11 Best Beaches on Catalina Island: From the Hidden to the Most Popular

best beaches on catalina island

Looking to discover the best beaches on Catalina Island? These are my picks for the best beaches on the island, from remote to easiest to access.  

As soon as you arrive on Catalina Island, it feels like you’ve been transported to a tropical island, minus the humidity. 

You’ll find swaying palm trees, a laidback culture, (mostly) sunny and hot weather, and, of course, plenty of beautiful beaches. 

Only being about an hour by ferry from Long Beach on the mainland means Catalina Island is an ideal island escape for those who are looking for a unique beach day.

And you’ll find beaches all over the island, both near the island’s two main towns but also in remote locations that can only be hiked to. 

After visiting Catalina Island twice and recently hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail, I’ve been able to visit a lot of different beaches on the island, which is where this guide comes in. 

Whether you’re looking for a fun Catalina beach with plenty of things to do or a more secluded cove, I’ve got you covered with this guide to the best Catalina Island beaches. 

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

Little Harbor Beach on Catalina Island

 

11 Best Catalina Island Beaches 

There are a number of public and private Catalina Island beaches. 

This guide mostly focuses on the public Catalina Island beaches that can be accessed by everyone, but I’ve also included a handful of private beaches for anyone looking for a different type of experience. 

 


 

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Crescent Beach

Crescent Beach

Crescent Beach is Catalina Island’s main beach located right in the town of Avalon and next to where the Catalina Express drops off passengers. 

Crescent Beach is made up of three small white sand beaches near the harbor and Green Pleasure Pier – South Beach, Middle Beach, and Step Beach. 

Walking towards Avalon from the pier, you’ll find all three beaches to the right of the pier. South Beach is closest, then Middle Beach, and finally Step Beach a little further on.  

Crescent Beach is by far the busiest beach on Catalina Island, but it’s also the most convenient one to visit because it’s literally steps away from where the ferry lets you off. 

Plus, this picturesque beach is hard to beat in terms of scenery. It’s surrounded by Avalon Harbor, the town of Avalon, Green Pleasure Pier, palm trees, and the Casino nearby as well. 

Looking to do a day trip to Catalina Island from the mainland to check out Crescent Beach? Check out my full guide to the Perfect Catalina Island Day Trip

 

Lovers Cove 

Lovers Cove - good for snorkeling on Catalina Island

Located off Pebbly Beach Road and walking distance from the ferry, Lovers Cove isn’t much of a beach since there’s not a lot of sand to layout on. 

However, there’s a bench at the cove that you can sit at to enjoy the scenery near the water. I also wanted to include Lovers Cove on this list because it’s one of the best places to go snorkeling near Avalon.  

 

Descanso Beach 

Known for being the party beach on Catalina Island, Descanso Beach is a private beach where you’ll find Descanso Beach Club. 

The Descanso Beach Club charges $2 per person for access to the beach and often has DJs and a party atmosphere on summer weekends. 

Descanso Beach is where you can rent cabanas and sip cocktails on the beach for a relaxing afternoon near the water. 

If you’re looking for other fun beach activities, this is also a good place to go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding (you’ll find rentals at the beach). And there’s a zip line, rope course, and rock climbing wall nearby too.  

 

Hamilton Cove 

Similar to Descanso Beach, Hamilton Cove is another private beach near Avalon. 

The only way to access Hamilton Beach is if you book one of the Hamilton Cove vacation rentals next to the beach.

The small, sandy beach features a volleyball court, a basketball court, barbecues, picnic tables, a playground, and is a good place to snorkel with how clear the water is. 

If you can afford it, this is a really stunning place to stay that’s also conveniently located near town, the Green Pleasure Pier, and the ferry. You can book one of their villas for a weekend, a week, or longer stays. 

 

Little Harbor Beach & Shark Harbor Beach

Little Harbor Beach and Campground

My favorite Catalina Island beach, Little Harbor Beach is a secluded beach with crystal clear waters right next to Little Harbor Campground

You’ll need a sense of adventure to get here, but the lack of convenience means you might just have the beach to yourself when you arrive. 

I accessed Little Harbor Beach via the Trans-Catalina Trail and it felt like we had stumbled upon a hidden paradise after a long couple of hiking days. There were only three other people at the beach while we were there. 

Luckily, if you’re not up for a huge trek, you don’t have to do the whole Trans-Catalina Trail to access Little Harbor Beach. 

You can either do a one-off 11-mile round trip hike from Two Harbors or you can take the Catalina Island Conservancy Wildlands Express Shuttle from Avalon. Alternatively, you can also take a taxi from Avalon or Two Harbors. 

Right next to Little Harbor Beach, you’ll find Shark Harbor Beach a short walk over the cliffs. 

