Travel Tips

5 min read

Catalina Escape: Is a Passport Required for Island Bliss?

Imagine a slice of paradise just a boat ride away—no passport needed. Welcome to Catalina Island, your next adventure that's closer than you think. Ready to discover how easy it is to escape?

Tobi Miles
June 13, 2022

Nothing in the world can beat a relaxing vacation on the beach. The beach is an ideal spot to unwind with soft sand beaches and soothing waves crashing.

While most people dream of traveling to a tropical location, this reality is not always possible if you lack a valid passport. Catalina Island, in California, may offer a convenient vacation location for those without a passport.

U.S. citizens do not need a passport to travel to Catalina Island. The island belongs to the United States, so travelers never leave the country. If you are a non-U.S. citizen, traveling to Catalina Island is unrestricted, pending you follow the proper procedures to enter the United States.

Non-U.S. citizens will still need to follow the appropriate steps to enter the United States. Proper documentation, such as a valid passport and proof of vaccination, is required for entry.

Some travelers may also have to obtain a necessary visa to enter the United States. Because Catalina Island is still part of the U.S., there are no essential Covid-19 testing requirements, and mandates largely follow the guidelines established by LA County.

Do You Need a Passport to Travel to Catalina Island?

Credit: Catalina Island / Facebook

A passport is not required to travel to Catalina Island, although a government-issued photo ID is recommended. Catalina Island is part of LA County, located just minutes away from Los Angeles. It follows that Catalina Island belongs to the state of California.

Although Catalina Island may seem like it is miles away, it is, in fact, part of the United States. Visitors traveling to Catalina Island do not pass through a border crossing or immigration control.

What Documentation Is Required for U.S. Citizens?

There is no documentation required for U.S. citizens to travel to Catalina Island. Because you never actually leave the country, nothing is required to visit this picturesque island. Although a passport or Real ID is not necessary for a visit to Catalina Island, taking a government-issued photo ID is a good idea in case of an emergency.

What Are the Covid-19 Restrictions for Entry and Re-Entry?

Covid-19 restrictions are constantly changing worldwide, so it is crucial to stay up to date. Before traveling to any new city or region, be sure to check the local guidance surrounding Covid-19 mitigation.

Entering Catalina Island

Credit: Shutterstock

Catalina Island is part of the United States and Los Angeles County. Catalina Island generally follows the same guidelines as LA County. Currently, every person, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask if:

  • They travel on public transportation, including buses, taxis, ferries, and ride-shares.
  • They are traveling on indoor transportation, such as trains or subways.
  • They are visiting a healthcare center or facility.
  • The local business or venue mandates a mask policy.

Currently, no mandates prevent travel between the United States mainland and Catalina Island. Those vaccinated and unvaccinated against Covid-19 are free to travel to the island. Vaccine verification is no longer required if participating in an indoor event classified as a “mega-event” or visiting indoor bars, nightclubs, or lounges. However, the CDC and the United States continue to recommend getting the Covid-19 vaccine strongly.

Related Read: Best Time To Visit Catalina Island

Returning to The United States Mainland

Credit: Shutterstock

Those traveling to Catalina Island never officially leave the United States. Because travelers remain on United States territory, a negative Covid-19 test is not necessary to return to the mainland. In addition, returning to the mainland does not require proof of a Covid-19 vaccination.

It is vital to remain vigilant while traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic. If you show signs or symptoms of possible infection, avoid traveling to Catalina Island. If you have tested positive for Covid-19, refrain from traveling for ten days following the positive test.

For those who contract Covid-19 while visiting Catalina Island, ensure you have a safe place to isolate until a negative Covid-19 test can be produced. As always, use caution and wear a mask when around large groups of people or are waiting for a test result.

Do I Need a Passport If I am Not a U.S. Citizen?

Credit: Shutterstock

Traveling to Catalina Island requires no additional documentation if you are already in the United States. As a non-U.S. citizen, it is important to legally follow the necessary steps to arrive in the United States.

