Catalina Kayak Expedition. You don’t need any previous experience, and an expert guide will show you the ropes before you head out on the water. You can definitely expect to get wet during this tour. You might even drop into the water for an optional swim.

group of people kayaking towards catalina island on yellow kayaks

2. Soar above the ocean

The panoramic views you’ll get during a Catalina Parasailing Adventure are truly unmatched. Suspended 800 feet in the air, feel serenity and excitement at the same time while admiring the rooftops of Avalon, the craggy peaks of the island’s interior and perhaps even dolphins and sea lions frolicking in the waves far below your feet.

couple parasailing on a yellow and blue parasail off the coast of catalina island

3. See the world under the sea

On the Catalina Undersea Adventure, take a seat underwater on the semi-submersible Sea Wolf, a unique vessel that showcases Catalina’s remarkable marine life through large picture windows. There’s no other way to witness the watery world without getting wet. Glide through dense forests of giant kelp, where schools of opaleye, Garibaldi, and sharks swim about. Seals and sea lions might make a memorable appearance as well.

4. Go on a jet-set search for dolphins

Take to the waters around the island in search of dolphin pods and other marine life on the Coastal Wild Dolphin Adventure. Ride in comfort at high speeds on a 46-foot jet boat and watch out for playful dolphins surfing in its wake. There’s an excellent chance of dolphin encounters on every trip and you’re sure to spot other wildlife too, including sea lions, diving pelicans, and eagles soaring overhead.

3 wild dolphins jumping out of the ocean, off the coast of catalina island

Island Adventures

Between its only two towns (Avalon and Two Harbors), Catalina Island is a rugged, unspoiled mountain wilderness inhabited by native island foxes, nesting eagles and a famous herd of bison. Visitors can explore the island’s wild side by hiking, mountain biking or taking a guided tour. Anyone wondering what to do in Catalina Island who loves outdoor adventures should consider island-based excursions.

5. Zip, zap, zoom down Descanso Canyon

Get ready for an adrenaline rush as you soar over a spectacular canyon, riding at high speeds down a series of five zip lines from a mountaintop to the ocean shore. The Catalina Zipline Adventure takes you racing at speeds of up to 45 mph and as high as 600 feet above sea level. But don’t close your eyes! The views of Descanso Canyon and the coast are not to be missed, and between zip lines, your guides will point out the island’s most interesting flora and fauna.

man yelling and flexing as he rides down a zip line in catalina island

6. Explore a remote trail by 4WD

Climb aboard an open-air Hummer driven by an expert guide and get ready to rumble up, along and down one of Catalina’s most scenic back-country trails. The East End Adventure by Hummer takes you to the island’s East Peak, some 1,684 feet above the ocean, where you’ll take in views of the remote windward side in one direction and Avalon Canyon in the other. Keep an eye out for Catalina’s iconic bison grazing on the slopes, as well as shy island foxes stalking their prey in the scrub.


Sightseeing and Culinary Delights

As you travel to Catalina Island by cruise ship, you’ll see from afar the tiny town of Avalon hugging the slopes between the boat-filled harbor and its mountain backdrop. Get closer to shore and you’ll soon see Avalon’s charms include elegant Mediterranean-inspired architecture, a sprinkling of sandy beaches and narrow, winding streets lined with enticing restaurants and boutique stores. Spend your day on the island exploring Avalon and enjoy its many and varied treasures

7. Take a guided tour of Avalon

The Avalon Scenic Tour packs in all of the town’s most intriguing destinations, among them the historic art deco Casino building, the spectacular estate of the Wrigley family (of Chicago Cubs fame) and the island’s golf course, notably the oldest west of the Mississippi. The tour also features a scenic coastal drive and plenty of great information about Catalina’s rich history.

view of the catalina island casino at night from across the avalon bay 

8. Eat your way around Avalon

As a popular destination for day-trippers and overnight visitors alike, Avalon boasts a wide range of enticing restaurants and cafes to suit all appetites. Foodies might struggle to pick just one place to eat, but the Taste of Catalina Food Tour lets you sample a range of the island’s best culinary offerings.

Catalina Island — A Cruise Vacation Highlight

Whether it’s part of a fun family cruise, romantic getaway or a long-awaited vacation with friends, a day on Catalina Island is unforgettable. But don’t forget to look into all the amazing things to do there before you set sail!