California is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. From exciting metropolises to spectacular beaches to awe-inspiring landmarks, the state has enough hotspots to fill a lifetime of vacations. Among the many must-see sites are California’s islands. Here are three that should top your trip list.


While Alcatraz is a fun place to visit today, it was anything but for those who spent years on the island in the middle of the 20th century. From 1934 to 1963, the island was one of the nation’s most infamous federal penitentiaries. The conditions were tough, but so were the prisoners, as it housed notorious criminals like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. If you’re brave enough, try one of the tours that offers an opportunity to stay the night in one of the cells.

Balboa Island

Balboa may be a man-made island, but it was tailor-made for fun. It’s surrounded by a boardwalk lined with high-fashion clothiers, art boutiques and seaside bistros. Most visitors end up at the amusement park, and a highlight of any trip to the island includes a ride on its famous ferris wheel, which promises breath-taking bay and ocean views. Despite its small-town appeal, there’s no shortage of fun, leading many visitors to consider staying in Balboa Island weekly rentals.

Channel Islands

While some islands are more for history or shopping, the Channel Islands National Park are for nature lovers. The biodiverse park is an ideal destination for those who enjoy leisurely pursuits such as birdwatching or whale watching. Referred to as California’s Galapagos, there are five animal and plant species that can be found only on the islands. There’s also plenty of recreation available, such as kayaking, hiking, diving and snorkeling.

California’s islands are as diverse as they are charming. Whatever your particular interests, you’ll find a destination perfect for any vacation or get-away.