Just one hour from Los Angeles is an entire island to explore! From hiking trails to beautiful beaches and the famous glass bottom boat tour, there are so many fun things to do with kids on Catalina Island. Thanks to the quick ferry ride, you can easily visit Catalina on a day trip, but with so much to see and do, it’s the perfect place for a weekend getaway.
Getting to Catalina Island
It’s not always true, especially with kids in tow, but when it comes to visiting Catalina Island, getting there is actually half the fun! The one hour boat ride to the small island is a family adventure in itself. You can jump on a high-speed ferry boat from several spots along the coast of Southern California, including the Port of LA in San Pedro, Long Beach, Dana Point, and Newport Beach. The Catalina Express and Catalina Flyer are both popular ferry options. Pro Tip: the ride out and back can be a little choppy, so if anyone in your family suffers from motion sickness, be sure to prepare.
Fun Things to Do With Kids on Catalina Island
Note to our readers that we keep things as up-to-date as possible, but things change constantly. Please get in touch with the venue directly before visiting.
Parks & Trails on Catalina Island
Catalina Island offers some of southern California’s best hiking trails. Dramatic wildlife, awe-inspiring views, and a wide array of trails provide both challenges and rewards for hikers of all abilities. Eighty-eight percent of the land on Catalina Island is protected and maintained through the Catalina Island Conservancy. Check in with the Catalina Island Conservancy to secure a Catalina Island hiking permit before setting out if you plan to hike within Catalina Island’s 70-square-mile interior.
Attractions & Activities on Catalina Island
Avalon has three public beaches and one private beach. South Beach, Middle Beach, and Step Beach are public beaches along Crescent Avenue, steps away from hotels, shops, restaurants, restrooms, and recreation. During the summer, each public beach has a lifeguard on duty and a swim line. Feel free to bring your lunch, but please note that alcoholic beverages, animals, and smoking are prohibited on public beaches.
Zip lining is one of the best ways to take in the majesty of the entire island, along with the beautiful ocean views. Starting 600 feet above Descanso Beach Club, with the beautiful Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, you’ll zigzag across Descanso Canyon and through a grove of eucalyptus trees on five separate zip lines at speeds approaching 35 mph. Along the way, your guides will share interesting facts about the island’s flora and fauna on this top-rated, adrenaline-fueled adventure.
If you’re looking for a wildlife tour or an amazing adventure fishing off the beautiful waters of Catalina Island, Catalina Coastal Tours & Fishing is the premier provider of exceptional fishing charters and Catalina Island tours. A knowledgeable tour guide will help you spot the local marine life, like dolphins and sea lions. Try your hand at fishing and catch a big one in the coastal waters. Or, if you’re really feeling adventurous, take a parasailing tour, where you’ll get a unique view of the island and ocean from high above.
Nestled in an idyllic garden setting less than one block from the beach, Avalon’s Golf Gardens is ideal for an afternoon of family fun. This unique 18-hole mini golf course has been a much-loved fixture on the island for nearly 50 years. Known in mini-golf circles as one of the world’s most beautiful and challenging courses, Golf Gardens’ classic styling and award-winning layout make for an unforgettable experience that will be a highlight of your stay on Catalina Island.
Daily guided kayak excursions are available for as few as two people at Descanso Beach, and most trips also have private rates for solo adventurers. Families will enjoy paddling together – a double kayak can hold two adults and a small child. Kids 11 years and under get a 25% discount on most trips. They’re family-friendly; there’s no better way to introduce your kids to our unique natural world!
The best way to get around the island is by golf cart! Conveniently located just a short walk from the boat terminal, Catalina Golf Cart Rentals has been family owned and operated by The Whitaker Family since 1981. Reservations ARE NOT needed. Just show up, and they’ll get you a golf cart. They also have toddler and infant child-seat attachments available (limit 2 per car).
Join the Crew with the Catalina Pirate Challenge. Compete against the clock in this one-hour escape room experience. Enjoy the free charging stations and temperature-controlled rooms as you work together to beat the captain and win your freedom. Free prizes and photos with every admission.
Catalina Room Escape is located at 220 Metropole Ave in downtown Avalon, across from the museum and up the street from The Blue Water Grill. Less than a ten-minute walk from the Catalina Express and a five-minute walk from the Green Pier.
Descanso Beach Club also offers easy access to several water activities, as well as Catalina Aerial Adventure, which features a challenging ropes course, Catalina Climbing Wall, Catalina Falconry Experience, the top-rated Zip Line Eco Tour, and the famous glass-bottom boat tour. Just a short stroll past historic Catalina Casino, Descanso Beach Club features Avalon’s only beachside restaurant and bar. It’s also one of Southern California’s last beaches open to the public. Enjoy spectacular views from lounge chairs or rent a private cabana where you can order signature food and drinks from the attentive staff.
