When most people think of Los Angeles, a sprawling metropolis littered with palm trees and star-studded sidewalks comes to mind. However, look beyond the glitz and glam and you may discover Catalina, an island teeming with opportunities for adventure—located just 26 miles from southern California’s coast.
Most people who know of the island relate it to Step Brothers’ “F*cking Catalina Wine Mixer,” or a relaxing but uneventful day at Avalon, the island’s main port. Venture beyond that tiny township to discover a land where wild bison still roam, and where thousands of fish swim in the sea.
Thanks to its close proximity to L.A., Catalina makes a great escape from the city; IndefinitelyWild’s editor, Wes, and I have had a lot of adventures out there. These are a few of our favorites.
How long does it take? 1+ hours - 1+ days
How much does it cost? $150
Spearfishing is like hunting, but underwater; it’s one of our favorite ways to source protein. Instead of waiting for fish to take the bait while using a traditional pole as anglers do, you get to engage fish on their home turf—becoming a true member of their three-dimensional ecosystem. What’s the best way to get started? We created this handy guide just for you.
You don’t need a ton of gear to give spearfishing a try; most of it (including wetsuits, mask, snorkels, fins, and weight belts) can be rented from various dive shops on the island itself. Make sure to pick up a California Sport Fishing license before you go out (you can order an annual one online for $45 if you’re a resident—or pick up a day pass for $15.) A travel pole spear kit (these are great because they break down into smaller sections, making them easy to transport) can be purchased on Amazon for $60.
Make sure to go out with a partner, don’t spear the orange fish, and that’s about it! Once you make fresh fish tacos on the beach, you’ll be hooked.
Hike the Trans-Catalina Trail
How long does it take? 3-5 days
How much does it cost? $22/person, per night
Though technically it’s only 37.5 miles long, by the time you finish hiking the Trans Catalina Trail, you’ll have logged closer to 55 miles and nearly 9,000 feet of elevation gain—making it the perfect warm up for longer hikes like the John Muir Trail or Sierra High Route.
The weather’s usually great, the trails are well-maintained, and the coastal views are unparalleled—making this classic one of our favorites. Make it all the way to the end and you’ll have a remote black sand beach all to yourself. We’re not saying that you should go skinny dipping, but we’re not saying that you shouldn’t, either.
New to backpacking? Check out our handy guide on how to get started.
Camp on a Secluded Beach
How long does it take? 1+ nights
How much does it cost? $20/person, per night + transportation
Catalina Island features several remote, boat-in only campsites along its eastern coast. These primitive sites come equipped only with picnic tables (meaning that you have to haul in your own supplies and fresh water) but the benefit of that is near total seclusion on what can effectively be your own private beach. All for the bargain price of $20 a night. Sounds pretty nice, right?
Here’s the catch: to get there, you’ll have to either BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat) or paddle in like we did. If you’re feeling adventurous, kayaks (and SUPs) can be rented from either Avalon or Two Harbors. Check the map to see which sites are closest to which harbor. Paddling on Catalina’s coastal waters can usually be done at a rate of 2-3 mph, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly.
All of these adventures are just a 45-minute ferry ride away from L.A. Keep your eyes peeled, you might even see some dolphins.