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Sun, Sep

Weekend Getaway: Catalina

Avalon, the main port in Catalina, has boutique hotels, a luxury spa, and fine dining. Photo by Jason Lewis

Travel

Catalina mixes relaxation and adventure.

By Jason Lewis

Catalina seems like such a small island, but it has so many amazing things to offer.  And after taking a trip there, you’ll quickly find out that there are many surprises.  

This island, which is only a one-hour ferry ride from the ports at San Pedro or Long Beach, offers both relaxation and adventure.  The island’s main port is the city of Avalon which has boutique hotels, a luxury spa, and fine dining.  Just outside of the city, wilderness and sea life are extremely close by.

“I think what is so surprising for many visitors is the diversity of experiences on Catalina Island,” said Sherri Cline, marketing director of the Aurora Hotel & Spa, one of Catalina’s superb boutique hotels.  “Whether you are looking for an adventure packed getaway charged with adrenaline or a romantic retreat with massages and fine dining, you'll find it here.”

Catalina appears to be a small place because a person can walk from one end of Avalon to the other end in a short amount of time.  After getting off the ferry, the hotels are a 10-minute walk away, or a very short cab ride.  

Avalon’s population is under 4,000 people, and hardly anybody owns a car.  Just about everybody gets around in golf carts, which is an interesting sight to see.  Golf carts line the residential streets, and it’s not too often that an automobile drives by.  

For visitors of Avalon, golf carts and bicycles can be rented, but are unnecessary because practically everything is within walking distance.

Since it’s an island, fresh seafood is the main dining attraction of Catalina.  It can be found at all of the local restaurants along Crescent Avenue and at food stands along the Green Pleasure Pier.  Catalina does not have any major fast-food chains, making the cuisine authentic.  

The city of Avalon has made a number of additions in recent years to make it a more appealing travel destination.

“Catalina Island has been undergoing a renaissance over the last five years or so,” Cline said.  “While there is still plenty of seaside charm, there has been a multi-million dollar investment in bringing new and upgraded experiences to visitors.”

For relaxation, the Island Spa recently opened.  It features a heated swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, and massage rooms.  People who are looking for stress release will probably find this establishment the most enjoyable part of the trip.  

Another recent development is the new Catalina Island Museum, which showcases the intriguing history of the island.

Because the boardwalk in Avalon is so small, Catalina can be viewed as a day trip.  But a person coming to the island on the morning ferry and leaving in the evening would be missing everything outside of the city that this island has to offer.  Trips outside of the town, whether by land or sea, shows how large the island really is.

Catalina has a number of outdoor activities on land and in the water. There are safari tours on the inland part of the island, and dolphin, whale, and seal lion tours on the outskirts. Photo by Jason Lewis

 

Water activities include whale and dolphin watching, which also includes a boat trip along the coast to see where the sea lions dwell, fishing trips, scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling, and parasailing.  

On land, the bulk of the island outside of Avalon is undeveloped.   Safari tours are very popular, as the wildlife journeys showcase the scenic outback areas.  Wild animals such as the bison, island fox, and bald eagle can been seen from the safety of an open-air vehicle.  

Catalina can be the perfect weekend getaway because it is convenient to get to the island, and the experience is very memorable.