Catalina Island has a lot to offer; here are some travel tips

Catalina Island travel

The Catalina Explorer offers helicopter tours of Catalina Island, one of the many events and adventures the island offers. Photo: Catalina Explorer

Catalina Island, located approximately 30 miles south-southwest of Long Beach, enjoys a Mediterranean climate, characterized by mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers.

Avalon, located on the island’s eastern side, is the city’s only incorporated city, where 90 percent of the 4,201 population lives.

It also is the hub for tourism. Visitors can explore the city’s streets, visit museums, dine in restaurants, and enjoy various water-based activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and boat tours.

The island also offers hiking, biking, camping, and wildlife watching.

The second center of population is the unincorporated village of Two Harbors at the island’s isthmus. 

Here are a variety of year round and seasonal events/adventures visitors can enjoy, including a Pride celebration in June.

Bison expedition’s 5-year anniversary

  • This favorite celebrates its anniversary this year as a unique experience only found on Catalina Island. The two-hour, four-wheeling adventure offers an excellent opportunity to search for American bison in the wild as you journey through the favorite grazing grounds of these majestic animals and through the island interior.

Helicopter tour of the island

  • With the Catalina Explorer flight, fliers will depart on a 20-minute aerial tour over the 22-mile-long island sanctuary, starting and ending in Avalon with views of roaming buffalo, soaring eagles, and majestic dolphins over the beautiful beaches. The Catalina Explorer flight starts at $199 per passenger, book here.
Catalina Island travel tips

Inside the Catalina Casino, visitors marvel at the soaring hand-painted murals, the world-famous ballroom, and the Romance Promenade, which offers some of the most spectacular views of Avalon. Photo: Love Catalina Island Tourism Authority

Catalina Casino

  • Step back in time and meander through one of Catalina’s most well-known landmarks. General Admission guests may wander the iconic Casino, marveling at the soaring hand-painted murals, the world-famous ballroom and the Romance Promenade offering some of the most spectacular views of Avalon.

Kidalina family travel

  • Catalina Island – nicknamed “Kidalina”– is the ideal destination for families with children of all ages. Countless activities and fun things to do with kids are available, and families can enjoy kid-friendly dining, too.

Explore El Rancho Escondido

  • Prepare for an unforgettable adventure to explore the breathtaking, recently renovated El Rancho Escondido. This excursion takes guests on a journey through the island’s picturesque interior, offering a rare opportunity to witness one of the island’s most magnificent landmarks.

Bistro at the Atwater’s 5-year Anniversary 

  • For five years, Bistro at the Atwater has been serving visitors and locals their morning cup of coffee or tea, cool and refreshing juices and other specialty drinks. Perfect to build a beach picnic, pick up a refreshing boost of energy or grab something smooth and sweet, guests are invited to celebrate half a decade of delicious drinks.

Provincetown, renowned gay getaway, offers plenty for the fall

Aurora spring fling package

Valid through May 31

  • Celebrate the season with a spring fling on the Island of Romance. Enjoy two nights at the Aurora Hotel, where you will be greeted with a bouquet of spring flowers and a bottle of sparkling wine. The package also includes round-trip transportation for two aboard Catalina Express. $599 weeknights and $826 weekends plus tax. The offer is based on availability and not valid on holidays.

37th Annual Silent Film Showcase at the Catalina Museum

May 17-18

  • This Opening Night screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s final silent film, “Blackmail,” marks one of the world’s longest-running celebrations of silent cinema. Hosted by the Catalina Museum for Art & History, the film screening will take place under the stars in the museum’s Ackerman Family Amphitheater and feature live musical accompaniment by composer Michael Mortilla and presentation by silent film expert Randy Haberkamp. Light appetizers are included, and specialty refreshments will be available for purchase.

Art Deco Society Avalon Ball

May 18

  • This magical night features an evening of dancing to music from the 1920s and 30s performed by Dean Mora & the Avalon Ball Dance Orchestra. Guests will immerse themselves in glorious Deco opulence, gliding across the 10,000-square-foot dance floor surrounded by ocean views. Now in its 21st year, the Avalon Ball features a completely restored space with a ballroom that retains its original romantic style with Tiffany chandeliers, an elevated stage and a vintage, full-service bar.

18th Annual Taste Around Avalon

May 30

  • As the official kick-off to Avalon Restaurant Week, the Taste Around Avalon has become a popular annual event for visitors to enjoy the most scrumptious tastes of delectable food and beverages at some of Avalon’s finest dining establishments. Participants will vote for their favorite “Tastes” of food, drink and dessert.

Catalina Wine Mixer

May 31-June 1

  • The 9th Annual Catalina Wine Mixer is a weekend of live entertainment, wine tastings, live music, special VIP programming, and an exclusive wine pairing lunch. Located at the Descanso Beach Club, this event is one of SoCal’s most unique and entertaining wine and music events.

11th Annual Avalon Restaurant Week

May 31 – June 6

  • In its 11th year, some of Avalon’s most popular restaurants are ready to dish up mouth-watering food during Avalon Restaurant Week. Join for a multi-day foodie celebration and indulge in a variety of specially created dishes and menus.

REI Catalina Island multisport adventure

June, July, and August

  • This three-day trip will take visitors hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and biking through the island. Hike from sea to crest, bike along scenic roads to secluded beaches, kayak the pristine waters along the coast, and snorkel in the calm bays and coves, exploring the colorful marine life. End the days with beautiful sunsets and stargazing around a warm campfire.

Catalina Pride

June 15

Have a gay old time at Catalina Island Pride. The main event will take place at Wrigley Stage in the center of Avalon and will include live entertainment as well as a Pride march in support of the LGBTQ+ community. After parties on Avalon will begin around sunset.

Two Harbors Wine Fest

June 22

  • The Two Harbors Wine Fest takes place on the beach and has become one of Two Harbors most popular events. It includes a silent auction, live music, complimentary appetizers, and tastings of all participating wineries.

4th of July celebration, parade, and fireworks

July 4

  • Celebrate Independence Day Catalina style. The festivities include a golf car parade at 1 p.m. meeting along Casino Way, followed by a Dinghy Parade. The Fireworks show starts at approximately 9 p.m.

Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race

August 25

  • The event is organized by the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Association, a volunteer non-profit organization. Established in 1955, the Catalina Classic is the oldest and most celebrated endurance paddleboard race in the world. This historic 32-mile marathon, which starts at Catalina’s Isthmus cove and ends at the Manhattan Beach Pier, attracts paddlers from all over the world and is known as the “grand-daddy of all paddleboard races.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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