Taking a vacation in sunny California? Or are you trying to visit more attractions in the Golden State you call home? With a little bit of research, you’ll make the most out of your visit to Catalina Island.
California is full of great spots to visit, but Catalina Island takes the cake for places to see in the southern end. When you know when to make the trip, and what to do when you arrive on the island, you’ll have the time of your life!
But before you begin planning, you need to know when to stop by the largest Channel Island. This is a big part of your trip planning and can affect your itinerary.
You’ve come to the right place if you’re at this step! Despite the reason you want to visit Catalina Island, we’ll show you the best times to go and what you need to know before you go!
Why You Should Visit Catalina Island
Southern California lives up to the Golden State’s name, with year-round sunny weather. Its beaches are cool, glistening, and full of beachside attractions like the Santa Monica Pier.
Catalina Island is everything to love about SoCal packed into an (almost) bite-sized chunk. Beautiful beaches, and attractions for both city lovers and people who love wide open spaces. Whether you visit with friends or family, there’s something for everyone!
Outdoorsy people will enjoy visiting the resort town of Two Harbors on the western end of Catalina. There are several hiking destinations around here, some leading back to Avalon. You can also sink your teeth into the campgrounds, beach club, and spacious port.
Adventurers of all kinds will enjoy the city of Avalon and the attractions around it. Many of which also connect to Two Harbors on the other side of the island. Ziplining, submarine tours, and bison tours are all fun activities that the family will enjoy.
There’s so much to do on Catalina Island that even if you stayed for a weekend you wouldn’t see all there is to offer. Ask anyone who’s visited Catalina before and they’ll tell you that it’s a place you will want to visit again and again.
Overall Best Time to Visit Catalina Island
The best time to visit Catalina will vary depending on what you’re looking for in your trip. We consider fall is the best season to make the trip to the island. Aim to book your trip from September to December!
The fall months are fairly mild in southern California, especially on the water. Fall temperatures on the coast linger around 70 F(21 F), with mild cloud coverage and sea breezes.
Relax on the beach, hike at sunset, and grab a bite to eat in Avalon in beautiful beach weather! The season also welcomes all sorts of holiday celebrations, which means special events and festivals!
If you want to plan, you can double-check Catalina’s events schedule to plan your trip schedule. Or surprise yourself with local mixers and tastings when you arrive! After the summer rush, fall is also less busy.
You can attend local mixers and wine-tasting events with venues pretty much all to yourself. Chat with the locals to learn more about the events and the island’s history, and slow down to the pace of island living.
If you’re planning to visit with the family, you can always visit during fall or winter breaks! You avoid major holiday price spikes. And you take advantage of the cool weather and uncrowded attractions.
Cheapest Time to Visit Catalina Island
If you’re vacationing in Catalina on a budget, you will want to schedule your trip from November through March. This is the off-season for Catalina Island tourism, although any month outside of the summer season will be easier on the wallet.
Not only will you get great discounts on hotel fares, but on tours and activity prices as well. You can say the same thing about prices during weekdays since people are at work or in school. But the best time by far to visit is in late January.
Flights to and from southern California tend to drop around this time as the holiday season passes. Comparatively, mid-November is another time that flight and hotel prices tend to drop as these services prepare for the holiday season.
During these parts of the year, you’ll experience the beautiful fall and winter weather. Compared to the popular summer months between June and September, you’ll experience less humidity and more cool breezes.
The mild day temperatures and cool night temperatures will also make sleeping overnight in a campsite much more pleasant! Or, if you’re more inclined to stay near the water and sit outside with the stars, you can easily do so with a light sweater and some cocoa.
Least Busy Time to Visit Catalina Island
If you’re not a fan of crowded beaches and tourist hotspots, you’ll want to visit Catalina during January. Visiting during the off-season will be less busy compared to the summer months.
But January tends to be the least busy because of the recent holiday season. Not everyone can take time off during certain parts of the year though. Are you road-tripping through California and want to add Catalina to the list?
Or will you only be in the state during the summer? Here are some other less busy times to visit Catalina Island! Weekdays are another great time to visit to avoid crowds.
If you visit the island during its on-season, you may run into more people visiting than normal. But if you stick to off-season months or away from major holidays, you will be safe from large crowds.
If you don’t mind paying a little extra around the holidays, stay the night during the winter for extra solitude on the island. While everyone else parties it up on the mainland, you can spend your time enjoying the serene beaches on Catalina with plenty of the main attractions all to yourself.
The fall and winter months during the off-season have beautiful weather if you’re more inclined to cool sea breezes. Temperatures linger in the mid-70s F(20 ℃), and you can easily bundle up with a sweatshirt or light coat.
Worst Time to Visit Catalina Island
We think the worst time to visit Catalina is in early summer, in June or July. We might argue that any time is a great time to visit Catalina Island, but this varies between people.
