Few vacations start before you even arrive, but getting to Catalina is part of the adventure. Ocean breezes, frolicking dolphins and watching for whales are all part of the trip, as are comfortable seats, a snack bar and a range of libations of the over-21 variety. Most Catalina ferry boats take a little over an hour. If you choose to take the helicopter, you'll have to forego the aforementioned snack bar and libations, but you'll get a spectacular trip and the adrenaline rush of flight to make up for it.
How to Get to Catalina Island
Cross Channel Boats: These are the ones with the snack bars and over-21 libations. There are two companies that offer scheduled service from four ports in four cities and two counties. Sound confusing? It's not.
Catalina Express: The largest company also has the most boats and most departures. They operate from San Pedro, Dana Point and Long Beach. Call (800) 481-3470.
Catalina Passenger Service: They operate the Newport Flyer out of, well, Newport Beach. There's a daily departure most months and weekend departures most of the rest. Call (800) 830-7744.
Helicopter: If you're in a hurry to get here or the seas make you queasy, Island Express is the way to go. Those "26 Miles Across the Sea" go by in 15 minutes if you're in a helicopter. Heliports are located in San Pedro and Long Beach. Call (800) 228-2566.
Airlines: If you don't live in Southern California, you'll probably want to fly in. Long Beach Airport is the most convenient to the island, or you can choose to arrive at John Wayne in Orange County or big, bad LAX.
Shuttles: There are plenty of shuttle companies that will pick you up at the airport and bring you to the port. We especially like Karmel Shuttle.