A Guide to Weekend Getaways in Catalina Island, California
VSThe island of atalina is often called “Mediterranean getaway in California, and although much of SoCal may claim Meteorology Med, there is something in the name. Warm and sunny, with a small town built in the hills around a palm-fringed seafront that overlooks a sleepy port, it evokes many places on the Italian or French Riviera.
Claimed by the Spanish Empire, then once part of Mexico, then the United States, before being largely owned by a series of private developers including William Wrigley Jr. (him ubiquitous chewing gum), Catalina has a fascinating story.
The 35-mile-long island, just an hour by ferry from Los Angeles, served as a shelter for smugglers, served as a training ground for the Chicago Cubs owned by Wrigley, and has long been a respite from life. continental. It drew the Hollywood elite of the 30s and 40s and the Insta hordes of the 2000s, but it’s an accessible, unpretentious getaway for all. Bison incongruously roam the backcountry far from their natural habitat, another Wrigley introduction that brings tourists but does not always fit in with island-wide conservation plans. What is the island does not have cars – or not many of them anyway. Most people get around on foot or by golf cart.
It is sometimes overlooked by those who live on its doorstep, but definitely worth a weekend away from LA
Where to stay on Catalina Island
Whether you want to sleep under the stars or in a comfortable bed, Catalina Island offers a variety of accommodation options.
Book now: from $ 169 / night, expedia.com
We like Atwater Hotel, a centennial slice of Avalon history, located in the center, named after Helen Atwater Wrigley, wife of Philip Knight Wrigley (William’s son). Its century-old renovation in 2020 gave it a light, modern feel with soothing undertones of teal and coral and fresh carnations. You’ll find guests at the front desk playing a range of board games and watching island life come and go through the large windows. You can also keep an eye out for the sailboats floating in the nearby harbor from the bedrooms on the top floor.
Aurora Hotel & Snug Harbor Inn
Camping at Hermit Gulch campsite
Campgrounds will reopen on February 12. Hermit Gulch Campground is just a mile from the town of Avalon, but has access to nearby hiking trails, as does another beach campground at Two Harbors, the other (smaller) town in the area. western end of the island.
For something more unusual, Catalina Island Company allows guests to book two nights at the island’s art deco casino, a familiar landmark for anyone who has patiently gazed at the horizon from the ferry. There has never been any gambling (it takes its name from the Italian casino as a “place of assembly”), but has organized many dance evenings and weddings in her ballroom. The stay will include a guided tour by a local historian, a three-course meal and a film screening at the Avalon Theater. The next 2021 dates will be published shortly.
What to do on Catalina Island
An ideal weekend on Catalina Island would probably be split 50/50 between land and sea. You won’t want to miss out on snorkeling or scuba diving among the almost aggressive bright orange garibaldi fish near the casino – l The water here is clear and dense with scaly creatures. Much of the harbor’s marine life can be seen from a semi-submersible also, if you prefer to stay dry, while swimming and boating opportunities abound. We had a kayak camping trip on our wishlist for quite some time.
On dry land there is the usual range of holiday activities: hiking, shopping, a lovely mini-golf course, an illuminating bus tour of historic sites with touches of holiday comedy, and more to do. high octane number. Think zipline, jeep tours to see wild bison, Hummer rides. The must-see Catalina Island experience? Golf cart rental and fairing around the surrounding hills for photo ops and exhilarating general views.
All of the above is out of Avalon, but Two ports also offers an abundance of recreation and dining.
Where to eat on Catalina Island
Catalina’s waterfront promenade offers a range of comfort food, beer and pretzel bars, a tiki bar as well as ice cream and ice cream revered at Shovels. Queues build up every night for a 50s themed slice of pizza to go Original Antonio, while sister spot Antonio’s Pizzeria & Cabaret serves steaks and seafood with humorous signs and plenty of beachfront restaurants.
Descanso Beach Club, meanwhile, presents a rare opportunity in California: the chance to drink alcohol with your feet in the sand. The beachfront restaurant and bar serves burgers, nachos, poke bowls, and a range of cocktails, including an intimidating Bloody Mary that’s topped with a mini cheeseburger, pork belly skewers, and slices of cheese. ‘onion.
Locals Apparently love the new and larger Vons supermarket (“treat it like mainland tourists might … look at the island’s famous buffaloes”, according to the Los Angeles Times). It’s a sign of how wonderfully the island is devoid of big box stores (if that’s a little less wonderful for actual residents).
California reopened its outdoor restaurants in early February, and Catalina’s businesses made the most of their location, with many serving food to diners on the beach itself. Lovecatalina.com a a list of places which are open and serviceable, whether for take-out or at the table. (The site is What is open The section has a list of restaurants, hotels, other businesses, and trails that cater to travelers.)
How to get to Catalina Island from Los Angeles?
Unless you have your own boat or plane, or are willing to take a 10 hour paddleboard trip there (it’s known), the Catalina express is your best bet. The company normally offers up to 30 departures per day from several ports, including Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point. After closing to visitors last fall due to the pandemic, Catalina Island reopens with service from February 12 – boats will have reduced capacity to facilitate social distancing. Get to port early if you want to hang outside seating on top of the boat. All three ports offer long-term parking (the structure of Long Beach is particularly convenient).
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