Whether it’s weather, crowds, or lack of activities, you will find a part of the year that lacks in a certain area. Summer is the most popular time to visit the Golden State, especially since schools are on vacation.
The weather is warm, the people are lively, and practically every activity is available. It would be perfect if not for all the effects of this tourist season.
August and September are standard for the summer tourist craze in California. June marks the end of school semesters, so students and families alike are itching to go out and explore. So as a general rule of thumb, try and avoid school vacations!
July is another busy month with sales slapped right on top of price hikes. If you’re an outdoorsy person, you’ll be out of luck to find a spot to camp.
And you won’t be able to get a moment to yourself with all of the people that will be traveling to and from the island. Southern California weather during the summer doesn’t get too extreme on the ocean, but it does get humid.
Outdoor activities on land won’t be as engaging if you’re feeling sticky and sweaty. You can still have fun in the humidity, but plan accordingly and pack cool clothes!
Things to Consider
Now that you know the best time to plan your island getaway, here are some other things to consider:
- Travel to the Island. If you aren’t local to the area, you may not know that you can’t fly to Catalina. You will have to fly to one of the airports near the coast, drive down to one of the four ports that ferry to the island, and take a ferry the rest of the way. Make sure to check the ferry’s schedule from the port you’re traveling from, and if there are extra fees for bringing along things like bicycles.
- Plan Ahead. The smartest way to manage your time in Catalina is to plan. This starts with making your way onto Catalina and ends with coordinating so you can participate in the activities you’re interested in. However, depending on the time of year that you visit, you may not need to book far in advance.
- Don’t be Afraid to Explore. There’s so much to do on Catalina Island, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Don’t limit yourself to the main attractions! Go for a hike, swim in the ocean, or take a submarine tour. If you already know what you like out of a vacation, look for the attractions that fall in line with that.
- Look for Discounts. If you’re a fan of coupons, there are plenty of places for them on Catalina! Some locations offer birthday discounts and freebies, and others have frequent Groupon offers. And while the holidays lead to price hikes, you can enjoy holiday discounts by booking your trip right when these discounts start rolling out.
- Traveling on a Budget. You can find different ways to enjoy your trip to Catalina on a budget as well. Instead of renting a golf cart, bring your bicycle or buy a day pass for the local trolley. Bring your beach gear instead of renting it, or pack your lunches. You can also get discounts on ferry rides to the island if you have a AAA membership card!
- Dress for the Beach. No matter the time of year, the weather in southern California is beautiful year-round. Whether you visit during the dead of winter, or in the peak summer months, it’s a safe bet to bring your swimming gear and a light sweater. Even if the island is in the middle of the ocean, you won’t have to worry about extreme weather outside of occasional showers in the fall and winter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have questions about visiting Catalina Island? Here are some of the most asked questions, answered!
How many days do you need in Catalina Island?
For a comfortable visit, you should stay on the island for three days. This gives you enough time to explore the major attractions and some of the hidden gems.
Can you swim in the ocean around Catalina Island?
Yes, you can! Avalon is the best area for swimming access while being close to seaside attractions.
Do you need a car on Catalina Island?
No, you don’t. Catalina is easy to navigate on foot, and there are several other modes of transportation available on the island for affordable prices.
Do you need a passport to visit Catalina?
No, you don’t. Catalina Island is a part of Los Angeles County, so all you need to travel here is a government-issued ID.
Can you visit Catalina for one day?
Yes, you can! There are plenty of tours and activities that run for 1-4 hours, perfect for getting to know the island on a day trip.
Is the water around Catalina warm?
The average temperature of the ocean around Catalina is 62 ℉ (17 ℃) year-round.
How much does the ferry to Catalina cost?
Depending on the ferry that you take, a ferry ride will run about $80. If you’re bringing other things onto the ferry, like a bicycle, you will have to pay additional charges.
How long will it take to walk the entirety of Catalina Island?
If you’re feeling adventurous or just love hiking, you would need about four to five days, depending on your pace, to walk the surface of Catalina Island. The island covers 38.5 miles and if you walk from Avalon to Two Harbors you’ll see not only the island but the wildlife as well.
When Will You Visit Catalina Island?
So, what’s the best time to visit Catalina Island? Your overall best time to visit is September through November (fall). The weather is mild, the crowds are much smaller, and hotel fares are cheaper.
This part of the year has a good balance of everything we love about southern California. Fall weather is wonderful around the ocean, and reduces a lot of humidity that sticks around the coast during the summer months.
This is also a great time of year to avoid the crowds that linger around Catalina during the summer. If you visit the island before the holiday season begins, you’ll get to enjoy beautiful beaches all to yourself.
And you will get exclusive access to seasonal events! Catalina Island is a beautiful spot to visit no matter the time of year. You can enjoy beautiful beaches, peaceful bison, and a variety of seasonal activities.
And now that you know the best time to visit Catalina for your trip goals, all that’s left to do is plan your trip. Happy travels!