One Day in Catalina Island
Escape the busy city and infamous L.A. traffic jams by immersing yourself in the Mediterranean charm of Catalina Island. Just a short ferry ride from the mainland, Catalina Island is a hidden gem that is perfect for a day trip. We put together a one-day itinerary with our best picks to get the most of your Catalina Island Day Trip.
Whether arriving by cruise ship or the Catalina Express ferry you want to make sure to get the most out of your day on Catalina Island. You’ll most likely arrive on the island between 10am and 11am and depart between 4pm and 5pm, which gives you a good 5-6 hours to enjoy Catalina Island.
Arriving By Ferry
Depending on your departure port, the ferries usually arrive between 10am to 11am and usually depart around 5pm. We took a round trip ferry with the Catalina Express from Dana Point, that departed at 9:30am. The ferry ride is about 1.5 hours, so you’ll arrive around 11am. The last ferry from Avalon to Dana Point is at 5pm, which gives you about 6 hrs on the island.
Arriving By Cruise Ship
We saw most cruise ships arriving early between 7:30am and 8:30am and the first visitors arriving around 9am, and transport back started around 2:30pm to 3pm. This should give you 5-6 hours to enjoy Catalina Island. Even when back on the cruise ship you’ll still be able to enjoy stunning views of Catalina Island from the cruise ship until you continue your journey.
No matter how you get to Catalina Island, you’ll have plenty of time to explore Avalon. This gives you a good couple of hours to explore Avalon and Catalina Island.
Depending on what you are in the mood for we created three itineraries for you.
If you want to see most of Avalon in one day on your own, this itinerary is a good fit for you.
Rent a Golf Cart
When you arrive in Avalon, head to a golf cart rental place to pick up your golf cart. During the summer we recommend making a reservation in advance. The staff will provide you with a map and directions. All viewpoints are fairly easy to get to and most viewpoints have some spaces to park your golf cart. Renting a golf cart is the perfect activity for your Catalina Island Day Trip and a great way to see many spots in a short time.
Most rentals are for 2 hours, which gives you enough time to explore Avalon and its surrounding areas.
Estimated Time: 2 hrs
Grab a Coffee & Quick Bite at Café Metropole
Once you return your golf cart, you’ll have some time to explore the promenade and grab a coffee or fresh juice as well as some delicious sandwiches at Café Metropole.
Tour the Casino
Probably the most unique structure on the Island, the Casino is definitively worth a visit. If you have the time, we recommend the long tour (about 2 hours). This gives you not only more time to enjoy but you’ll also learn more about its history and explore different parts of the building. If you’re only visiting for a day, the shorter walking tour is the better option.
With this itinerary, you’ll most likely do the tour at 2pm.
Check the times for the tour here.
Have a Drink & Snacks at Descanso Beach Club
If you did the short tour, you’ll have some time to relax. Enjoy some drinks at Descanso Beach Club before heading back home.
Keep in mind that it’s about a 10-15 minute walk to get from Descanso Beach Club to the departure pier.
Up for an adventure? This itinerary is for you.
Early Lunch at Bluewater or Naughty Fox
Enjoy a relaxed early breakfast before heading out to your adventure.
When visiting for just the day, your options are the 12:30pm or 2:30pm tour, but keep in mind that the tours take around 2 hours. While getting stuck in Catalina is not the worst thing that can happen, we recommend planning a bit more time to get around.
The Bison tour is about a 2-hour adventure that takes you from Avalon into the center of the island where you’ll get some amazing viewpoints and the chance to spot bison and Catalina foxes.
Bison tour (9:30am, 12:30pm & 2:30pm) about 2 hours
If the bison tour is not your thing you can also do the Zip Line Adventure. The zip line tour gives you some amazing views of the island and ends very close to the Descanso Beach Club where you can enjoy a cold drink after your adventure.
Visit the Catalina Chime Tower Lookout
We didn’t find an official name of this viewpoint but it’s just past the Chimes Tower and about a 10- to 15-minute walk from downtown Avalon.
Passing the Catalina Chimes Tower, you’ll find a little lookout with some great views of Avalon. We recommend walking since the roads are very narrow and there is no parking for your golf cart. From the Bellanca Hotel it’s about a 10-minute walk.
Relax With a Drink at Descanso Beach Club or Naughty Fox
Wind down after an exciting day with a drink and snack before heading back to the ship.
If you end up going to the Naughty Fox we really recommend the Ahi Poke Nachos.
If you are more into a relaxing time in Avalon, here’s the right itinerary for you:
Get a Spa Treatment
The Island Spa offers some amazing and relaxing treatments. You could easily spend an entire day here.
We don’t like going to the spa on a full stomach and would usually do lunch or dinner afterwards.
Lunch at Naughty Fox
Just across the street you can get some amazing drinks and food. Like we recommended before, don’t miss out on the Ahi Poke Nachos.
From here it’s a quick walk to the Casino, enjoy the view and take some photos. If you’re getting thirsty, continue to Descanso Beach Blub to relax with a cold drink.
Make Your Own Catalina Tile
If you have the time, we recommend the Catalina Tile Experience. Robin is amazing at explaining the history and tile making process of the tiles you see everywhere in Avalon and on Catalina Island.
Plan about 1.5 to 2 hours for this experience.
Need more information on Catalina Island?
View our extensive Catalina Island blog and trip itineraries for more information and recommendations.