• Hannah Smentkowski

Camping Catalina Island: Everything you need to know before planning your island adventure

Updated: Apr 3

While my knowledge of Catalina originally began with the movie Step Brother's and the "Freakin' Catalina Wine Mixer", I now know that it's more than just some ritzy vacation spot. Beyond the shining seaside city of Avalon, Catalina Island has tons to offer any nature lover, from camping to kayaking and even bison sightings! Even though Catalina may be a bit expensive and the trails may be a bit intense for a beginner hiker, but every dollar and ounce of sweat is well worth it.

In this post, I'm hoping to introduce you to what I've learned about Catalina Island. From campgrounds, to how to get there, to services offered across the island. All of this as a start to my personal weekend camping experience in the next posts to come!

So let's dive into this beautiful island destination and get to planning what could be your next trip!

Getting to Catalina

Santa Catalina Island, better known as Catalina, is an island located 29 miles southwest of Los Angeles. While you can charter a private yacht for thousands of dollars, the way most people get to the island is by the Catalina Express or Catalina Flyer. These ferry services run regularly from 4 different locations along the Southern California coastline and the ride is usually about an hour long.

Catalina Express:

Mainland to Avalon:

Dana Point, CA

Long Beach, CA

San Pedro, CA

Mainland to Two Harbors:

San Pedro, CA

Catalina Flyer:

Mainland to Avalon:

Newport Beach, CA


As for prices, you're looking at about $75 per adult roundtrip from any of the ports. But don't forget to include daily parking rates at the docks, which will run you between $14 and $20 per day.


The schedule differs depending on the time of year, with more boats running in the busier season (April - August) and only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the off-season (November- March).

Always get to your boat at least 1 hour early, since you have to wait in line to get your tickets and then in another line to get on the boat, and no one is holding the ferry on your account.


While online it states that you can only have two bags, and everything has to be a certain weight, they are not as picky about this as an airport would be. I saw people in line with paddleboards, two backpacks, and a cooler that had no problem getting on board.

Just make sure you have all of your valuables on your person, since anything bigger than a school backpack has to go below the boat, and they are not particularly nice with the luggage below deck.

Two Harbors vs. Avalon


Avalon is the main city on the island, this is where you'll see more hotels, restaurants, and even a casino. This is also the official start of the Trans Catalina Trail. Since this city is so big it can be a bit difficult to navigate when trying to find the trail or even your hotel, but if you're looking for more amenities, this is the place to be.