Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Lying just 22 miles off the Southern California coast, Santa Catalina Island is a glittering resort escape that feels worlds apart from the urban sprawl.

 Yet beyond the island’s tourist sheen of luxe hotels and wild buffalo lies a tight-knit community going about its daily life.

More than 4,000 residents call the island home year-round, with the vast majority residing in Catalina’s main town – the charming coastal village of Avalon.

 Tiny outpost communities also exist at Empire Landing, Middle Ranch, and Two Harbors, while roughly 1 million annual visitors flock in from mainland California and beyond.

Keep reading to learn what it’s really like living and working on this scenic SoCal isle!

Catalina Island By The Numbers

Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Though only 22 miles from Newport Beach, the island has a vibe all its own.

 Here’s a snapshot of who inhabits Catalina:

  • Total island population: approximately 4,000
  • Main town – Avalon: nearly 4,000 residents
  • Two Harbors: around 200 residents
  • Annual visitors: upwards of 1 million

While tourism drives this coastal escape, Catalina also maintains vibrant year-round communities, keeping island life humming.

Cost Of Living On Catalina Island (Avalon)

Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Secluded island locales like Catalina inherently command a high cost of living, with travel logistics and import fees driving up expenses.

Overall, estimates place Catalina’s cost of living around 68% higher than national averages. Housing bears the biggest premium, averaging about 207% pricier than typical mainland homes.  Even utilities run around 11% higher, thanks to supply chain factors.

And scoring a table at one of Avalon’s harbor-view eateries or boutiques will impact your wallet. Yet, for many residents, the trade-offs are worthwhile, thanks to Catalina’s inimitable lifestyle perks and natural beauty.

Housing On Catalina Island

Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Catalina Island homes fetch a hefty premium but offer residents gorgeous hillside and ocean views rarely found stateside. Expect sticker shock; the average Catalina house costs north of $1.4 million! For perspective, nationwide, the median home value is $450,000.

But island amenities, ocean proximity, and construction hurdles drive Avalon real estate sky-high. Recently, a 4-bed, 3,500-square-foot Catalina property sold for a whopping $4.6 million! Of course more attainably priced options exist, especially away from downtown.

Condos and apartments average around $1,900 monthly for 2-bed rentals. Or consider the quaint cottages and bungalows lining Descanso Beach and elsewhere for character and scenery.

Perks aside, securing Catalina’s housing requires planning and a hefty budget. Supply is extremely limited, given geographic constraints. Yet, for homebuyers valuing an unbeatable island atmosphere over space, few settings compare to the colorful Avalon and Catalina’s villages.

Pros And Cons Of Living On Catalina Island

Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Before packing up for island life, weigh Catalina’s unique advantages against realities like limited services and rugged terrain:


  • Tight-knit small-town community
  • Low traffic and noise pollution
  • Endless outdoor recreation options
  • Beautiful harborside and ocean locale


  • The steep cost of living and housing
  • Isolation from mainland conveniences
  • Access obstacles – advanced planning required!
  • Job market limitations beyond hospitality/tourism

Ultimately, Catalina Island appeals most to residents who prioritize natural beauty, cozy village living, and coastal recreation over materialism. The slower pace also resonates with retirees and families seeking safe outdoor lifestyles.

For homebodies craving urban energy or suburban shopping malls, island seclusion could prove challenging in the long term. But for the right residents, Catalina supplies a magical lifestyle sans parallel.

Moving To Catalina Island

Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Before packing up for Catalina, keep realities like scarce housing stock, rugged terrain, and limited services in mind:

Before relocating, carefully weigh the realities of island life, like Catalina’s sky-high living costs, housing supply constraints, and dependence on mainland imports. With no bridges linking Avalon to greater LA, access requires more forethought.

Getting around means mostly walking, biking, or golf carts once they arrive since vehicle options are limited. On the services side, only one tiny hospital and two modestly equipped grocery stores cater to residents across the entire island. Consider that outside tourism, job prospects are sparse, while entertainment and shopping pales compared to big cities.

When moving here, respect all wildlife by keeping safe distances and knowing proper precautions. Being aware and proactively cautious living alongside Catalina Island conservancy animals, especially around bison during hikes, helps ensure positive human-animal cohabitation.

There are only two small K-12 schools on Catalina Island catering to local families – Avalon School and Two Harbors Elementary. The limited educational options can prove challenging for families with children requiring special assistance programs or a wider breadth of academic choice compared to larger school districts.

Additionally, no colleges or universities operate on the island itself. Students needing to attend campus must commute from Catalina via helicopter or ferry or else enroll in remote learning programs. These constraints around further education should factor into family relocation decisions.

Catalina Island has just one small hospital – the Catalina Island Medical Center in Avalon. While the facility handles basic healthcare and emergencies, those with complex medical conditions or requiring specialty care should carefully vet if needed services are available on-island before relocating.

