Also see: How to Navigate Your Visit to Catalina Island
Activities on Catalina Island abound. From parasailing high above the sea to scuba diving below the surface there’s enough to do to fill several vacations. There’s also plenty of things to do on Catalina Island for those on a budget. Read on for 18 free things to do on Catalina Island.
1. Hike: Sweeping seascapes, unique wildlife, inspiring vistas -- hiking on the island is something you won’t want to miss. More than 165 miles of trails provide a wonderland that could take weeks to explore, while several short hikes near Avalon enable you to enjoy hiking on Catalina Island even on a day trip. You will need a hiking permit if venturing into the interior – available free of charge from the Catalina Island Conservancy – but hiking is a great free activity on Catalina Island.
2. Take a walk: From a short stroll along the Avalon waterfront to a heart-pumping march over Mt Ada, walking is a great way to enjoy the sights and sounds of Catalina Island.
3. Learn more at the Trailhead: The Catalina Island Conservancy is responsible for protecting the island in its natural state in perpetuity – and there’s plenty to protect. From diminutive foxes and unique flora to intriguing geologic formations, Catalina Island offers an inspiring view at nature’s wonders. Learn more at The Trailhead, the Conservancy’s gateway to the island’s wildlands.
4. Find your favorite photo spot: Since the early days of photographic technology, Catalina Island has allowed photographers to chronicle the island’s beauty and myriad activities. These days, all it takes is your cellphone to capture an image worthy of printing—not to mention sharing on social media. See Irresistible Spots for a Catalina Instagram Post.
5. Hit the beach: Nearly all of the beaches on the island are free. Spend the day on the sand and soak up the island ambiance.
6. Stop by the Nature Center at Avalon Canyon: The nature center offers a number of interactive exhibits about island ecology and natural history.(currently closed)
7. Visit the Avalon Dive History Museum: Located on the ground floor of the Catalina Casino, the Avalon Diving History Exhibit chronicles this popular sport with rare equipment and unique memorabilia. Scuba divers will enjoy learning how underwater exploration has evolved. While the exhibit is free, donations are accepted for the island’s marine animal rescue program.
8. Play ball: Both a basketball court and a sand volleyball court are available free of charge. Located on Pebbly Beach Road, just steps from Avalon Harbor, both courts feature one of the best views in the world. Balls can be borrowed from Brown’s Bikes with just a $5 returnable deposit.
9. Go geocaching: The world’s largest treasure hunt is a fascinating – and free – way to enjoy Catalina Island, which features more than dozen caches hidden in various locations around the island. Some are simple to find near Avalon and others involve hikes to remote locations.
10. Take a ride: Avalon is a great spot for a bike ride. Several local hotels include bikes for their guests, or you can bring your own on the Catalina Express ($3.50 fee). Want to skip the hassle of bringing your own? Bike rentals are available for a minimal charge.
11. Enjoy the art: Take in Catalina Art Association's free art gallery in the lobby of US Bank (located at 303 Crescent Ave), where you’ll find art from an array of local artists. Art aficionados will also want to stop by the Conservancy’s Trailhead, where the second-floor gallery features dozens of island paintings.
12. Exercise: While there is not a gym on Catalina Island, the City of Avalon offers outdoor exercise equipment in Kid’s Park, located on Avalon Canyon Road across the street from city hall and the Avalon Fire Dept.
13. Hunt for tile: In 1927, Catalina Clay Products was founded and for the next 10 years produced decorative tiles, tableware and décor as well as brick used in island construction. The dinnerware, tile and decorative pieces are now highly collectible, with collectors eagerly paying hundreds of dollars. Many of the original tiles can still be found around Avalon, much to the delight of devotees of early California history and architecture.
14. Fish from the pier: In California, you can fish from the pier without a fishing license. Fishing from Avalon’s green Pleasure Pier is great fun. Expect to catch calico bass and other smaller fish. If you didn't bring your pole, pick up an inexpensive dropline from one of the shops on the pier.
15. Go snorkeling: There’s no charge for snorkeling at Lovers Cove or at the Casino Dive Park, both marine protected areas, where fish flourish. You’ll see colorful garibaldi, dramatic sheepshead and curious calico bass. Bring your own gear or it can be rented for a small fee.
16. Take the kids to the park: Avalon offers several playscapes: Knabe Park, also known as Pirate Park for it's pirate ship play structure, as well as City Park and Avalon 's Kid Park. The city also offers a skate park. There’s also a playground, known as Buffalo Park, in the west end village of Two Harbors.
17. Enjoy the murals: The most famous outdoor murals in Avalon can be found at the Catalina Casino. Take a stroll to this architectural marvel and enjoy the spectacular art deco murals at the building’s main entrance. While on the way, take in the colorful tile murals along Via Casino Walkway. Also see Catalina's Public Art.
18. Watch the sunrise: You won’t be able to see the sunset from Avalon, but the awe-inspiring sunrises are worth waking up early for. Tip: Sunrise viewing is great for either side of the Avalon Bay. Take a walk up to Mt. Ada or up past the Catalina Chimes Tower, just before sunrise, for a great view.