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The Ultimate Catalina Island Getaway Travel Guide

How do I Get There?

Craving a weekend getaway, but don’t want to deal with the cost and time of going to an airport? Are you trying to find the best vacation spot near Los Angeles that is filled with thrilling excursions? Leave it to The LA Girl, because we got you covered! Catalina is an island just southwest of Los Angeles and is only a 1-hour ferry ride away! It is filled with some of the best restaurants, delicious coffee shops, beaches, and the most exciting activities for stay-cay that feels like a complete week’s vay-cay. The Catalina Express will make your travel experience seamless, with a quick and comfortable ride to your final destination! Follow along to read more about how to plan the best Catalina Getaway.

The first steps to planning a trip are deciding where you want to go and how you will arrive. Traveling to Catalina Island is  simple with our favorite way of transportation and most popular choice: the ferry.

The Catalina Express Ferry

The Catalina Express is the safest, easiest, and most cost-friendly way to travel to your Catalina getaway! It was founded in 1981 and has since then become the fan-favorite way of transportation to Catalina Island. With up to 30 departure times per day and several ports, you are sure to find a time that fits into your busy schedule. Comfortable seating, a full bar (YAY) and tasty snacks are just a few of the many things we LOVE about the Catalina Express experience.

Insider tip: The best seat in the house is on the very top deck under the overhang. Secure it to see the most amazing views while experiencing the least amount of wind.

Where Do I Stay? 

Next step, where should you stay? Figuring out what hotel you are going to stay at can be a difficult process for a place you have never visited! Here is our recommendation for the best hotel on Catalina Island!

LA Girl Favorite: Hotel Atwater

If you like the most renovated, up to date amenities and spaces, this one is a fabulous pick. The Hotel Atwater has an elegant ambiance with ocean-inspired decor and vintage set-ups for the ultimate aesthetic vibes. It is one of the most renovated hotels on Catalina Island and it is evident to the eye as soon as you walk in. From the moment we stepped onto the property, we were greeted with nothing but cheery smiles and excellent service. It is an excellent location if you’re interested in visiting the local restaurants and sightseeing.

Insider tip: P.S. Open the mini-fridge in your hotel room to enjoy two complimentary bottles of champagne! And when it comes time to grab a morning cup of coffee,  the hotel also hosts one of the most gram-worthy cafe fronts on the block: Bistro at the Atwater.

Best Places to Eat

Trying local eateries can be one of the best ways to experience a new place! After a long day of exploring, you will need to check out a few of our favorite places to eat on Catalina. Enjoy.

Naughty Fox

The Naughty Fox is one of Catalina’s newest hot-spot restaurants! Boy, do they know how to present some amazing-looking entrees! It is located inside the Bellanca Hotel and overlooks the beautiful beach of Avalon. You will have a tough time choosing between their amazing menu options, so you better order it all and share it amongst the table. Our Editor-in-Chief, Erika De La Cruz enjoyed a delicious meal here accompanied by fantastic service from the servers and staff members. (Rumor has it that Zach Efron stopped in to eat recently too.) 

Lobster Sushi Roll, Hummus and Naan, Mac n Cheese, Catalina Salad and some tasty cocktails were just a few of the many things that caught our eye on the menu. See for yourself just how great this experience was by visiting the Naughty Fox for your next lunch on Catalina Island!

Fun Fact: “We left our phone at the restaurant and one of our servers personally rode their bike down the road to drop it off for us. When we say amazing service, we genuinely mean AMAZING service!”  – De La Cruz

Descanso Beach Club

Just a short ways away from the Catalina Casino you will find the delicious Descanso Beach Club. This restaurant is the only beachside restaurant on Catalina and is a must-go-to spot. You can enjoy your time on one of the last private beaches open to the public in California while having a drink in hand and a bite to eat! 

With a menu serving items like The Beach Salad, Clam Chowder Bread Bowl, DBC Cheeseburger, and more, it is the perfect place to stop in for a quick yet relaxing bite to eat. The ambiance feels luxurious and there’s fun drinks served all day.

Insider tip: Make your day even classier by elevating your experience at Descanso Beach Club and renting a private cabana or beach chairs. There are also changing areas and showers on the property in case you’re coming from an activity and want to hit the beach with ease.

The M Restaurant

The M Restaurant is a delicious, Italian-inspired dinner spot that has curated one of the best menus on Catalina Island. They offer various options like Calamari, Shrimp Cocktail, Baked Lasagna, and Filet Mignon, all from fresh ingredients and local sources! The seating options vary from a patio with an ocean view, an upscale dining room and a courtyard location, depending on where you are looking to sit. Ask your server what the best wine pairing is for the specific dish you order. Don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth with a spectacular dessert!

What Should I Do There? (Best Activities)

One of our favorite parts about visiting Catalina Island is the fantastic excursion options for tourists. Whether you’re feeling adventurous and want to go zip lining or would rather spend a calm day exploring the island, Catalina has an activity for you. Check out The LA Girl’s favorite activities to do on your getaway!

Zip Line Eco Tour

Alrighty, who’s feeling adventurous?! The Zip Line Eco Tour was the most thrilling activity we’ve experienced in a long time! If you need a major adrenaline rush and are looking for an excursion that will satisfy everyone in your group, this is a great go-to option. You’ll be provided with the necessary gear, a shuttle ride up to the top, and then you will be on your way swinging in zig-zag motions!

Insider tip: If you’re thinking about zip-lining, be sure to upgrade to the Eco Tour. This tour is 2 hours long and is filled with the most amazing views of the beaches, canyon, and eucalyptus trees. Not only will you get to experience zip-lining at speeds of 35 mph, but the tour guide will provide facts about some of the flora and fauna that are exclusive to Catalina Island!

Catalina Golf Cart Rentals

This is a very popular choice and we highly recommend it! Many tourists looking for a way to view the entire island in just a day or two decide to rent a golf cart from the Catalina Golf Cart Rentals. This activity allows you to travel around the island and along the coast to experience some of the best views of Avalon Bay. Not only will you have the chance to see all of the beautiful things Catalina has to offer, but this activity offers some great photo ops! Grab a map, step on the gas, and start exploring!

California Parasail

Here’s another thrilling excursion recommendation for you! The California Parasail experience was one that we will never forget. Imagine yourself strapped in, your heart is racing and suddenly you’re floating above the water, looking out at the most breathtaking views… Wow! Make sure to sign up to parasail if this experience sounds like the one for you! You have the option of choosing between 600 or 800-foot flights, but either way, you will have a blast.

For more activities, details and information for your next Catalina Island Getaway, head to Visit Catalina Island.   

Photos, courtesy if Minimalist Movement