Credit: James Kao
Credit: James Kao

How to Spend a Sunny Autumn Day on Catalina Island

Everything You Should Do on a Day Trip to This Scenic Island

Summer may be coming to a close, but Catalina Island is just as sunny and stunning as ever. In fact, visiting Catalina Island in the fall allows you to avoid the busy crowds while still enjoying pristine weather. Though you can easily enjoy a fun-filled weekend in Catalina, it is also a great place to escape for a SoCal day trip. From drinking and dining on the water to outdoor excursions that allow you to soak up the natural beauty of this magical island, here’s how to plan the perfect fall day on Catalina Island. Catalina Island Day Trip


Head Over on the Catalina Express

Credit: Catalina Express

No, you don’t need a private boat to get to this California island. The Catalina Express is a spacious and modern ferry that takes you to Catalina in style. Travelers can leave from Long Beach, San Pedro or Dana Point and each port has different schedules of departure leaving as early as 6 a.m. While the boats do have seating inside, the upper deck is great for those who want to take in the views and enjoy the fresh ocean air. It is also pretty common to sail alongside dolphins, allowing your day trip to kick off with some magic.


Visit Catalina Museum’s “Tall Tiki Tales: Catalina as a South Seas Island” Exhibition 

Credit: James Kao

In the heart of Avalon you will find the rich history of So Cal’s favorite island. The Catalina Museum for Art & History showcases the best displays in art, history, music, dance and film by creative geniuses from all over the world. For the next year, the iconic museum will be featuring a fun and fascinating exhibition called, “Tall Tiki Tales: Catalina as a South Seas Island”. What many might not know is that Catalina Island was the dream destination for Hollywood directors looking to recreate the South Seas in early films. Through books, movies, photos and artifacts, this exhibition explores Catalina’s contribution (as a film set) in the evolution and popularization of tiki culture—tracing the origins from adventure books, their adaptations into Hollywood films and the development of themed restaurants and bars.


Coffee + Breakfast at Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co.

Between the gourmet coffee and fresh-baked pastries, Catalina Coffee and Cookie Co. is ready to provide you with a boost to start your day. This quaint coffee shop opens at 6 a.m. daily, filling the street with aromatic smells of roasted coffee beans and baked goods. When it comes to food, the ham and cheese croissant is a winner. Take your coffee to go and post up along the water for a relaxing and mellow moment before an adventurous day ahead.

Catalina Island Day Trip

Excursion on the Jeep Tour

Credit: Ernie Rodriguez

What better way to experience the natural beauty of Catalina than an exciting Jeep tour? This naturalist-led Conservancy Eco Tour allows visitors to explore the untouched lands of the island. This educational experience teaches travelers about the rich history on the island while taking them up close and personal to the wild bison. You can select your desired tour time when purchasing tickets; most tours are between two and three hours.



Lunch at Bluewater Grill

Photography Provided By: Palm + Ocean

There’s no better spot to dine than a waterfront restaurant that has an airy outdoor deck overlooking the water, and Bluewater Grill checks all of those boxes. This inviting bistro is most famous for its fresh seafood and seasonal specials. If you want to keep things light to save room for the day ahead, Bluewater Grill is the perfect late-lunch spot. Enjoy appetizers like shrimp ceviche, ponzu sashimi sea scallops and oysters on the half-shell. If you happen to catch a craving for something sweet, go for the zesty and tart key lime pie.



Relax at Descanso Beach Club

Credit: One Ninth

Descanso Beach Club is the ultimate place to unwind with a refreshing drink in hand. The iconic buffalo milk cocktail is a must-order, and the plush loungers allow you to melt away as you kick back and relax with an epic ocean view. The crystal clear cove is perfect for swimming or floating, and you might even see some local and vibrant Garibaldi fish during your dip. In addition to the chaise loungers, you can also rent a luxe cabana during your visit. 


Dinner at Avalon Grille

Credit: Avalon Grille

Despite having a more elegant and upscale vibe, Avalon Grille is a laid-back and delicious restaurant that is steps away from Avalon Bay. The handcrafted cocktails and world-class wines pair perfectly with the coastal California cuisine. The Famous Wrigley Martini is a local favorite that pays tribute to the island’s owners. For dinner, start with the lobster crostini and flash-fried green beans before enjoying the bison filet with asiago cheese polenta for your main course. 



Have a Drink at Luau Larry’s

From tiki-themed decor to tropical cocktails, a drink at Luau Larry’s is the perfect way to end a day trip on Catalina Island. Catch the tail end of sunset and soak up the harbor views out front before heading inside for a Wiki Wacker cocktail. Though it is refreshing and tasty, ordering a Wiki Wacker also means taking home one of the bar’s iconic straw hats, allowing you to leave with a buzz and a souvenir. 

Catalina Island Day Trip

Take the Ferry Back to the Mainland

Credit: Catalina Express

Once the day has come to a close, simply board the Catalina Express and head back to your port! The boat takes around an hour, and being able to sail through the ocean at night is a special experience. If you’re not ready for the fun to end, however, book a room at one of the island’s charming hotels with one of the Boat and Hotel Packages, which offer great deals and extras like discounts on tours and restaurants! From the recently renovated Bellanca Hotel to Mt. Ada, home of the former Wrigley Mansion, there are plenty of great options to enjoy for the night before ferrying back the next morning.

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Allie Lebos graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2017 with a BA in Communication. While in school she was a staff writer at The Daily Nexus for nearly two years. Since graduating she has written for The Palisades Magazine, as well as Hidden Hills Magazine. Currently living in Santa Monica, Allie loves to indulge in good food, hot yoga, and daily walks along the beach; writing articles on travel, special events, as well as features on local businesses and individuals.

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