Catalina Island (officially Santa Catalina Island) is near the southern end of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. It's technically in Los Angeles County and is a popular day trip and vacation destination for locals and tourists.
Santa Catalina is 22 miles from the mainland, despite the lyrics of the Four Preps' song.
- Twenty-six miles across the sea
Santa Catalina is a-waitin' for me
Santa Catalina, the Island of Romance -- "26 Miles", The Four Preps, 1958
Catalina is a world unto itself, a distant asylum from the hustle and bustle of the rest of Southern California. 88% of the island is owned by the Catalina Conservancy which is chartered with protecting its environment.
Many visitors to the island come from cruises offered by Carnival.
The area codes for Catalina Island are 310 and 424 (these are both shared with Los Angeles).
"City" is a relative term on Catalina - neither Avalon nor Two Harbors are particularly large. Avalon became a city in 1913 and has about 4,000 permanent residents. Two Harbors is considerably smaller with about 150 residents. Two Harbors is primarily a boaters destination, the company manages 720 mooring around the west end of the Island along with campground, restaurant, dive and recreation rentals, 12 room bed and breakfast and a general store.
- Catalina Classic Cruises,From San Pedro to Avalon. Toll free: 800-641-1004, Phone: 495-3565, . Check website for schedule. Round trip fares - Adult: $70, Children (2-11): $55, Seniors (55+): $64, Infants (under 2): $5.
- Catalina Express Ferry, from Long Beach, San Pedro or Dana Point to Avalon. There is also a boat from San Pedro to Two Harbors. Phone: 800-481-3470, . Fares vary by departure point. See website for prices and schedule.
- Catalina Flyer, ☎ , toll-free: . From Newport Beach to Avalon. Ferries depart Newport Beach daily at 9AM and arrive in Avalon at 10:15AM. Return trips depart Avalon at 4:30PM and arrive in Newport Beach at 5:45PM. Limited service during the months of December, January, and February; check schedules beforehand. Round trips $70 adults, $65 seniors (60+), $53 children (3-12), $6 infants (0-2). $7 surcharge to transport bikes. Reservations required.
- Private boat - Avalon and Two Harbors have mooring facilities and services. There are also many coves around the island that have moorings or anchorages. The Catalina website  has details about anchorage and mooring points around the island.
- Island Express Helicopter Service flies from San Pedro or Long Beach into a landing pad at Pebbly Beach, next to the Buffalo Nickel, roughly a mile outside of town. The pilot will ask you if you need a taxi to meet you when you land.
- Airport in the Sky is open to private aircraft. No fuel is available for sale at the airport. Phone: 310-510-0143, Weather info line: 800-255-8700.
- Walking - Most visitors to Catalina usually do their touring on foot.
- Bicycle - There are several bicycle rental agencies on the island or you may bring your own bicycle over with you (usually for an extra fee). You can rent bicycles at Brown's Bikes. They have electric bikes, mountain bikes, beach cruisers and tandems. 107 Pebbly Beach Road, 310-510-0986 www.catalinabiking.com
- Carts - Golf carts may also be rented on the island.
The Casino, built in 1929 by William Wrigley Jr., is a popular landmark and tourist attraction on the western tip of the Avalon beach. It was the tallest building in Los Angeles County at its completion. It features a ballroom, movie theater, and the Catalina Island Museum. There are no gambling facilities; the term casino refers instead to a more traditional Italian definition of casino, meaning social gathering place.
Snorkeling and SCUBA diving
Catalina is a haven for SCUBA divers in Los Angeles area. The main SCUBA diving site from Avalon is Casino Point, right next to the Casino building. Concrete steps have been created, so divers (and snorkelers) can step down a few steps and enter the water. Since Casino Point is north-pointing dive site, it is mostly protected from the heavy surf and waves most of the year. Casino Point is a protected area and NOTHING can be removed from the area. There is an air refill station as well as tank/weights rental right next to the entry point. Common sightings are garibaldi, bat rays, octopus, giant black sea bass, kelp bass, lobsters and horn sharks. Additional snorkeling can be done at Lovers' Cove, south of the ferry terminal. Dives are by harbormaster's permit only.
Many dive boats depart from various ports in LA area, such as Long Beach and San Pedro, for a day diving trip to various parts of Catalina Island that are otherwise inaccessible via car from Catalina Island. The typical cost is $110–150 and includes breakfast, lunch, and three dives with air fills. Some boats have nitrox at additional cost.
Known shipwrecks in the waters off the island include the Diosa del Mar (33.462770,N), which was sunk July 30, 1990 near Ship Rock, and the famous Su-Jac (among others) just off Casino point. The yacht Valiant burned and sank a couple hundred yards out from Descanso Beach. It had about $75,000 worth of jewelry on board which has never been recovered. The oldest shipwreck known on Santa Catalina Island is that of a Chinese smuggling ship off Ballast Point on the west side of the island.
