Catalina has always been on my bucket list! I am a sucker for the west coast and frequent California often. There are so many fantastic beaches in southern California it is hard to prioritize which ones to visit on short weekend getaways. In my opinion Catalina is a must see!
So you may be asking yourself, why only 8 hours in Catalina? Well my husband and I like to get away every year around our anniversary in September. Since we have two toddlers our trips are often limited to 3 fabulous kid free days and nights. With limited time we didn’t think we would have time to spend the night in Catalina and still beach hop down Highway 1 so we dedicated one full day to go see this beautiful island in the Pacific.
We read many articles that it is best to pre-purchase ferry tickets because in peak seasons they can sell out. We were staying in Laguna and ended up taking a ferry out of Long Beach on the Catalina Express. The drive to Long Beach took a little over an hour from Laguna. What I didn’t realize at the time was there is a different ferry company in Newport which would have been a lot closer: Catalina Tours. Make sure to see which ferry is closer to you before booking. With that being said the Catalina Express was great! It took around an hour to get from Long Beach to Catalina. It was a smooth boat ride over the beautiful deep blue Pacific waters and as an added bonus we even saw some dolphins!
There are some great photo opts as the ferry approaches Catalina. You can see the majority of Avalon as you pull into port! I recommend getting to the port a little early to load the ferry so you can get a great seat by the window.
I think one of my favorite parts about Catalina is the size. It is not overly large so you can walk around easily. There were massive lines to rent golf carts to tour the island with so we skipped the line and walked straight over to Luau Larry’s for a drink…yes it was barely 11am but when on an island kid free you drink!
Luau Larry’s is known for their drink called the Wiki Wacker. With a tag line like “One Wiki Wacker and you will leave here with your Wiki Wacked!” We had no choice but to order two. Best part about the wiki wacker… you get this awesome hat! I mean who would not want to wear this hat all day?!
In addition the Wiki Wacker I opted to try the island’s official drink: Buffalo Milk. It is a mix of milk, banana, and liquor. I mean when in Catalina you have to try the signature drink right?
The island kind of has an obsession with buffalos from the signature buffalo milk drink to brightly painted bison statues around Catalina. Apparently buffalo were brought over to Catalina for a movie shoot about 100 years ago and left on the island…if you ask me they have a pretty awesome place to live! I know there are tours on the island where you can see the bison for yourself if that is your cup of tea. Here is a highly rated company to try: Catalina Jeep Tour. Since my husband and I are more beach bums than safari people so we opted for the Descanso Beach Club instead.
It was about a 5 minute walk from Luau Larry’s to the beach club (again one of the reasons I love Catalina is you can walk everywhere! No hassle with driving and looking for/paying for parking…plus you can drink and not need a designated driver…ok maybe you will need a designated time keeper to make sure you get back to your return ferry on time!)
The beach club is beautiful. There is a great outdoor covered tiki bar and dining area. SERIOUSLY NO JOKE… BEST TUNA POKE BOWL I HAVE EVER HAD! I would go back to Catalina just to eat this dish again!
After a great bite to eat we took our towels down to the beach and people watched. If you are not a fan of sitting the sand they have great chairs and cabanas for rent. Check out pricing here: Beach Club Rentals. The bar played great music and we sat and drank mojitos for most of the afternoon. I tried to get into the water, but being a Texas girl it was too cold for me. I love the sound of the ocean so as long as I can see it and hear it I am a happy camper.
We spent most of our day enjoying local bars, food, and the beach. If you are looking for other fun activities to add to your itinerary try a few of these options:
- Cyclone Seal Rock Safari
- Zip Line Echo Tour (Make sure you pack closed toe shoes)
- Cape Canyon Tour
- Rent a kayak
- Snorkle or scuba dive
Most of these options are 1 hour to 4 hour durations and can fit perfectly within your 8 hour time constraint!
We absolutely loved our time on this island. You feel like you are in Europe or somewhere exotic…not just an hour off the coast of California. We will definitely go back perhaps with more time. There are some cool camping options that would be fun to experience…I mean what could be more beautiful then going to sleep and waking up on an island the pacific ocean?
I hope you love exploring Catalina as much as we did!