A friend of mine, Tom Atwell, lives in Long Island and recently said how lucky we were to have so many different types of aviation destinations in the west. He's right, where else can we go from Snow Boarding to Surf Boarding in a 80 mile flight? Catalina Island is one of those west coast jewels Tom is referring to!
The island is about 25 miles off shore depending where you cross. I typically cross where the Santa Ana River meets the Pacific over flying KSNA class C while staying under KLAX class B. Talk to SoCal approach however because there is a lot of jet traffic just off the coast line.
After landing go upstairs into the control tower type structure and give the man your $25 landing fee. He can also arrange transportation to town for you, it's a 30 minute drive. Getting to town can be pricey, I hear a taxi is $80 each way but scheduled transportation is $15 each way. There are several good restaurants and hotels in Avalon.
Unless you plan on visiting just the downtown Avalon area think about renting a golf cart. They are cheap and two or three places rent them. With a cart you can explore the entire Avalon area but you will be limited to the south end of the island.
You can eat on the airport if you like. There is a gift shop and restaurant on the field. Sit on the patio eating the buffalo burgers and watch your burgers off spring grazing on the hill sides. In addition they have a all you can eat tri-tip BBQ about 10 times a year. See http://www.buffalospringsstation.com/ for more information.
Several hiking trails pass by the airport. You can spend an hour or day hiking the island. The Airport Loop is pretty easy and a fun hike too. Like the name says the trail starts and ends at the airport.
Heads Up! If you are a renter most SoCal flight schools require a Catalina check out with an instructor before landing at Catalina.
Spend some time at the Catalina airport and you will see a lot of pilot error and go arounds. There is NOTHING WRONG with a go around itself, it's a good idea when needed, but what lead up to the need for a go around is the problem.
Issues I see at Catalina:
Runway 04 (It's rare to have this condition)
My limited experience on runway 04 is 50% of the pilots go around the 1st try. I want to say 75% but Ill assume it was a bad day.
Santa Catalina Island is a great trip. Have a wonderful time!