Shark Harbor has a very similar secluded feel to Little Harbor and the same gorgeous scenery of crystal clear waters and rocky sea stacks and cliffs. 

The one difference between the two?

Little Harbor is in a calm cove that’s perfect for a relaxing swim whereas Shark Harbor has crashing waves and good surf. 

Shark Harbor is actually one of two places to surf on Catalina Island (the other being Ben Weston Beach). 

Also, If you’re looking to do some kayaking, this is a nice secluded place to get out on the water.

You can book kayak rentals to be dropped off for you by Wet Spot Rentals. They book them 24-hours at a time, so it’s best to do this if you’re camping for a night at Little Harbor. 

 

Two Harbors Beach

Two Harbors Beach

After Crescent Beach, Two Harbors is the next most convenient beach to get to on Catalina Island. 

Two Harbors is the second town that the Catalina Express goes to directly on Catalina Island. The Two Harbors Beach around Isthmus Cove is walking distance from where the ferry lets you off. 

The aspect I like about this public beach is that there’s a restaurant right on the beach (Harbor Sands) and there are little cabanas you can rent along the beach as well. 

This is also a good activity beach since there are kayak and snorkel rentals and different tours you can sign up for. 

There are public bathrooms just steps from this beach, which is a nice change from the porta-potties or pit toilets that are common at the more remote Catalina Island beaches. 

If you’re looking for a quieter beach in Two Harbors that’s not in the middle of all the action, I’d recommend walking over to the Two Harbors Campsite.

There’s a small sandy beach at the end of the campsite area about a 10-minute walk from town. 

 

Parsons Landing Beach 

parsons landing beach

After Little Harbor Beach, Parsons Landing is my second favorite beach on Catalina Island. 

It’s hard to beat Parsons’ secluded nature and natural beauty. It’s also a unique beach that’s rocky on the east end and sandy on the west end. 

Because it’s a long journey to get here, the best way to experience this beach is by snagging a spot at the Parsons Landing Campsite. However, these can be very hard to come by so you’ll want to book well in advance. 

Most people camp here as part of the Trans-Catalina Trail before heading back to Two Harbors, but you can also do a day trip here from Two Harbors (although it’ll be a long one).

There are only two ways to get to Parsons Landing – kayaking or hiking. 

To kayak here, you can rent kayaks from Two Harbors and then make the 4.25-mile kayaking journey to the beach (8.5 miles roundtrip). 

Otherwise, there are two ways to hike to Parsons Landing. You can go the hard way on the 6.7-mile Silver Peak Trail which is very steep or the easy and mostly flat way along the 7.7-mile West End Road. 

 

Starlight Beach 

If you’re looking to feel like you’re truly at the edge of the island, head to Starlight Beach – the westernmost beach on Catalina Island.  

Starlight Beach is difficult to get to so there’s a good chance you’ll be the only ones there if you make the journey. Bring a picnic and enjoy having the beach all to yourself!  

Really, the only way to get to Starlight Beach is if you’re already camping at Parsons Landing since it’s a 9-mile out-and-back hike from Parsons. 

The journey is filled with picturesque views and is maybe even more beautiful than the small beach itself, so take your time soaking up a slice of Catalina that most people never get to see. 

 

Ben Weston Beach

Just south of Little Harbor, you’ll find Ben Weston Beach (also known as Middle Canyon Beach). 

If you’re looking to surf, this is the beach to visit on Catalina Island.  

Unfortunately, it’s now harder than ever to get to Ben Weston Beach since they stopped running the Safari Bus from Avalon. 

You used to be able to take the bus to a spot that was just a short hike from the beach, but the new Wildlands Express Shuttle that replaced the bus doesn’t even allow surfboards. 

This means that the only way to get to Ben Weston Beach is to do the 9-mile round trip hike from Little Harbor and back (taking Little Harbor Road to Middle Ranch Road and then Dry Creek Beach Trail down to the beach). 

There’s a primitive beach campsite at Ben Weston as well, but there’s no potable water so you’ll need to bring everything you need with you. 

Otherwise, you can trek the 4.5 miles to the beach with just your surfboard and a daypack and head back once you’re done for the day. 

 

Howlands Landing

Howlands Landing

If you’re looking for a fun experience for your kids, Howlands Landing is a private beach where one of the best summer camps on Catalina Island takes place each year – Catalina Island Camps

During the summer months, the camp runs 1-2-week sessions or longer 4-week sessions for kids that are currently in 2nd through 9th grade.  

They also offer a family camp every year in August if parents want to get in on the fun too. 

We got to pass through the Howlands Landing beach area on our last day of the Trans-Catalina Trail and it looked gorgeous and SO much fun. 

There’s every type of activity that a kid would want at summer camp and the beach itself has soft sand and clear aquamarine waters to enjoy. 

 


 

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Mimi McFadden
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