Visiting Catalina Island

by Michael Satterfield 

Catalina Island is great for a day trip or a weekend getaway, the idyllic town of Avalon saw most of its development in the early 1900s and retains much of its historic charm. Built primarily as a tourist destination for those in Los Angeles, the Island has long been a favorite destination for those looking for an escape from the noise and congestion of Southern, California.



Getting to the island is easy, with ferry boats leaving from San Pedro, Long Beach, Dana Point, Newport Beach or Marina Del Rey. The boat ride takes about an hour and a round trip ticket will cost about $75. A helicopter taxi which can get you to the island in around 15-minutes is also available from San Pedro or Long Beach, but with a cost of between $270-$300 per person for a round trip.
Another option is to take a cruise with Carnaval which departs from Long Beach and generally starts at less than $300 per person, the first stop is at Catalina Island where you have a full day, before moving on to points in Baja, Mexico.

Ferry Service:
Catalina Express
Catalina Flyer

Helicopter Service:
Island Express Helicopters
IEX Helicopters

Cruise Ship:
Carnaval Cataliana/Baja California Cruise


Once you get to the island there are a number of activities from renting bicycles and kayaks, a tour of the island in a vintage bus, zip line adventures, and much more. Cars are limited on the island and if you plan on touring any of the more remote sections on a day trip a tour is the best choice.


Avalon offers several excellent restaurants, hotels, and shops and feels more like the South of France than Southern California. There are over 32 hotels in Avalon, but space is limited so be sure to book ahead of time. On my many trips to the island, I have stayed at the Hotel Atwater a historic hotel from the 1920s, right near the water, the Banning House Lodge, once the privet home of the Banning Family on the island built in 1910, and the Holiday Inn. Prices for rooms on the island depend on the season, but rooms can be had for between $80-$600 or more. Airbnb does have a number of properties listed on the island ranging from $75-$1,500 a night. Camping is also an option with the island offering eight dedicated campgrounds. Camping permits are required year-round and issued upon check-in at one of the islands visitor's centers, but you can reserve a camping space ahead of your visit. Camping fees range between $22-35 depending on the campground, also cabin tents can be rented at some sites, but will cost nearly the same as a hotel.


With over forty dining options on the island, you are not likely to go hungry. For breakfast, Pancake Cottage is right on the harbor and offers great pancakes and other breakfast staples. Lunch at Mt. Ada is something you must do at least once on your visit. The former home of the Wigley family sits 400 ft above the harbor and the town of Avalon and offers amazing views while you dine. Lunch is served only on weekends from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm. The three-course meal is $58 per person, plus tax and tip. My favorite dinner spot on the island is Steve's Steakhouse & Seafood, with great views of the Harbor and Casino it is an excellent venue for a romantic dinner for two, or for larger groups book the Rose Room. Steve's is known for their Surf & Turf as well as excellent burgers.


Catalina is a special place, it feels like a little bit of the Mediterranean right here in the USA. Like a mini Mallorca just off the coast of Los Angeles, if you are planning a trip to LA or thinking about a Baja Cruise consider adding Santa Catalina to your list.

For more visit the Island's official website here.