Catalina’s rugged beauty fosters a proud community but one largely remote without mainland conveniences. Savvy planning around expectations, budgets, and quality-of-life priorities helps ensure a smooth transition.

Celebrities That Live On Catalina Island

Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Despite hovering so near Hollywood, few celebrities actually reside full-time on Catalina Island. But that remote atmosphere has lured its share of stars over the decades seeking an off-the-grid escape.

Most iconic is the Wrigley clan – the magnates behind the Wrigley chewing gum empire. The Wrigley family commissioned a sprawling mansion on Mt Ada complete with iconic towers and gardens. Though no longer Wrigley-owned, tours allow visitors a glimpse today.

In recent years comedian Bill Maher has also kept an island property to periodically enjoy Catalina’s slower pace and sunshine. Marilyn Monroe famously retreated to Catalina for respite at the height of her fame too.

And while not full-fledged islanders, icons ranging from Taylor Swift to Katy Perry to Leonardo DiCaprio have all been spotted getting away from LA amidst Catalina’s low-key harbor village vibes.

Where Is Catalina Island

Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Catalina resides just off of Southern California in the Pacific Ocean, located about 22 miles south-southwest of Los Angeles. Surrounded by crystal blue waters, the island is a natural getaway for Southern California residents tired of traffic jams and urban headaches.

The vast majority of Catalina residents and landmarks occupy Avalon – Catalina’s quaint oceanfront village on the island’s southeast shore. Two Harbors, an even smaller seaside village home to roughly 200, lies a mere 17 hilly miles to Avalon’s west.

While often confused with nearby San Clemente Island, Catalina uniquely boasts its medley of wild buffalo alongside swaying palm trees! Chartered boats, ferries like Catalina Express, and helicopters shuttle visitors between the mainland cities of Long Beach, Dana Point, and Newport Beach across the ocean to Avalon’s colorful streets and attractions.

Catalina Island Map

You can orient yourself to Catalina’s landmarks and geography with the locator map below:

Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Is Catalina Island Worth Visiting?

Catalina Island makes for an unbelievably scenic escape just offshore from urban Los Angeles and Orange County. Between Avalon’s vibrant harborfront dotted with paddle boarders to hiking Catalina’s remote wild interior, the isle offers awesome relaxation or adventure amid gorgeous Mediterranean vistas.

On the tourism front alone Catalina brings more than 1 million annual visitors onto its shores. And those are just day-trippers, not staying overnight! Clearly, the island works its magic and explains why Catalina maintains a robust community of full-time residents who tolerate higher costs of living for the lifestyle payoff.

Do People Live On Catalina Island?

Specific perks luring visitors include top Catalina attractions like the Catalina casino building, underwater adventures via semi-submarine, and quality restaurants, all within easy walking distance in Avalon. Beach lovers have Descanso Beach’s lounge chairs and romantic couples have stunning coastal views for their backdrop.

Inland, the rugged, unspoiled hills and ecosystems feel a continent away – yet you can sample their beauty on short excursions like the Skyline Drive eco-tour. And the herd of American bison roaming free along ridges affirms you’re not in LA anymore at every turn!

Whether visiting Catalina Island for vacation relaxation, an adventure getaway, or to scout the lifestyle as a prospective resident, it’s absolutely worth a trip to experience California’s incredible island jewel for yourself!

Can you live on Catalina Island?

Yes, despite remoteness and having to import many goods from mainland California, over 4,000 full-time residents call Catalina Island home. Most people live on the Island, around the tourism hub Avalon.

Are there private residences on Catalina Island?

Absolutely. Private homes like small cottages, condos, and larger luxury estates exist, mostly clustered around Avalon. Advanced planning around limited housing supply is recommended when relocating.

Are there homeless people on Catalina Island?

A small homeless population exists on Catalina Island, predominantly finding shelter around Avalon’s civic structures and landings accessible via ferry. Tough winters and a lack of consistent social services impact their plight.

Are there permanent residents on Catalina Island?

Yes, over 4,000 permanent, year-round island residents live mainly around the tourism center Avalon. Additional tiny villages occupied by full-timers are Empire Landing, Two Harbors, and Middle Ranch.

Do workers live on Catalina Island?

Some Catalina Island hospitality and tourism workers secure long-term housing on-island. But high rents and scarce housing stock prompt many to commute from the mainland via daily ferry instead.

Do you need a passport to go to Catalina Island? 

No passport is required, just a photo ID like a driver’s license. As California territory, Catalina Island doesn’t require clearing customs or immigration from mainland US.

Are dogs allowed on Catalina Island? 

Leashed dogs are permitted in the town of Avalon, while some tour companies allow canines aboard vessels for sightseeing excursions.  Dog parks at Descanso Beach provide oceanfront play spaces with stunning views!

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