I recently got back from a beautiful and long awaited vacation to the town of Avalon on Catalina Island, where there is lots of greenery, tranquility, breathtaking scenery, and tiny streets full of golf carts…hahaha! Have you been there yet? No worries if not, as by the end of this post you’ll be ready to book your vacation to the island ASAP.
I’ve wanted to go and visit this island for a long time, having been inspired both by the stories of visitors and seeing the gorgeous picturesque shots which reminded me of Europe. All along I had an idea of what Catalina Island might be like, but there were definitely some things that took me by surprise.
First, the streets are hilly like San Francisco, so if you plan on renting bikes be warned you might end up pushing the bike more than cycling around. Second, the compact layout of Avalon means that the stores and restaurants are all easily within walking distance, however most close early (especially during their off season months). Third, while there are lots of things to do to fill the day, it is equally enjoyable to simply relax in the quiet surroundings, depending on what you want from your vacation. Finally, you’ll for sure enjoy your trip to the island no matter how long you decide to stay.
We decided to stay for four nights, which was perfect for us!!! I look forward to revisiting Santa Catalina Island to experience a water tour such as the undersea sub expedition, the open-air Hummer-driven bison expedition, or seeing the island from a different perspective on the zip line.
Our travel day was overcast and rainy, but everything about it was so special. We headed to the airport bright and early. Such an easy flight…from Vegas to Long Beach is under an hour. It literally takes more time to get everybody onto the airplane seated and ready, than the actual time in the air.
Once we landed it was time to catch the Catalina Express ferry to the island, which was an additional hour. So much fun…I love to travel on the water, sitting outside and enjoying the seemingly infinite ocean all around. On the way back the weather was sunny and beautiful, and we saw pods of dolphins swimming by throughout the journey. MAGICAL!🐬
If you’re thinking of a road trip, you can easily leave your car at the Long Beach ferry terminal parking lot before taking the ferry. In addition to Long Beach, you can also travel to Catalina Island via boat from Dana Point and San Pedro. Plenty of options!
This day was filled with walking and exploring. It’s easy to escape into the island’s natural beauty on foot, so we took the opportunity to catch some fresh air while exploring little corners you wouldn’t be able to see from a car or a golf cart.
One of the many beautiful outdoor activities to do around Avalon is to visit the well known Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden. We headed out early in the morning, and were quickly surrounded by green hills. We passed a huge golf course along the way, which seemed to act as a meeting point for the local wildlife. Golf carts occasionally passed by on the narrow country roads. It was a nice change from the city buildings and streets filled with traffic here in Las Vegas.
When entering the botanical garden your eyes are immediately drawn to the tower dedicated to William Wrigley Jr, standing tall at the center. It was built in celebration of his vision to preserve Catalina’s natural beauty, so visitors and locals can fully enjoy the island to this day.
When walking around the botanical garden you’ll see plants from every corner of the world. A few of them, like the Catalina Manzanita, can only be found on the island…nowhere else. That’s a special treat and a great reason for visiting these gardens while exploring Catalina.
Very close to the Wrigley memorial you’ll spot the entrance gate to the Garden-to-Sky trail. It is truly a beautiful hike. You’ll be in awe of the views from up top. You’ve got the rocky cliffs, the Pacific ocean and the Catalina wildlands. You can spot snow-peaked mountains in the distance on the mainland. How perfect is that? Every direction you look will have your jaw dropping!
There are so many hikes you can do on this island, ranging from easy to intermediate right up to the entire 38 mile Trans-Catalina Trail. Choose wisely and be sure to be as prepared as possible. Have Fun!
On your Catalina trip, be sure to spare a day for relaxing on the sandy beach at Descanso Beach Club as well as visiting the Catalina casino. They are located in the same direction and are good to visit on the same day.
The beach club is a private beach open to the public with a bar area, lounge chairs, private cabanas (if you’re interested in renting one) and music. When we went there, they were still preparing the area for their seasonal opening. However, we did get to explore inside and it was here I enjoyed a dip in the water. The cool waves felt very refreshing. I can only imagine how popular this beach club gets during the summer. Traveling off season has it’s pros!
As for the casino, being from Vegas, I expected it to be a gambling casino like the ones we have here, but that wasn’t the case.😂 It’s a stunning location, featuring a huge ballroom upstairs and a beautiful theatre downstairs, which hosts annual film and jazz festivals. I honestly prefer this than what we picture when we hear the word “casino”.
The BEST island views are from above, so on our final full day we did even more climbing. hahaha
We walked all the way up to the Wrigley mansion, along the tiny steep streets lined with greenery. The view was stunning! From there you can feel the island’s magic, with views of the water, the boats, the pier, and the houses stacked along the hills. Even more so when the sun sets… that scene is still alive in my memory! Another scenic paradise view worth checking out is the Hamilton Cove Villas. It’s a private, gated community, but there’s an overlook (Buena Vista Point Overlook) you can walk to for that insta-worthy shot. There are so many photo opportunities! I really enjoyed the picture perfect backdrops sprinkled along the island!😍
As for food, the most yummy and fresh seafood you can have with a spectacular view of the water is at Bluewater Avalon. Also, don’t miss your chance to eat at Maggie’s Blue Rose for your Mexican food cravings. We dined there twice…so delicious. Another nearby favorite was the NDMK Fish House. The poke and sushi were incredible!
If you know me you know I love starting the day with a coffee and occasional sweet treat – especially when on vacation. I can’t wait to get out in search of unique, cozy and cute coffee shops. Catalina Coffee & Co. is the one! The lovely outdoor seating area often plays host to live music, and is next door to an array of mini boutique shops ideal for roaming around. Too cute!
How does this island life sound to you? I can’t get enough!!! I’m ready for this island series to continue…😉 Where to next?