If you’re looking to spend a few days in an island paradise – all without leaving Southern California – then a weekend trip to Catalina Island is in order.
Catalina Island is only 22 miles from the mainland, yet manages to feel a whole world away. It’s still technically in Los Angeles County, but the crystal clear aquamarine waters, stunning natural beauty, charming architecture, and laid back island vibes will make you feel like you’ve transported yourself to a faraway destination in the Mediterranean – all without the expensive plane ticket.
There’s plenty of things to do to keep you busy on your Catalina Island itinerary, to suit any kind of traveler. Looking for some R&R hanging out on the beach? Check. Adventurous outdoor activities? Check. How about some culture and history? Check. Amazing restaurants? Check again.
The best part? It’s only about an hour away from LA and Orange County, a quick and easy trip on the Catalina Express!
I’ve been to Catalina Island several times now, and I never fail to be wowed by its spectacular natural beauty and island charm. It’s truly one of the most beautiful places in California, and I guarantee that the views here will take your breath away.
Whether you’re looking to have a relaxing beach vacation, a romantic getaway, or an outdoor adventure, you can have all this and more on a weekend getaway to Catalina island.
I’ve created this Catalina Island getaway to help you experience the best of the island. Keep on reading to help you plan the perfect Catalina Island weekend trip!
** Thank you to Catalina Express for hosting my trip. As always, all opinions are my own.
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Things to Know Before Your Weekend Trip to Catalina Island
About Catalina Island
Located 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island (officially named Santa Catalina Island) is the southernmost island of the Channel Islands.
The island measures 72 square miles and is home to the incorporated city of Avalon (population ~4000), and the small unincorporated town of Two Harbors on the island’s west end (population 300).
Catalina Island has a unique and storied history, dating back thousands of years. You’ll find that the island has many fascinating stories, with many famous people playing a part in them over the years. History buffs can learn more about these stories and people by visiting the Catalina Island Museum on their Catalina itinerary.
The island was originally home to the Tongvas Native Americans (later known as the Gabrieliños), who inhabited Catalina for 7000 years. There were originally 2000-3000 Tongvas living on the island, living in 50-100 villages, each consisting of extended family members, all over the island. These villages would eventually become Avalon, Two Harbors, Empire Landing, White’s Landing and Toyon Bay.
Over the years, the island has been occupied by a varied group of people – everyone from explorers, smugglers, gold diggers, pirates, hunters, the Union army and missionaries. When Spanish explorers took over California, they took over the island as well, but it was then turned over to Mexico, and then the United States. It has also served as a strategic stronghold for the US military during World War II, and has even served as a training camp for what would eventually become the CIA.
Catalina Island’s reputation as a resort destination came in the late 1800s, when James Lick, one of the wealthiest men in California, took ownership of the island. After he failed to develop the island as a resort destination, it was sold to the sons of Phineas Banning in 1891.
The Banning brothers created the Santa Catalina Island Company (now known as the Catalina Island Company), and began to develop hotels, attractions, and roads leading into the island’s interior. They also built the Banning House Lodge and led stagecoach tours around the island.
Unfortunately, a tragic fire in 1915 burned down half the structures in Avalon. As the brothers scrambled to recoup their investments, the island was once again sold in 1919 – this time to chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr.
Wrigley is credited with transforming the island into what it is today, and turning it into a world-class island resort. He had a vision for making the island a “playground for all,” and built infrastructure, a reservoir, Hotel Atwater, Bird Park, and other attractions. He also made the island the spring training home for the Chicago Cubs (which he also owned).
In 1929, the iconic Catalina Casino was built, ushering in a new era of glamor to the island. The Casino was used as a gathering place and a hub of nightlife on the island – thousands made the trip from the mainland every night for a night of dinner, movies, and dancing.
Through the 1930s-50s, the island became a popular destination for Hollywood elites, and was also used as a filming site for many film productions.
It’s even said that it was on the island where Marilyn Monroe was first discovered, when she was working as a taffy puller at Lloyd’s of Avalon Confectionery in downtown Avalon, while she was still named Norna Jean.
