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Things to do in LA: Catalina Island

Not too far from Los Angeles is Avalon, Catalina Island. It’s a beautiful little island. You’ll feel as if you’ve transported to a completely different city. No smog here and little to no cars – only taxis or golf carts! We went for the boys’ birthdays and it was a great getaway for the day.

A few days before the trip, we did some investigating so that we had an itinerary while we were there. I hadn’t been to Catalina since high school so planning the trip was basically an all new experience. My sons and husband decided to go fishing, so they chartered a fishing boat. We used Catalina Coastal Tours. The boys were going to be gone for a 4hour trip. That meant my daughter and I and our friends had the whole afternoon to check out the island. We had never gone snorkeling before, so we decided to do that.

We took the Catalina Express over from San Pedro. Trips are also available from Long Beach, but for us, San Pedro was much closer. The boat left at 10am. We arrived at about 8:45am to make sure to get our tickets. You can book reservations online at their website here. Even though you book a reservation, you pay for the tickets when you arrive at the port. There are two docks, and usually, the staff will let you know which dock you are taking off from when it’s close to departure time. From San Pedro or from Long Beach, the Catalina Express boat ride is about an hour and fifteen minutes (the longest part is actually in and out of port!). While waiting to board would be a great time to take a motion sickness relief pill (even if you have the slightest inkling that you may get sick, I suggest taking one!) These Dramamine ones work well and are all-natural, and non-drowsy.

Once onboard the Catalina Express, there are tables and rows of seats. There are snacks and drinks available for purchase as well. At the time of this writing, each way for a child cost $29.50, and each adult was $37.50.

Since we were going for the day with our good friends, we had packed everything we needed – snacks, water, swimsuits, sunscreen, towels, cash, phone chargers, etc. (Sometimes people bring giant coolers – but who wants to be lugging that around?!) Any gear we needed, we decided we would rent.

After arriving on the island at approximately 11:15am, we grabbed some lunch. The dock is a great place to do that – but they definitely aren’t fast, so be ready to wait in line for a while. The boy’s fishing excursion left at 12:30pm, so we wanted them to have their lunch to eat on the fishing boat.

The boys on the fishing boat with Captain

Once the boys departed, the rest of us were on our own to snorkel around the island. There are several spots on Avalon, Catalina Island to snorkel. We checked out three different spots:

Descanso Beach: We did not like this beach for snorkeling. The water was rough, and while wading into the water from the beach seemed like a good idea, the shore was actually really rocky, and therefore painful! Unless you have experience snorkeling, AND have water shoes on, I wouldn’t recommend it. We did end up renting our snorkel gear from the Descanso Beach Water Sports shack for $33 (for the day) for two masks, snorkels, life vests, and fins. We didn’t see any fish here because the water was cloudy and rough.

Step Beach: This beach is so-called because of the steps leading right into the water. This area was better than Descanso Beach, but we only saw a few fish, and the water was still pretty cloudy, yet not nearly as rough.

Lover’s Cove is the only way to go!

Lover’s Cove: Finally, we tried the best snorkeling on the island. The water was calm and clear, and the fish were plenty and friendly at this reserve! At one point, a group of 10 Garibaldi was following us. Had I known that snorkeling could be like this, we would have just started here! Save yourself the time and effort, and snorkel only at Lover’s Cove. There is no fishing allowed here, but tourist boats do come in, still leaving plenty of room for snorkelers.

As for the fishing trip, the boys had a blast. The captain did all of the work that most people don’t want to do, and have no experience doing – so since this was their first fishing experience, it was perfect. Captain put the lines on the fishing rods, showed the boys how to cast the line, and reel in their catch. Then, he would take the catch, remove the scales, filet it, and pack it all up at the end of the day for you to take home and cook as you please!

We went during CoVid quarantine, and are definitely going to schedule another trip here soon. There were other things that we want to do, like the rope obstacle course, and rent a golf cart and drive around the island for the views. What are your favorite things to do on Catalina Island? Leave us a comment or two below!

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