Catalina Island, also known as Avalon, is just a short boat or helicopter ride away from the coast of Southern California. The island offers opportunities for families to play and explore outdoors, making it a popular destination for a quick family getaway.
Things to do:
Enjoy food and drinks while kids play in the sand at Descanso Beach Club.
Rent a golf cart from Catalina Island Golf Cart to putter around town.
Take a short tour on a Glass Bottom Boat and watch fish swim by in real time.
Need more ideas? Check out Visit Catalina's site for a list of fun activities for the whole family.
The Catalina Express ports are located in San Pedro for those departing from Los Angeles, Long Beach for travelers near North Orange County, and Dana Point for the South Orange County and San Diego regions.
For the more adventurous, and families with older kids rather than little ones, a helicopter ride from IEX takes just fifteen minutes from Long Beach to Catalina.
- Bring extra snacks for the boat trip to and from Catalina (mostly to make the time pass by more quickly). Catalina Express also sells food and beverages at the galleys located on the first two decks.
- If anyone in your party is prone to motion sickness, try to plan ahead with ginger candies, Dramamine or things you feel comfortable taking to curb the effects of swaying. The galley also stocks ginger ale, which can help with motion sickness.
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, water shoes (for walking on the rocks at the beach), swimsuits and your typical beach gear. Small shops on the island sell snorkel masks, flip flops and sunglasses. Beach toys are also available to rent onsite.
- This one isn't intuitive, but if you have the extra room, consider bringing folding scooters for older kids. More on this below.
Catalina Express's baggage policy (as of 4/19/2022) allows for 2 check-in items measuring no larger than 23"x23"x37" and 1 carry on bag, such as a backpack or purse. For our weekend trip, we packed light with just 3 suitcases and 4 backpacks for a family of four.
We are a scooter family so we are almost always thinking about scooters. As an experiment, we decided to use our extra baggage allotment to bring along 2 folding Legend scooters to ride around the island. We found a couple of budget-friendly tripod cases on Amazon at the last minute. We needed something snug, just big enough to fit the scooters. The case we ended up finding measured 27"x7"x7" which was well under the baggage size limitation. The case came with a shoulder strap for easy carrying.
Was it worth it? For us, it was. The Legend 2-wheel scooters fold up easily and are pretty compact, so we didn't find them to be cumbersome. Our kids (ages 8 to 10) were grateful for the scooters especially during the longer stretches between the hotel and the beach. We didn't have to hear the kids tell us they were 'too tired to walk' after spending hours in the sun.
Throughout the weekend, adults borrowed these kids' scooters to get across town quickly. One dad used the scooter to get to the golf cart rental center. Another dad took the scooter to grab snacks at Vons (the only supermarket on the island).
Note: If the kids were very young or less confident in riding their scooters, then we would have been left the scooters at home.
Seeing as how this little experiment worked out well for us, we plan to bring scooters on more trips in the future!