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How to Enjoy the Beaches of Catalina Island

Santa Catalina Island is a 76-square-mile mix of crystal water, quaint coves, large valleys, and towering peaks just 22 miles west of the Southern California coast. Make the most of some of Catalina's pristine beaches on your next visit with these tips.


  • Step 1: Set up camp at Little Harbor Campground to access its beach, located seven miles east of Catalina's only other hub, the small town of Two Harbors. Enjoy kayaking and snorkeling or just relaxing on the sandy beach. The campground's amenities include showers, a barbecue grill, fresh water, and a fire ring.
  • Step 2: Have the utmost privacy while camping on the remote beach at Parsons Landing Campground. Seven miles west of Two Harbors, the eight, primitive campsites are only accessible by a moderately difficult hike or kayak trip. Try a different beach each time you visit, or visit them all in one trip.
  • FACT: Buffalo roam free on Catalina. They were introduced to the island in 1924 by filmmakers who used them as extras for a movie.
  • Step 3: Know that other popular beaches in Avalon include South Beach and Middle Beach, located near the Green Pleasure Pier. Both are within walking distance of shopping, restaurants, and restrooms. Nearby Step Beach is smaller than Middle and South with a strip of sand that juts out into deeper ocean waters.
  • TIP: Leave your scuba diving gear at home. Lover's Cove's reefs are protected and diving is prohibited.
  • TIP: Bring some cash. Descanso Beach charges a fee.
  • Step 4: Visit Crescent Beach for all the amenities of nearby Descanso Beach without the fee. It's an easily accessible, bustling, family-oriented beach that also attracts foreign travelers, students, retirees, and business groups.
  • Step 5: Try Avalon's Pebbly Beach, one of the most popular spots for snorkeling. Pebbly Beach's well-known Lover's Cove is known for snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours. True to its name, the beach is rocky so don't plan on sunbathing here.
  • Step 6: Enjoy the private Descanso Beach, located in the island's only city, Avalon, also called Avalon Bay. With crystal clear water, Descanso is great for snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, and sun bathing.

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