When William Wrigley died in 1932, the Catalina Island Company was passed onto his son, Philip Knight Wrigley, who continued his vision. The family still owns 11% of the island today, carrying on the vision as a world-class resort destination.
In 1972, they created a land trust in the Catalina Island Conservancy, which is responsible for 88% of the land, including the rugged interior and coastline areas.
When is the best time for a weekend getaway to Catalina island?
Catalina Island experiences a Mediterranean climate, which means that pretty much any time is a good time to visit. Summer highs hover at a balmy 72 degrees, while winter sees temperatures averaging in the 60s.
Summer is the peak tourist season, thanks to the nearly perfect sunny days that you get on the island. However, do note that hotel prices and crowds tend to be at their highest during these months.
Weekends also tend to be super busy, so if you want to experience a quieter vibe on the island, I suggest visiting during the week. We did a midweek trip on our last visit and loved the peace and quiet – especially in the mornings and evenings, when the day trippers and cruise ship passengers aren’t on the island.
Shoulder season – spring and fall – are ideal times to visit. You’ll still experience pleasant weather, but fewer crowds. I did a Catalina island getaway in March a few years back, and loved that the island was still relatively chill, but the weather was still ideal with highs in the mid to high 60s.
Even when visiting during the warmer months, do note that it can get chilly at night so be sure to pack a jacket!
Winter is the low season on the island, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bad time to visit – we visited in February on our last trip, and it was the perfect little winter escape! We enjoyed sunny days with highs in the upper 50s and low 60s (which sounds chilly but felt really nice in the sun!), and it was so nice to not have to battle the crowds.
If you’re on a budget, consider visiting during the winter as the island usually has some awesome deals! They have some midweek boat and hotel packages to help you save up to 50% off. See available packages here.
Do note that the waters tend to be choppiest in the winter months though, so if you are prone to seasickness, I’d visit during another season.
Getting to Catalina Island
There are two ways to reach Catalina Island – via sea or air.
While the island does have a small airport, nicknamed the “Airport in the Sky” since it sits at 1,602 feet in elevation, commercial flights are not offered. You can take a helicopter there as well, but it costs $179 each way – not exactly the most cost-effective option.
The easiest and most affordable way to get to Catalina Island is via ferry on the Catalina Express, which daily service to and from the island from three different ports on the mainland. The trip takes just over an hour (an hour and a half from Dana Point), and costs $84 round-trip ($88 from Dana Point).
Taking the Catalina Express is super easy, convenient, and comfortable. You’ll enjoy some spectacular views of the water, and might even spot some wildlife. Sit on the outdoor deck if the weather is nice – you’ll get the best views this way! We saw some dolphins last time we went to the island, and we were so thrilled! Whale sightings are also common as well during the migration season.
If coming from the Los Angeles area and heading to Avalon (where you’ll be spending your time on your weekend in Catalina Island), you can depart from either Long Beach or San Pedro. Long Beach has the most daily departures, with ferries leaving nearly every hour in the pearl season.
If traveling from Long Beach, consider upgrading to the Commodore Lounge for an additional $20 each way to make your journey extra comfortable – you get to sit in the upstairs lounge, with wider, reclining leather seats and a complimentary beverage and snack.
Those planning to head directly to Two Harbors can find service departing from San Pedro.
If you are coming from South Orange County or San Diego, it is best to depart out of Dana Point. This is what we do, and love how convenient it is, since it is only 15 minutes from home! There are one or two daily departures out of Dana Point, depending on the season.
Whichever port you depart out of, you will get dropped off in the middle of downtown Avalon, just a hop and skip away from many of the places on your weekend in Catalina itinerary. Most hotels in Avalon are just a few minutes’ walk from the ferry terminal, but some hotels do also offer baggage service to help you transport your luggage to your accommodations.
TIP: Whatever you do, I *highly* recommend that you book your ferry tickets in advance for your weekend trip to Catalina Island, especially if you are visiting during peak season as they often sell out! Years ago, my dad and I decided to take a spontaneous day trip to Catalina Island and showed up to the ferry terminal only to discover that there was only availability on ferries that only let us spend two hours on the island. It was a fun, spontaneous little trip but it would’ve been better if we’d planned ahead, haha.
