Catalina Island

Where: Catalina Island
Get there: Ferry or helicopter
Destination: Avalon (coastal town)
Goal: Do everything in 12 hours

There are two tiers of tickets you can buy, and it's best to reserve online. Commodore is the "premier" tier and you get to board the boat first plus enjoy a complimentary drink. General means you board after Commodore and don't get a free drink. Also, the boat blasts air so bring a hoodie. Tickets for adults run from $36/way (general) to $51/way (commodore). Going on your birthday? Your ticket is free.

You can also opt to travel by helicopter, which is about $250/round-trip per person.

Rent your room
Think you might want to stay over (or have a home base throughout the day?) rent your room before you go; on major holidays and weekends rooms get completely booked out in advance.

Rent bikes
Most people get around Avalon by foot, bike or golf cart—and rentals run out quick. Before your trip,  go online to Brown's Bikes and reserve your ride. Bikes are $20 each for the day.

Rent your lounge chair or cabana
Descanso Beach Club is the place to be if you want to swim, drink and relax. There's public beach access for a few bucks or your can snag a lounge chair or cabana for the next level of luxury. Like hotel rooms, these go fast so book in advance of your visit.

The 12-hour Catalina Day Trip

Start: 6:00am 
Hop on the earliest ferry. It's brutal, and for the 6:00am boat ride you have to arrive at the harbor at 5:15am to check in. This means you'll get up in the 4:00 hour. Grab coffee.

Arrive/Breakfast: 7:00am
Your ferry will arrive promptly at an hour you're usually just waking up to, which is fantastic but also means you'll be able to get breakfast before anyone else. This is crucial. Go to Original Jack's Country Kitchen, a quick and cozy diner where you can get the much needed second cup of joe, eggs, waffles, breakfast burritos and more. 

Golf cart around Avalon: 8:45am
Next, you'll want to get a lay of the land and the best method is via golf cart. Avalon has some windy hilly roads, and while you think you want to bike them...don't. Rent a golf cart for an hour ($40) and follow the map they provide that will take you around, up and down all of Avalon.

Bike to Descanso Beach Club: 10:00am
After dropping off your golf cart, saunter over to pick up your reserved ride from Brown's Bikes. Head to Descanso Beach Club (opposite end of Avalon from where the ferry drops you). 

Descanso Beach Club: 10:30am
Tucked into the corner of a cove, the beach club offers public beach access, a fully stocked bar with a food menu, lounge chairs and cabanas. As noted earlier you will want to reserve chairs or a cabana before your trip, but when it comes down to it you got up before before dawn and desperately need a nap so this is your place to do it. When you're refreshed, take a dip in the ocean then grab a drink and snack.

Lunch: 2:00pm
There are tons of places in the center of Avalon for lunch, all likely busy. Opting for bar seating will expedite your wait, plus a beer at lunch is practically mandatory. Bluewater Grill sits right on the pier; get the tuna poke and chopped salad.

Jet skis: 3:15pm
If you do nothing else, rent a jet ski. Most run $130/hour for 2 people. Do it, it's the best hour I've ever had. Especially in the afternoon when the light hits the water just-so (and don't forget to check out all the boats with fantastic names as you taxi to-and-from the jet ski barge).

Return: 5:30pm
The ferry ride back will be exhausting, but since you'll be a bit more awake than your outbound trip make sure to watch as the ferry approaches the LA harbor.

By 6:30 you'll be back on the mainland, totally wiped and absolutely thrilled. Naturally, some people stay in Catalina overnight—but now you know you could totally do it in just one.

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