The best Catalina Island Adventure experience! Catalina Adventure Tours has been offering guided tours to visitors from around the world for over 20 years. Catalina Adventure Tours features the best Catalina Island tour packages, including the nautilus semi-submarine excursion that features a glass bottom view of the ocean floor as well as special feeding tubes that allow you to feed the fish so they’ll come closer for a peek.
The company also offers land tours of the city and a guided tour of the island interior, where you’ll get a glimpse of the wildlife like the American Bison roaming Catalina Island. Their tours will make any Catalina Island vacation a memorable experience for everyone.
A family trip to Catalina Island would not be complete without a visit to Lloyd’s, home to the island’s famous salt water taffy. This candy institution has been serving up sweet treats since 1941. Young children will especially love watching the iconic saltwater taffy-pulling machine displayed in the front window.
Museums & Gardens on Catalina Island
The Catalina Island Museum is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to art, culture, the history of the island, and its ties to the film industry. The museum features interactive exhibits perfect for kids of all ages to explore, as well as artwork, memorabilia, and historical artifacts.
The Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden is a thirty-minute stroll up Avalon Canyon from the town center. Or, take a quick ride by golf cart, bike, or Garibaldi City Bus. The botanical garden, which features 38 acres of nature, is the primary gateway to access one of the island’s most popular hikes, the Garden to Sky Trail (Please note hiking is not permitted after dark).
Family-Friendly Hotels & Accommodations on Catalina Island
Welcome to the Holiday Inn Resort Catalina Island, where resort amenities are paired with island hospitality. The resort is located in the city of Avalon on Catalina Island, 23 miles off the Los Angeles coastline, and is accessible by boat, ferry, or helicopter. Tucked back in the picturesque hills of Avalon, they offer the perfect vacation destination. The peaceful Catalina hotel features spacious, newly-renovated rooms with microwaves, compact refrigerators, and complimentary Wi-Fi. It also boasts a range of premium services and conveniences designed to ensure maximum comfort and convenience for the length of any stay. The on-site restaurant, The Cove, offers a variety of flavorful dishes. Looking for some relaxation? Be sure to book time at the on-site Spa at Catalina, which offers daily spa services customized to your preferences and lifestyle. King Kid Suites include a plush king bed for parents and spacious bunk beds for kids.
Catalina Courtyard Garden Suites is a boutique-style European luxury hotel with a genuine Catalina Island experience, offering a serene escape steps from Avalon Bay. They offer oversized Garden and Family Rooms, Ocean View Suites, and a unique one-of-a-kind Ocean View Penthouse Suite, making it the perfect choice for a family vacation. Relax around the fire pit in the courtyard garden, soak in jetted tubs in their spa-like en suites, and enjoy activities, shops, restaurants, and beaches just steps from the hotel, including the all-new full-service Island Spa Catalina, across the street.
With a prime oceanfront location and fantastic resort amenities, you couldn’t dream up a more perfect Catalina Island retreat! Hamilton Cove features a private gym with full ocean views, an 18-hole course, tennis courts, a croquet field, a basketball court, a kids’ play area, a private boat dock, and sand volleyball, as well as a private beach with excellent snorkeling, built-in BBQs, and picnic tables. Cruise 10 minutes along the shore to reach Descanso Beach featuring a rock climbing wall, live bands, and family-friendly entertainment. Play frisbee, enjoy a drink at the bar, or indulge in sweet treats like a gourmet ice cream sundae.
Catalina Island is an outdoor lover’s paradise. And there’s no better way to experience this beautiful island than to be at one with the natural surroundings on a camping getaway. The Santa Catalina Island Company offers campgrounds in Avalon and on the island’s west end in Two Harbors.
Explore more remote parts of Catalina Island at Black Jack Campground, just below 2,097-foot Mt. Orizaba, Catalina Island’s highest peak; Parson’s Landing, a secluded beach campground seven miles west of Two Harbors; and Little Harbor on the backside of Catalina, rated “One of the Best Campgrounds in the West” by Sunset Magazine. If you’d like to get back to nature but want to avoid bringing your gear, they offer Tent Cabins in both Avalon and Two Harbors (in addition to regular tent sites).
Virtual Adventures on Catalina Island
Families can explore wildlife on the island with live webcam footage of the harbor, check out the local bald eagles on the Bald Eagle Cam from a perch in Two Harbors, underwater views of kelp beds and local fish from the USC Wrigley Catalina Marine Reserve and printable coloring pages, science activities and educational resources from the Catalina Island Conservancy. Downloadable backgrounds are also available to bring good island vibes to your next Zoom call. No cost for virtual experiences.