Santa Catalina Island is located 29 miles from Long Beach and is an amazing destination for any van or RV lifer looking to adventure. Activities on the island offer hiking, horseback riding, zip-lining, scuba diving, camping, parasailing, snorkeling, paddle boarding, golf, and much more. When you are done with any of these activities, you can lay on Descanso Beach, have an excellent meal.
Catalina Island is one of the most extraordinary places to visit in Southern California. The island is 22 mi (35 km) long and 8 mi (13 km) across its greatest width. The island is located about 29 mi (47 km) from Long Beach and is one island in a series of islands called the Channel Islands.
There are two ports of call on Catalina Island:
- Avalon: Largest city on Catalina and the center for restaurants and tourism
- Two Harbors: Low key and good for exploring the islands.
I know you can’t take your van to Catalina, but you can leave it in the ferry parking lot and enjoy the island for the day or a few days. Catalina is one of those unique places you must experience while traveling through Southern California.
The island offers countless activities and adventures to its visitors. The main adventures are hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail, scuba diving at Casino Point, parasailing in the harbor, paddleboarding in the harbor, jet-skiing around the island, camping, visiting the Airport in the Sky for a Bison Burger (Yum), playing golf, and much more.
There are a variety of hiking trails throughout Catalina Island. A lot of fun trails can be accessed from Avalon and Two Harbors. Just beware that Catalina is very mountainous and these hikes can be challenging.
Map: Catalina Hiking Map
My favorite adventure while visiting Catalina is hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail.
Hiking Trans-Catalina Trail
One of the best hiking adventures you can take in Southern California is hike the Trans-Catalina Trail. The Trans-Catalina Trail is a rugged hike thru the island’s interior, with camping stops next to pristine beaches. Covering 38.5 miles in typically 4 days, you will traverse the Island starting at the Trailhead in Avalon and finishing at Two Harbors (after winding through the West End of the Island).
Camping is available at different campsites along the trail. These campsites are BlackJack, Two Harbors, Herman Gulch, and Little Harbor Campground. You can book a campsite at the web address below:
- Catalina Island Company: Campground Reservation
The trail provides amazing views of the mainland and the Pacific Ocean. It will also allow you to see some amazing wildlife to include Bison, the Catalina Island Fox, and Bald Eagles are common.
To hike the Trans-Catalina Trail, you have to obtain a free hiking permit from the Catalina Island Conservatory.
Descanso Beach is a fun place for any van or RV lifer to spend the day. The beach is home to a beachside restaurant and bar where you can drink a frozen cocktail on the beach. It is one of only a handful of places where you can legally drink at the beach. Located here is Zip Line Eco Tours, which offers an amazing ride on a canyon zip line.
Casino Point Dive Point is a popular scuba diving location in Catalina Island. It is located next to the world-famous Casino Building and was first established in 1962. Casino Point offers some of the best shore diving in California.
There are a few dive shops located in and around Casno Point that rent equipment or provide classes.
- Website: Dive Catalina
Airport in the Sky
Catalina Island’s only airport is privately owned and located 10 miles (30-minute drive) from Avalon, and 13 miles (45-minute drive) from Two Harbors. The airport is a tourist attraction for the DC-3 Airport in the Sky restaurant that offers AMAZING buffalo burgers.
Website: DC-3 Airport in the Sky Restaurant
There is an shuttle from Avalon that goes to the airport.
Getting to Catalina
There are various ways to get to Catalina, but the primary way is to catch the Ferry. Ferries leave for Catalina from Long Beach, San Pedro, Dana Point, and Newport Beach and go to Avalon and Two Harbors.
There are two operators, and both have parking where you can park your van or RV. The two main ferry operators are: