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How to go to Catalina Island Completely for Free

Photo courtesy of Notable Travels

*updated 6/2021

I love a good deal and Catalina offers quite a few.  Next time you’re planning an adventure, think of cruising over to this gorgeous piece of the Channel Islands archipelago.  With the right forethought into planning, you could essentially take a completely free trip to Catalina Island, including transportation, activities, food and dessert!

As travelers, we are always on the lookout for the best deals–last minute bookings, fare alerts, holiday specials, and accidental price drops on airline tickets; you name it. Sometimes these are the only opportunities we get to actually go to some of these places.  I believe these deals are wanderlust karma for all the hard and often-times tedious research we put into our obsession to roam.  Hence you can imagine my elation when I discovered a way to visit Catalina island completely for free! 

As a beach dwelling resident of L.A., the beautiful island of Santa Catalina seems but a stone’s throw away.  Yet I’ve somehow managed not to explore the island in the 15+ years I’ve lived here. Embarrassing, I know.  But, despite it’s beachy appeal and short boat ride away, tickets are usually $74+ roundtrip ($59+ for children 2-11), making it quite an expensive commitment right off the bat.  However, that’s not to say it isn’t worth it.  Who am I to judge if I haven’t experienced it.  Plus, it has been brought to my attention that there are ways to get incredible discounts and even go for free if you are smart about it.  So, although it is odd for me to write about a destination I have not yet visited, it still seems like something worthy to share.

 


Getting to Catalina Island for Free

The first step is getting there and if you sign up now, you will be eligible to receive a free roundtrip ferry ride on the Catalina Express for your birthday!  The catch is, you must travel on your birthday.  Nonetheless, you’re welcome to stay up to 30 days before you make your return to the mainland.  Just be sure to bring ID as it may be required for proof. That’s a saving of $75 right there!

 

Photo courtesy of World Property Journal

Free Birthday Goodies & Activities on Catalina Island

Ask for specific birthday discounts and giveaways when booking or making reservations.

  • Free game of bowling on your birthday at Three Palms Avalon Arcade
  • Rent a bike for two hours at Brown’s Bikes on your birthday and get the rest of the day for free, plus a bottle of water!
  • Get out into nature! Hiking permits may be required, but they are always free and available the day of upon request.
  • Visit the Catalina Island Conservancy for free on your birthday.  See the Wrigley Memorial and botanical garden with no admission fees!
  • Enjoy a free round of mini golf at Golf Gardens on your birthday!
  • Dive in!  Get free rental equipment on your birthday at Scuba Luv.  Includes mask, fins, snorkel and suit. Must have credit card for deposit.
  • At the Buffalo Nickel Restaurant, enjoy any item on the birthday menu, free of charge. They’ll even provide you with free shuttle service to the restaurant and back to the docks.
  • Need a pick-me-up?  Stop into the Catalina Coffee and Cookie Co. for a complimentary 12oz cup of coffee or tea on your birthday.
  • Celebrate your birthday by popping over to Lloyd’s of Avalon for a free scoop of ice cream.

 

descanso beach club catalina island

Descano Beach Club

Accommodation Birthday Perks & Freebies

  • Stay at the Aurora Hotel and Spa on your birthday and receive two free tickets to the Catalina Island Museum.
  • The Snug Harbor Inn sure knows how to pamper you on your birthday.  When staying in the same month as your birthday, you’ll be treated to complimentary roundtrip boat tickets, a bottle of champagne or wine upon arrival, a scoop of gelato or ice cream at Scoops, celebratory balloons set up in-room and a free gift when checking in!
  • Combine your free ferry ride with your stay at the Seaport Village Inn to receive a free third night stay.
  • Earn yourself a 10% discount at the Casa Mariquita Hotel on the night of your birthday.
  • Life is like a box of chocolates, especially on your birthday at the Catalina Island Inn.  Receive a complimentary box of Lloyd’s of Avalon chocolates plus your choice of champagne or sparkling cider. Must ask for the “BIRTHDAY SPECIAL” at the time of reservation (like most of these specials) and present ID with proof of birth date at check in

 

Avalon Grille

Discounted Stays

  • Get 20% off at the Hermosa Hotel on a two-night stay in a Preferred room.
  • Get a “suite” deal at the Hotel Catalina and Courtyard Garden Suites.  Stay for 1 night on your birthday and receive 10%, stay 2 and receive 20% with complimentary morning Kona Coffee, Tea, Juice, Danish and Cookies.  Guests also receive 10% off on breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Antonio’s Pizzeria & Cabaret on the waterfront and Original Jack’s Country Kitchen on your birthday. 10% off on any tour from the Catalina Adventure Tours.
  • Hotel Metropole offers 20% discount on rooms and a couples massage for $210 (normally $230) at A Touch of Heaven Day Spa. Additional nights 10% discount.
  • Live a little.  Receive 10% off your guest room at the St.Lauren Hotel.

 

Camping on Catalina Island isn't free but it's quite affordable

Photo by Catalina Island Explorer 

Discounted Travel

  •  Every leap year, there are special package deals and accommodations for insanely discounted prices.  You must sign up before the cutoff date in order to receive an email with the special offers but if you get them in time, you can snag the $29 leap year super discount.  Roundtrip ferry, hotel accommodations at the Atwater Hotel and a three-course meal, all for $29 each.  You can’t beat a deal like that.
  • IEX offers a birthday discount of 10% for Catalina Island helicopter flights, which makes it $143.00 per person (each way). Guests can make use of this offer within 7 days of their birthdays.
  • Arrive in style and pamper yourself with a heli-spa package at the historical El Encanto spa.
  • Traveling in a large group?  For every 25 (adult) roundtrip tickets on the Catalina Express, get a roundtrip ticket for only $6.  Great to keep in mind for wedding parties, corporate events, and family gatherings!
  • From May until the end of Summer, Costco is offering 20% off your roundtrip ferry ride on the Catalina Express when you purchase a $100 gift card for only $79.99.
    • Save 20%
    • Island Getaway Experience
    • Upgrades to the Commodore or Captain’s Lounge (Temporarily Suspended)
    • Valid in Terminal Bistros and Delis
    • No Expiration
    • Available for full fare adult, senior, military and child rates
  • Find more package deals that include lodging and transportation here.

 

Arrive by ferry to Catalina Island for free

Did you take advantage of this once in a year opportunity?  Let me know in the comments how your experience going to Catalina Island for free was and include any tips or perks I may have missed!

Visit beautiful Catalina Island for free

Photo by Jack Baldelli

 

How to go to Catalina Island for free
About Author

Mom, model, host, traveler and co-founder of Yourlixir superfoods! Life is an adventure and I'm here to share how our little family lives it with style - DeziStyle. • Health conscious travel & adventure •

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