Transportation Options in Catalina Island

Transportation Options in Catalina Island

Located just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, the charming island of Catalina provides a Mediterranean escape with palm-fringed beaches, coastal trails, picturesque villages, and endless outdoor recreation. But before reveling in Catalina’s natural splendor and relaxation, you must first get there and navigate between its ports and towns once you arrive. 

This transportation guide covers everything you need to know to reach Catalina and travel around its diverse destinations seamlessly. From ferries and helicopters that whisk you across the channel to the island’s iconic open-air buses, golf carts, and scenic tours, you have plenty of options for accessible, memorable island transport.

Getting to Catalina Island 

While private boat charters offer passage to Catalina, most visitors rely on just a few public transportation providers for island access. Choose the mode best for your departure location, budget, and style.

Catalina Express

This ferry service should be your first choice for transport from major SoCal coastal cities. Catalina Express offers hourly departures from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point to Avalon and Two Harbors year-round. The swift catamarans cover the crossing in just over an hour. Comfortable indoor and outdoor seating is available. 

Transportation Options in Catalina Island

Round-trip tickets average $80-100 for adults, depending on season. Reservations are highly recommended, especially in summer. Perks like airport shuttle services and discounted tickets for Two Harbors camping bundles provide added value for this highly popular ferry.

Catalina Flyer

This smaller company operates a daily high-speed passenger catamaran exclusively from Newport Beach to Avalon. The 90-minute scenic journey has more limited departures, so book ahead. They also offer fly-and-ferry packages, including helicopter airport transfers.

Arrive at the ferry terminal or heliport at least 60 minutes before your scheduled departure time to Catalina Island. Ferry and helicopter providers start processing passengers and allowing boarding approximately 30 minutes before the vessel or aircraft is scheduled to leave.

Transportation Options in Catalina Island

Here is the ticket pricing information:

Ticket TypeRound TripOne Way
Adult (13-59 years)$78.00$39.00
Senior (60+ years)$73.00$36.50
Child (3-12 years)$61.00$30.50
Infant (Under 3 years)$7.20$3.60

Helicopter Charters 

For unparalleled aerial views, book a helicopter transport service offering direct 15-minute flights to Avalon from ports near Long Beach and Newport Beach. Charter helicopter providers like Island Express can arrange flight-only or fly-cruise package deals. Expect to spend $150-300+ per person for this thrill-ride route.

Transportation Options in Catalina Island

Private Boat Charters

If traveling with a larger group, renting a powerboat, sailboat, or luxury yacht just for your party may be worthwhile. Chartering allows customizable direct passage between LA and OC harbors to Avalon or Two Harbors. Pricing varies widely based on boat size and style, starting at around $1000+ daily.

While limited, these transportation modes safely deliver you to Catalina’s shores for memory-making island adventures.

Getting Around Avalon 

Catalina’s main town of Avalon makes the island easily walkable thanks to its compact downtown and waterfront leisure zones. But when you need a lift between sights, several convenient transport options keep you exploring with ease.

Transportation Options in Catalina Island

Beach Cruisers

Cycling around town is a top choice, thanks to Avalon’s flat landscape along the bay. Plentiful beach cruiser rentals offer affordable hourly options to see the sights under your own power. Helmets are required, and electric bikes provide pedal assistance. Maps outline recommended routes to key landmarks.

Island Shuttle Bus

This handy 60-person open-air shuttle offers hop-on-hop-off service around Avalon from downtown to the Casino, Botanic Garden, and Descanso Beach Club. The continuously circulating bus costs just $1 per ride. Trackers allow monitoring of exact ETAs. Shuttle stops are marked with easy-to-spot signage.

Transportation Options in Catalina Island

Taxis and Local Rideshares

Avalon has traditional taxi cabs that can be called or hailed on the street 24/7. Rates fall around $4 for the first 0.5 miles and $0.55 per additional mile. Apps like Weegos offer more predictable location-based car bookings with set rates between stops. Shared rides keep costs lower.

Golf Carts

For a classic Catalina experience, rent a golf cart for an hour or full day to self-tour sites like Descanso Beach, Lover’s Cove, and interior vistas. Most carts seat 4-6 people. Catalina Island Golf Cart Rentals is conveniently located just 500 feet from the ferry terminal in Avalon. The Whitaker family has operated the family-owned business since 1981. 

The rental operation operates on a first-come, first-served basis, with no reservations taken. Toddler and infant seats are available to rent, limited to 2 per cart. Military discounts are always applied, as the company aims to support servicemen and women.

Transportation Options in Catalina Island

To rent a cart, drivers must be at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license on their person. The rental fee is $60 for the first hour plus a $60 deposit, totaling $120 due in cash upon pickup. Opening hours are 9:00 AM daily, with closing times varying by season, typically one hour before dusk.

The standard rental includes a one-hour scenic route through Avalon’s hills. Extended rentals are pro-rated based on the time used. There is also a pre-planned 12-mile scenic route lasting approximately one hour without stops.

Guided Tours

For a narrated history tour of Avalon, book excursions on land or sea. Knowledgeable guides drive visitors to landmarks in open-air buses or boats while sharing stories and fun facts. Options range from glass-bottom harbor tours to inland eco-adventures. Tours pick up right from downtown.

