Many people ask if you can drive from mainland California to Catalina Island.

You can’t drive to or from Catalina Island. The only way to reach the island of Catalina (or Santa Catalina, as it is officially called) is by passenger ferry, which takes one hour from four different departure points along the Californian coast – no cars are allowed on the island.

From Los Angeles or San Diego you can go to one of these four ferry docks, park your car and take the fast ferry to the ports of Avalon or the two ports of Catalina Island.

If you are traveling from downtown Los Angeles to Catalina Island you can take the I-110 ferry to Long Beach or the I-710S ferry to the port of San Pedro and from there take the ferry. From San Diego take the I-5N north to Newport Beach or Dana Point and take the ferry.

Read on to learn more about how to get to Catalina Island, including the nearest ports and everything you need to know to get to Catalina Island by ferry.

Can I go to Catalina Island?

You can’t go to Catalina Island. The island is 29 miles off the coast of the United States mainland, with no bridges, dams or tunnels, and in fact, cars are not allowed on the island at all.

But it is very easy to get to one of the four departure points and take the ferry to Santa Catalina instead.

Picture of a jetty on New Port Beach at the ocean and several rocks in the lower right corner under a bright sun.
Enjoy stunning views of the New Port Beach pier on your way to Catalina Island.

lunamarina/Shutterstock.com

From downtown Los Angeles, the nearest ferry ports are Catalina Long Beach and San Pedro, although only San Pedro goes to Two Harbor if you want to get there.

From downtown Los Angeles it takes 24 miles 25 minutes to get to San Pedro and 25 miles 30 minutes to get to Long Beach Harbor. Keep in mind, however, that this is Los Angeles and that travel time can therefore vary considerably depending on traffic.

If you drive from San Diego to Santa Catalina Island, you need to focus on Dana Point, which is 63 miles north of the I-5. From there it takes 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach Newport or Newport Beach (90 miles – 1 hour and 25 minutes).

If you come from an independent airport, Los Angeles International Airport is just 39 miles away, about 35 minutes drive. The airports of Santa Ana (SNA) and Long Beach (LGB) are much closer to the ferry ports of Newport Beach and Long Beach, but can be more difficult to reach than LAX.

How to get from Los Angeles to Catalina Island

Avalon’s starting points on Catalina Island are located in four different cities along the Californian coast: Long Beach, San Pedro, Dana Point and Newport Beach. The only ferry that goes to the port city of Two Harbors departs from San Pedro, so you will need to book tickets from there if you are travelling to the northern part of the island.

There are two ferries to Catalina:.

  • The Catalina Express leaves from San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point to reach Avalon and two ports.
  • Catalina’s flyer leaves Newport Beach for Avalon.


This website is embarked on board of the Catalina Express from the Long Beach quay.

Anthony Fontanese/Shutterstock.com

The nearest bases for Catalina from downtown Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport are San Pedro and Long Beach.

  • From downtown Los Angeles to San Pedro, take the I-110.
  • Downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach on I-710S

If you go to Catalina Island, the nearest base is not always the best. Think about your destination on Catalina Island, but also keep in mind that the Catalina Flyer has luggage restrictions.

Luggage restrictions apply to ferries:

  • Passengers of Catalina Flyer are only allowed to bring hand luggage and are only allowed to bring two pieces of hand luggage per person.
  • Passengers travelling with the Catalina Express are allowed to take two pieces of luggage that are no larger than 23 x 23 x 37 inches and weigh no more than 50 pounds each.
  • If you want to take your bike or surfboard with you, Catalina Express is the only ferry that allows you to carry bulky luggage. However, this is only possible if places are available. Additional costs may also be charged.
  • No animals are allowed on the Catalina brochure.
  • Hired animals and muzzles are allowed on board the Catalina Express.

How long does it take to get to Catalina Island?

The travel time between downtown Los Angeles and Catalina, including travel time and waiting time for the ferry, is about 2 hours. However, traffic in Los Angeles is well known, and a 30-minute drive can often take twice as long, if not longer.

Think about the time of day and whether it’s a weekend or a holiday. Day trips can make the journey chaotic and intense, so give yourself plenty of time to get to the ferry.

Arrival before check-in at least 30 minutes, but preferably one hour before departure of the ferry. If you arrive more than 15 minutes before the departure of the ferry, the company may cancel your reservation. Don’t forget to bring your reservation number for Catalina ferries.

The ferry crossing from the four ports on the Californian coast to Catalina Island takes 60 minutes. To get to the ferry terminal in Los Angeles or San Diego, travel for half an hour or more, depending on the day and time you want to get there:

  • From downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach or San Pedro, it takes about 30 minutes without traffic jams.
  • LAX to Long Beach or San Pedro – about 25 minutes without moving.
  • San Diego to Newport Beach – about 1 hour 25 minutes without traffic.
  • From San Diego to Dana Point it takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes without traffic jam.

What you need to know about a trip to Catalina Island

The price of the ferry to Catalina Island is as follows: $ 37.25 one way and $ 74.50 for adults. Babies cost just under $33.75 in one direction and $67.50 in one direction, while babies travel for a modest $3 in one direction. Persons over 55 years of age receive a discount of USD 29.50 for a one-way trip and USD 59 for the return trip.

Check the discounts. With a return ticket to Catalina Island costing over $70, you can save money by booking a hotel/package by ferry, via Groupon or from time to time via your own ferry companies. Keep an eye out all year round for discounts that can be used for future trips.

Book your trip in advance. Tickets can be purchased at the ferry terminals on Catalina Island on the day of the trip, but ferry seats sell out quickly at peak times of the year, especially in summer or on public holidays.

Don’t forget that Santa Catalina island has no cars and the inhabitants can move around on foot or with a golf cart. Visitors are often entertained by small railway-sized golf carts.

Picturesque views of Avalon Harbour on Catalina Island on a sunny day with yachts in front of the Art Deco Casino.
This picturesque view of Catalina Island awaits you.

geza sinkovics/Shutterstock.com

Although California is sunny, it can be surprisingly cool on the ferry. Provide warm clothing and a waterproof jack to protect you from wind and water splashes.

Santa Catalina belongs to the Norman Islands of the California archipelago and is located in the Los Angeles district.

Catalina Island covers 76 square miles with 52 miles of breathtaking coastline. It’s 8 miles wide and about 22 miles long.

The highest point of the island is Mount Orizaba, at 639 m (2097 ft).

California is famous for its glass-bottomed boats, epic dive spots and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

The weather on Catalina Island is best in spring and autumn. The dark days of June are followed by early summer, and some days remain cloudy until noon or later. In winter, the sea can be rough and storms can make a trip that is very bumpy and sometimes dangerous.

You do not need a passport to enter Catalina Island, but it is recommended to travel with an official photo ID.

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