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Are you planning a day trip to Catalina Island? Then continue reading! I’ll share everything you need to know to create your perfect Catalina Island day trip.

Santa Catalina Island, which is generally referred to simply as Catalina Island, is located about 30 miles off the coast of California’s mainland. It is one of California’s most underrated, hidden gems.

With a population of a little bit over 4000 people and around 22 miles (35 km) in length, this tiny Californian Island makes for an amazing, fun-filled day trip.

On one of my most recent excursions to Mexico, I got the chance to stop in Catalina Island and was blown away by its breathtaking beauty, which quickly turned Catalina into one of my all-time favorite travel destinations. In this guide, I will go over all of the best insider tips on how to have a successful Catalina Island day trip.

And now, without further ado, here is my ultimate guide to the perfect day trip to Catalina Island.

How to Get to Catalina Island

There are two different options to choose from to get from the mainland to Catalina Island: by sea or by air.

The most common way to get to Catalina Island for the day is by taking a ferry. There are 4 different ports to travel out of; San Pedro, Long Beach, Newport Beach or Dana Point. The ferry rides are operated by two companies: Catalina Express and Catalina Flyer and take about an hour.

The next option will have you in Catalina in just about 15 minutes and that is by helicopter with IEX Helicopters. You can catch a helicopter ride from San Pedro, Long Beach, John Wayne Airport, and Burbank Airport.

While the ferry usually costs about $75 for a round trip (discounts available for seniors and children), it is by far the most cost-effective way for your Catalina Island day trip. A helicopter ride will more than likely cost upward of $250.

Tip: Catalina Island makes a perfect day trip from both Los Angeles and San Diego

Things to Do During Your Catalina Island Day Trip

While the idea of spending only a day in such a beautiful place like Catalina might not sound like a long time, the good thing is that it is actually the perfect amount of time to explore the famous, yet small island.

Here are all the must-do’s for your day trip to Catalina Island.

1. Rent a Golf Cart

Whatever you do, one does not visit Catalina Island without renting a golf cart and driving around the island to take in all the beautiful views that the island offers.

In downtown Catalina, they have a few golf cart rental companies which will let you rent carts by the hour. Along with a golf cart, you will be given a map of the island and sent on your way to let your wanderlust run wild.

We rented our golf cart for 2 hours, but 1 hour ended up being more than enough time to drive around and discover the island.

Tip: if you love nature and spotting wildlife, check out this safari tour on Santa Catalina Island.

2. Walk Around Downtown

Day trip to Catalina Island - exploring downtown

Avalon is the main town on Catalina Island, and that is where you find downtown Catalina.

Filled with delicious restaurants, shopping boutiques, and some fun nightlife, downtown Catalina is the perfect way to unwind and spend your day.

Whether you’re in a shopping mood or would simply like to enjoy a seaside cocktail, this quaint neighborhood is the perfect place to hang out and relax.

While you can easily get through all of downtown within 30 minutes, it’s perfect because it leaves time for the rest of the activities you can do during your Catalina Island day trip.

3. Go Snorkeling

things to do on a one day trip to Catalina Island

If there is an activity that I can’t recommend enough it’s to go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the island. With an abundance of different snorkeling locations, there is absolutely no better way to spend your day in Catalina.

Snorkeling is one of my favorite activities in the world, so it’s needless to say that whenever I am anywhere near water, I try to fit some snorkel time in my itinerary.

While I have been snorkeling more times than I can count, in more places than I can count, Catalina blew me away with its out-of-this-world snorkeling spots. With hundreds of fish swimming around you, this is the perfect activity for your day in Catalina.

4. Take a Catalina Food Tour

If spending time in the ocean isn’t your thing, Catalina also offers some amazing food tours. For three hours you will be taken on a food excursion around Avalon all while you learn about the history of Catalina.

With different tasting locations and also a great way to meet other people, this really is a great activity for a perfect Catalina Island day trip. 

5. Zipline Across the Island

What better way to view Catalina than from 300 feet above the ground. While this activity might not be for the weak-hearted, it is definitely worth it.

Catch views like no others, all while getting a good adrenaline rush by zip-lining through the island. There truly is not a more liberating feeling than traveling through the air at high speeds while basking in the beauty that Catalina offers.

6. Take an Underwater Cruise

Looking to catch a glimpse of the underwater life but don’t want to get wet? there is this cool semi-submarine called Nautilus.

They offer trips that last 45 minutes and take you to a marine sanctuary to see the fish from your own porthole. Especially if you are visiting Catalina Island with kids, this is a great activity!

You’ll be taken through Lover’s Cove, a State Marine Conservation Area sanctuary where you’ll see amazing undersea gardens and ocean habitats in a semi-submersible vessel designed after America’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus.

Also Read: Things to Do on a Family Day Out in Los Angeles

7. Lay Out on the Beach

One day in Catalina Island - enjoy the beach

Picture by Alkan Chaglar – Catalina Island day trip

If you’re looking to just take it easy during your Catalina Island day trip, there is nothing wrong with just grabbing a cocktail, laying out on the beach all while catching some rays.

And to be quite honest, you can never go wrong with a beach day. The main beach at Catalina is breathtaking and it’s the perfect way to unwind during your vacation.

8. Kayak Through the Waters of the Island

Another famous activity in Catalina is kayaking. Rent a kayak for a few hours and go out into the water for a fun day at sea.

Kayaking is the perfect way to explore the beauty of the island as you get to spend time with the hundreds of fish that will be swimming around you. And with crystal clear waters, it will be easy to spot all the different types of fish in the waters of the island.

The Perfect Catalina Island Day Trip

the perfect Catalina Island day trip

Although small, Catalina is filled with so many fun activities for anyone who visits the island. From the beautiful surroundings to the locals who so warmly welcome you in, the food, and the ocean.

You can never go wrong with taking a day trip to Catalina Island. While of course, it would be nice to spend a few extra days on the island, one day is the perfect amount of time to have the time of your life in such a gorgeous place.

Also Read:

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Author: Caresa Lamers
Caresa is a minimalist, traveler, blogger and owner of This Spontaneous Life. She recently sold all her belongings to be able to travel the world without any materialistic limitations. She thrives on helping people follow their travel dreams and motivating them to get out there and see the world. She is a firm believer that we need to make the most of our time while we are on this earth so follow her on her journey and let her help you live your best life.

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