Graham and I recently celebrated our 2nd Wedding Anniversary with a beautiful overnight trip to Catalina Island. I have put together a roundup of our experience on this adventure along with some tips and tricks if you are looking to make your way to the island in the near future. I also wanted to thank the Catalina Island Company for partnering with us to make our anniversary so special. Without further ado, let’s talk all things vacation and Catalina Island travel tips.
We started our day off fairly early in order to be able to maximize our time on Catalina. The ferry to Catalina leaves out of several SoCal ports and they go to two ports on the island. Since we went to the city of Avalon, this will be focused on our experience traveling there. We drove from Los Angeles to Long Beach and parked our car in the lot across from the ferry. The parking lot is close by and there is a fee that you pay on the way out. We arrived about 15 minuted before boarding and there was a decent size line that did move quickly once the boarding process started.
On the way to the island we sat inside and on the way back we were lucky enough to snag a seat in the shaded outdoor benches in the back of the ferry. Both rides were totally pleasant, but personally I prefer being outdoors especially during the times of Covid. Everyone practiced social distancing and you are also required to wear a mask at all times unless you are eating or drinking.
The ferry ride is beautiful and we were fortunate to have calm water both ways. The trip takes about an hour and we were blessed with spacious ocean views. We also were graced by a pod of dolphins giddily jumping out of the water on both ferry trips which was a magical bookend experience two a wonderful adventure.
Once you pull into the harbor it is almost like you’ve been transported to a quaint European coastal town. It truly feels like an entirely new atmosphere. You’re on island time now! The scenery is composed of colorful architecture embedded in the mountainsides paired with the classic palm trees and finished with clear turquoise blue water laden with white sailed boats. It is almost too whimsical to handle.
Upon arrival we walked along the dock to pick up our golf cart. A fun fact about Catalina is that you will mainly travel around the area on foot or golf cart since cars are very limited on the island. We wanted to do a mix of both walking and toodling around on a golf cart!
We rented a golf cart for 3 hours so we could drop off our bags at out hotel then zip on over to get some lunch. Since I have a back injury, having a golf cart for part of the experience was a lifesaver since we did still do quite a bit of walking. We strategically planned out what we were going to use it for. The rate was $50 per hour with the third hour free so it ended up being $100 in total. We got ours from Catalina Gold Cart Rental who also gave us a map on how to tour the island. The rental was conveniently located right after you leave the dock and didn’t require a reservation. With that we were off to our hotel and adventures!
Where To Stay
Catalina could potentially be a day trip, but I definitely recommend staying a night or two if possible. Since there is so much to explore on the island it is wonderful to have a beautiful place to rest your head and relax after a day of fun. I love the style of a boutique hotel and the Hotel Atwater delivers on classy elegance with updated amenities made even more wonderful with its rich historic background.
The hotel is named in honor of Helen Atwater Wrigley, who was the wife of Philip Knight Wrigley. That’s right, the island and your favorite chewing gum have some fun things in common. The Wrigley’s have a long history on the island and were so enchanted with their experiences there that they made it a prominent part of their family’s legacy.
The Hotel Atwater is absolutely exquisite and is very centrally located in Avalon just steps away from wonderful restaurants, shops, and outdoor activities. The hotel provided complimentary beach towels and also have bikes available.
In our room we were treated to champagne, water, and cookies. The amenities are all brand new with luxurious linens, air conditioning, spacious shower, and a comfortable atmosphere. The lobby is also a stunning location and I felt immediately welcome in the hotel. They are also taking extra precautions to make sure everything is exceptionally clean and comfortable especially during these times.
After dropping our bags off, Graham and I ventured to lunch at the famed Descanso Beach Club where you can literally have your lunch and beach time too. It is the best of both worlds. We were able to grab a table on the actual beach and enjoyed some time under our umbrella sipping drinks. I tried the legendary “Buffalo Milk’ cocktail that tasted like the best adult milkshake ever. Check out my Catalina highlight on Instagram for the ingredients as well as our golf cart trip to the beach club.
The beach club offered a beautiful view of the water as well as a yummy lunch menu. We were able to eat with views of the boats as well as the iconic Catalina Casino. It was a perfect way to start off the vacation with relaxing and enjoying each others company. We started off with some chips and salsa then dove into some yummy veggie burgers. A great way to get some bites in before the rest of our day!
When dinner came around, fresh seafood was calling our name. We were on an island after-all. The Bluewater Grill was recommended to us and it was just a short walk from our hotel. After our activities, we got dressed in our dinner best and headed out. It is all beautifully set up for outdoor dining and we got a seat right next to the ocean.
We shared a delicious crab dip followed by a King Louie salad for me (so yum) and Graham capitalized on the local spiny lobster (you know I had a few bites). It was such a special and romantic evening especially after not going out to dinner for months. It truly felt like such a wonderful treat to be in such beautiful ambiance in the company of my love.
Catalina is teaming with fun activities for a myriad of interests. There is everything from buffalo tours (fun fact Catalina is home to some wild buffalo), boat rentals, snorkeling, zip lining, parasailing, and so much more. Our favorite activity was the partially submerged submarine.
You start off boarding a sub where the upper deck is exposed and you make your way downstairs to the underwater level. We were able to safely social distance with very limited people down below. The captain then takes you over to an area called Lovers Cove where they feed the local fish. Many different types of fish are swirling around in a frenzy and it is honestly such a magical and fun experience. It is truly one of the coolest aquatic escapades I have ever participated in. On the way back you are invited to sit on the upper deck and take in some of the fabulous views of the island while heading back to the dock.
Overall our experience in Catalina was dreamy, majestic, and a much needed mini vacay. While it is imperative to take precautions during this time, I felt that by spending the majority of time outdoors and being mindful with our masks and hand sanitizer we were really able to enjoy our time on the island.
There are still so many things I want to explore on Catalina and I can not wait until we can take our next Jet Cat over to this iconic island that delivers on adventure, romance, and relaxation. Until next time babes!