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Catalina Island Profile

LA County's Santa Catalina Island


Catalina Island Los Angeles California
Photo: Getty Images/Archive Photos/Transcendental Graphics

Catalina Island in a Nutshell

Catalina is a nearby staycation jewel for Angelenos who need to get away for a couple of days but can't afford to take off to somewhere too distant and pricey.

It offers a vacation full of fun for the whole family. But it's also a laidback couples getaway. Its main city is Avalon.

Popular Catalina activities include: shopping, golfing, swimming in crystal clear waters, fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, sailing, tubing, glass bottom boat tours, rafting, and walking and puttering around the relaxed island.


Santa Catalina Island (popularly known as 'Catalina Island') is located 22 miles south-southwest of Los Angeles. Part of LA County, Catalina is one of the four Southern Channel Islands. It spans 76 square miles.

History of Santa Catalina Island

As an inhabitable island, Catalina dates back 3000 years. In more recent, mid-19th century history, Mexican governor Pio Pico handed over the island to Thomas Robbins as a land grant (i.e. he paid for services with land). The latter set up a ranch on Catalina which he sold to Jose Maria Covarrubias in 1850.

In the second half of the 19th century, Santa Catalina Island was occupied by various squatters, sheep, cattle and herders. Catalina was also a destination for visiting fisherman.

William Wrigley, Jr.

One name you'll hear mentioned frequently on the island is: William Wrigley, Jr. He was instrumental in the early development of Catalina. Wrigley bought controlling interest in the island in 1919. He also built Avalon's Casino. His vision was to create a resort destination that catered to not just the affluent, but 'the common man.'

The Hollywood Connection

In the early days of Hollywood--during the era of the silent screen--the seaside destination appeared in over 225 films. Some of those movies included Treasure Island (1918), Ten Commandments (1923) and The Black Pirate (1926).

Its cinematic 'career' continued through the so-called 'talkies.' The famous maritime film Mutiny on the Bounty was shot here in the '30s.

It's not surprising to hear that celebrities worked and played on the island at that time. Luminary guests included: Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Johnny Weissmuller and Charlie Chaplin.

During World War II, the island was closed for tourism, and film shoots suspended. However, its entertainment career picked up again in the '50s, when it was once again used for location shoots--this time for TV and commercials as well. Music videos followed in subsequent decades.

Films Shot on Catalina Island

  • Apollo 13 (1995)
  • Chinatown (1974)
  • The Hunt For Red October (1990)
  • Jaws (1974)
  • Pearl Harbor (2001)
  • Rosemary's Baby (1968)
  • The Thin Red Line (1998)
  • Waterworld (1995)

Catalina Island Landmarks

Getting Around on Catalina Island

As a child growing up in LA, I looked forward to visiting Catalina Island for many reasons--two of which were: bicycles and golf carts. Because the use of automobiles is restricted on the island, most people get around by bike or by golf cart (both of which are pretty fun and dreamy if you're a kid).

Bicycles (for one or two) are available for rental as are its famous golf carts, through Catalina Island bike and golf cart rental services


Getting to Catalina Island

The easiest way to get to the island is via Catalina Express--which offers daily service to Avalon, year-round. Vessels depart from Downtown Long Beach, The Queen Mary, and San Pedro harbors. Fares are: $72.50 round trip for adults, $66 round trip for seniors, $57 round trip for children 2-11, and $5 for infants under the age of two. Journey time is approximately one hour.

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