Southwest of Los Angeles lies the tiny island of Catalina that is best known for its pristine beaches, wildlife, and a diverse shopping district. Although part of California, Catalina is very unlike the mainland. Much of the island consists of a nature reserve with dirt trails and unspoiled landscapes that offer plenty of places to explore. Book a stay at one of many incredible vacation rentals in Catalina Island today. Plenty of properties are situated close to the shore where you’ll have magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, as well as enjoy easy access to the beach. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder this island is a dream vacation. That said, here are 11 popular activities for families planning a stay.

1. Go Snorkeling

Catalina offers some of the best snorkeling along the west coast. The calm, clean waters are filled with marine life and some of the areas, such as Lover’s Cove, are protected and undisturbed, so it‘s almost like swimming in a giant aquarium. Explore the coast of Catalina on your own with the family or sign up for a guided tour with Two Harbors Snorkeling or Diving Catalina. Groups can range from two to eight people, and all participants should know how to swim and feel comfortable in the water.

2. Ride in a Submarine

If you’ve ever dreamed of riding on a submarine, Catalina Island is one place to fulfill that wish. Expert guides can take you down on the Nautilus or the Seawolf six feet underwater without getting wet. Custom designed food torpedo buttons send out treats to schools of fish swimming close by, which draws them in for a face-to-face encounter. The expertly narrated tours last approximately 45 minutes and are available for all ages.

3. Take a Hike

More than 200 miles of hiking trails await you when you arrive on Catalina Island. Trails for all fitness levels are available, and all require a hiking permit which is available at the Conservancy Explore Store in Avalon, the Nature Center in the Avalon Canyon, or at the Wrigley Memorial. For an easy and short hike, choose the Garden to Sky hike that starts at Wrigley. If you are planning on being out on the trail awhile and can’t make it back to your vacation rental in time for dinner, have a meal catered for your hike by DC-3 Gifts and Grill.

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4. Scale a Rock Wall

Get your adrenaline pumping when you scale the Catalina Island rock climbing wall. The 32-foot artificial outdoor wall includes eight color-coded climbing paths that are designed for every skill level from beginners to expert climbers. Challenge family members to see how far you can go up and then back down. Climbers are equipped with a high-tech auto-belay that ensures a safe distance to the ground.

5. Get a Glimpse of the Buffalo

Catalina Island is filled with a variety of wildlife from the mule deer to the starling. None are quite as majestic and awe-inspiring as the American Bison. Sign up with the Inland Motor Tours, which takes you to the island‘s grasslands to see these animals graze and roam freely. During the trip, you‘ll hear the history of these creatures and how they came to the island.

6. Reach New Heights While Parasailing

Soar high above one of the most beautiful coasts in California when you go parasailing off Catalina Island. Parasail Catalina provides everything needed for a safe trip. Flights accommodate up to three at a time, and you‘ll experience panoramic views of the island and the nearby mainland. Children must be at least five years old to ride on the boat and six for parasailing.

7. Rent a Kayak and Enjoy the Pristine Waters

Some vacation rentals on Catalina come equipped with water sport equipment, including kayaks. If you do not have access to a boat, rent one at Kayak Catalina Island. Most tours are suitable for first-time kayakers. All highlight the history of the island and the animals that live there. A short lesson on paddling and navigating is given before every tour. Advanced paddlers can opt for more advanced gear for greater enjoyment.

8. Tour Avalon Canyon

If you want to see Catalina Island from a different vantage point, sign up for an Avalon Canyon Tour. Drive up to the summit in a four-wheel drive vehicle where you and the family can peer down into the valley. From here, you can see if you can spot your vacation rental. Along the way, you’ll pass Bird Park, the botanical gardens, and the site of the first Wrigley Field.

9. Spend the Day at the Beach

Relax and push your toes deep in the sand as you enjoy a day well deserved on one of the beaches on Catalina Island. There are four very distinctive beaches to choose from. Located next to the right side of the pier, South Beach lies within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and activities. Middle Beach sits on the left side of the pier and shares many of the same amenities of South Beach. Descanso Beach is a two-tiered private beach near the casino. You‘ll find cabana rentals and an open-air restaurant. Step Beach lies to the north and is smaller and more secluded. Like the other beaches, Step Beach offers lifeguards, which is ideal for families with children.

10. Schedule a Fly Fishing Tour

Teach your children how to fish on the open sea with a fly fishing tour from Salty Fly. Experts accompany you on your trip to offer helpful advice on how to catch the big one. Some fish you might encounter include Calico bass, barracuda, and yellow tail. Back at the dock, have your picture taken with your catches and then take the fish back to your vacation rental for a tasty meal.

11. Experience the Kelp Dwellers in a Glass-Bottom Boat

Famous for its crystal-clear waters, Catalina Island is the perfect spot for a glass-bottom boat tour. Children will enjoy watching the colorful schools of fish float underneath. Sit in comfort and peer over the side to the glass bottom in the center of the vessel. Night trips are available by reservation for small groups.

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