Many of the Catalina Island activities listed below require reservations or tickets. You can take care of that online or stop at the ticket booth on the Pleasure Pier off Crescent Avenue or at the Tour Plaza, which is one block from the beach between Catalina and Sumner Avenues.
The island is just far enough away from Los Angeles that you might as well make a weekend out of your trip. You can use the Catalina Island Getaway guide to plan your perfect trip.
Take a Waterfront Walk
The walk along the waterfront from Casino Point to Lover's Point is a favorite thing to do in Avalon.
You'll see orange garibaldi fish swimming in the kelp beds, watch boats in the harbor, pass through the center of town and out again, to where the beaches are less busy and the views unobstructed. Keep going all the way to Pebbly Beach if you have time.
Rent a Golf Cart
Catalina residents drive golf carts because it's almost impossible to get permission to bring an automobile onto the island, but visitors do it just for fun.
You'll find rental places along the waterfront. While you've got wheels, head up the hill to take in the vista from just below the Inn on Mt. Ada, run out to the Botanical Garden, then go across town toward the Zane Grey Pueblo and bell tower for a different point of view.
Go to the Botanical Garden
Located at the end of Avalon Canyon Road, the Botanical Garden features some excellent specimens of succulents and cactus. The Wrigley Memorial on the hill overlooks Avalon and gives views all the way to the mainland. If you have the energy, hike the trail above the memorial all the way to the ridge.
Catalina's clear water and abundant marine life make it a favorite for divers and snorkelers. The most popular spots to go into the water are Casino Point and Lover's Cove. On busy days, you'll find wetsuits and diving supplies for rent at both locations.
Halfway between snorkeling and scuba is "snuba," a hybrid activity offered by Catalina Diver's Supply.
Semi-submersible sub tours offer diver-like views. Glass-bottomed boat rides have also been a Catalina tradition for almost a hundred years. Take a night ride with them to see lobsters scuttling along the ocean floor and sharks gliding below.
Go on the Water
You can rent almost any kind of watercraft from businesses around the harbor, from old-fashioned paddle boats to jet skis and small motorboats. If you'd rather let someone else do the driving, try one of the boat tours offered by the Catalina Island Company.
Take a Hike
Try one of these ideas for day hikes, from a short ramble around town to a nine-mile walk that's mostly downhill. Serious hikers may enjoy the 37-mile Trans-Catalina Trail, which runs the length of the island. Stop by the Catalina Conservancy office at 125 Claressa Avenue for hiking maps and ideas.
Take an Inland Tour
Hikers and residents with driving permits can go inland, but for the rest of us, a tour is the only way to see Catalina's backcountry.
Your tour dollars go toward a good cause if you take the Catalina Conservancy's Eco Tour, and their tour guides know all about the island's flora and fauna. You can also choose a land tour from the Catalina Island Company. Catalina Adventure Tours calls the same trip the Inside Adventure Tour.
Take a Boat Tour
The Catalina Island Company offers a selection of boat tours that appeal to all interests. You can take a trip in a Ribcraft to search for dolphins, go for the thrills of a jet boat ride, or take a leisurely cruise to Two Harbors at the east end of the island.
Find Out More About Town on the Casino Tour
Catalina's "casino" (the big, white, round-shaped building at the end of the harbor) was never a gambling place, but it does have a beautiful ballroom and movie theater. Take a guided tour or just go to a movie here, arriving early to explore the elegant wood-paneled lobby (appraised at more than $4 million for the wood alone) and enjoy the stylish Catalina history murals inside the auditorium.
Take a Flying Fish Tour
The fishy little critters really do "fly," speeding toward the water's surface, into the air and every once they land in a startled visitor's lap. Make a reservation for the boat tour that's designed just to see them, but time it right: their antics only happen on summer nights.
Don't' Forget to Do This When You Go to Catalina
Do Nothing! Catalina Island has a way of invoking profound relaxation. Maybe it's the smell of the eucalyptus trees and wild fennel, both relaxing scents, according to aromatherapists. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself so chilled out that nothing is the only thing left to do.