Welcome to Catalina Island
Originally the home of Tongva Nation, Catalina has gone through stints as a hangout for Spanish explorers, Franciscan friars, sea-otter poachers, smugglers and Union soldiers. In 1919 it was snapped up by chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr (1861–1932), who had buildings constructed in the Spanish Mission style and for years sent his Chicago Cubs baseball team here for spring training. Apart from its human population (about 4100), Catalina's highest-profile residents are a herd of bison, brought here for a 1924 movie shoot and who ended up breeding.
Today most of the island is owned by the Catalina Island Conservancy, and 88% of the island's 75 square miles is a nature preserve requiring (easily available) permits for access to hiking and cycling.
Even if Catalina sinks under the weight of day-trippers in summer and whenever cruise ships anchor offshore, if you stay overnight you may well feel the ambience go from frantic to, as the song says, 'romance, romance, romance, romance.'
Commercial activity is concentrated in the town of Avalon (population about 3775), which is small enough to be explored in an hour or two, so there’s plenty of time for hiking, swimming and touring.
The only other settlement is Two Harbors (population about 300) on the remote west coast, which has a general store, a dive and kayak center, a snack bar and a lodge.