Getting around during your Catalina Island weekend trip
Downtown Avalon is fairly compact (only one square mile) and very walkable, so you’ll be able to reach most of the spots on this Catalina Island itinerary on foot.
One thing you’ll notice right away when you arrive to Catalina – there aren’t that many cars on the island. This is because residents need a permit for vehicles larger than 120 inches – and since they are only limited to 800, there’s a 17 year waiting list for one!
Therefore, most locals get around via golf cart and you can too, at least for a few hours – it’s one of the must-dos on your Catalina Island weekend trip! While there aren’t any overnight rentals, it’s a fantastic way to get around to some of the areas in the hillier areas of Avalon. You can technically walk to these spots, but it’s much easier (and honestly more fun!) to go via golf cart!
You can also get around in Avalon via the Garibaldi bus, run by Avalon Transit. The bus stops at various points of interest along Cabrillo Mole to Casino Way and up-canyon to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden. The fare is $2 per ride, and can be paid via cash or transit app. More information is available on routes and schedules.
Taxi service is also available, but do note that fares are on the higher side due to the high cost of fuel on the island.
Bicycling is also an awesome way to get around the island – there are both regular and electric bicycles for rent on the island. You can also bring your own bicycle on the boat (be sure to reserve space for it in advance!)
Do note that a permit is required through the Catalina Island Conservancy to hike or bike in the interior of the island. You can also arrange transportation through the Wildlands Express through the Conservancy, or hire a private shuttle.
How many days do you need on Catalina Island?
While you can certainly visit Catalina Island as a day trip, I highly recommend spending more time on the island to experience the best of what it has to offer.
Catalina Island makes the perfect destination for a weekend getaway, as there is so much to see and do (and eat!), whether you’re looking for relaxing activities, to thrilling outdoor adventures. Spending two nights will allow you to experience the main sights, do some adventurous activities, take a tour or two, and have time left over to relax and take in the beauty of the island.
Doing a weekend getaway to Catalina Island will also allow you to experience the peace and quiet of the mornings and evenings on the island, which personally is my favorite time here! This is when the day trippers and cruise ship passengers aren’t on the island, and you basically feel like you have the island to yourself.
What to pack for Catalina Island
- Comfortable walking shoes: You’ll likely do a ton of walking on your Catalina Island weekend getaway, so bring comfortable shoes! Allbirds and Rothy’s make my favorite travel shoes (that are cute + comfy).
- Flip flops or sandals: A pair of flip flops from Rainbow are kinda part of the So-Cal uniform, and I also love these Crocs sandals because they’re stylish (yes, really!) and super comfortable.
- Jacket: Evenings get breezy so bring a light jacket (like a denim jacket). You might want something warmer (this puffy jacket is my fave!) in the winter, as it gets quite chilly at night.
- Hat: To help keep the sun out of your eyes. A straw hat is perfect for hanging out at the beach, or this one is my favorite for photos. Or a baseball cap will do.
- Sunscreen: Slather on a reef-safe sunscreen that will also protect marine life on the island. This one is also my favorite face sunscreen (and this one is great as a top off).
- Beach tote: For all your beach essentials
- Power bank: To help keep your devices charged as you explore the island
- Camera: Sure, a phone camera will do – but you can really capture the island’s beauty with my favorite travel camera.
- Reusable water bottle: I have this one on me at all times.
- Motion sickness meds or bands: If you are prone to seasickness, for the boat ride over.
More Catalina Island travel tips
- Because of older filtration systems, the tap water is not the greatest. It’s perfectly safe to drink, but doesn’t taste great – locals don’t really drink it, and restaurants usually serve bottled water. I suggest bringing your own water or buying a large jug and then filling up your own reusable water bottle.
- While cell service is usually available in downtown Avalon, it gets spotty the further away you get from it. Download offline maps before arriving to help you navigate.
- Yes, Catalina Island tends to be on the pricey side – it is an island after all (it’s still cheaper than a plane ticket to the Mediterranean, though!). Budget a bit more than you think you’ll need for meals and activities.
