My husband and I took a day trip to the island, and we already can’t wait to go back! There was so much to see that we spent most of the day just walking around and exploring. When we go back, we plan to stay for a few days and see more of the other side of the island. But as a day-trip, there was so much to do, in and around the main city of Avalon. Here are my tips for a great day-trip to Catalina Island.
Catalina Island Tips:
Do take the ferry!
This was honestly one of the best parts of the trip. You can take a helicopter ride or the ferry, but we obviously chose the much cheaper option. There is even a Groupon for two tickets, that takes you from Newport Beach, putting the price at just under $90! Since we were just doing a day trip and not staying over night, we decided to take the Catalina Express from Long Beach since it leaves earlier and stays later. Our tickets were about $140 total, so still affordable for an hour + ferry ride. The ferry itself was really fun, and the evening boat ride back was gorgeous with the sunset. DO BRING A JACKET if you plan to sit on the upper deck. It got super chilly and I was in shorts!
You can also get a package where you can jet ski to the island! We thought about it, but decided we wanted to get to the island faster. Maybe next time we will try it out!
Don’t rent a golf cart.
The prices for golf carts were so expensive. It was $50/hr and there was limited places to park them. For our day trip, we were able to walk everywhere we wanted, no problem. I would only recommend golf carts for those that have trouble walking long distances. We did the Garden to Sky Hike, and even walked to the trailhead. It took about 40 minutes to walk from the mainland to the Garden, and then another 20 minutes on the hike. Overall, pretty chill hiking, with lots to see along the way. We recommend walking if you can, and it saves you tons of money.
Do plan ahead!
What we did not realize was there isn’t a great way to get from one side of the island to the other. You basically have to have your own boat, or pay for an extremely expensive taxi ride. Next time, we might budget that in. Everyone told us the best beaches are on the other side of the island! The other option is doing a very long hike, but we were told you better plan on the whole day hiking and very little beach time.
Don’t plan beach time in Avalon.
My husband and I are beach enthusiasts, and Avalon’s beaches were not our favorite. They are extremely rocky and the sand is brought in from elsewhere and spread across concrete. We still really enjoyed climbing over the rocks, but we are very glad we brought water shoes for the sharp pebbles under the water! If you’re looking for a beach close to Avalon that you can walk to, Descanso beach was free and not far from where the ferry brings you in. Next time, we really want to explore the beaches on the other side of the island! But we wish we had planned more beach time in LA because the beaches were way nicer there than in Avalon.
Do visit the Wrigley’s Memorial!
It’s about $8 per person to get into the Gardens. The entire garden is filled with amazing desert plants, including cacti and other species. It was very, very cool. My husband and I loved it! The Memorial itself has gorgeous architecture and cool patterns. We spent about 30 minutes just walking around and looking at it! We took lots of pictures here. We went on to do the Garden to Sky Hike, which was moderately difficult, but I wouldn’t hesitate to bring children with us. But, if you want, you can also stop at the Memorial because the view from there is still really beautiful.
Don’t expect seclusion.
The city of Avalon is very touristy. We didn’t have to wait in long lines or anything, but it just felt very crowded. The beaches were packed and the streets were filled with golf carts. It was hard to get a picture without someone in it. I bet if you went at another time of year it would be a lot less crowded. The only time we were alone was on our Garden to Sky Hike.
Because it’s touristy, everything is overpriced. DO bring water-bottles and/or food with you. We ate at a good Mexican restaurant called Maggie’s Blue Rose Mexican right off the harbor. It was pretty affordable and the food was really good. We bought some cheap postcards to send to family, and that was about the cheapest thing we could find on the island 😉
Do look into packages!
If you’re planning on doing multiple fun events at the island (parasailing, ziplining, etc.) there are some pretty awesome packages that let you combine multiple activities and pay less. We loved parasailing with Parasail Catalina, and felt totally safe with them. It was an awesome experience and you feel like you are up in the air for a fair amount of time. There are also packages for housing and food if you decide to stay longer on the island.
Go, go, go! Catalina Island was so fun. Even in one day, we got to do and see so many cool things! I highly recommend it for anyone! One day, I want to return for one of the dances at the Observatory, or go for 4th of July to see the fireworks. But even without much planning ahead, it made for an amazing day-trip!