Catalina Express offers travelers quick and easy access to Avalon through its fleet of high-speed ferries departing daily from San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point.
What started as a one-boat operation on July 15, 1981 has since grown into a fleet of eight high-speed vessels that transport travelers to and from the island with some 30 departures every day among its three Southern California ports. Long Beach is a great option with direct freeway access and proximity to the historic Queen Mary, a must-visit for those who haven't been. The remodeled San Pedro port is conveniently located on the waterfront promenade close to restaurants including the Catalina Bistro & Express Grill as well as the USS Iowa — the West Coast's only battleship museum. Those in Orange County (or San Diego) can opt for the Dana Point port, which also offers an array of dining, shopping and activities.
Once aboard the Catalina Express ferry (four of which are large catamarans), make your way to the top and outer decks to take in the sights as the mainland fades into the distance and dolphins come closer into view. For the true VIP experience, pay the extra fare ($15 each way) for the Commodore Lounge upgrade and enjoy a complimentary drink (yes, that includes alcohol) and premium indoor seating.
The voyage takes only an hour but if you're susceptible to seasickness, don't worry — the ferries are equipped with an advanced ride-control system that makes for a smooth journey and the staff is always there to help with whatever you need.
What's even more exciting is that Catalina Express offers the Ride Free on Your Birthday special with the purchase of one full-fare adult ticket. Plus, with your special birthday badge, you'll enjoy more deals and discounts at multiple businesses (from hotels to restaurants to shops) on the island. Just remember, you must travel on your actual birthday to get this deal.
If you're in a hurry and don't mind shelling out some extra cash, you can get to Catalina by helicopter or plane and land at Airport in the Sky, located six miles northwest of Avalon. Once there, order a meal at the airport's restaurant DC-3 Gifts & Grill.