When I hear people say, “I’d love to travel, but I just don’t have time to go anywhere” it hurts my soul a little. I know vacations seem like they should be more involved than just visiting the next town over, but playing tourist in your own stomping grounds actually can be more invigorating than exploring distant places. At least this is what I realized recently when I ventured to Catalina Island, just a couple hours away from my home in Los Angeles. Want to know how to get to Catalina Island? Stay tuned.
How to Get To Catalina Island
Departing from Long Beach, it took only 45 minutes aboard the Catalina Island Express to reach the crystalline shores of Avalon, the island’s quaint port town on the eastern side of the island. Other than Long Beach, there are a couple other ports you can depart from on the express ferry including San Pedro and Dana Point. Consult the schedule for more details. The Catalina Flyer ferry is another option to reach the island, it’s more cost effective, but will take you twice as long to get there. If you’re a real baller, you can also fly to Catalina in 15 minutes for around $300 round trip. I, personally, think the ferry is worth it.
Docking along the coast, I couldn’t help but compare it with other world destinations. While the little city has it’s own unique character, it looks from a distance reminiscent of the Mediterranean, especially the Amalfi Coast. I’d been to Catalina Island before to go camping with friends, but this was my first time exploring it’s more refined shore and the adventure activities within its vicinity.
If you’re in Southern California and looking to get away, Catalina is where it’s at. It’s so convenient to reach that you could enjoy an island adventure in a single day then be back home in time for bed … that or forego doing your laundry in exchange for a 2-day mini vaycay.
Wondering how to spend your time there now that you’ve figured out how to get to Catalina Island? Here’s what I’d recommend for adventure fiends like myself:
One Perfect Day on Catalina Island
If you’re super ambitious, the first ferry of the day departs Long Beach at 6a.m, meanwhile the last ferry back leaves at 730p.m. (on the weekends, there’s actually a ferry that leaves at 10p.m., but consult the schedule as it varies depending on the time of year).
8:15 a.m. Catch the ferry
9:45 a.m: Challenge yourself at the Catalina Aerial Adventure Ropes Course
Just beyond Descanso Beach, tackle five sky-high self-guided ropes courses that lead you through the tree tops. A skilled guide teaches you the ropes before you attempt the swaying log bridges, zip lines, and other feats, and they also shout tips up to you to help you work through more challenging runs. It’s definitely a good confidence booster and workout.
12:30p.m. Sneak in a quick parasailing adventure with Island Water Charters
Feel the wind flapping your cheeks as you soar into the sky. A rainbow parachute carries you to great heights where you can catch beautiful views of the island. The feeling of floating that high in the air with such grace is really freeing.
1:oo p.m. Fuel up on tacos
Overlooking the crystalline cove, Bluewater Grill cooks up some of the most flavorful fish tacos I’ve had outside of Mexico. The fresh tortillas encase your choice of either blackened Mahi, shrimp, or friend cod that comes served with chips. There are, of course, a slew of other lunchtime temptations on the menu — lobster rolls and a pesto chicken sandwich to name a few — but when Mexican fare is an option, I have blinders on to everything else, except maybe the ocean view.
2:00 p.m. Meander Avalon
The winding roads of Avalon lead you to storefront upon storefront of charming gift shops and eateries (if you’re still hungry). Grab an ice cream at Scoops then go for a leisurely stroll.
3:00 p.m. Take a kayaking Adventure
Since you spent the morning reaching great heights, it’s time to hit the water. Descanso Beach Ocean Sports offers a two-hour guided kayaking tour out to Frog Rock where you can learn more about the island’s topography and history. If you’re more of a “self-guided” person, the company also rents kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and snorkeling gear by the hour.
6:00 p.m. Dinner at Avalon Grille
Dishes at this classy yet casual eatery feature ingredients inspired by the California coast like grilled octopus, lobster linguini, and harissa-marinated swordfish. For land lovers, there are also plenty of other menu items that don’t come from the sea.
7:30 p.m. Board the Catalina Island Express ferry and head home
Other Inspirations for your day
There are tons of things to do out on Catalina, so it can be hard to narrow it down and pack it all in. Need more ideas? Here are a few other inspirations:
- Grab a towel and catch some rays at Descanso Beach. If you want to be classy, Descanso Beach Club rents Chaise lounges and cabanas.
- Catch a flick at the Casino Movie Theater. You probably wouldn’t think to duck into a dark room on a sunny island, but this charming old theater features not only films but also art deco murals. Movies are shown nightly at 7:30p.m.
- Have a ‘treat yo self moment’ at Island Spa Catalina then spend the afternoon enjoying the pool, sauna, and jacuzzi.
- If you choose to overnight, Pavilion Hotel offers its guests a complimentary wine and cheese happy hour from 4:30 – 5:30pm. Grab a glass of vino, assemble your own cheese plate, then saunter over to the hotel’s outdoor fire pit to recline.