- There is a Vons grocery store on Sumner Ave. in downtown Avalon where you can stock up on water, snacks, and more.
Where to stay on Catalina Island
On this Catalina Island weekend getaway, we stayed at the Bellanca Hotel and it was the perfect home base for our weekend getaway to Catalina Island! It’s like a modern beach resort in the middle of an island paradise and I loved it so much. It’s also the sister hotel to Tower23 in Pacific Beach, another one of my favorite hotels in Southern California!
The boutique property features a charming yet hip design that is inspired by the natural beauty of the island that it’s located in. I loved the colors here – shades of blue and turquoise (and the turquoise robes!) that reflect the crystal clear waters that surround Catalina.
I highly recommend booking a room with a view of Avalon (or a patio) as you can take in gorgeous views of the waterfront and Casino right outside your room. It was such a treat to wake up to such a beautiful view right outside my window every morning!
There’s also a rooftop sun deck on the top floor with plenty of lounge chairs and tables, perfect for hanging out, relaxing, and soaking in the views.I loved hanging out here for sunset every night with a cocktail from the Naughty Fox, the restaurant and bar downstairs (one of the best spots to eat and drink on the island!). I even came up for sunrise on my last morning, and I loved soaking in the peaceful vibes and views from here.
You also can’t beat the location right on the waterfront, about a 5 minute walk from the ferry terminal. It’s located at the end of the main strip in downtown Avalon, so you’re close to all the action yet far enough to get a bit of peace and quiet.
Other notable amenities include beach chair rentals, perfect for hanging out on the sand just steps away from the property; and beach cruiser rentals, which you can use to get around as you explore downtown Avalon.
The Perfect Weekend on Catalina Island Itinerary
Catalina Island Itinerary: DAY 1
Arrive in Avalon on Catalina Express
First things first – you’ve gotta get yourself to Avalon to start off this weekend trip to Catalina Island itinerary!
Hop on the Catalina Express and you will have yourself to the island in about an hour. On the way to the island, take in all the beautiful ocean views, and keep your eyes peeled for any whales or dolphins!
Soon enough, you’ll start seeing the island, and then you will be in awe as you start approaching Avalon and take in those views.
I recommend booking yourself a morning ferry so you can get yourself settled and then head to lunch.
Lunch at Naughty Fox
Time for lunch – hope you arrived on the island hungry!
Head over to the Naughty Fox for lunch (if you’re staying at the Bellanca Hotel for your weekend getaway to Catalina Island, it’s the hotel restaurant).
Inspired by the beach and the playful foxes that live on the island, the Naughty Fox features seaside classics and elevated cafe options in an intimate yet casual setting. It’s become one of our favorite spots and we always end up making multiple stops here during a Catalina Island weekend trip – not only for meals, but for snacks, and drinks too!
The Naughty Fox has an outdoor patio, with a view overlooking Avalon Bay. You seriously can’t go wrong with the views here – I recommend sitting at the counter for the best views while you enjoy your lunch!
Everything I’ve had on the menu has been delicious, but you absolutely *must* order the ahi poke nachos (which also features on the menu at JRDN in Pacific Beach), which use crisped wonton chips for a really fun twist! The blackened shrimp bowl is super yummy as well.
Their cocktails are creative and tasty as well – it’s a perfect chance to try a buffalo milk, sorta like the official cocktail of the island (which tastes kinda like a banana milkshake). The Foxy Lady is a favorite as well (it’s their twist on an Aperol Spritz).
Wander downtown Avalon
Avalon may only be one square mile, but there’s plenty to explore. Plus, you’ll be in awe of its beauty and charm!
Start by strolling down Crescent Ave., named after the fact that it runs along the crescent shaped Avalon Bay. It’s kind of the main street in Avalon, and there are tons of cute shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and galleries here to stop in.
I recommend checking out Catalina Pottery & Tile Company, where you can shop for original Catalina pottery and tiles made in the 1920s and 1930s, along with works made by local artists. It’s a fantastic place to shop for some unique souvenirs from the island (and the tile-covered storefront is super photogenic).
