Catalina Island California trip recap28

Trip Recap to Catalina Island, California

Colby and I returned last week from his 40th birthday trip to California.

After the year Colby had last year, we knew we wanted to celebrate his birthday by traveling somewhere. We had a hard time deciding where we wanted to go but we knew we wanted to go somewhere we had never been before.

We ended up looking at where our airline miles could take us and booked a trip to the Northeast, but for some reason it just didn’t seem like a good fit for what we wanted to do. I guess the good thing about miles, especially when flying Southwest, is it’s super easy to change your flights.

To be honest, other than going to Redding, California has never even been on our radar. But, somewhere along the way Colby mentioned Catalina Island. I had never heard of it, but when I looked our airline miles took us directly into Long Beach, so we move forward and booked it.

Day 1 // Travel to Long Beach

We flew into Long Beach which was such an easy airport. There is something to be said about getting off the plane and within 5 minutes picking up your car. We rented through Turo so it was waiting for us in the parking garage. We drove directly for the beach and made our first stop at Seal beach, where we watched the kite-surfers, walked around and rested for an hour or so on the beach. There was a whole street of cute shops and restaurants so we grabbed a quick dinner too. After that we made our way to Huntington to visit the beach there too. It was much more crowded and it was getting cooler as the sun began to set so we didn’t stay too long.


Day 2 // Newport Beach and Treasure Island Beach

The next morning we drove over to Newport Beach and walked 4-5 miles along the beach before grabbing some food and heading over to Balboa Island. Colby and I had both been to these areas, but never together. Both areas were so beautiful. Balboa was just how I remembered and I highly recommend going if you are out that direction – the houses are just so cute and I could look at them forever.

After we left Balboa we spent most of the day cruising down the Pacific Highway. Because it was Colby’s birthday and we only needed a car for 2 days, we rented a convertible. Definitely something we have never done before as we always get the most economical car, but let me tell you, it made it so much more fun!

We ended up driving down to Laguna beach, eventually stopping at Treasure Island/Aliso beach, thanks to the suggestion of someone on instagram. We stayed for most of the afternoon and early evening before heading north to Anaheim and staying the night there. We covered a lot of miles on foot and by car and once we got back to our hotel it was so good to call it a night.

Day 3 // Dwelling Place Anaheim and Catalina Island

The only thing we knew for sure heading in to this trip was that we wanted to go to Dwelling Place Anaheim, where Jeremy Riddle leads worship. We have streamed hundreds of worship sets, so it was surreal to be there in person. And, Banning Liebscher spoke, which was so good!

After that we zipped right out of there to drop off our rental car and head to the ferry terminal where we took the Catalina Express over to Catalina Island. I had heard that the ride over would be quite rough and the boat was definitely moving quite a bit but it wasn’t too bad. If you happen to get seasick easily, I recommend not sitting in the very front like we did.

I did not know a thing about Catalina Island, but I loved it from the minute we got there. Everything was within walking distance, which is probably one reason we loved it so much – we were very active and walked and walked and walked some more, clocking around 7 miles every day.

After we arrived, we walked right over to our hotel and checked in. And then we walked around the town a little bit to get our bearings. It’s all pretty small and is full of restaurants and shops. We ended up grabbing dinner at a restaurant which gave us the most beautiful views of the marina.


Day 4 // Catalina Island: Hiking and Rest

We got up and took the shuttle to the Hermit Gulch Trail, which was a 6 mile loop that began at the campgrounds. This was a beautiful hike and our favorite of the trip.

After our hike we made our way to Catalina Coffee and Cookie company, which hosted us for lunch. We both ordered burritos and coffees. The food and drinks were delicious, the service was great and the outdoor patio was perfect to enjoy.

We spent the afternoon resting out at the gardens in our hotel as well as well as lounging oceanside by the marina. We actually ended up going back to the same restaurant where we ate the night prior because we enjoyed the views so much.



Day 5 // Colby’s Birthday: Hiking and Rest

On April 25th it was Colby’s 40th Birthday! We started the day with a hike up Wrigley Road, which was a paved road. The majority of people were driving with their golf carts, but we enjoyed the exercise by walking up. 

That afternoon we went to Descanso Beach Club where we rented loungers for the day. This was the best way to celebrate Colby, enjoy the weather, the views and each other. Once it shut down we made our way back to our hotel where we enjoyed our time outside in the gardens.

That night we found Mexican food because there is no better way to celebrate 40 that by eating fajitas!


Day 6 // Catalina Island: Hiking and Rest 

On our last full day in Catalina Island we found another hike by taking the shuttle to the Wrigley Botanical Gardens. The downside of this was you had to pay to get in. Honestly I would not recommend going to the gardens unless you wanted to do the hike that started there. The hike was great and similar to the one we did the 1st day. Once we got to the top we were met with lots of clouds and lost visibility to see anything out in the distance.

We spent the afternoon lounging at our hotel again before making our way over to the marina to rent some kayaks. We enjoyed our time out on the kayak but to be honest, we should have gone a different direction because we ended up in more of an industrial part, which wasn’t too lovely.


