I have lived in LA for 10 years and I still had not been to Catalina Island. Like surprisingly, a majority of the people I know that live (or even are from) Los Angeles. I truly don't know why, because it is just an hour ferry ride from mainland, and the destination is as gorgeous as it gets!
Today, I am sharing the exact itinerary that we did, with the exact family friendly activities, so that you can also explore this incredible spot in SoCal!
We left from Long Beach to Avalon with the Catalina Express. As I mentioned, the boat ride is about an hour long, and so easy & comfortable. We sat at the indoor lounge (which is $15 more expensive that the outdoor seating and the ticket comes with a drink included). I would recommend indoor seating with kids/babies, since it's more comfy regardless of any weather condition. But the outdoor seating was great too. You can park your car at the parking and roll your suitcases on to the boat. You don't have to book the tickets too far in advanced as there are a few boats per day, but they do recommend booking at least a week prior, especially if you want to leave on a weekend day.
When we arrived to Avalon we walked to our hotel, The Pavilion Hotel. Literally steps away and located ocean front, in the middle of the town. It's maybe a 3min walk, and they even have a personalized concierge that carry your luggage from the ferry. We absolutely loved the hotel for many reasons. Number one is the location convenience, so easy to walk anywhere for lunch, dinner, a snack.... you def want to be there! The hotel itself is also super charming, and they have cheese & wine hour every day at 4:30pm, which is amazing and relaxing. Breakfast comes included and is super complete too. And a few activities come included with the hotel stay, like Avalon's Scenec Drive and the Glass Bottom Boat. They also provide you with a bike to explore, beach towls and access to Descanso Beach Club, which we loved.
We got settled in and we explored the town, before heading to our first activity, the Glass Bottom Boat. Perfect with kids & toddlers! Definitely recommendable, you get to see the ocean and the beautiful coastline from the water.
After that we got changed and it was time for dinner. With Sofia's bed time being 7pm, our dinners when traveling have to be early too (it's that or room service). We went to the Avalon Grille (423 Crescent Avenue), a mix of urban chic and island casual vibe, they serve the freshest ingredients and have a wall of harbor-view windows that open to create an al fresco dining experience. I had the seabass and my husband had steak and both were amazing. We brought Sofia's food with us.
We woke up and had amazing breakfast at the hotel and then walked to the Catalina Golf Cart Rentals (2min walk). This is def a MUST when in Catalina. We took the cart (yes, they also provide a car seat!!) and went through the coastline to explore the hills of Avalon stopping at scenic outlooks with breathtaking views and photo ops of Avalon Bay. We explored for 2h and timing was perfect. I would also recommend going when it's not cloudy, for better views, and a more enjoyable experience since it tends to be colder when cloudy. It was so nice and warm as soon as the sun came out! So much fun.
After that we did the Wrigley Centennial 125th anniversary tour. This was great because it was a narrated bus tour to learn about the historic venues including the Catalina Country Club, originally built as the clubhouse for Wrigley’s Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens, Catalina Chimes Tower, the former Bird Park, and the site where the Cubs once held Spring Training.
Then we went back to the hotel for Sofia's nap (she only takes one nap and it's a 2h one, so in order for all of us to enjoy the activities, she needs to get her nap in, so luckily the hotel was super well located in the heart of town). She got to sleep and we worked, and back to the activities!
We went for lunch at Descanso Beach Club where I had a salmon salad and my husband had a chicken sandwich. The walk from the hotel to the club is maybe 15-20min, but it is the nicest walk there is. On a pavement road and along the ocean. Beautiful. We did not bring a stroller, just the carrier, and it was great! Descanso Beach club is Avalon’s only beach side restaurant and bar. It’s also one of Southern California’s last private beaches open to the public, where you can have a drink in your hand and your feet in the sand. Spectacular views, cool island vibe, comfortable chaise lounges, signature food and drinks, attentive staff and they also offer easy access to water activities including Catalina Aerial Adventure, Catalina Climbing Wall, Catalina Falconry Experience and the top-rated Zip Line Eco Tour. So we got to enjoy some of those activities as well (easy because while my hubby zip lined, I was comfortably waiting at the Beach Club, you can perfectly take turns or wait).
We went back to the hotel for bath/shower and then out for early dinner again. We enjoyed a seafood dinner at the Lobster Trap (128 Catalina Ave.). A locals favorite, owned by commercial lobster fisherman Caleb Lins since 2008. Lins plies the fertile waters off the Channel Islands in his 40-foot boat, Money Matters, bringing in local fish and California spiny lobster to his casual eatery in Avalon, the island's main town. When it's in season — October through March — you can order up the spiny lobster plate, a split, whole Pacific lobster served with all-American sides such as baked potato and coleslaw. (Unlike North Atlantic lobsters, spinys have no front claws, so most of the edible briny meat comes from the tail.) Or try the ceviche made from local white sea bass, traditionally prepared and incredibly fresh. Look for other indigenous eats such as sand dabs and yellowtail — and wash it all down with some Lost Coast Brewery pale ale.”
We had breakfast oceanfront from the Pavilion Hotel and went for a stroll around town with our warm coffee to-go. I love the cozy mornings in the island because it's cool, cloudy and just so beautiful.
Then we went on an Undersea Expedition (at Green Pier, located right in front of the hotel) where we saw Catalina’s abundant marine life, such a perfect toddler activity!
And finally, went back to packing and got back on the ferry to Long Beach with Catalina Express! There are a few boats per day, so you can choose the one that suits your schedule best.
Honestly, this trip was so perfect with a baby, toddler, or kid. Catalina is the ideal slow pace getaway if you are looking for a relaxing time and quick vacay, this is the best option! Babymoon, trip with a kids, romantic escape... just so perfect.
This island is a dream, so picturesque, charming and gorgeous, and I already can't wait to be back!
OTHER ACTIVITIES YOU MAY ENJOY WITH NO KIDS OR OLDER KIDS
- With older kids, or as a couple, mini golf is fun! Check it out here
- Yoga by the sea, Kayak by blue Caverns & Hike to Ballast Point. Def fun if you love the outdoors and with no kids, check it all here.
- Avalon Harbor Lights. A unique look at night. Super romantic. Check it out here.
- Snorkeling, info here.
- Scuba Diving, info here.
- Ocean expedition with boat runner. Info here.