A one-hour ferry ride from the mainland, Santa Catalina Island has long been a favourite holiday spot thanks to its Mediterranean-like climate, laidback vibe and abundance of family-friendly activities. With no traffic lights on the island, it feels remote and unspoiled. Visitors are more likely to see the sights of the main town of Avalon from aboard a boat or golf cart.
The island’s protected leeward beaches are the perfect spot for toddlers, who can happily spend hours playing in the sand and splashing in the shallows. Older children can enjoy water sports including snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and pedal boating.
You can even take a ride on a semi-submersible submarine and see a magnificent kelp forest. The vessel features a fish food system launched by torpedo buttons, so you can feed the bright orange Garibaldi and other fish from your seat – at an extra cost.
Looking for adventure? There are numerous ways kids can test their limits on Catalina. Descanso Beach offers ziplining, a climbing wall and the Catalina Aerial Adventure. Or explore Catalina’s interior by hummer, looking out for bison and other animals and plants indigenous to the island.
You can also hire a bike for the day, with children’s bikes, tandem bicycles and beach cruisers all on offer. Thrill-seeking teenagers may prefer a mountain bike for an off-road expedition. Helmets, which must be worn by everyone under 18, are also available.
There is no shortage of family-friendly dining options, from pizza and burgers to fish and chips. But chefs on Catalina don’t limit themselves to traditional kid offerings, and you and your family won’t have to either. Discover great seafood, pasta, steaks and more in eateries ranging from beachside bistros to refined restaurants.
Getting to Catalina Island is quick and easy aboard the Catalina Express ferry. Travel on fast, sleek and smooth vessels and experience first-class comfort with airline-style seats and cabin attendant service. Catalina Express operates up to 30 departures daily from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point. Do it in style by booking upgraded seating in the Commodore Lounge, which includes priority boarding privileges, reclining leather seats, a drink of your choice and a snack.