This was our second time visiting Catalina Island and let me tell you, it's one of my favorite spots ever. It’s charming, stunning, and it has the perfect mix of nature adventure, relaxing vibe, & family-friendly activities.
During this trip to Catalina Island we stayed at the newly renovated Bellanca Hotel, a premier luxury ocean front hotel that just reopened July 2020. Located in the best spot, just footsteps from the water in the heart of Avalon. Walking distance from the beach, shops, restaurants & the port.
The hotel has a guest-exclusive panoramic rooftop lounge with harbor views and comfy lounge areas, where you can bring your own food and drinks, perfect place to relax & eat with the family more freely than in a restaurant. Great with minis, you know what I mean!
They also provide you with beach towels and chairs, and they offer complementary bikes too.
This boutique hotel is small, quiet, and extremely clean. And for added peace of mind (while
traveling with babies & these Covid times), we bring disinfecting wipes for the room's light switches, telephone and knobs, and we cancel room cleaning so no one comes into our space during our stay.
Our room was a spacious “oceanfront studio” (502 for reference) that featured this balcony pictured below, a king bed, a couch area (which turns into a bed), a gas fireplace and big soaking tub! If you are traveling with your family, I definitely recommend this room type or the “luxury ocean view suite” for extra space which also includes a separate living area.
Getting to Catalina from LA is actually super easy. We took the Catalina Express from Long Beach to Avalon (1 hour ride). They also have ports in San Pedro and Dana Point and the boat services up to 30 departures daily, so you can create an itinerary that works for you. Check out their schedules and fares here.
They offer indoor and outdoor seating and they are currently working at a reduced capacity to allow social distancing on board too. And of course, coming on a weekday like we did helps even more.
We took the 3pm boat so we arrived to Catalina at 4pm. The boat docks in the heart if Avalon, so we easily walked to Bellanca Hotel in 7minutes. We checked in, left our bags, and decided to go for a stroll and early dinner by the water at Bluewater.
During Covid, all indoor restaurants are closed, however, a majority of the restaurants on the main street (Crescent Avenue) are setting up their tables on the beach, at around 5pm, which is actually super cute.
After dinner, since it was still early, we decided to go mini golfing, I brought the carrier to wear Beckham and have free hands, Sofia had so much fun. Definitely a great activity for families with kids 2 and older, when it is not super hot out. The evening was just perfect.
And we still got to the hotel early for bed time. A must during vacations since Sofia wakes up at 6am and I still wake often at night for feedings!
We woke up and went to have breakfast at Antonio’s Pizzeria, across the street from the hotel. They have a big patio by the water and serve classic American breakfast in the morning, 7am to 11am.
From there we went straight to the beach to enjoy the gorgeous summer weather. Right across the hotel there's a little beach area perfect to lay by the water and jump in to cool off. However, it's not the easiest to play in with kids so we went to Descanso Beach, a quick (and beautiful) 10minute walk from the hotel. I recommend bringing a stroller for the little ones because you can walk everywhere, and it was a great spot for B to sleep on-the-go.
Descanso beach area is my favorite. It features Avalon’s only beach side restaurant and bar, where you can enjoy a fantastic menu selection of food, appetizers and drinks (make sure to ask for the kids menu). I recommend going here first thing in the morning to grab some chairs (at $10 each) and a table (free), since they work on a first-come, first-serve basis. And during Covid, they are spacing them out a lot, and don't let anyone lay/hang in between, which is amazing! We got there at 10am and it was completely empty, we were able to enjoy ocean front seating and be at peace.
At 3pm we went back to town to take the Glass Bottom Boat, a perfect family friendly activity, this boat takes you to see a variety of colorful fish and other sea life through the glass floor as you cruise through one of the healthiest marine environments in the world. They recommend advanced reservations, especially now as the boats are running at 50% capacity due to Covid.
At 5:30pm we headed back to Bellanca and decided to have early dinner at Naughty Fox restaurant, the restaurant located in the hotel. It is a great option for lunch or dinner with the family as it offers a very relaxed vibe and beautiful views of the bay. They offer seaside classics and elevated cafe options, we had the Smoked Tartar, Frito Misto, Bella Chop Salad and the Tacos.
We had breakfast at Pancake Cottage and we headed to the same beach spot at Descanso again.
