I haven't been to Catalina in years, seriously probably closer to 10 years. So it was completealy spontaneous when I bought two tickets for my fiancé (that feels so crazy to write out!) and I. I booked these tickets a week or so ago, and I booked them to be July 5th. We seriously spent 0 time planning the trip out or talking about things to do. The Fourth of July was super busy so I didn't even have time to think or look up things to do in Catalina!
I woke up at 6am on July 5th and quickly threw a day bag together before Jake picked me up 30 minutes later. Here's what I brought in my backpack:
- I wore a bathing suit under sweats and a long sleeved shirt (I knew it would be chilly on the boat)
- an extra pair of light summer shorts and a tank top for when it got hot later
- a book
- my hydroflask full of water
- a beach towel
We were getting on the first boat out of Dana Point Harbor at 7:45am and would be returning on the last boat out of Avalon at 6:45pm. So we had all day. It was cloudy in the morning (as usual) and I slept pretty much the whole way there on the boat. The ride from Dana Point is around an hour and 20 minutes, so if you go make sure you bring a snack and water.
I woke up right when we were pulling into Avalon, so I still had absolutely no idea what we were going to do all day. The very first thing we did when we got off the boat was head to the main beach and set up our towels. We laid out our towels and pinned them down with rocks so they wouldn't blow away if it was windy. This ended up being such a good move. The beach got super busy (it was the day after the 4th). But we had a spot, close to the water, that we could head to when it got sunny. Then we walked around the little town and found a cute breakfast place to eat at.
Catalina is known for being a place where everyone drives golf carts all around. It's a small little island, so you can pretty much drive all around it in no time at all. We were looking into how to rent them and there is actually one rental place that rents golf carts out to those who are 21 and up (not 25, like the other golf cart rental places). Those rentals were around $50 an hour. We had both driven golf carts before so it wasn't something we felt like we had to do.
But what we did find was this shop that rented out electric bikes for those 18 and older! This actually ended up being such a fun thing to do. We rented them for an hour (it was $20 for the hour) and the people there gave us a recommended route we could follow to see some pretty views. The bikes went up to 20mph (which is faster than some of the golf carts there!) It was honestly so much fun, zipping around the island, stopping at the scenic views, and getting a feel for what's there! I would 100% recommend doing something like this.
By the time we had to return the bikes, the sun had come out and we headed to our spot on the beach! A bunch of people lay down towels and claim spaces for the day, so there were people starting to come to their spots and still a ton of empty spots people had already claimed with their towels and chairs. We laid out, read a little, fell asleep, jumped in the ocean when it got too hot, and dried in the sun.
When we got hungry, we packed up our backpacks and wandered around until we found a place we thought looked good (we left our towels on the beach in our spot, so we could come back after). We ended up eating at Bluewater Avalon, a cute restaurant right on the water. And the food was so good. Lots of seafood options (fish tacos, poke, crab, etc.) but also salads, burgers, and yummy appetizers. Definitely would recommend this place.
After lunch we walked around and checked out some of the stores, went back to the beach, went back in the water and then eventually wandered into Luau Larry's, a fun bar with amazing tropical drinks. They have a full menu too, so you can order food, but they're known for their drinks. I got a piña colada and Jake got a mai-tai. Would definitely recommend this place for that island feel.
After that it was back to the beach, with the occasional venture to walk around the pier, check out more shops, grab a slice of pizza before we got back on the boat. Like I said, Catalina is super small, you can pretty much walk everywhere. So when it was time to head to the dock to check in for the boat, we packed up all our stuff and walked right over. We picked such a good time to go back because we got to catch the sunset from the boat on the way back.
It was such a good day, and the perfect way to spend a summer day. And there are so many other things to do on Catalina Island. You can rent kayaks, pedal boats, buy floaties, rent chairs at Descanso Beach and order food and drinks to your chairs. You can go on tours (glass bottom boat tours, jeep tours, historical tours, whatever you want!)
So maybe next time think of a day trip to Catalina instead of an summer Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm trip. It could be something new to do that you may end up absolutely loving!