Catalina Island’s laid back vibes and colorfully dotted bluffs create an allure akin to that of the French and Italian Riviera. Conveniently situated just 30 miles off the coast of Southern California, a Catalina Island day trip makes an exciting getaway!
Catalina Island Day Trip – Getting there
The easiest way to get to Catalina is via the Catalina Express, with 30 round trip fares departing daily from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point. You have the option to dock in either Avalon or Two Harbors, though Avalon is the most popular destination, and a convenient start to your Catalina Island day trip.
On the short, hour-long trip to Avalon, sit back and enjoy the beautiful views and fresh breeze of the Pacific.
Catalina Island Activities
Once your feet land on Avalon, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy all day. Depending on what kind of adventure you’re in the mood for, here are some recommendations for Catalina Island Activities.
Seeking ultimate relaxation? Then head straight to Descanso Beach Club and dig your toes into the sand on the private beach. With private cabanas, chaise lounges and a sparkling waterfront, this is Avalon’s ultimate hub for beach lounging and sunbathing. Book in advance to reserve your cabana or lounge, otherwise claim your spot early on the bustling beach.
There’s also a lively nightlife scene, eco-tours, a beautiful cove and restaurant. One could easily spend the whole day at Descanso Beach, but there’s more of the island to see. After a sufficient fix of sunbathing, let’s check out the best things to do in Catalina.
There are no shortage of sights to see in Catalina. In addition to exploring the pristine coastline, here’s what to do in Catalina.
Catalina Casino: Despite it’s name, it’s actually a theater and ballroom. Featuring art-deco architecture and hosting jazz and musical acts, it’s a must-see hallmark of Avalon.
Take a tour: There are plenty of Catalina Island tours to choose from, both on land and sea. Choose from scuba diving, snorkeling, paddle boarding, zip lining, exploring the backcountry and more. For the adventurers, taking a jeep tour leads tourists into the secluded and rugged interior, where you can even catch a glimpse of Catalina’s famous bison.
Whether you love strolling afoot and window shopping on Catalina’s main streets or endeavoring into the rugged backcountry, here’s how to get around Catalina.
By Foot: The city of Avalon is a short square mile radius, making walking an excellent mode of transportation to get around. Stroll Crescent Avenue for great shopping and dining, follow the footpath past the pier toward the casino and down to Descanso Beach for a breezy, beautiful stroll through Avalon.
Golf Cart Rental: This is a fun way to explore the hills above Avalon for sweeping views of the harbor below and the Pacific’s panorama. I love to rent a cart every time I’m on the island.
There are two cities on Catalina Island: Avalon and Two Harbors. Avalon is the most popular, but Two Harbors is a secluded and quiet option for those seeking a more intimate side of Catalina. Two Harbors is accessible via the Catalina Express, alternatively, take a jeep tour which explores the interior and makes a stop at Two Harbors.
On a Catalina Island day trip, Avalon is a must see. In fact, most visitors overlook Two Harbors altogether. That said, Two Harbors has a gorgeous harbor, mellow vibes and offers the one thing Avalon can’t: less tourists.
Foodie’s Guide to Catalina
All these fun activities will no doubt get the tummy rumbling. Here’s some tasty stops to fill your plate and dine in Avalon.
The Lobster Trap: cozy, laid-back vibes and comfort food.
Descanso Beach Club Restaurant: The perfect breakpoint after a long walk featuring open air dining to take in the views. Plus, it’s the only spot in Avalon where you can take your drink to the beach. Cheers!
Bluewater Avalon: Waterfront fine dining with a locally sourced menu and the best sunset views over the harbor.
There you have it! With so much to do and see, it’s easy to see why everyone wants to take a Catalina Island day trip. Have you been to Catalina Island? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!
For more island vibes, check out my guide to St. Lucia, Caribbean.
Photos by Sergio Vellatti