The Catalina Island Golf Course was first built back in 1892 by the Banning brothers as a 3-hole course. The course has the distinction of being the oldest golf course in Southern California (and perhaps the West). By 1929, the course was expanded to a full 18-hole course. Many tournaments were played here, the most famous of which was the Bobby Jones Invitational Tournament held from 1931 to 1955, with a brief break during the war. Every spring top amateur golfers would visit and revisit the Catalina Course.
Golf fees are $27 for nine holes and $40 for 18, cart included, cheap compared to golf on the mainland.
Equipment: It’s a public golf course and it provides a memorable experience for golfers of every skill level.
What it has:
2 sets of tees for 18-hole play
Club Car cart rentals
PGA pro on staff
Groups are welcome
Contact Mike Mellinger at
The web link below describes in full, including a video clip, the descent from a desert shrub hilltop of 500 feet through a canyon to Descanso Beach, over 5 separate zip lines. Although I didn't take time for this thrill, which I know isn't too cheap, I can recommend it to those into this sort of adventure. While the zip line ride flies high over a desert landscape, rather than meander through a tropical forest, the training and preparation make for safe and secure fun, as the second photo shows.
There is a very locally run and professional kayak outfit that caters to both individual and cruise ship visitors. We dodge the cruise ship day to avoid the crowd, and were able to appreciate the lecture skills of the owner during the trip. The kelp forests off the California Channel Islands are very much endangered by global warming because summer heat kills them off. Kelp grows very fast in winter but at Catalina dies back in summer. This underwater forest is home to many animal and fish species.
The kayak concession is located at Descanso beach, which is around the corner from the Casino.
Equipment: Wear a swim suit, but also prepare to borrow the special clothing provided as the water is cold. The kayak equipment provided is quite good, and the training given doesn't demand too much. There are tandem kayaks so that couples and families can share in the paddling experience. Go out on a sunny and calm day for best adventure because the water will be clear for observing the sea life below. Our day was relatively calm, but turbulent waters from the previous day made underwater video hopeless. See web link below for more details and reservations for this must do activity. Whales, sea lions, dolphins, and other mammals are commonly found during this trip.
Part of the Kayak adventure includes beaching the kayaks and taking a short hike inland. The leader will lecture on the geology, flora, and fauna of the island.
Equipment: it's a good idea to have decent pair of walking shoes for this part of the trip.
So, I see people fishing off the pier. I suppose fish can be caught and then what? I'm still not all that trusting to eat fish from the California oceans. The water seems clean enough but that doesn't mean the mercury levels in the fish are less. It's much safer to eat fish flown in from Hawaii. I prefer that.
Equipment: Fishing poles can be rented, boats can be rented.
If the weather is warm, you must snorkel in the park off Avalon. There are lots of fish including California's state fish - the garibaldi. Beautiful orange fish that is orange and blue when little. I almost fainted when a huge object came swimming towards me from the depths (Catalina is near the great white shark breeding grounds) only to see a seal swim past a few feet away.
Equipment: Rent equipment from one of few shops and walk 100 yards to rocks. Put on snorkel gear and away you go. Water IS COLD. Full suit is best otherwise the cold will make you miserable, even in the summer. Other snorkeling is available on the island.
A boat is not needed to scuba dive here. Located behind the casino, diving is available right from the shore and asphalt lot. Even steps have been built for entry into the water. Rentals of tanks/wetsuits/gear available.
Behind the Casino there's an underwater dive park, where a few boats were sunken to create a fish farm. Only scuba diving is allowed here, no snorkeling or swimming (opposite to Lovers Cove where only snorkeling is allowed). Its water is much deeper, and current stronger than Lovers Cove.
Lovers Cove, just 200 yards south of the ferry terminal, is a popular spot for swimming and snorkeling. This is also where all the glass bottom boats, undersea tours take place. The beach is pebble, not sandy. Here marine life is protected, I guess also the livelyhood of local business.
In the summer you can buy/rent snorkels, fins, wetsuits, and fish food from a truck above the cove. Fish in Lovers Cove are quite spoiled. If you stand in the water with fish food in your hand, the big ones will jump out and snatch it. Be prepared. If you don't have food, they get mad.
Equipment: Swimming: swimsuits or wetsuits.
Snorkeling: snorkels and fins.
Scuba Diving: not allowed here.
Fishing: not allowed here.
Kayaking: allowed, but no kayak rental in Lovers Cove. People rent it from nearby harbor and paddle here.
No motorized watercraft such as jetski is allowed here.
Snorkeling in Lovers Cove is convenient. But if you don't like big crowd and spoiled fish, try kayak-snorkeling. On Catalina Island, kayaking itself is a popular sports, and there are many rentals around the harbor. The best place to kayak-snorkel is Frog Rock, about three miles north of Avalon.
I would suggest that you rent the kayaks from Descanso Beach. This way you can save about a mile of paddling, and you don't have to maneuver your way through the big and small boats in the harbor. Once you pass Hamilton Cove (the huge apartment rental complex on the hill that looks like subsidized housing), start looking for a good spot. Either use your kayak as snorkeling base in the open sea, or pick a beach to park and start from there. Water here is deeper and colder, make sure you can swim. There are more kayak-snorkeling spots around Two Harbors.
Equipment: Same as snorkeling in Lovers Cove. Bring your snorkeling gear with your kayak because there's no rentals in the open sea.
On one of our visits to Catalina during the month of May, we decided to try snorkeling. We didn't bring any gear with us but it was not necessary. They will outfit you with everything including the wet suit (in May the water is pretty cold). We had a blast! A boat takes you out to an area not too far from the harbor. We dropped into an area not too far from shore and saw much more than I expected. We saw plenty of fish, octopi, lobsters, kelp forests, hermit crabs occupying pretty large shells it was all so fascinating! And, there is a probability you may see seals and sharks but we didn't see any. Well worth the experience.
I got my Naui diving certification here when I was a kid. Catalina has/had? the state's only underwater park for scuba diving. All it is... is an area off the old Casino where boats cannot tie up or anchor. There are also a few wrecks to dive at various depths.
If you don't want to dive here you can get a book on all the dive spots around the island at any local dive shop here.
Equipment: You can rent your gear on the Island but it is probably cheaper to bring it from the mainland.