Santa Catalina Island lies just 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles, California. This charming Mediterranean style island is a welcoming respite from the hustle and bustle of busy L.A. I was surprised to learn that Catalina is actually part of Los Angeles County! Catalina has an interesting history I enjoyed learning about–it had first been settled by Native Americans, and then Spain, before finally being taken over by California. Catalina has been the film set location for many movies over the last 100 years, and interestingly one film crew brought over 14 buffalo to use in a western style movie and ended up leaving the buffalo there. Today, Catalina island has a population of about 150 buffalo. Known for its adventure tours, nature centers, and relaxation, Catalina is an amazing place. Here are my recommendations for what to do if you have one day to spend in Catalina.
Catalina Island isn’t very difficult to get to. It only takes about one hour via ferry ride, (or if you want to be fancy you can take a helicopter ride) to get to the island. There are three ports the ferry departs from out of Los Angeles. My boyfriend and I took the ferry out of Long Beach–it was so close to where he lives we were able to walk there! The ferry isn’t cheap, it’s $36 each way, but it is one of the only ways to get to Catalina. It was a very nice ride and we even had the pleasure of watching a pod of dolphins playing in the wake of our ship!
Catalina is a stunningly beautiful island. I lost all control as soon as it came into view, snapping away from every angle of the island. But this isn’t just a place to come kick back and relax, there is a lot of adventure waiting to be had! From zipline tours and kayaking, to scuba diving and snorkeling, there is something for everyone. My boyfriend and I chose to go snorkeling because it was one of the cheaper options (nothing on Catalina is very cheap) and we had a great time. The water was beautiful, some of the bluest and clearest I have ever seen. We also passed by the zipline area and it looked like a ton of (really scary) fun! Another option is to take a bus out of Avalon, the main town where all my pictures are taken, to go searching for wildlife.
There are almost no cars on the island, and definitely no roads. What they do offer are golf carts which you can drive all over the place! We rented a golf cart for an hour and saw the whole island for $40. We were greeted with spectacular views of Catalina from every angle starting at ground level until we reached the top of the island. This was definitely one of the highlights of the day for me.
Relax, eat, and browse
After a full day in the hot sun, Ryan and I were ready to relax. We walked up and down the quaint streets of Avalon, stopped for a long lunch/dinner at Luau Larry’s (famous for the island’s popular Buffalo milk drink) and soaked in the beauty we had just seen. Some other choices for places to eat include Pancake Cottage for breakfast and Lobster Trap for lunch or dinner.
Enjoy the sunset and head home
Another highlight for me was walking back to the ferry to depart. The sun was setting just perfectly as we waited in line to board the ferry. I was able to snap a few pictures of the changing light and the nearly full moon descending behind the hills.
A few other things to do if you have time:
Exploring Catalina was a truly magical day and I very highly recommend anyone visiting L.A. to make the day trip to Catalina. You will not regret it!