Catalina Island is an ideal spot to have fun with your family, with dozens of activities to suit any budget – from lounging on the sand and splashing in the waves for free, to renting a kayak, taking a glass-bottom-boat ride, ziplining through the canyons, getting an off-road jeep tour of the Island’s interior, playing a round of golf (regular-sized or mini), or even –gulp- parasailing.
My family and I were guests of the Island Company on a recent trip to Catalina and we sampled a few of the many, many fun things you can do there.
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Land Tour – East End Adventure
The East End Adventure means getting into a Biofuel H1 Hummer with 10 of your newest best friends and a Guide and heading off on a dirt road into what is the majority of Catalina Island – wilderness. 47,000 acres, to be exact, are what have been preserved as the Catalina Island Conservancy and are to remain untouched by development for all time.
Formed by the subduction of techtonic plates under the Pacific ridge, Catalina and the rest of the Channel Islands were not broken-off pieces of California’s Mainland, which means there are native species of plants and animals that are endemic – meaning they’re only found on Catalina and nowhere else on Earth.
Aren’t you impressed with the facts I learned on my tour? I bet our Guide would be happy I was paying such close attention! He was full of tons of interesting facts like that, plus he had a few jokes up his sleeve to keep the mood light as well as educational.
The tour takes 2 hours and flies by. Along the way we saw some quail fly past us and got to see one of the herd of wild Bison that live on the Island. In case you don’t know the story, as I learned also from our Guide, Bison were brought to the Island as background Extras for a movie written by Zane Grey (a famous Catalina resident and Western novelist & script writer) in 1924 and simply defied all attempts to be captured for eventual removal. They have very large heads, with horns, you see.
So the Wrigleys, who owned the Island at the time, decided they ought to just let the Bison stay on. The Conservancy monitors the size of the herd and keeps them at about 150-200 total. Any more than that, they get shipped out to the mainland. Not a bad life, being a Catalina Bison.
Tours cost $71-79 per person and can be booked through the Island Company.
Almost nothing is more fun with a bunch of goofballs – or your family – than Mini-Golf, and the course on Catalina is no exception. It’s not fancy, but it doesn’t need to be. The holes are creatively designed in order to make you crazy trying to get the ball in the hole, guaranteeing laughter and hilarity when playing.
My family loves to compete at games like this, against each other and against anyone willing to come at us, so we ate it up with a spoon. It’s hard to take anything too seriously when you can’t get a ball to go 5 feet. It’s really absurd when you think about it, which makes it all the more fun to play.
The morning we went there was a steady stream of people playing, both before and after us, and judging by the crowds we saw, it’s a game for all ages.
Mini-Golf costs $8-10 per person and tickets can be booked online or purchased in person.
Zip Line Eco Tours
I am a chicken. I freely admit it and have no shame. I did not go ziplining because I am afraid of heights. But my boys have no such fear and good for them, I say, because they got to fly through the sky in one of the most beautiful canyons on earth and had the time of their lives doing it.
The Zip Line Eco Tours take about 2 hours, and start at their headquarters located right next to the Descanso Beach Club. First thing that happens is getting on all the gear, and then comes the safety conversation. There are two guides with each tour group and they make sure each person going knows everything there is to know about their safety mechanisms. They told us they had three redundancies in their lines for extra double backup safety measures, and since my three favorite people were going up there, I was very glad they did.
Once the safety checks have been done, the group jumps into a bus and heads up to the top of the Canyon to begin. My husband grabbed photos of the guys up top and on the way down. They all said they had a blast! The lines run from platform to platform, zig-zagging down the canyon, and actually the guys said the only thing they wished was different was they wanted one big giant line coming all the way from the top to the bottom.
Luckily for my heart, that’s not how it works.
Zip Line Eco Tours costs $115-125 per person (or check for specials) and tickets can be booked online or in person.
There is no shortage of fun to be had on Catalina Island and the Island Company’s website lists a ton of them. The next time we go we want to try a glass-bottom boat ride or maybe parasailing. Actually, my daredevil son wants to do that. I still like sitting and reading…
Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder of MomsLA.com. She and her family were guests of The Island Company for their stay on Catalina Island. Many of their activities were provided in order to write this review.
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