It sits just about 26 miles from the Southern California coast, yet it took most of my life to visit this wonderful place. Some people have never been even though they have lived in So Cal all of their life, just like me.
I hope this story will inspire you to go visit!
The adventure to Catalina Island begins with the boat trip that ranges in length of time depending where you depart.
Boat trips are available from most of the harbors in Southern California all year round. We choose to leave from Dana Point Harbor for the hour and a half trip.
The newer and larger boats get you there a lot faster these days and most of the time it is smooth sailing. Smoother and shorter rides help to keep the sea sickness at a minimum or not at all. However, just to be sure we loaded up on Dramamine.
About 30 minutes out of port, we were treated to a visit from a pod of dolphins about 100 strong. A few were jumping the wakes of the boat so, the Captain slowed us down to watch them frolic for a few minutes.
On a typical cloudy morning in California we couldn’t see Catalina from the shore.
It was a thrill when we first spotted land as the sun starting peek out of the haze. On a clear day you can see Catalina from most coastal cities in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties.
Catalina Island, officially called Santa Catalina Island is a rocky island that spans 22 miles long and 8 miles wide with a population of about 4,000. The highest point on the island is 1,097 feet.
The main harbor where you disembark is called Avalon or Avalon Harbor and this the hub of Catalina with nearby restaurants,shops, hotels, etc.
Once on Catalina you can choose the type of stay you want. Do you want to relax and drink wine overlooking the harbor or do you want adventure? Catalina has it all. On this day we choose adventure and decided to Para-sail 800 feet in the air! One of those things that is scary yet fun. It turned out to be a little of both.
With one adventure under our belt we choose a mellow evening of hanging out and enjoying the harbor view from the deck of our quaint hotel, The Hotel St. Lauren.
The next day we were off to one of the more popular activities on Catalina, golf cart rental. They give you a map that shows you interesting stops and then they let you drive the carts by yourself. There are plenty of places to pull over but, the best views are higher up on the island with 180 views of the coast and harbor.
Driving in the hills, you see the 18 hole golf course below.
We stopped to watch the zip liners start their downward adventure which will eventually span over 5 different areas. If you want to zip line, make sure you call in advance to get a reservation as we wanted to try it but it was booked solid.
See the zip liner heading for the first stop
We passed by the old Casino which now hosts a variety of events throughout the year including a weekend jazz festival, plus they also show first run movies.
Taking a break, we hung out at Descanso Beach where the music was blaring and the bar was crowded. This is a favorite hang out area where you can eat , drink, swim, snorkel, kayak, etc. You can walk there from town just by heading north toward the casino and eventually you will hear the music playing.
I was told that in front of Descanso Beach there is a great place to swim and snorkel. n
In fact snorkeling on Catalina is supposed to be one of the best in California. Catalina is home to the bright orange Garibaldi Perch which can be seen frequently around the harbor
One thing I always wanted to do was ride on a glass bottom boat, so we did just that on the second day. We saw plenty of fish and it was great being on the water and seeing a different area of Catalina. It wasn’t a full bottom of glass that I was expecting as the newer version boats now have individual viewing areas. Each area is about 6′ feet wide and sits about 8 people.
That night in town it was hopping at a few of the restaurants and bars. Since there are only a few to choose from, they can get packed. This night was karaoke, so a few of my friends were obliged to entertain the crowd singing Margaritaville with the crowd yelling , Salt! Salt! Salt! The weekend was over way too soon but it was time to go back to the boat for the ride back home. I thought Catalina was impressive and a great place to visit for the day or weekend. Personally I would go for the weekend, because there is a lot to do.
If you just want to relax, this is the place to be. However, for adventures, there is golf, zip Line, para-sail, scuba, swimming, glass bottom boat, golf carts, tours, boat rides, snorkeling and much more. I will be coming back, I have a snorkel and a zip line with my name on it.
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