How to Get to Santa Catalina Island
Catalina Island is located 22 miles off the Southern California coast. You can get there by boat, helicopter and private plane. Avalon is the only “city” on the island and, while small (2 square miles) it provides everything a vacationer will need. There are 2 markets, a drug store, a well equipped medical center, clothing stores, restaurants, tourist services and shops.
Catalina is in Los Angeles County in the 310 area code and is patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff. Your cell phone will work in most parts of Avalon.
For boat schedules and to reserve boat tickets for boats that leave from San Pedro, Long Beach Golden Shores, and Dana Point go to Catalinaexpress.com or call (310) 519-1212. ($74.50 roundtrip per adult) Travel time dock to dock is between one hour and one and a half hours. Dana Point takes longer. For us, our vacation begins when we walk onto the boat and begin to relax.
For schedules and prices for boats that leave from Newport Beach
Call (949) 673-5245. ($70.00 round-trip for adults). Travel time dock to dock is one hour fifteen minutes.
Helicopters fly from Long Beach Queen Mary. For schedules and prices go to:
IEX HELICOPTERS (800) 228-2566 1175 Queens Way Long Beach, CA One Way: $159.00 per person Round Trip” $298.00 per person.
Travel time is about 15-16 minutes . Traveling by helicopter is a wonderful experience and the views are spectacular.
Private planes land at Airport in the Sky. It is a 40-minute cab or bus ride to and from the airport on a paved but winding road.
Parking fees at the ports vary but you should expect to pay around $17.00 per day.
If expense is not an issue and you plan on leaving from San Pedro, consider taking the boat one-way and flying back on the helicopter.
Make your transportation arrangements as far in advance as possible, as the island is a very popular tourist resort.
A Word About the Boat Trip and Seasickness
Today, boats are either catamarans, stabilized or planing hulled, with smoother rides, much shorter trips and, under normal conditions, few people, if any, get sea sick. When we began visiting Catalina Island 30 years ago, the boats were slower, had displacement hulls that rocked with every swell during a trip that took up to 2 1/2 hours. Some people got seasick. Things have changed a lot over the years. On our recent trips to the island we don’t recall seeing very many seasick people.
On the other hand, once the boat passes the LA Light and reaches open sea, there is no predicting what sea conditions will be and how you will react. Our family does not get seasick at all and you might not either. If you are concerned, Dramamine and Bonine are two popular over the counter drugs, which are said to counteract seasickness. We have never taken them and have no personal experience with them. Before you take anything please check with your Doctor or Pharmacist.
Dramamine is usually taken an hour before the trip begins. The problem is that Dramamine will make you sleepy and it will take awhile for the effects to wear off which ruins the first few hours of the trip on the island. Bonine is said to cause less drowsiness. We have never taken any of these so we are just passing on information we have heard from boat passengers.
Most of the time we’ve escorted people to and from the island they have not gotten sick at all. As a precaution, however, we make certain no one is reading, playing video games or looking at computer screens while the boat is underway. We try to get people to look out the window so there is always a visual mental connection between what they see outside and any pitch of the boat that they feel inside. For this reason we prefer to travel during the day when there is light.
Drinking coffee, orange juice or other acids before or during the trip is not a good idea. Giving infants milk just before or during the voyage is not a good idea. The trip is only about an hour. Eat when you get to the island instead of before the trip. Eating something starchy like crackers or a bagel before the trip is a good idea. Sometimes we suggest drinking Ginger Ale (sold on the boat). The ginger is good seasick medicine. Finally, we try to get people to carefully move around to the stern deck of the boat or outside where the wind is refreshing if they are feeling unwell.
When you move around on the boat, remember the old sailors rule: use one hand for yourself and the other hand for the boat – meaning that one of your hands should always be holding on to something, a seat back, a railing, a pillar, etc., while the boat is in motion. Never carry anything with both hands.
Where you sit on the boat can dramatically affect your ride. Most people head for the front of the boat to get a forward view. Experienced boat travelers head for the back of the boat. As a boat travels forward there is a constant motion of water bumping against the hull in the front of the boat while the back of the boat sits down in calmer waters. You want to be in the back where it is calmer. If you can, sit near a window and look out.
If you see unoccupied seats at a window table, where other people are already sitting, it is acceptable for you to sit on the unoccupied seats. On one of the Express Boats, the back of the boat has no windows and is like a cave. If you are on this boat stay away from the back if you can. If not, get up and walk around – look out at the horizon and be aware of what is going on outside the boat during the trip. You will see other boats, ships, and perhaps an occasional whale or a school of porpoises. Looking out is part of the excitement of the trip.
The boat line posts sea conditions at the ticket counters. 3-foot seas and 5-foot swells would make a reasonable trip over. If they are posting SMALL CRAFT WARNINGS, you should consider taking the Helicopter, rescheduling your vacation or being prepared for a bumpy ride. We have traveled during 8-foot seas and we don’t want to do it again. The boats will survive the rough seas but you might not be in very good condition at the end of the trip.
For weather conditions on the Los Angeles coast phone: (805) 988-6610 (Press 1)
We will not travel on a boat during a SMALL CRAFT WARNING. We consider sea conditions part of the adventure of visiting an island 26 miles offshore. There is a weather radio in our condo so you can check on sea conditions for your return trip.