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Guide to Seeing Catalina Island in a Day

Catalina in a Day

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Want to bring the kids to Catalina? Wondering how to get the most out of your day trip? We have recently spent the day exploring Catalina Island and were able to experience most of Catalina in just one day.

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Tickets to the island are available from the Catalina Flyer (Newport Beach) and the Catalina Express (Long Beach, Dana Point). We were able to get discounted Groupon tickets through Craigslist to ride the flyer only costing us $50 for a four tickets!

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When you first get off the boat, you’ll want to rent a golf cart. Do not go to the first stand with the white carts. They are more expensive and take cash only. Walk a little bit further to Catalina Island Golf Cart Rental & Tours (blue golf carts). Tell them that you want the buy two hours get one free special, costing only $80 for three hours. They will ask for a $40 refundable cash deposit, but they also take credit cards.

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Get ready for the fun to begin! It was my first time driving a golf cart, and the kids were squealing with delight watching me trying to drive it for the first time. Since we had three hours with the golf cart, we were able to take our time exploring the island.

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Our first stop was Lovers Cove. The kids jumped right into the cool water and spent about 20 minutes snorkeling in the water. The water in this cove are rich with beautiful colorful fish, and it is not too deep for beginning snorkelers. Just be cautious of the glass bottom boats that tour this cove in the afternoon.

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Second stop was the top of the hill where we saw incredible panoramic views of Catalina Island. The island is incredibly beautiful, and we couldn’t help but stop a ton of times to capture pictures of the island.

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Third stop was to play at the park. There is a fun park located on your way to the botanical gardens. My kids had a bathroom break before playing a game of hide and go seek with other children visiting the park.

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Fourth stop was the Nature Center at Avalon Canyon. It is a free place to visit with your children where they can learn about nature and wildlife that live on Catalina Island. There were many interactive exhibits that kept my kids entertained while educating them at the same time.

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Fifth stop was the popular Botanical Gardens. It was hot! After paying the admission, my kids looked at all the different plants surrounding the gardens. Along with every plant was a plaque telling the kids where the plant was from and some information about the plant. At the end of the walk around the gardens was the monument. There are more than 100 stairs that lead up to the top of this historical monument offering families beautiful canyon and ocean views.

Cost: $7 adults, $5 seniors, $3 children ages 5-12. Bottled water available for $2.

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Six stop was to get a tasty taco from the popular Sandtrap Restaurant. The restaurant has everything from burgers to tacos and if you’re here from 2-7pm the tacos are only $1!

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Finally, we made our way around the other side of the island where the kids got to watch zip lining in the Canyon, the historic Chimes Tower, and more beautiful views of Catalina. We ended our golf cart ride in less than three hours and returned it back at the store.

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Once we returned the golf cart, we boarded the complimentary beach shuttle to the Descanso Beach Club. Our kids spent the next two hours swimming in the beautiful waters and enjoying delicious cuisine from Descanso’s.

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Before catching the Catalina Flyer back to Newport Beach, the kids joined hundreds of other kids jumping off the dock in Avalon Bay. We then got an ice cream cone from Pic-Nic Fry, and then walked over to get in line for the boat.

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It was an epic day exploring Catalina Island, and one that my children will never forget.

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