The Do’s and Don’ts tips of Catalina Island- how to plan the best, cheapest vacation or day-trip with all the fun! Use these tips to find deals and packages that will best suit your trip! Learn about how to save money, transportation options, places to hike, and activities to do on the island.
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 of do’s and don’ts 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. Although you can take a helicopter ride or the ferry, we chose the much cheaper option. Often, you can find a Groupon for two tickets that take you from Newport Beach, putting the price at just under $90! Because we were just doing a day trip and not staying overnight, we decided to take the Catalina Express from Long Beach since it leaves earlier and stays later. Together, our tickets were about $140 total, so it was 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!
Instead of a ferry ride, you can also get a package where you can jet ski to Catalina Island! Although we thought about it, we decided to get to the island faster to spend more time there. Maybe next time we will try it out!
Don’t rent a golf cart
To us, the prices for golf carts were so expensive. It was $50/hr, with very 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 or people who planned a lot of events close together. We did the Garden to Sky Hike, and even walked to the trailhead. Walking, it was about 40 minutes from the mainland to the Garden, and then another 20 minutes on the hike. Overall, the walk was easy, with lots to see along the way. If you do have trouble walking, definitely rent the golf cart!
Do plan ahead!
One thing we did not realize was there isn’t a great way to get from one side of the island to the other. To get to the other side, you basically have to have your own boat or pay for an extremely expensive taxi ride. Next time, we will probably budget that in. Everyone told us the best beaches are on the other side of the island! Another option is doing a very long hike, but we were told you better plan on the whole day hiking and very little beach time.
To save money, plan to bring water bottles and/or food with you for the day. 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 😉
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 slabs. Due to the sharp pebbles under the water, we are very glad we wore our water shoes! 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! In retrospect, we wish we had planned more beach time in LA because the beaches were way nicer than in Avalon.
Do visit 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. For about 30 minutes, we walked around to admire it! We took a lot of pictures here. Next, we went on to do the Garden to Sky Hike, which was moderately difficult, but I wouldn’t hesitate to bring children with us. However, you can also end at the Memorial because the view from there is still really beautiful.
Don’t expect seclusion!
Unsurprisingly, the city of Avalon is very touristy. Although we didn’t have to wait in long lines or anything, the whole island 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. If you went another time of the year, I bet it would be a lot less crowded. The only time we were alone was on our Garden to Sky Hike.
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 California Parasail 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. Packages for housing and food are available if you do decide to stay longer on the island. Many packages also include your passage on the ferry to Catalina Island, which can save a lot of money in the long run.
Go, go, go! Truly, Catalina Island made for a great vacation highlight. In one day, we got to do and see so many cool things! In the future, I want to return for one of the dances at the Observatory, or go for 4th of July to see the fireworks. Still, even without much planning ahead, it made for an amazing day-trip! Remember these Do’s and Don’ts of Catalina Island on your next trip!
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Good to know thank you! Now is the time to be able to more adequately plan for future trips ? so this is a great resource!
Maybe one day I will get there, it looks so fun and beautiful
We went & were so bored. Water time would’ve allowed for some fun but we weren’t prepared for that. I’d like to go back someday, sans kids. Planning ahead is a MUST.
You got it pretty right, however, unless one is in great condition the hills and the sights are too difficult to cover in such a short period of time. Get the Golf Cart…Money well spent
Try Two Harbours and area, especially Cat. Seldom crowded, the “Far end” of the island is less touristy except immediately around the landing. There are real beaches and fine trails. Swimming and scuba, is safe, waters are mostly clear and warm enough for minimal gear
We go to Catalina Island every year for a week. You can rent affordable houses there too! Truly is a little bit of paradise just a hour away by Ferry. Loved your do’s and Don’t of Catalina Island if you get a chance stay longer than a day lots to see
Awesome! Thank you so much for the response, we can’t wait to visit again. Such a beautiful place! Sounds like you had the best time.