On a Pacific Coast cruise, just south of Los Angeles, you’ll discover a tiny slice of paradise. Natural conservation and ecological tourism is a huge motivator for Catalina Island cruise visitors hoping to find time in the great outdoors. Vehicles are largely restricted on the island, so cycling and hiking are incredibly popular for residents. Watch the boats float peacefully in the harbor at Green Pleasure Pier, then head inland to the Catalina Island Museum, where you’ll discover the history of the island from thousands of years ago to today.
Skip stones at the pebbly Moonstone Beach or Starlight, or walk along the boardwalk as the sun begins to set. Head to the top of Mount Orizaba for some of the best views of the island, or spend the day exploring the 38-mile Trans Catalina Trail, a popular eco-activity for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds of fitness levels. With the help of the friendly resort vibe and beautiful nature, you won’t find it hard to unwind on Catalina Island.
Nearly 40 miles of trails, from Catalina Island’s Avalon to the Two Harbors, comprise the stunning Trans Catalina trail. Even hopping on the trail for a few hours during your stop on a Catalina Island cruise will leave you feeling more connected to nature than ever. Here, you’ll enjoy the captivating island landscape that few other places on Catalina Island can boast.
The rugged, rocky Moonstone Beach has become synonymous with this particular part of the Pacific Coast, and it’s a popular spot for a boardwalk stroll. If you get lucky, you can even spot whales along the shoreline.
The Catalina Island Museum will answer all of your curiosities about how this small island just south of Long Beach came to be. Learn about the populations who inhabited the island for thousands of years before the Europeans, examine artifacts, and immerse yourself in the history of the Pacific Coast while on your Catalina cruise.
Hop on a glass-bottom boat for a tour of the Catalina Island Essential Fish Habitat Conservation Area. At this wildlife refuge, peer into the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific and see entire schools and habitats of a healthy, well-maintained local marine life. You’ll be amazed by the bright colors of fish you’ll see.
Local naturalists host a fascinating eco-tour of Catalina Island, complete with an island ride in a Jeep that’s ready for the elements. You’ll head off on roads unknown and unpaved to experience Catalina Island off-the-beaten path. It’s a must-do experience for adventurous travelers who don’t mind bumps in the road.
The Catalina Island Conservancy protects much of the square footage of the island, and also offers relaxing gardens to stroll through, a nature center, and much more. Since the 1970s, the conservancy was founded to protect the island’s ecosystem, including its animal and plant species, for hundreds of years to come.
Pacific seafood is the way to go when you’re cruising to Catalina Island. Try some at the bayside restaurant The Lobster Trap or Luau Larry’s, a tiki restaurant that feels more like Hawaii than California. Laid-back pubs like Catalina Island Brew House offer pretzels on the house, while Zymurgy Brew Works is the go-to for local beer.
Indigenous groups, like the native Pimugnans, have lived on Catalina Island for thousands of years. Later, Europeans claimed the island as a territory of Spain, and the island subsequently passed hands to private sellers, including the Banning Brothers, who began the island’s transformation into a glamorous resort destination. In the early 20th century, William Wrigley Jr. of Wrigley chewing gum fame bought out the island, and his estate has controlled it ever since. Today, Catalina Island strikes a delicate balance between maintaining the natural ecosystem and expanding the glamorous resort lifestyle that makes the island so popular with visitors.
The Catalina Island cruise port is called the Green Pleasure Pier, which is where you’ll find the local visitor center, watersports, and other nearby activities. The Catalina Island Museum isn’t too far from the cruise pier, either.
There are very few cars allowed on Catalina Island to protect the natural beauty and ecological systems of the island. There are limited taxis and ferries available for Catalina cruise passengers. Bicycle rentals and golf carts are the go-to ways residents get around the island.
Local shops and boutiques showcase the artisanal talents of residents, from custom furniture and antiques to handmade clothing and kitschy island souvenirs. Many shops are within walking distance of the cruise port. For those who are interested in bringing back a piece of the island’s history, head to the Catalina Island Gift Shop. SunKissed is a local boutique specializing in beachwear and colorful jewelry.
California uses the U.S. dollar as the official currency of the state. ATMs are commonly available on Catalina Island, and credit cards are accepted at most restaurants and shops. Tipping on Catalina Island is the same as most destinations in the U.S. Tip at least 10% to 15% for your taxi driver, and 15% to 20% at bars and restaurants for good service.