By the way, the bathrooms at Descanso beach are impeccable, big and clean, and also offer changing station for your babies/toddler and showers! Just follow the bathroom sign.
We played, lounged, had lunch and this day we also went Kayaking! There is a booth at Descanso beach, in front of the kayaks, where you can rent them and other water activities too.
The kayaks are a perfect family water activity. They have life jackets for every size, and Beckham could come too. However, only two people are allowed per kayak, even if they are small children, and we did not feel comfortable taking B by ourselves alone since she can't even sit up yet, so we decided to take Sofia alone and take turns, which was so fun.
At 3pm we had another activity booked, so we went back to town to take the Undersea submarine expedition! This activity was SO fun too, you come face-to-face with Catalina’s abundant marine life aboard the Sea Wolf Semi-Submersible, as you cruise five feet below the surface in a spacious, climate-controlled cabin. Every passenger has their own seat and port hole. Plus, you’re free to roam about the cabin to enjoy other viewpoints. Sofia's face of excitement was just too much, we loved it! If you have to choose between the Glass Bottom boat or the Submarine, with kids I recommend the submarine more, although we enjoyed both!
Again, they recommend booking these activities in advanced since they run at 50% capacity, but you can also stop at the booths at the main pier in the village and ask what is available last minute too, they have multiple services daily.
For dinner, we decided to grab food to-go and enjoy from the hotel's private rooftop lounge, which was completely empty, it has chairs tables and umbrellas, and the best views of the harbor! A perfect and causal meal, exactly what we needed. Then big family bubble bath, and early bedtime!
On our last day we went to breakfast at Toyon Grill and back to Descanso Beach in the morning after breakfast, but this time, to kick the experience up a notch, we rented a cabana from the private beach club area (pictured below) definitely recommended if you are a group or family and want some nice cabana shade and couches/beds to lounge in, you can reserve beds or cabanas here, definitely need to make a reservation for these in the summer and weekends.
After the beach lunch we headed back to town to grab a boat and cruise around the island, which was a blast, followed by an ice cream at their iconic Lloyds. Must stop!
At 530pm the Catalina Express boat was departing back to Long Beach (you have to be there 30min prior) so we headed to the hotel, grabbed our bags that were ready and packed waiting for us in the lobby, and walked back to the boat.
In just 1hour we were back to main land. Got on our car (there's a parking at the Long Beach Terminal that is $19/night) and had a 30min drive back home.
A super easy escape, although it truly feels like being way further away somewhere in the Mediterranean. The waters are so clean and turquoise, it's just gorgeous.
Overall we kept the whole trip super low key and chill, with a couple of very calm activities, because Beckham was so young (2months and 3 weeks) but we plan on coming every year and adapting our activities as he grows.
We love Catalina so much here. If you have not visited, you should. See below for more activities!
OTHER ACTIVITIES YOU CAN DO IN CATALINA
Usually, one of our favorite things to do in the island is rent a golf cart from Catalina Golf Cart Rentals and go explore the island and it's breathtaking viewing points. We did this last time with Sofia and it was so much fun and we got to see the island from incredible locations.
They rent carts with car seats for babies of 8 months up, which makes it an easy family activity. So this time, Beckham was too little to ride. And also as an FYI, know that if you have more than one kid, there can only be one car seat per cart, and an adult has to ride with the infant in the back (plus the driver) which means even when B is over 8 months, us 4 wont be able to split in two carts either, because we will need an adult riding in the back with each toddler too. Bummer! We will need to wait to do this activity when they are older kids.
Other outdoor activities if you are traveling with older kids or as adults only:
- Yoga by the sea, info here.
- Avalon Harbor Lights, info here.
- Snorkeling, info here.
- Scuba Diving, info here.
- Discover two harbors, info here
- Tour Plaza, info here
- Bison Expedition, info here
- Discover Avalon, info here
- Aerial Adventure, info here
- Zip Lining, info here
- Exclusive Tours, info here
- Camping, info here
- Falcon experience, info here
- Ridgetop Eco Adventure, info here
- Rock climbing wall, info here
- Hiking, info here
* Definitely recommend booking your activities in advanced!
Closed during Covid, but also great once it opens again:
- The Casino Tour, info here
- Twilight at the Casino instead, info here