The prime option of getting there is still by Catalina Express Ferry from either Long Beach or San Pedro. The cost of the ferry is $49 return for adults plus $12 parking at Long Beach or $7 in San Pedro. The ferry takes an hour to cross, and they start early in the morning right through till about 7:45 p.m. every day. The only problem I found with the service is the rather long delay at the other end unloading the luggage, with most people traveling way too heavy, lugging huge suitcases around.
If you go for the day, then there are plenty of things to do to occupy your time.
The Catalina Island Golf Course hosted the legendary Bobby Jones tournament from 1931-1955 and consists of nine holes on a 2,100-foot layout. There is no need to bring your clubs, as complete packages are available including: Taylor Made club rentals, push or electric carts, and a fully stocked pro shop.
If you decide to spend a couple of days or more on the island to savor the water sports, fishing or diving activities, then it is best to book in advance, especially in high season, which is coming up soon.
The Avalon Hotel is the newest hotel in town, and after staying a few nights there I will make it my regular hotel now in Catalina. There are only 15 rooms, but they are all well-appointed with such extras as flat-screen televisions, DVD players, turn-down service, free telephone calls, free bottled water, and most have a balcony with ocean views. They have also spent heavily on the most comfortable beds on the island, and there is a charming courtyard in the back where continental breakfast is served. The prices of $295-$495 per night will be considered high by many people who are used to probably paying a lot less in Avalon, but it is worth the extra if you want to stay at a very hospitable and modern hotel. If you mention NiteDine when you call to make a reservation, the owner, Kathleen, and her husband will give you a special discount for mentioning this article.
The restaurant scene on Catalina is ordinary at best. Most tourists drift to the cafes on the front with the great views, but I urge you to check around a bit if food is important to you and you are a bit choosy on what you eat. Check with the locals before plunking down your hard-earned dollars. Wheelers Fish Restaurant is just passable enough if you stick with something simple like clam chowder or fish & chips, but Busy Bee’s next door should be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act for selling the New York-style pastrami sandwich, which was horrible. The Channel House is slightly better, but not by much, and if you like crab cakes, you will be hard pressed to find a decent version at any of the aforementioned. At least there is a KFC on the island.
Did not try the El Galleon on the front that proudly advertises itself as the place to be for steak, fresh fish, prime rib, etc., but the place does have a pretty lively Karaoke crowd who seem to be regulars every night. From the wannabe rapper to the woman belting out Patsy Cline laments, El Galleon is the place to be at night for some good, clean fun.
The best way to get around Catalina is by golf cart, which costs between $30-45 per hour, and they are literally everywhere in Avalon. They have been driven into the sea before by drunken revelers, hence the deposit, but they seem like a real neat way to get around. Fact Sheet