Tips for Visiting Catalina Island on a Budget  

Tips for Visiting Catalina Island on a Budget  

Catalina Island is known for destination sticker shock, especially during the busy summer visitor season. Luckily, with some strategic planning, you can trim costs while still savoring Catalina’s wild beauty and old Hollywood charm. Whether opting for shoulder-season visits or group deals, day trips over overnight stays, or simple picnics instead of oceanview dining, this guide outlines insider tips for experiencing Catalina on a budget.

Tips for Visiting Catalina Island on a Budget

Visit during the off-season: November to March

Tips for Visiting Catalina Island on a Budget  

The high season spans May to October when peak temperatures also drive demand. Unfortunately, this means exorbitant hotel rates, averaging $250-500+ per night for even modest properties. Meanwhile, November to March sees cooler winter weather and dramatically slimmed crowds.

Hotel prices also plunge into the $150-250 per night range during these months—easily half the cost of summer stays. 

Added bonus: wildlife sightings increase! The migration season makes for excellent island safaris to spot native Catalina foxes, bison, and bald eagles.

Skip the golf cart and opt for the Garibaldi bus

Tips for Visiting Catalina Island on a Budget  

Whizzing around Catalina via a rented golf cart seems like a right-of-passage. Except hourly rental rates easily exceed $40-60. Suddenly, that “convenient” round trip market run costs you $100+.

Instead, consider taking Catalina’s public buses. The Garibaldi bus loops Avalon’s key sights every 30 minutes for just $2 per ride. Or hoof it—Avalon town measures only 1 mile across, making the city easy to traverse on foot. Getting into the island’s wild interior does require other transport, but if you’re just exploring the town, these make solid, cost-saving substitutes.

Visit during the week

Catalina Island on a Budget  

Like most tourist destinations, Catalina quietens down in midweek after the quick weekend turnover. Visitors dropping by 20-40% means you’ll have more breathing room beachside and bargaining power on rates.

Pair weekday travels with money-saving sites that offer huge Catalina Island discounts redeemable Sunday through Thursday. Partners like the Catalina Express, Catalina Zip Line, and Harbor Sailboats let you book deeply reduced tickets for weeknight dinner cruises, inland ecotours, and half-off rounds of golf.

Plan a day trip instead of a weekend getaway

Tips for Visiting Catalina Island on a Budget  

Multiday visits allow you to really settle into island living, but they can also prove pricey, as transportation, lodging, dining, and activity costs multiply quickly. Those looking for budget Catalina trips should limit themselves to day excursions.

Most ferry and helicopter carriers offer roundtrip day trip packages that may include discounted attraction tickets or meal vouchers. This saves hundreds on a hotel room alone while granting you a solid 6-12 hours to explore Avalon town highlights. However, if the last ferry departure at sunset doesn’t leave you enough time, another option could be camping overnight and returning the next morning.

Shop your hotel options and pay attention to the amenities

Tips for Visiting Catalina Island on a Budget  

Sometimes, sticking to smaller hotels and inns yields better rates over waterfront resorts. For example, the Hermosa Hotel, located just up the street from the shoreline, runs anywhere from $70-150 cheaper per night than the sprawling Pavilion Hotel, literally right on the beach.

Also, consider what on-site amenities influence cost, like complimentary breakfasts, welcome receptions, or included daily passes to Descanso Beach Club. Little luxuries add up fast, so see what’s bundled into quoted rates when comparison shopping.

Get 30-40% off tours during the off-season

Tips for Visiting Catalina Island on a Budget  

Catalina Island bustles with endless recreational tours year-round. But just like hotels, these outfitters entice visitors during quieter off-peak months with deep discounts. From November to March, most adventure purveyors offer 30-40% savings on activities like coastal kayaking, flying fish boat rides, and inland Jeep ecotours.

Save on Catalina Island restaurants

Visiting Catalina Island on a Budget  

Dining with a seaside vista tends to command premium prices. However, visitors can tap into Catalina food discounts using tricks like:

  • Seek out pre-fixed menus at hotels offering multiple courses for a fraction of ordering individually
  • Split entrees or piles of peel-n-eat shrimp buckets for groups
  • Ask your hotel for restaurant partnerships with guest discounts
  • Buy lunch bundles versus pricier multi-course dinners – best people-watching anyway!
  • Grab picnic fixings from local grocers like Von’s or Catalina Country Market to avoid sit-down surcharges


Without compromising away the island’s wild beauty and relaxed vibes, budget travelers can absolutely experience Catalina’s magic for a reasonable outlay. Costs remain in check by visiting in winter, snagging midweek deals, limiting stays to day trips, and foregoing golf cart extravagances. Catalina Island delivers in spades without breaking the bank for a value vacation, offering coastal and rugged adventures with a dose of old Hollywood glamour.

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