This past weekend, I traveled to Catalina Island for my old college roommate’s wedding, and it was legendary (especially when you think of famous faces like Marilyn Monroe spending her summer days there!) It’s a place Kristen (my old roomie) has been going every year since she was a kid, so it seemed fitting for her to get married there. We arrived on the island in the late afternoon after an incredibly long day of travel (we left our house in San Francisco at 4:30 a.m. for a 6:30 a.m flight to LAX).
Catalina is only 22 miles off of the coast of California, which feels so close, but when you’re riding through the ocean waves with the island slowly approaching, beware of sea sickness! It takes a little longer than you think! Ferries run to and from the island regularly throughout the day, but if you feel like splurging a little bit you can also take a helicopter. We chose the ferry because there weren’t any helicopters available on our day of travel (though two of my friends took the air route and each saw blue whales), but the ferry also had its amazing moments. It was serenaded by dolphins the whole way there! Apparently they love to throw themselves in the air off of the boat’s wake, and they put on quite a show!
Here are a few tips for planning a trip to Catalina if it’s in the cards for you:
For your trip there:
1: Fly into Long Beach. We flew into LAX, but the Catalina Express leaves from Long Beach, so you can avoid the extra travel.
2: Make your reservation for the ferry or helicopter ahead of time. They both get pretty booked and you may end up waiting a few hours for the next trip if you don’t schedule early.
3: If you plan on sitting outside on the deck of the ferry, grab a sweater before they lock up your luggage. Once it’s locked, you can’t get to it until you arrive at the island. It get’s pretty chilly up there.
4: If you have motion sickness, stand on the back of the boat and watch the horizon. It really helps.
5: Be prepared with your camera. The dolphins follow the boats to and from the island, and they are really a sight when flying through the air.
There are lots of fun things to do in Avalon, that’s the town. It’s quite the happening place! Though it’s the sea (salty), the water is incredibly clear, and you can partake in a variety of fun recreational water sports! Rent some snorkeling equipment if you feel inclined, or a jet ski, a kayak, a paddle board, or even parasail! You can also go deep sea diving via boar, though we declined because of the great white sharks up and down California coast.
The mode of transport on the island? Golf carts! There are a few cars, but apparently the island makes it really difficult for locals to import cars. The golf cart is the new mini! It’s actually pretty humorous because some of the carts are totally G’d out, with huge all terrain wheels and flashy colors.
Below is the view from the deck of our room. We stayed at the Catalina Canyon Resort, which turned out to be a little bit of a hike up the hill into the mountains, but well worth it. The deck on the room overlooking the pool made it especially awesome because we slept every night with the sounds of the breeze and the pattering rain through the open door.
While on the Island:
1: Above is Descanso Beach, the main beach area in Avalon, where all of the fun stuff happens. Unfortunately you do have to purchase your chair, but it’s well worth it because you get served food and drink without ever having to leave your tanning position.
2: Food in Catalina is not THE BEST and it’s expensive… be prepared for a variety of fried foods at most of the restaurants (you know, kind of diner-ish but more upscale.) However, the seafood is amazing… we had mouth-watering calamari and also a cajun-seared ahi that was so good!
3: When someone says “fucking Catalina wine mixer,” they really mean it!
4: Rent a golf cart for a few hours if you want to get anywhere outside of Avalon proper (there’s not much else on the island besides a few camping spots, but lots of amazing views. And buffalo!) Otherwise you have to walk everywhere.
5: Get massages on the beach. The tents overlook the water and you lay there listening to the waves in your moments of relaxation!
6: Do the zip line! It’s a chunk of change because you zip from five different platforms, but it’s well worth the experience! Rumor has it that there is a night zip line in the works! How fun! I overheard one guy over drinks say that he had flown in via helicopter for the day to zip line and was flying back that night!
The sunset on the ferry back was so soothing after a whirlwind weekend. Hopefully you get a lucky as we did with the weather. It rained the moment we got there but cleared up soon after for the rest of the weekend. All in all, it was a perfect short vacation! You should try it sometime, it’s so easily accessible from Los Angeles and perfect for a couple’s retreat!