We are heading to Catalina for our anniversary, specifically Avalon. I've been there before, and here are my tips! I have not been to Two Harbors, though, so that side of the island is not included. Transport
There are 2 options for the ferry:
- the Catalina Flyer which has a single Avalon trip each way each day from (9:00am) / to (4:30pm) Newport Beach, currently $70 per person, round trip
- the Catalina Express which runs from (north to south) San Pedro, Queen Mary, Long Beach and Dana Point to Avalon as well as Two Harbors (only from San Pedro), up to 8 times a day. Currently between $73 and $75 per person, round trip.
We decided to go with Catalina Express since Dana Point is farthest south (we live in San Diego) and it gives us more options for times.
Hotels are pretty expensive on the island, which is predictable. There are other options, though, which make it more affordable if you have a group or want to camp. A group of 5 girlfriends did a trip and we investigated home rentals on VRBO before settling on a great place in Hamilton Cove.
It's more than walking distance from town, but a golf cart was included in our rental. I did camp at Hermit Gulch, near Avalon, once which was good. But for an anniversary trip we wanted to get a place with some creature comforts. We settled on the Catalina Island Inn mostly by doing research on TripAdvisor. Pretty much every hotel is just blocks from the beach, so location is not really a consideration, except for Catalina Canyon which is inland a little ways out of town, which was a bit inconvenient after a night out. And the Inn on Mt Ada, which is a spectacular old Wrigley mansion on the bluff above the town.
There is lots to do on the island. And there is nothing to do. You can pretty much cover all the self-catered activities in a few hours as the town is small, so a day is fine. But to really relax into Catalina style you should stay overnight and let the island isolation sink in. The place really clears out by about 7pm when most of the ferries have taken day trippers back to the mainland.
Top 10 picks
- Underwater experiences:
- Snorkeling in Lover's Cove - a few minute's walk east past the dock on Pebbly Beach Road. You can bring snorkel gear, or rent it nearby. There are tours, but that's really not necessary as there are lots of fish, especially bright garabaldi, and the cove is protected. You just have to watch out for the glass bottom boats that come by periodically!
- Scuba diving - supposed to be amazing, but I'm not certified
- Unique underwater experiences - snuba ($79) and Sea Trek ($109)
- Kayaking - rent one at Wet Spot close to the dock: half day $45 for single, $60 for double (currently they have a $5 off coupon on the website). The waters near Avalon are generally very calm so you can take off from Avalon and head west along the shore, stopping for snorkeling at secluded beaches.
- Hiking - you can hike around the east end of the island in an afternoon via the Garden to Sky loop hike (up through Wrigley Gardens and turn right at the top, 4 miles), or around the East Peak (up through Wrigley Gardens and turn left at the top, about 8 miles), There aren't very many trails, so you shouldn't get lost. If you want an adventure, you could do the Trans-Catalina Trail (37.2 mi)
- Zipline - we are fans of ziplining and might do it this time ($120 ea)
- Golf Gardens for miniature golf
- Food tours - Icons of Avalon (4pm, $30) and Taste of Catalina (11:15am, $79)
- Movie in the Avalon Theater in the Casino - nightly at 7:30, Thu and Sat at 4:30 ($15)
- Laugh Factory Comedy Club - Fri during the summer at 6:30pm and 9pm ($30)
- Scavenger hunt - three different options: walking, biking, golf cart. Download the app onto a smart phone ($49, need internet access)
- Tours - there are tons of them, on boats, in the water, walking around town, hiking, up to the airport, driving through the backcountry, etc. I've done a few, but none really pop as must-do's.
We are vegetarians, and there seem to be some options at most places (default=veggie burger), but the focus is more on meat-based cuisine. So Mexican and Italian places are usually the best options for us.
- Lunch at the Inn on Mt Ada - if staying there is too pricey, check out breakfast ($25) or lunch ($33). Best view on the island. Need reservations.
- El Galleon is right on the beach, so plenty of people watching. Good margaritas, interesting decor and near the pier so it's convenient if you are waiting for a tour.
- Mi Casita is a good Mexican place with the traditional fun decor. Also has good margaritas!
- Ristorante Villa Portofino - good Italian food
- Restaurant rankings on TripAdvisor
from the Catalina Express