You can also stop for an afternoon cocktail. Luau Larry’s is one of the island’s local favorites, a kitschy tiki bar known for its Wiki Whacker (you get a hat if you order one!). The Catalina Island Brew House pours a number of locally brewed craft beers.
Make a stop at Lloyd’s of Avalon, an old-fashioned confectionery and candy store, with plenty of sweet treats (including saltwater taffy) and ice cream. It’s also where Marilyn Monroe is said to have been discovered, back when she worked as a taffy puller here and was still known as Norma Jean.
Go for a stroll along the Green Pleasure Pier, which juts out into the water from Crescent and Catalina Aves. It’s the hub for many water-based tours and activities on the island, and it’s a fun spot to people watch as well. Plus, you can’t beat the views of the water and downtown Avalon from here!
If you’re looking to learn more about the history of Catalina Island, and the people who played a role in it, you can spend some time at the Catalina Island Museum. The museum has a number of engaging exhibits that depict the 7000 year history of the island, depicting life on the island and telling the story of its inhabitants, from the Natives to the rich-and-famous characters that called it home.
Walk down Via Casino, towards the iconic Catalina Casino. Pass through the archway that stands along the walkway to the casino – snap a photo in one of the windows for a perfectly framed view of the Casino and harbor.
You can also hang out at one of the beaches that dot Avalon Bay, and admire the crystal clear blue waters and the views of the harbor.
Catch the sunset
Thanks to its natural beauty, sunsets here are extra magical – so set some time aside on your Catalina Island to catch one!
I loved being able to head up to the rooftop sun deck to watch the sunset during my weekend trip to Catalina Island. There is plenty of seating here, and the views of the bay and waterfront are spectacular. We grabbed some cocktails from the Naughty Fox downstairs and then soaked in the views, and watched the sky transform into the perfect pastel pink.
Otherwise, you can head to one of the beaches in town to catch the sunset, or hike up to one of the viewpoints up in the hills if you’re up for a workout!
Dinner at Bluewater Avalon
End your day with a waterfront dinner at Bluewater Avalon.
The Bluewater group of restaurants has several locations around Southern California, all featuring high-quality, fresh seafood dishes.
We ordered the clam chowder, steamed shellfish in white wine, garlic, and butter sauce, and the chipotle blackened swordfish and really enjoyed everything we had!
Ask to be seated on the patio here for beautiful views of the harbor and the Casino (even at night!). It’s the perfect backdrop to a delicious meal to end the first day of your Catalina itinerary.
Catalina Island Itinerary: DAY 2
Cruise around the island in a golf cart
Pretty much anyone you talk to about Catalina Island will tell you to cruise around the island in a golf cart – and they aren’t wrong! It really is one of the most unique things to the island, and one of its most fun activities.
We rented a golf cart from Catalina Island Golf Cart Rentals, which offers hourly rentals. A four passenger golf cart is $60/hour, and a six passenger cart is $80/hour. A cash deposit of $60 is required. Drivers must be at least 25 years old and hold a valid drivers license.
I suggest reserving a golf cart for two hours, which will allow you to drive around the entire scenic loop, make stops for photos, and even check out the botanical gardens (more on that later).
The island is best seen from above – where you’ll get a breathtaking perspective of the crescent shaped bay, the sparkling aquamarine waters, and the little boats that dot the bay. Renting a golf cart is the best way to get to all of the viewpoints – while you can certainly walk to them, you’ll be walking up along a steep incline!
Here are some of the viewpoints to stop at in Avalon:
- Three Palms Scenic Overlook: Breathtaking views of the Avalon Bay, hillside, and Casino. Wrigley Rd, Avalon, CA 90704
- Buena Vista Point Scenic Overlook: The name just about sums it up – this is arguably the best view on the island! Amazing views of the harbor, the clifftop homes, and waterfront. Wrigley Rd, Avalon, CA 90704
- Tremont Scenic Overlook: You’ll find incredible views of Avalon Bay here. Country Club Dr, Avalon, CA 90704
- Ocean Scenic Overlook: Amazing views of the blue waters. Wrigley Rd, Avalon, CA 90704
- Catalina Chimes Tower: Scenic views of Avalon Bay and downtown. Chimes Tower Rd, Avalon, CA 90704
You’ll get a map to help you navigate the scenic loop. Be careful that you stay on route and don’t accidentally turn onto a wrong street, as some are inaccessible to rental carts. You can also use Google Maps to help you make sure you’re staying on route, but reception can be spotty so be sure you have offline maps.