Day 7 // Travel Home

We started our day by playing putt-putt and I’m so glad we did. The course on Catalina Island came highly recommended. I can’t even tell you the last time I played putt-putt but it was something fun to do. After that we went to our hotel, check out and headed to the ferry and started making the way back home.




Overall we had amazing weather. We didn’t know any different but when we first arrived in the Long Beach area we had several people mention how this was the best weather they had all year. We were thankful to hear that.

For some perspective the highs every day were in low to mid 60’s. Sounds cold right? It was very warm in the sun, but cool in the shade. The mornings and nights were definitely cooler. Hiking in the morning felt great – we would start off with a long sleeve tee and shorts and end up in a short sleeve shirt. For the evenings I would suggest taking pants and a jacket to stay warm. 

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Pavilion Hotel in Avalon and we absolutely loved it. There was nothing fancy about it, but it was perfect for us. The rooms were very clean but there was nothing too special about them. However, we absolutely loved the outdoor sitting area, including the loungers. We used them several hours every day. They were surrounded by such beautiful landscaping and gave us views of the ocean and it was just perfect. Especially because there was no loud music and there was hardly any one around. We had also looked at the Hotel Atwater, but once we saw it, we were glad we went with the Pavilion Hotel. However if you want a beautiful boutique hotel feeling and don’t mind going a few steps farther away, Atwater might be a good one to check out. 

Things to Know About Catalina Island

Here are some thoughts and tips about Catalina if you are thinking about going there:

What we loved so much about it was that you could walk everywhere. It not only had the beautiful ocean views, but hiking options too. And, we loved that it was very peaceful. There was no loud music at our hotel or the restaurants or anywhere and it was just the best! We truly felt and looked like we were in a small European town, which we just loved. 

I read that April was the best time to go to Catalina, which worked because it lined up with Colby’s birthday month. To be honest, I don’t enjoy going to crowded places so I can’t imagine going in the summer as from what I understand that is peak season and there are a ton of people. The workers said how crazy it was all summer long. It wasn’t crowded when we were there, and we loved that so much. 

Speaking of… our hotel was sooo reasonably priced. I have looked at prices in the summer for the same hotel and it is much more, I believe almost double. So that is something also to consider. 

Catalina Island is a cruise stop destination, and things pick up quite a bit when there is a ship in port. You can check the cruise schedule to see what days ships will be there.

If you are someone who is looking for a trip to lay on the beach day after day, Catalina Island is not for you. While you can definitely find a beach chair or put out a beach blanket like we did, the actual beach area is very small, it’s very rocky and the water is cold.

If you do not want to walk around to get to places, Catalina is also not for you. You can not rent a car in Catalina Island. Your options are to walk, to take the local bus ($2/person), which runs it’s route every 40 minutes, or to take a golf cart. I guess you can also rent a bike too! 

If you like beautiful scenery, some hiking and some sunny weather, Catalina is a great spot. There are also a ton of excursions to do, although we didn’t do any of them.

We did talk to people who were just doing a day trip or an overnight trip but we were so glad we were able to stay several days. If you can, I recommend doing the same. I think it’s way too lovely to only be there for a few hours.

Catalina Island Company owns several hotels, restaurants, the beach club and more. Colby was gifted a gift certificate from my family to Catalina Island and it made it so fun because we could use it so many different places. Just an idea if you are going for a birthday or a honeymoon and people are wanting to give you a gift towards your trip.

What other questions do you have? Let me know and I’ll make sure to get them answered!

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Our Prior Vacations:

I didn’t start sharing our traveling adventures on the blog until the end of 2013, but you can see some of our vacations below. You can also see our best tips for traveling on a budget here!

Pacific Northwest
Western Caribbean Cruise
Hilton Head
South America: Argentina
South America: Torres Del Paine
South America: Lake Region
South America: Santiago + Coast
Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio
Costa Rica: Santa Teresa
Costa Rica: La Fortuna
Las Vegas
Caribbean Cruise – Grand Turk + Dominican Republic
Caribbean Cruise – Aruba + Curacao
Colorado Ski Date #2
North Carolina
Palm Springs
Colorado #3
Anniversary Staycation
Europe: The Netherlands
Europe: Montenegro + Greece
Europe: Croatia
Branson, Missouri
Cancun, Mexico
Colorado Ski Trip #4
Northern California + Lake Tahoe
Yosemite + Napa
Ft. Worth
Phoenix, Arizona
Eastern Caribbean Cruise: Grand Turk + San Juan
Eastern Caribbean Cruise: St. Kitts + St. Maarten
South Carolina
Colorado Skip Trip #5
Utah: Zion and Bryce National Parks
Utah: Arches National Park
Washington D.C
Florida Trip Recap
Western Caribbean Cruise
Colorado Trip #6
Florida Keys
Arizona Trip
US Virgin Island Trip

Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
Cabo Trip

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