The Santa Catalina Island Company's Discovery Tours (tel. 800/322-3434 or 310/510-TOUR [510-8687]; www.visitcatalinaisland.com) has a ticket and information office at the Green Pier and the Tour Plaza, in the center of town. It offers the greatest variety of excursions from Avalon; many last just a couple of hours and don't monopolize your whole day. Tours are available in money-saving combo packs; inquire when you call.
Noteworthy excursions include the Cape Canyon, which takes you into the heart of Catalina's "outback" in an open-air four-wheel-drive Mercedes Benz Unimog Vehicle. The tour's rugged route includes the American bald eagle and Catalina Island fox habitats at Middle Ranch, lunch at Airport-in-the-Sky, and plenty of photo stops ($107 adults, $96 seniors and children). You can also try the Undersea Tour, a leisurely 45-minute cruise of Lover's Cove Marine Preserve in a semi-submersible vessel that allows you to sit 5 feet under the water in a climate-controlled cabin where you comfortably observe Catalina's kelp forests by day or night ($32 adults, $23 kids, $28 seniors; discount on night rates). The Casino Tour is a fascinating 50-minute look at the style and inventive engineering of this elegant ballroom ($19 adults, $17 seniors, $14 kids). The Casino also offers a Behind the Scenes Tour ($31 adults, $23 kids, $27 seniors) where you visit the "green rooms" used by Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, and all the Big Bands. Walk across the stage where Benny Goodman played; visit the projection room with the original 1929 equipment on display; and gain unprecedented access to other backstage areas. Both tours include admission to the Catalina Island Museum. The nighttime Flying Fish Boat Trips (seasonal) are a 50-minute Catalina tradition in searchlight-equipped open boats ($24 adults, $21 seniors, $18 kids).
Newer tours include the Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour and the Sea Trek Undersea Adventure as well as Snuba and the GPS Ranger Walking Tour. Beginning almost 600 feet above Avalon, the Zip Line Eco Tour ($99 per person) is a way to see Catalina like never before. The nearly 4,000-foot zip line comprises five separate zips across Descanso Canyon and ends by the seashore at Descanso Beach, with speeds reaching 45 mph and heights of more than 300 feet. Each zip ends at a specially designed platform with spectacular views of the surrounding island interior and ocean, and interpretative signage highlighting the flora and fauna.
Where the zip-line tour provides a view of Catalina from above, the Sea Trek Undersea Adventure ($103 per person) and Snuba ($69 per person) gives a glimpse from below (no prior diving experience is necessary). Beneath the waves, participants may find themselves surrounded by teeming schools of mackerel or anchovies, observing sea lions or a solitary bat ray gliding through the blue water, or even catching a glimpse of an octopus or California lobster hiding among the rocks.
The GPS Walking Tour, which meanders through the streets of Avalon, offers visitors their own personal high-tech guide to experience the sights at their own pace. The GPS-enabled multimedia units ($15 per device) lead the way, pointing out landmarks and historical points of interest using audio, video, and photos. The tour accommodates up to six people per unit, and guests have ample time to complete the tour.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.