32 Best Things To Do with Kids on Catalina Island

There are tons of Catalina adventures on the water. Photo courtesy of Catalina Tours
There are tons of Catalina adventures on the water. Photo courtesy of Catalina Tours
10/8/23 - By Matt Matasci

Catalina Island offers a quick getaway that will make you second guess if you left California and somehow found yourself on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Easily done in a day trip or longer if your family prefers, Catalina Island is reachable by an hour-long boat ride (or slightly longer, depending on the port you depart) from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point. 

There are endless activities for kids on Catalina Island, from glass-bottom boat tours to bison expeditions and just playing in the sand at the beach. Plenty of entertainment and activities will keep little ones and grown-ups happy for a day or a weekend trip on Catalina Island. 

When departing from Long Beach, check out these things to do in Long Beach with kids. If islands are your thing, drive up the coast to explore Channel Islands National Park with the family, and plan your next adventure with our Weekend Getaway Guide and Day Trips for Los Angeles Families


Getting to Catalina Island

The Catalina Express runs its catamaran-style ferry a few times daily from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point to Avalon on Catalina Island, as well as the more rustic port at Two Harbors. If you're not a fan of rocky waters, sit on the top exterior seats to lessen the wave impact you might feel on the ride over. 

Visitors can take a day trip or stay at a hotel or campground; the Catalina Island Visitor Center is a good place to start if you're looking for accommodation or organized tours while on the island. But to piece together just a few highlights to create a memorable day on Catalina Island, read below for kid favorites to choose for your island adventure. 

Outstanding Outdoor Activities on Catalina Island

Best Things To Do with Kids on Catalina Island: Bison Tour
A Catalina bison tour is a wild adventure! Photo courtesy of Gina Ragland

1. Bison tour

See bison up close (but not too close!) on a Jeep eco-tour. 

2. Golf Gardens Mini-Golf 

Play a round of miniature golf a block from the beach at Golf Gardens. 

3. Zipline Eco Tour 

Try a zipline eco tour—but know that if your kids chicken out, there are no refunds. 

4. Catalina Island Aerial Adventure 

Kids who don't want to zipline may enjoy the rope ladders and log bridges at Catalina Island Aerial Adventure.

5. Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden

See extremely rare plants (some are on the Endangered Species List) at the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden. 

6. Biking Catalina Island

Want to bike? To head inland on wheels, you'll have to join the Catalina Island Conservancy for $35, but the membership lasts all year.

7. Golf cart

If little ones want to explore but don't want to walk too far, renting a golf cart might be the way to go around the island. 

RELATED: Best Beaches for Kids and Families in Los Angeles & Orange County

Best Things To Do with Kids on Catalina Island: The Beach
Play in the sand. Photo courtesy of Gina Ragland

8. The Beach 

Take your pick of beaches on Catalina Island from Middle Beach, South Beach, and the popular Descanso Beach

9. Rock Climbing

Adventurous kids can climb 32 feet straight up on the Catalina rock climbing wall. 

10. Catalina Falconry Experience 

If the kids are into birds and want to know what it's like for a raptor to land on their arm with the ocean in the background, then this experience is a must. 

11. Green Pleasure Pier

You can't miss the epicenter of Catalina. Get your photo taken on this historic landmark amid the bright green Avalon Seafood fish and chips restaurant.

12. Hiking 

With beautiful coastal views all around, hiking is abundant on the island. A popular hike is the uphill walk to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden

RELATED: The Best Playgrounds in Los Angeles 

Best Things To Do with Kids on Catalina Island: Knabe Park playground
Ahoy, matey! Knabe Park has a pirate-themed playground. Photo courtesy of City of Avalon 

13. Playgrounds 

Playgrounds always delight, and there are some impressive ones in Catalina, like the pirate-themed playground that's right next to the ocean at Knabe Park, and a climbing structure at City Park

14. Catalina Island Mermaids 

Kiddos can become a mermaid on the shores of Catalina with kid-sized mermaid tails. 

15. Camping

Pitch a tent and stay the night at one of the island's coastal campgrounds!

Ocean Adventures on Catalina Island

16. Glass-Bottom Boat Voyage

Instead of looking at the scenic views on this beloved boat tour, you'll be looking at the bottom of the boat floor, where sea creatures and fish will appear in real-time through the glass-bottom of the boat. 

17. Undersea Submarine Expedition 

Get up close to the sea and submerge in it in a submarine. You'll even get your own port hole as you go five feet underwater (in a climate-controlled cabin). 

18. Two Harbors 

In just 40 minutes, thanks to the Cyclone boat, the whole family could be at Two Harbors, exploring a whole other part of Catalina Island. 

RELATED: The Aquarium of the Pacific: What Makes LA's Biggest Aquarium So Spectacular 

Best Things To Do with Kids on Catalina Island: Snorkel Eco Tour 
Explore the Catalina waters on a snorkel eco tour. Photo courtesy of Catalina Tours 

19. Snorkel Eco-Tour

Sure, you can rent or bring your own snorkeling equipment to explore the Catalina coves, or older kids can go on a guided snorkel eco-tour. 

20. Rent a vessel 

One of the most obvious ways to explore the sea caves is to get out on the water via kayak, stand-up paddle boards, or rent a motorboat or pedal boat. Rent your vessels at Joe's Rent A Boat or Wet Spot Rentals

Engaging Indoor Activities on Catalina Island

21. Catalina Island Museum 

Learn about the history of Catalina Island that blends art and creativity. 

22. Escape Room Catalina

Sometimes, you need a break from the sun, and this pirate-themed escape room provides some fun respite. 

23. Santa Catalina Island Nature Center at Avalon Canyon 

Visit the Nature Center and learn about the island's ocean currents, wildlife, and kelp forests for free.

24. Avalon Diving History Exhibit 

Check out the vintage diving gear at this interesting museum. 

25. Three Palms Arcade

What kid wouldn't like a place with a fun zone? Arcades, skee-ball, and even bowling are all housed in this one location. Food is available at Three Palms Arcade, too. 

26. Avalon Library 

Escape the heat and surround yourself with books. The library also has crafts, puppet shows, magic shows, and storytelling.

RELATED: Family Travel Bucket List: Visiting California's Channel Islands 

Best Things To Do with Kids on Catalina Island: Movies inside the Avalon Theatre 
Catch a flick inside the casino. Photo by Cory Doctorow, via Flickr 

27. Avalon Theatre

The Catalina Casino is a prominent fixture on the island, and it's not for gambling. There's a movie theater inside! 

Best Kid-Friendly Dining on Catalina Island

28. Scoops  

Treat the kids to handmade ice cream and gelato, then take a stroll by the water with your cones.

RELATED: Best Outdoor Dining in Los Angeles at Family-Friendly Restaurants 

Best Things To Do with Kids on Catalina Island: Bluewater Avalon
Enjoy a delicious meal over the Catalina Island waters at Bluewater Avalon. Photo by Gina Ragland 

29. Bluewater Avalon 

You can't dine closer to the water than Bluewater. The seats jut out on the water so far that high tide sometimes splashes some of the tables closest to the water! There's an impressive and expansive kids' menu. 

30. Pancake Cottage 

Sometimes, the kids (or parents) just want pancakes, and this place delivers the breakfast staple, and then some. 

31. Lloyd's of Avalon 

This place is sweet—let kids scoop up candy from the bins, and treat themselves to ice cream. 

32. Coney Island West 

Kid-favorite staples like burgers and fish sandwiches are at this laid-back eatery. 

All Flickr photos used in this post are licensed through CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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