Catalina Island Cruise Port Review

Cruise Visitors Guide to Catalina

Catalina Island review. Discover what can be done in a day while calling on Catalina Island,California cruise port.

Catalina Island has become a regular port of call for Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Line, Holland America Line, and Crystal Cruise.

Santa Catalina Island, known as Catalina Island or Catalina, is a small island located off the southern coast of California. Just 22 miles off the coast near Los Angeles, Catalina Island is easy to get to for a day trip or for those wanting to spend more time, there are plenty of accommodations available.

Cruise guests will anchor in Avalon Harbor, which is a short tender ride to the the town. Catalina has earned a reputation as “the island of romance,” which is easy to figure out: natural beauty abounds with plenty of options for people to relax. With over fifty miles of shoreline, secluded coves and dramatic views that add to the allure of the island.

What to do in the port of Avalon

First of all the island is very small, so it is easy to walk along the water front,  shop, and dine. A self-guided walking tour is a reality for those that want to explore the Avalon Harbor area between the Descanso Beach Club and Lover’s Cove (make sure to stop by the iconic Casino building to take a photo).

All rights reserved. Photo by Carrie Finley Bajak.
Catalina Islands iconic Casino building. Photo by Carrie Finley Bajak.

Most cruise ship tours can be purchased independently from tour operators on Catalina. However, since the port of call is a tender spot, cruise visitors are at the mercy of the cruise line when it comes to disembarkation times to meet up with tours. 

Top experiences for cruise ship visitors

If visiting for the day, top picks can include a variety of options. Popular diversions include: taking a tour, riding a golf cart around Avalon, hiking the backcountry, golf, kayaking, scuba, snorkeling, dining, or just relaxing.

Families, couples, or groups of friends will enjoy the laid back California-lifestyle on Catalina Island. Kids like the video arcade, mini-golf, and hanging out near the beaches by the Green Pleasure Pier.

There are tons of options when it comes to activities ranging from active pursuits to finding quiet spots near the sea to relax like at Descansco Beach Club.

To learn more about Catalina Island visit the Catalina Chamber of Commerce and Discover LA, which will give you details to make your trip planning easier.

Connect with Nature

Thanks to the efforts of The Catalina Island Conservancy, a non-profit organization, dedicated to conservation programs that protect and restore endangered species and threatened habitats, most of the land on the island is protected.  The Conservancy protects 88 percent of Catalina Island, including more than 62 miles of beaches and coves—the longest publicly accessible stretch of undeveloped coastline left in Southern California. Catalina Island is home to more than 60 plant, animal and insect species.

Rent a Golf Cart

One of my favorite ways to explore Avalon. For $40 an hour, renting a golf cart is a  great way to see Catalina. Some carts have car seats and other carts can hold up to 6 passengers,  a golf cart is a good option for those wanting to see the area. Just beware that a lot of the streets are one-way.

Photo by Carrie Finley Bajak.

Catalina golf cart cam. Photo by Carrie Finley Bajak.


Catalina golf cart cam taken from the passenger’s seat while cruising on the scenic roads above Avalon Harbor.

Hang out at the beach club

Descanso Beach Club
Descanso Beach Club. Photo by Carrie Finley Bajak.

Book a tour to explore “Skyline Drive”

Since there is a shortage of cars on the island and because golf carts are not the ideal way to see spectacular vistas, deep canyons, quiet coves and the endless blue ocean from the unique vantage point of the top of the mountain, book a tour. You might get to see one of the island’s American buffalo.

Zip Line Eco Tour

Propel down 5 separate zip lines dropping from 600 feet above sea level with one run that is 1,100 lineal feet long all on its own.

Explore Undersea

While cruising into Avalon Harbor, there is a big chance that you will get to see vast amounts of dolphins jumping in the sea. Also keep your eyes open for sea birds and seals.

Catalina Island has numerous dive spots for all abilities that range from easy to advanced. For those wanting to stay dry, book a tour from one of the many tour operators offering undesea explorations from Avalon Harbor. Some choices include semi-submersible submarines, glass-bottom boats, and other water tours that allow guests to learn about the marine life. Learn about birds, plants, and fish that live in this marine habitat.

Catalina Glass Bottom Boat. Photo by Carrie Finley Bajak
Catalina Glass Bottom Boat. Photo by Carrie Finley Bajak

Take a photo tour: Check out photos from my recent trip to Catalina. Click here.

Have a listen:

Amateur Traveler Episode 316 – Travel to Catalina Island off California

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