With this diversity of transport options, the town of Avalon offers convenient ways to get around that suit every budget and travel style.

Getting to the Beaches and Distant Coves

Beyond Avalon, reaching Catalina’s remote, pristine beaches, rocky coves, and waterside activities requires further specialized transportation.

Transportation Options in Catalina Island

Here are insider tips for accessing top coastal spots:

Descanso Beach – The Casino shuttle bus provides regular transport to this popular beach with a bar and restaurant. It is also a quick walk from downtown.

Two Harbors – Ferries can directly access Isthmus’ quaint village. Alternatively, you can take an inland bus between Avalon and Two Harbors, which offers gorgeous canyon views.

Snorkeling – Book a beach drop-off as part of guided all-inclusive snorkeling adventures from experienced dive tour operators.

Kayaking – Outfitters provide round-trip paddleboard, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard rentals and transport you to optimal put-in spots around the island.

 Zipline Eco Tour – All-terrain safari vehicles pick up guests at their Avalon hotel for this exhilarating voyage across Catalina’s wild interior through Coronado to tour the new inland zipline. Complimentary continental breakfast and gear included.

Navigating the Rugged Catalina Outback

Beyond Avalon, over 88% of Catalina is a protected nature preserve overseen by the Catalina Island Conservancy. Venturing into Catalina’s rugged, unspoiled wild interior reveals the island’s diverse ecosystems.

Transportation Options in Catalina Island

Here are the best methods for responsible outback transport:

Interior Hiking Permits 

To traverse Catalina’s backcountry on self-guided treks, obtain camping permits and maps from the Conservancy to access its network of interior hiking trails overnight or day hikes to secluded spots like Eagle Rock Vista and Silver Canyon Falls. 

Island Conservancy Guided Jeep Eco Tours

For an unforgettable trip into Catalina’s remote wilds, book a Naturalist-guided 4WD Jeep Tour that traverses native plant life and sweeping Pacific vistas. These 5nto 6-hour small-group tours pick up from Avalon and include gear, snacks, photo stops, and stunning hikes into untouched nature.

Camping Shuttles

The Conservancy restricts interior car access but offers shuttle services to its campgrounds. From May to September, the Safari Bus transports campers and gear from Avalon or Two Harbors to campgrounds like Little Harbor, Black Jack, or Hermit Gulch. Book spots early.

Helicopter Volcano Tour

For a bird’s eye view of Catalina’s highest peaks, circle the island and soar over the interior on this helicopter tour. Professionally narrated rides depart from Avalon and fly over Catalina’s inactive volcano, buffalo-roaming grasslands, and remote coves before following the rugged spine of the Western Sierra Madre.  

Key Tips for Seamless Island Transport

Transportation Options in Catalina Island

Maximize your time on Catalina with fewer hassles by keeping these insider navigation tips in mind:

  • Reserve ferries, tours, and equipment rentals 2-4 weeks ahead to guarantee availability in peak season. Off-season and weekdays often have ample space.
  • Bring motion sickness remedies for ferry crossings – even the island shuttle bus can be bumpy for those sensitive.
  • Let hospitality staff know if you have mobility limitations – many services offer accessible vehicles upon request.
  • Have cash on hand – some shuttle buses and vendors are cash only, including the on-board ferry concessions.
  • Travel light between Avalon transport hubs since vehicles have limited storage space.
  • Ask your hotel about providing reusable water bottles, beach gear, backpacks, and other essentials, so you won’t need to bring your own.
  • Snap photos of the ferry schedule so you have the times accessible offline if needed.

Still have questions? Check out these answers to some commonly asked questions. 

Can you get around Catalina Island without a car?

Yes, private cars are highly restricted in Catalina. Visitors rely on walking, bicycles, golf carts, shuttles, buses, taxis, and tour vehicles to navigate around Catalina’s towns and interior.

What is the best transportation to Catalina Island?

The Catalina Express ferry is the most popular and convenient transportation option from mainland ports like Long Beach, Dana Point, and San Pedro to Avalon. Helicopters and private boat charters provide other (more expensive) options.

Is there a shuttle on Catalina Island?

Yes, the free Avalon Shuttle provides hop-on, hop-off service around Avalon. The Conservancy also operates shuttle buses from Avalon to campgrounds in the protected backcountry.

Are there Ubers on Catalina Island?

No, rideshare services like Uber are not yet available on Catalina. However, taxis, golf cart rentals, and pre-arranged rides through Weegos offer similar on-island transportation services.

How much does it cost to rent a golf cart on Catalina Island?

Golf cart rental rates average $40-60 per hour on Catalina, with multi-hour and full-day discounts available. Reserving in advance is recommended as inventory is limited.

Can you walk everywhere in Catalina?

The town of Avalon is very walkable, but visiting beaches further from downtown or exploring the backcountry would require other transportation like shuttles, tours, or bicycles.

How do you get to the other side of Catalina Island?

To reach the more remote town of Two Harbors on the opposite side, you can take the Conservancy’s daily shuttle bus from Avalon or take the ferry directly, which takes about 20 minutes.

How many days is enough in Catalina Island?

Most recommend spending 2-3 full days in Catalina to see the top sights in Avalon and enjoy some activities like hiking or kayaking without an overly rushed schedule. Add more days to explore the rugged backcountry.

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