New in 2011 is Sea Trek, utilizing high tech diving helmets that allows anyone (no diving or swimming skills needed) to discover Catalina's beautiful undersea environment on a guided underwater walking tour.
For those who don't want to snorkel or dive, there are many alternatives to viewing the underwater life - semi-submarine ride and glass-bottom boat rides. Tickets can be purchased from Catalina Discovery Tours in Avalon. Other unique attractions to Catalina Island are the Semi-Submarines there design is unique and allows visitors to see the underwater life, sitting 5 feet underwater, day and night. These custom-built vessels are operated by Discovery Tours "Ocean Expeditions" or Adventure Tours.
Classic to Catalina Island are the interior trips that take you to see the Bison that make part of Catalina Island their home. Other tours offered by Discovery Tours include Avalon Scenic Tour and Casino Tour.
- Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour, #1 Descanso Canyon Rd (At Descanso Beach Club), toll-free: . Seasonal. New Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour: Comprises of 5 separate zip lines starting in the mountains about Avalon and ending at Descanso Beach. Speeds of over 45 MPH are reached at heights of over 300ft above Descanso Canyon. At each station, your hosts will give you a presentation on some of the unique and interesting aspects of Catalina Island, its wildlife, history, and the areas you are passing through. Tour takes about 2 hours $109.00. A new 32 ft. climbing wall was installed in the summer of 2011. It features 8 climbing routes and a high tech auto-belay system.
Catalina is home to many yacht clubs: Catalina Island Yacht Club is headquartered in Avalon Bay and Isthmus Yacht Club is headquartered in the 1864 Union Army Barracks at Two Harbors. Many mainland yacht clubs maintain Catalina stations.
- 4th Of July Yacht Club at 4th Of July Cove (island-based club)
- Balboa Island Yacht Club has club facilities at Whites Landing
- Balboa Yacht Club has club facilities at Hen Rock
- Blue Water Cruising Club at Big Geiger Cove
- California Yacht Club in Catalina Harbor(Cat Harbor) at Ballast Point—may close due to lease increases
- Catalina Island Yacht Club at Avalon (island-based club)
- Del Rey Yacht Club in Catalina Harbor (Cat Harbor)—may close due to lease increases.
- Fourth of July Yacht Club at Fourth of July Cove
- Isthmus Yacht Club at Two Harbors (island-based club)
- King Harbor Yacht Club (gave up lease on historic beach location in Isthmus, now have smaller land parcel in Two Harbors.
- Los Angeles Yacht Club at Howlands Landing
- Newport Harbor Yacht Club has club facilities at Moonstone Cove
- Offshore Cruising Club at Little Geiger
- San Diego Yacht Club has club facilities at Long Point
- West End Cruising Club (virtual web yacht club based in Two Harbors. Run by Santa Catalina Island Company)
- Camp Cherry Valley, ☎ +1 626-351-8815 Ext. 249 for Sonia. This camp is operated by the San Gabriel Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America. It is located two coves north of Two Harbors at Cherry Cove.
- Camp Emerald Bay. This camp is operated by the Western Los Angeles County Council of the Boy Scouts of America. It is located further up the coast from Camp Cherry Valley, also north of Two Harbors.
- Campus by the Sea, ☎ , fax: +1 310-510-1752. A Christian camp operated by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, located at Gallagher's Cove.
- The Catalina Experience, 1 Whites Landing Rd, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Catalina Experience hosts numerous youth camps, family camps, group retreats and outdoor education programs on their 14 acre parcel at White's Landing.
- Catalina Island Camps, 100 Howlands Landing, Two Harbors, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. This coeducational camp at Howland's Landing has been on the island since the 1920s. Catalina Island Camps is home to many camps including Camp del Corazon, a camp for kids and counselors with heart disease or defects.
- Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI), ☎ , toll-free: , fax: +1 909-625-7305, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Guided Discoveries runs several camps under the CIMI-brand, including sites at Toyon Bay, Fox Landing, and Cherry Cove. These camps provide hands on opportunities to teach marine science and environmental studies to school groups and community groups during school year and sea camps during the summer.
- Santa Catalina Island Company, ☎ . The Santa Catalina Island Company runs campgrounds across the island, including sites at Two Harbors, Parson's Landing, Black Jack, Little Harbor, and Hermit Gulch inland from Avalon. In addition to campgrounds, some locations offer tent cabins. All campgrounds require a reservation and permit. There are also nine primitive boat-in only campgrounds. $16-50.