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The most common way to get to and from the island is on the Catalina Express ferryboat (tel. 800/481-3470; www.catalinaexpress.com), which operates up to 30 daily departures year-round from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point. High-speed catamarans make the trip in about an hour. Captain's and Commodore Lounge upgrades are available. Round-trip fares are $67 for adults, $60 for seniors 55 and over, $51 for children ages 2 to 11, and $4 for infants. Fares for Dana Point are $2 more, except for infants. In San Pedro, the Catalina Express departs from the Sea/Air Terminal, Berth 95; take the Harbor Freeway (I-110) south to the Harbor Boulevard exit, and then follow signs to the terminal. In Long Beach, boats leave from the Catalina Landing; take I-710 south into Long Beach. Stay to the left, follow signs to downtown, and exit at Golden Shore. Turn right at the stop sign and follow around to the terminal on the right; parking is in the structure on the left. In Dana Point, boats depart from Dana Wharf Sportfishing. From San Diego, take I-5 north and exit at Beach Cities Hwy. 1; turn left at Dana Point Harbor Drive, then left at Golden Lantern. Call ahead for reservations. Note: Check-in at the ticket window is required and begins 1 hour prior to each departure. Passengers must be checked in, holding tickets, and ready to board at least 15 minutes prior to departure (I suggest 30 minutes ahead to be on the safe side), otherwise the reservation will be canceled and the credit card will be charged for the full amount of the round-trip fare. Luggage is limited to 70 pounds per person; reservations are necessary for bicycles, surfboards, and dive tanks; and there are restrictions on transporting pets. You can leave your car at designated lots at each departure terminal; the parking fee is around $10 per 24-hour period.

The Catalina Flyer, 400 Main St., Balboa (tel. 949/673-5245; www.catalinainfo.com), the largest passenger-carrying catamaran on the West Coast, departs daily from Newport Beach's historic Balboa Pavilion. The boat leaves once a day at 9am and returns to Newport at 4:30pm daily. Travel time is about 75 minutes each way. Round-trip fares are $68 for adults, $63 for seniors, $51 for children 3 to 12, and $4 for infants. Pets are not allowed.

Island Express Helicopter Service, 1175 Queens Way Dr., Long Beach (tel. 800/2-AVALON [228-2566] or 310/510-2525; www.islandexpress.com), flies from Long Beach (regularly) or San Pedro (seasonally) to Avalon in about 15 minutes. The expense is definitely worth the thrill and convenience, particularly if you're prone to seasickness. It flies on demand between 8am and sunset year-round, charging $104 plus tax each way, or $200 round-trip. The weight limit for luggage, however, is a mere 25 pounds. It also offers brief air tours over the island; prices vary. In Long Beach, the heliport is located a few hundred yards southwest of the Queen Mary.

The 149-passenger catamaran Catalina-Marina del Rey Flyer, 13737 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey (tel. 310/305-7250; www.catalinaferries.com), departs from Fisherman's Village at Marina del Rey. Schedule varies. Travel time to Avalon is 1 3/4 hours. Round-trip fare is $90 for adults, $82 for seniors, $69 for children 2 to 11, and $5 for infants.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.