Catalina Island: Free Birthday Rides Continue

The Catalina Express shall still whisk birthday-having people to Avalon (for zero dollars).

If we were going to be completely and devastatingly honest, we'd state, with some certainty, that a person having a birthday pretty much expects some of the experiences enjoyed in years gone by to make a return.

We hope a friend or two will phone or send a text. We hope that a cake might, at some point, hinder our path. And we're counting on a card or a gift from a loved one, a person who just might take us out for the kind of dinner where they sing to you during dessert.

But counting on a free birthday boat ride to a beautiful island, even if we've taken one in the past, seems like it might be too much to dream about. Surely the Ride Free on Your Birthday program from the Catalina Express, a deal known throughout the region, might one day evaporate like so much morning fog over Avalon.

Dare to dream, birthday-havers: Like a surprise text from a cousin, or a "Happy Birthday" sung by a restaurant's waitstaff, this extra-good birthday deal is hanging around through Dec. 31, 2016. 

Catalina Express made the announcement just days after it revealed that, due to the dropping of fuel prices, the company was lowering ticket prices to what they were just a pinch before 2012. A related schedule change went into effect on March 11, 2016.

The slightly lower fares to ride didn't impact what is not-so-arguably the company's big calling card, beyond ferrying daytrippers and overnighters to the iconic island some 22 miles west of the mainland: That free birthday trip, which is valued at up to $76.50 for a roundtrip.

Yes, perhaps that should be said: If you zoom out to Catalina Island on your birthday, and pay nothing for the pleasure, you'll also get a free boat trip back. Everyone take a deep breath. 


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Breath taken? Good, because the next thing to do is register online, if you're considering the offer. From there, Important Things will happen, like you getting confirmation emails and such.

So how many people have jumped upon this deal, with all the enthusiasm of someone blowing out a bunch of candles or ripping open a wrapped package? Catalina Express reports that, since 2011, over 350,000 people have signed up for the free birthday ride.

Which means that on most any day of the week, Avalon and Two Harbors may be hosting more birthday celebrators than most other California cities. Food for thought? Sure. 

But chew on this: There are a host of activities and locations on the island, including parasailing and the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden, that offer specials and discounts to those visitors having a birthday. So your birthdayness awesome-o-sity does not end when you disembark the boat.

Best check it all out before planning your birthday on an island, and rounding up your crew (yep, they have to pay for their tickets, but, c'mon, they're spending the day with you, so why wouldn't they want to do so?).

Details, discounts, and dreamy snapshots of that idyllic island can be found by paddling this way. 

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