Catalina Island: A piece of the French Riviera in California
Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Any words I use won’t do justice to the beauty that is Santa Catalina. The island sits less than 30 miles away from the mainland and it totally feels like the Mediterranean.
Catalina is a getaway to disconnect. Forget about your phone, your car, your schedule.
When you arrive at the island, all you will want is to enjoy every little bit of this paradise! Backgrounds that can be easily mistaken for the French Riviera or Amalfi Coast, yes that’s Catalina Island!
The trip to Catalina Island starts with either a boat or a helicopter ride.
We chose to go by boat and it takes about 75 min to travel from Newport Beach to Avalon.
Boats are also available from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point. It was a trip within the trip and we loved it!
The Catalina Flyer has 3 decks and they serve snacks and drinks (cash only) while you enjoy the beautiful views of the pacific ocean. You might even get lucky and see whales & dolphins along the way!
Discount Alert: Groupon usually has deals on the Catalina Flyer ferry from Newport Beach offering round trips for $49 (any day) and $44 (from Monday thru Thursday). Regular rates are about $70 per round trip per person, so it’s good to look in advance for these deals as they go on sale every now and then.
Despite being an island, Catalina Island belongs to Los Angeles County.
Avalon, located on the southeast end of Santa Catalina has about 4000 residents and is Catalina’s only incorporated city.
Stroll around the streets of Avalon to find restaurants, bars, boutiques, art galleries and gift shops. Fun for all tastes!
You can see beautiful spanish style tiles all over Catalina Island, and they bring even more color to the scenery!
The only kind of traffic you get in Catalina Island, is boat traffic. Catalina Island has very few cars, and it’s very hard to bring them into the island, thus the way to walk around here is either by foot, bike or golf cart. Golf Cart rental costs $45/h on a maximum of 2h (fits 4 people). We were able to see the island from above and its magnificent views at several stops, so worth it! There are a few shops renting golf carts around downtown but the price is the same, just try to get them early as there can be long waiting lines due to the limited number of vehicles available on the island.
Some cruise ships also stop in Catalina Island meaning that during the day and specially on weekends (even more on summer) Avalon gets pretty crowded, so you want to make sure that you have everything you want to do planned ahead if you are only staying for the day.
I always look for waterfront restaurants wherever I’m traveling.
If I’m somewhere that doesn’t have a beach, a lake or a river, at least I want to sit outside.
Dining is one of the nicest things about traveling so I look for places that have good food, have good views and represent the local culture.
We had lunch at Descanso Fresh and it was really really good!
Next we went exploring the clear waters of Catalina on a paddleboard. We rented 1 board for $25/h at Descanso Beach. There are also kayaks, jet skis and even boats available to rent. Loved every second of it!
In a few minutes paddling from Descanso Beach, we found a little private beach just for ourselves, how perfect is that? We just hang for a while, taking in the peaceful scenery and the sound of the waves rolling the small rocks by the shore. I can close my eyes and still hear it!
Last thing we did in Catalina Island before our trip back to OC was snorkeling. It was the best one I’ve done it in my life. So many garibaldi (California fish) colored the blue waters in orange. We were in awe! We brought our own wetsuits and just rented the masks & fins for $12 for 2 hours.
I highly recommend this trip to anyone visiting California, and especially if you live here, man you gotta go! I guarantee it will be unforgettable.
If you do, let me know how you liked it and if there’s anything I can help with as far as tips and what I've seen over there, feel free to reach out! I would love to hear from you!
Check the Visit Catalina Island official website for more details, activities, events and deals available throughout the year: https://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/
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