All non-U.S. citizens must be fully vaccinated with the correct series of accepted vaccinations. Travelers must also present a negative Covid-19 test, regardless of vaccination status and citizenship. The test must be obtained within 24 hours of arrival.

In addition to the necessary vaccination documentation and passport, it may be necessary to obtain a valid visa for travel within the United States in addition to a valid passport. There are 39 countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program. If you are traveling from one of the approved countries, a visa is not necessary for arriving in the United States and further traveling to Catalina Island.

Is There an Immigration Check at Catalina Island?

Because Catalina Island is part of the United States, there is no immigration check when arriving at or departing from Catalina Island. A passport is not necessary or checked when traveling between Long Beach and Catalina Island.

Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Catalina Island?

In most cases, a visa is not necessary to travel to Catalina Island. U.S. citizens remain in United States territory when traveling to Catalina Island. Even for prolonged stays on the island, a visa is not necessary.

However, if you are a non-U.S. citizen, a visa may be necessary to enter the United States. A visa may be necessary if your country of citizenship does not participate in the Visa Waiver Program. The type of visa needed to enter the United States will vary depending on your reason for travel. Some common visas used to enter the United States include:

  • Student visas
  • Immigrant visas for permanent residency
  • Fiancé visas
  • Visitor visas
  • Transit visas
  • Business professional visas (special for Mexican and Canadian citizens)

While no additional visas are needed to travel to Catalina Island specifically, you may need a visa to enter the United States, regardless of your entry point. Always be sure to consult official government information regarding the appropriate visa for your travels.

Is a Driver’s License Enough to Travel to Catalina Island?

Credit: Shutterstock

Catalina Island is part of the United States, although it is not attached to the mainland. Because traveling to Catalina Island does not require you to leave the country, there is no documentation required for entry to this idyllic island. However, it is a good practice to travel with a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license. Not only is a driver’s license an excellent way to prove your identity, but it may also be necessary in the event of an emergency.

Related Read: 15 Best Beaches in Southern California for Families

Will a Real ID Be Enough to Enter Catalina Island?

Documentation such as a passport, passport card, Real ID, or even a driver’s license is not required to enter Catalina Island. This island, although separate from the mainland, is the territory of the United States. There are no border crossings or immigration check-in procedures to gain access to Catalina Island. While not necessary, a government-issued photo ID, like a Real ID, could be useful in the event of an emergency.

Do Children Require a Passport to Travel to Catalina Island?

Like adults, children do not need a passport to travel to Catalina Island. This island is part of the United States, so there are no custom checkpoints or immigration crossings to go through. Children will require a passport to enter the United States if they travel from another country. A passport for adults and children is required for land, sea, and air border crossings, with very few exceptions.

Can I Drive on Catalina Island?

Credit: Shutterstock

While a valid driver’s license would be sufficient to drive on Catalina Island, cars are prohibited around the island. Visitors may use motorized golf carts in place of automobiles to get from one point to another. In fact, most homes on Catalina Island even have small driveways that accommodate only a golf cart. Further, there are no ride-share services like Lyft or Uber on Cataline Island.

What Vaccinations are Required for Catalina Island?

Credit: Shutterstock

Catalina Island is part of the United States, so no additional vaccinations are required to travel to the island. Proof of a Covid-19 vaccine is not required to travel to Catalina Island. If you are a non-U.S. citizen, vaccinations may be required to enter the United States and thus travel to Catalina Island. The required vaccines for U.S. immigration are:

  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus and diphtheria
  • Polio
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Pertussis
  • Rotavirus
  • Varicella
  • Meningococcal disease

In addition, any non-U.S. citizen arriving in the United States must have a fully approved Covid-19 vaccination. Proof of vaccination is required at all ports of entry into the United States. Please be sure to have an approved vaccine manufacturer and ensure you have waited two weeks between vaccines.

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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