The most common way to get to to Catalina Island from the mainland is to take a ferry. You can catch a Catalina ferry in Long Beach, San Pedro, Marina Del Rey, Dana Point or Newport Beach.
San Pedro to Catalina Ferry
Catalina Express goes to Avalon (a 1.5-hour trip) and Two Harbors. Their schedule varies by season and they don't run every day off-season. The departure point is just below the big bridge at Berth 95 at the Sea/Air terminal, near the cruise ship terminals.
Long Beach to Catalina Ferry
Catalina Express boats leave downtown from Catalina Landing daily and across the harbor near the Queen Mary. Both locations have plenty of nearby parking, which is slightly cheaper at the Queen Mary. This trip takes an hour. Buy your tickets online through Kijubi.com
Marina Del Rey to Catalina Ferry
The Catalina-Marina del Rey Flyer closed in early 2012, making San Pedro the closest ferry port to that area.
Newport Beach to Catalina Ferry
Catalina Express makes one trip a day from Newport Beach (Orange County) to Avalon, leaving Newport Beach in the morning and returning in the late afternoon. Buy your tickets online through Kijubi.com
Dana Point to Catalina Ferry
Catalina Express runs at least one ferry per week between Avalon and Dana Point in southern Orange County. This is the closest Catalina ferry from San Diego. Buy your tickets online through Kijubi.com
Tips for Taking a Catalina Ferry
These tips apply to all the Catalina ferry companies, although baggage policies may vary slightly.
- Be prepared for sticker shock. Taking a Catalina ferry isn't as cheap as taking the bus. Round trip Catalina ferry fare was about $70 per adult in mid-2009. You may be able to save money by booking a hotel/ferry package. Check the hotel websites to see what's available.
- Get your fingers off the keyboard and pick up the phone to make your Catalina Express reservation. If you reserve online and find a discount coupon after that, you won't be able to use it, but discounts can be applied to phone reservations when you pay at the ferry terminal. Their reservation phone number is on their website.
- Reserve your Catalina ferry trip in advance. At busy times, they sell out far ahead of time.
- Be sure to bring your Catalina ferry reservation number with you and to avoid having your ticket canceled, get there early. You need to check in at least 30 minutes ahead of time and an hour is better. If you're later than 15 minutes before departure, you may find your trip canceled.
- Soft-soled shoes with tread on the bottom will help you get around without slipping, especially on the ramps.
- For this motion-sickness-prone travel writer, a Catalina ferry ride is the most nausea-inducing trip I've encountered. Bring your favorite remedy if you have any concerns. Crew members say it's better to stay outside where you can get lots of fresh air if you fell woozy.
- Pets are allowed, but they must be muzzled
- Each passenger can bring two pieces of luggage, no larger than 21×24x36 and weighing no more than 70 pounds each.
- One fold-up child's stroller is allowed free of charge, but you'll have to stow it in the baggage compartment. Bicycles, jogger strollers, children's wagons, surfboards and some other large items are allowed on a space available basis, but there may be a small extra charge. Tandem bikes and kayaks are not allowed.
- A wide range of potentially dangerous items are not allowed on the Catalina ferry. The ones that might affect you - especially if you plan to go camping - are butane cylinders and camp stove fuel, charcoal, firewood, fireworks and matches. If you're unsure about anything else, call and ask. Divers should also ask what they can bring along.