Wrigley Botanical Gardens + Memorial
While you are touring the island in a golf cart, be sure to make a stop at the Wrigley Botanical Gardens + Memorial. The 37.85 acre garden showcases California island endemic plants that are exclusive to the Channel Islands, and many of which are on the endangered species list. The garden is especially focused on six Catalina endemics, including the rare Catalina Ironwood.
The garden was originally the idea of Ada Wrigley, William Wrigley’s wife. Ada supervised Pasadena horticulturalist Albert Conrad, who planted the garden’s original collection in 1935.
The highlight of the garden is the stunning Wrigley Memorial, dedicated to William Wrigley Jr., who is largely credited with playing an instrumental role in the history and the development of the island.
Primarily built using materials sourced on the island and adorned with tiles made by local artisans, the memorial is the centerpiece of the garden and has stunning architectural details and offers a beautiful view of the gardens and ocean.
Lunch at NDMK Fish House
As you are visiting an island, eating lots of fresh seafood is a must, and you’ll find some of the freshest on the island at NDMK Fish House.
You’ll find a variety of seafood focused dishes here – from tacos, bowls, sandwiches, and more, many of which feature the catch of the day. Do not miss the fish and chips (order it with the catch of the day!), and the super tasty sushi rolls, which use the finest and freshest fish.
Go on an afternoon adventure
After lunch, it’s time to go on an adventure! I am giving you two options for afternoon activities – choose one to add to your Catalina weekend itinerary.
Option 1: Zipline Eco Tour
This is one of the most thrilling things you can do on your weekend trip to Catalina island!
On the Zipline Eco Tour, you’ll zip across five lines that hang over up to 600 feet above Descanso Canyon. The lines are up to 1000 feet long, and reach speeds up to 35 miles per hour.
It’s such an exhilarating experience, and it’s such a unique way to see the island and its distinct plant life. You’ll also get some insane views of the ocean and casino as you zoom by!
The guides are super friendly and knowledgeable as well, which totally makes the experience super fun.
You’ll have to go to a 20 minute safety orientation before heading off on the adventure. Be sure to wear closed-toed shoes. Long pants are recommended – skirts, crop tops, and bathing suits are not permitted. Avoid dangling jewelry as well. You’ll also have to store your belongings in a locker before beginning the tour.
Option 2: Bison Expedition
Did you know that Catalina Island is home to a herd of 150 bison?
The bison ended up on the island as a result of a film shoot gone wrong. At one point, over 600 bison grazed the interior of the island; only about 150 remain today.
The Bison Expedition takes you on an expedition aboard an open-air Hummer vehicle to the rugged interior of the island to try and spot some of the herd. Along the way, you’ll see some spectacular views of the ocean, see some of the wildlife and plants unique to the island, learn more about the history of the island, and pass by the Airport in the Sky, named as such because it is situated 1602 feet above sea level.
It is a thrilling adventure because you’ll be traversing over steep, windy dirt roads – it’s kinda like being on the real-life Indiana Jones ride (one of my favorites at Disneyland)! It is not recommended for pregnant individuals, or those with back or neck problems for this reason.
We were lucky to catch a few of the bison on our tour – such a cool sight! We also spotted a herd off in the distance. Being able to observe these creatures in their natural habitat was such a fascinating experience.
Your afternoon adventure probably left you feeling a bit hungry, so here are a few options for dinner:
- The Lobster Trap: This one is a favorite of both locals and visitors, featuring a menu of delicious seafood dishes in a casual setting. With the name “Lobster Trap,” anything with lobster is good here – the lobster roll is one of the best I’ve had!
- Maggie’s Blue Rose: Find a menu full of classic and elevated Mexican dishes here. We had the crab and corn empanadas and the duck mole enchiladas here and they were both awesome! The margaritas here are supposed to be the best as well.
