The most popular option for most visitors to the island is by boat. Catalina Express offers frequent nonstop Catalina Ferry service from the mainland to Avalon via c omfortable high speed jet boats.
Catalina Express departs from San Pedro, Downtown Long Beach/Queen Mary and Dana Point in Orange County. The process for booking a trip on the Catalina Express is straight forward and convenient especially for those booking online. (See booking info in box to the left). When booking online, passengers will receive a confirmation number to which the present at the check in counter at the dock on day of departure to receive their ticket. Parking is abundant at Catalina Express departure points and usually no higher than $14.00 a day. At the Long Beach departure point parking is in a new indoor garage.
There are three classes of service on the Catalina Express depending on the boat used. They are Captain's, Commodore and a normal economy fare class. The Captain's class is a $60 upgrade off the normal base fair and provides a small intimate cabin for six that include leather booth style seating, 360 window views and complimentary drinks. The Commodore class provides wide leather seating, individual trey tables and a complimentary beverage. Commodore class is $15 above the base fare. Catalina Express provides a large lounge complete with tvs, a portfolio of Catalina Island brochures and concession stands offering a variety of foods to eat. About 30 minutes from boarding an announcement is made to line up outside by the dock next to the gate number designation for the boat departing for Avalon.
The Catalina Express at dock in Avalon Bay on Catalina Island. Travel time between mainland and the island is never more than an hour.
Boarding tends to go fast and for base fare passengers there are two choices of seating, either outside or on the lower deck inside. Luggage is checked upon boarding the boat and allocated on the floor in a separate area that is visible from the indoor seating area. The main seating area includes a snack bar that offers pretzels, candy bars, chips and beverages (both alcoholic and non) The commodore and captain lounges are upstairs and there is an additional economy class outdoor seating on the roof of the boat. Upon departure crew members give passengers a safety overview.
There are a variety of layouts to the Catalina Express boats.The more common layout is row seating where seats are lined in a row airline style-about 10 to 15 across facing forward. On the lower deck these seats are indoors while on the upper deck they are outside. There are some boats that have a more confusing mix and match layout where the seats are laid out diner style-meaning along the windows they are in booths.
Upon entering the Pacific the boat hits speeds of up to 43 mph. For those worried about sea legs, the effects of the ocean are minimal. Those choosing to sit outside will need a sweatshirt or jacket as the passing air combined with the constant west blowing ocean breeze can create a bit of a nip in the air. Standing at the back of the boat and watching the main land disappear is exciting as the ocean sprays out a constant foam from the propellers. For those departing Long Beach will be able to pin point their point of departure with the Queen Mary and port of Los Angeles as a constant backdrop for as long as 20 to 30 minutes. The trip out to Catalina is over all a peaceful and quick one. Some interesting sights are intimate views of gigantic cargo ships arriving into the port of Los Angeles from Asia, distant oil rigs drilling deep into the ocean and a variety of wildlife camping on the ocean's surface in hunt of a meal. After 45 minutes the mountains of Catalina Island appear in the distance and soon the boat is arriving at Avalon.
When docking at Avalon there will be a variety of transportation options into the main town of Avalon. Walking is the easiest, however there are taxi cabs and golf carts taxis that offer to take passengers into town or to their hotels.
Those visitors looking to travel from the LA area to Catalina Island will find the option of using the Marina Flyer. Departing from Marina Del Rey, (near Venice Beach) the Marina Flyer is an almost 2 hour journey that makes a stop at the two harbors before continuing on to Avalon. The Marina Flyer doesn't offer nearly as many departure times as the Catalina Flyer to the south.