February 21, 2020
It would be nice to just get on a plane at any given moment and head to Greece to island-hop whenever we liked, right? Of course, it would be, but right here in the U.S.A., you can take a short ferry ride over to one of the most beautiful, laid back islands Southern California has to offer!
Santa Catalina, one of California’s Channel Islands lies southwest of Los Angeles. This 22-mile island is packed with adventure, wildlife (oh yes, the deer & buffalo are plentiful), good scuba diving & Mt. Orizaba, its highest peak!
Depending on how much time you have, Catalina can be a very fun day trip or you can make a weekend out of it! So let’s get you to this island!
There are quite a few ways to get to Catalina – by ferry, helicopter, private aircraft or private boat!
Catalina Express – The most popular and economical way to reach Catalina is by taking the ferry. There are 3 mainland ports in Southern California to travel from with Catalina Express; San Pedro, Long Beach or Dana Point. The Long Beach location will have the most routes leaving out every day. Depending on the port, the ferry ride itself is about an hour or so long. Plenty of paid parking is available at all 3 ports.
Catalina Flyer – This ferry leaves out once a day from Newport Beach. Also, the Catalina Flyer will be cheaper than the Catalina Express. Note: I would suggest using an Uber or Lyft to reach this port. The parking situation got pretty annoying here.
*Tip: Be sure to check Groupon for discounted tickets! I paid $49 round trip for my Groupon on the Catalina Flyer!
Helicopter – If you have a few dollars to spare then, IEX Helicopters offers 15-minute (one-way), very scenic rides to Catalina from Long Beach, San Pedro, John Wayne Airport and Bob Hope Airport.
Again, a day trip to Catalina is sufficient, but if you’re looking to make a weekend out it, you’ll need a place to stay!
On our trip, we decided to stay at the Holiday Inn Resort Catalina Island!
If I’m being honest, this was not our first choice (we were definitely looking for a cozy AirBnb…but everything was sold out the weekend we needed). However, this hotel didn’t turn out to be a bad choice (like I was expecting it to be). There were 4 of us, so we opted for the 2 double beds during our stay.
The Holiday Inn hotel is a bit dated, but the room itself was quaint, cozy and clean with the standard amenities. We definitely loved the room’s balcony. The hotel’s pool & hot tub were enjoyable too! There is a complimentary breakfast in the morning as well.
This property is located on a massive hill…..ok….maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but that hill was pretty steep. And walking up at night after a couple of cocktails was not fun! Thankfully, the hotel supplies a complimentary shuttle that will pick you up from the port as well as drop you off so you won’t have to hike back up the hill. The shuttle stops running at 10:45 P.M. After that, you will have to catch a cab or have a golf cart to get around.
It’s time to eat and maybe grab something to sip on! Check out just a few of the options in Catalina!
🥘 Bluewater Grill – A delicious, fresh seafood restaurant located on Avalon Bay overlooking the water. Here the service was great and the seafood was fabulous! The blackened swordfish & crab cakes are ridiculously tasty!
🥘 Avalon Grille – Brunch? Bottomless Mimosas? Sound good? Then, stop here! This relaxed-upscale restaurant is overlooking Avalon Bay…..which turned out to be a great “people watching” spot. The customer service was fantastic (special thank you to Maira, Emily & Tessa for making our brunch AH-MAZING)! The pancakes, the omelets and salmon pasta was perfection! And the bottomless Mimosas…..they just kept on coming!
🥘 The Lobster Trap – This place is probably one of the most recommended restaurants on the island as far as seafood goes. The lobster roll, clam chowder, salmon salad – all good! But this spot is more than just seafood. Pastas, sandwiches, burritos….are all on the menu!
🥘 Maggie’s Blue Rose – Delicious Mexican food can be found here! For breakfast, lunch & dinner! Enjoy enchiladas, chicken verde, street tacos & more! Oh….and the Margaritas…..AH-MAZING!
After a bite to eat and a cocktail to sip on at one of Catalina’s delicious restaurants, it’s time to explore the island! Get into something adventurous or chill with a drink in your hand & your toes in the sand at the beach club!
Descanso Beach Club – Relax on a lounge chair, grab a cocktail and ENJOY the view! Descanso Beach Club is the place to be for the Summer beach parties!
At Descanso Beach Club, lounge chairs and cabanas are available to rent. We rented a ‘Signature Cabana‘ (which fits up to 6 guests) for the day and we loved it! The picturesque view, relaxed vibe & the DJ coming through with all the top 40 hits made our experience at Descanso too much FUN!
I would suggest reserving your lounge chair/cabana in advance as they tend to sell out quickly!
If you miss out on the chairs & cabanas, you can still party on the beach, but be aware that it is a small beach (and pretty rocky too) with a $2 access fee per person.
Our server on that day was super cool, attentive and he kept the Mojitos coming (which kept me happy)! Descanso also serves food which is moderately priced along with the cocktails.
Rent a golf cart and explore the island – Catalina Island is extremely scenic and renting a golf cart is a perfect way to sightsee! Reserve your 4-seater cart (priced at $50 per hour with a $50 deposit – bring cash) or 6-seater cart (priced at $70 per hour with a $70 deposit – bring cash) online or it’s first come first served on the day of your arrival. Make sure to have a valid driver’s license and the driver be 25 years of age or older.
Rent a boat for the day – Another amazing way to see this beautiful island is by boat enjoying the beautiful ocean and views of Catalina. For motorboats, kayaks & more, check out Joe’s Rent a Boat. In addition, check out OnBoat for boating options as well!
Looking for adventure? Yes?! Then take a peek at some of the cRaZy fun excursions you can get into on Catalina!
The island of Catalina sees about 1 million travelers annually and it’s not hard to see why! It’s beauty and charm easily reminded me of Positano, Italy which made me love it even more! So what are you waiting on? Go book your day trip or weekend getaway to this incredible island. Hope to see you there!