top of page
  • Writer's pictureKathy Condon

Palm Springs Springboard for Day Trip to Catalina Island

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Visiting Palm Springs, and making it your destination, is the perfect place to take several memorable day trips. Have you ever thought about going to Catalina Island, but winched at the thought of driving through the Los Angeles traffic in the early morning to catch the Catalina Express there? Here’s a way to make it painless and so enjoyable.

Catalina Express Ferry
Entrance in Long Beach to Catalina Island

Gadabout Day Tours (Sad, but happy for the owner of Gadabout in Palm Springs for she decided to retire at 92 years old. So the bus tour to Catalina is no longer available. However, if you drive, there is a parking lot right next to the Catalina Express so you can park your car.)

Here are the specifics:

No matter where you live in Coachella Valley, there is a spot for you to assemble. In my case, I live in Palm Springs; it was Stater Brothers grocery store parking lot—literally five minutes away. Very near the assigned time of 6:30 a.m. the bus arrived.

It was so modern; there are outlets at each seat to charge your phones. The lighting inside the coach at night is beautiful. The bus was immaculately clean, stain free with garbage bags at each seat.

The armrest next to windows didn’t go up, on this particular bus so, it made it awkward to rest against the window on the ride home, but that towel you brought along for the beach can be excellent padding to help.

Once you settle in for the two-hour ride to Long Beach, you are offered water and granola bars. The driver was superb and enabled us to get to the Catalina Express Ferry in plenty of time. You are dropped off right in front of the ferry terminal, handed your ferry ride ticket. Then you go outside to stand in the queue for boarding.

Catalina Express

Waiting to Board the Catalina Express Ferry

It is cooler in Long Beach and on the island, so make sure you have a sweater or jacket with you for the trip back. This trip, the sun was beating down already at 9:00 a.m. so having a hat and suntan lotion certainly makes standing in the line to board more enjoyable.

There are numerous options for places to sit on this ferry. You can choose which level you would like to occupy and whether or not you want to be in an open-air location or enclosed. I suggest you select a seat on the starboard (right) side of the boat, so you see the island of Catalina as you approach the Avalon Harbor. Keep your camera handy, for leaving Long Beach harbor has some colorful sites.

You can also pay extra to sit in the Commodore Lounge for an additional fee. Seats are more luxurious, and as of this writing, come with a complimentary cocktail and cabin attendant service.

Animals are allowed if they are in an airline-style carrier or on a leased and muzzled for the one-hour trip.

Avalon Harbor

The Catalina Express docks on the very edge of the town. Very comfortable walking shoes are a must.

At this point, you are on your own. Your tour leader tells you that you have until 7:00 p.m. to explore on your own. You smile, for it seems like a long time, but truthfully, it is precisely the right about of time to get the sense of this magnificent place on your first visit.

This trip was on Thursday. There just enough people to feel the excitement, maneuver through the many shops. Made a mental note, do NOT to make this trip on the weekend. The weekday crowd was perfect.

Trip to Catalina Express
Gadabout Bus Ambiance on the Way Home

Trip Home

Reverse the transportation order for your trip back to Palm Springs. Happy to report, the bus returned home at the assigned time of approximately 11:15 p.m.

My first experience with this tour company and, it was a superb trip in every imaginable way. You will need to check Gadabout Tours for their tour schedule to Catalina Island.

Two more blogs about how to make the most of your visit there to an island with 4,000 a population will be written and published by me soon.

Kathy Condon is a freelance travel writer and blogger. She is the Founder of the Palm Springs Insider Guide Her book It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: It’s All About Communication was named Best Book Finalist By USA Book News

1,388 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
Jul 21, 2019

Is it possible to stay in a B&B, then return the next evening? Also, what is the round trip cost and do you need to be a Costco member? Thanks.

bottom of page