- Antonio’s Pizzeria: If you’re in the mood for some pizza, you can’t do much better than Antonio’s. There are two locations in town – one on the waterfront next to Bluewater, and the original on Sumner Ave, which has a nostalgic 1950s vibe.
Catalina Island Itinerary: DAY 3
Start your last morning by flying up to 800 feet high above the island and get a birds eye view of Avalon on a parasailing adventure. This was such a highlight on our weekend getaway to Catalina Island itinerary!
California Parasail offers parasailing tours that will give you a unique perspective of the island. It’s an unforgettable experience that will make you feel like you are flying!
The tour lasts about an hour and has around 10 participants. Each group of 2-3 people goes up in the air for around 10 minutes. In the summer months, you also have the option to dip your feet in the water as you land for a refreshing splash.
It was such a thrilling adventure, and the views were absolutely breathtaking! You’ll soar high above the Avalon Harbor and catch a birds-eye view of the iconic Casino. It was so cool to see the island this way!
It was pretty breezy on the ground that day, so I was surprised at how calm it was up in the sky – it was actually pretty relaxing.
Photo packages are available for an added cost so you have footage of your epic adventure. You can also take your phone up with you (I did) but hang on tight!
Tour the Catalina Island Casino
The Catalina Island Casino, the island’s most recognizable landmark, is steeped in nearly 100 years of history. Contrary to popular belief, there is no gambling that takes place at the Casino – in fact, the term “casino” means gathering place in Italian, and it has been used as exactly that since it was built in 1929.
The Casino was the centerpiece in William Wrigley’s vision for the island to be a “playground for all.” For decades, thousands of people flocked to the island every day and came to the Casino for an evening of dinner and dancing.
It also has a movie theater, which was the first to be built specifically for talking movies and used revolutionary technology. In fact, the theater was so groundbreaking that engineers from New York City came to study it and the technology was used in the Radio City Music Hall (one of the most iconic theaters in New York City).
Today, the only way to see the inside of the Casino is to book a tour or attend an event here. The Casino also recently started showing movies in the theater as well.
We did the Behind-the-Scenes Casino tour, and it was such an interesting experience! I loved being able to see the interior rooms, including some areas which were closed off to the public for 75 years. It was so cool to see the rooms of the Casino, and it was like stepping back in time, with period pieces and vintage furniture still in place.
Some highlights were seeing the beautiful movie theater, the balcony area (which had some amazing views of the water), and the stunning ballroom – I’d love to attend an event here one day!
Be sure to also spend some time admiring the exterior of the Casino as well – the Art Deco building is truly an architectural marvel!
Hang out at the Descanso Beach Club
Close out your weekend trip to Catalina Island by hanging out for a few hours at the Descanso Beach Club – it’s time to relax and savor your remaining time on the island!
The Descanso Beach Club is home to the island’s only beachside restaurant and bar, and is also one of the only publicly accessible private beaches in California.
You can come here for lunch and dine at one of the tables here, but for ultimate relaxation, I suggest renting a beach chair here for a few hours (available spring through fall). Chair rentals start at $60 and must be booked in pairs. For an extra bougie experience, you can rent cabanas as well.
Order some food and some fruity cocktails here (or even a Buffalo Milk) and relax out in the sun for a few hours, soaking up the sun and the beautiful beach. You’ll almost feel like you’re on an island in the Mediterranean (or even a resort in Puerto Vallarta).
Just keep track of the time to not miss your boat home!
Time to head home
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, including your Catalina Island weekend trip – it’s time to head home.
You can hop back on the Catalina Express at the ferry terminal where you first arrived. Catch one last view of the Avalon harbor as you wave goodbye to this island paradise – if you’re lucky, you’ll also catch a beautiful sunset from the boat. What a way to close out your Catalina island itinerary!
Relax on the boat as you make your way home – you’ll arrive back on the mainland in around an hour.
Have you ever been to Catalina Island? What would you include on your weekend trip to Catalina Island itinerary?
Other guides you may enjoy:
Fun Things to Do on Catalina Island
The Ultimate Los Angeles Bucket List
50+ Instagrammable Places In Los Angeles
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