Located just 22 miles off the Southern California coast, Catalina Island is accessible by high-speed ferry, private plane fly into Catalina Island’s Airport in the Sky, or 15 minutes via helicopter with IEX Helicopters with service from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Orange County. Whether you are looking for adventure or a relaxing day with friends, hop on the Catalina Express from San Pedro, Long Beach, and Dana Point to Avalon and Two Harbors.
Providing up to 30 departures daily year-round, Catalina Express whisks more than one million passengers to the island each year. Featuring four high-speed catamarans that carry passengers to Santa Catalina – The Starship Express, Catalina Jet, Cat Express and the Jet Cat Express – passengers can enjoy spacious main deck seating and an upper deck which features the Commodore Lounge. Guests can purchase this option, an additional $15 each way, and make use of priority check-in and boarding, upgraded reclining seats and beverage and snack service.
In just about an hour, passengers arrive in the island and are presented with a bustling waterfront town with golf carts buzzing around in Avalon. The southern-most city in Los Angeles County encompasses 2.9 square miles and offers a picturesque harbor with narrow streets leading to hillside homes and shops. Giving off a Mediterranean vibe, visitors can stroll the waterfront to Descanso Beach and past the iconic Catalina Casino along the way. Containing a movie theater and ballroom, the Casino garners its name from the Italian term casino meaning “gathering place” versus a gambling facility. Its upper level houses the 20,000-square-foot Catalina Casino Ballroom, the world’s largest circular ballroom.
This year marks the top-to-bottom renovation of Hotel Atwater and the pending opening of the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel. The new Hotel Atwater provides a casual island aesthetic while still staying true to the Wrigley family legacy with nostalgic elements in the lobby as well as every room. Over the past year and a half, the hotel underwent a complete renovation and now offers a contemporary twist on Catalina’s hospitality all through an island-deco theme. Also new to Avalon is Toyon Grill by Bluewater which is named after the Toyon bush, or California Holly, native to Catalina Island and Southern California and the refreshed El Galleon Restaurant, an island institution since 1967.
Activities on the island are aplenty whether on land, sea or air; starting at the Descanso Beach Club which offers a wide range of on-site activities, including snorkeling and kayak rentals. Nearby at Descanso Canyon, Catalina Island Company manages the exhilarating five-line Zip Line Eco Tour, the Catalina Aerial Adventure or seasonal Catalina Falconry Experience. Catalina Island Company also offers several land and ocean tours like the Avalon Scenic Drive or Undersea Expedition. One tour that is a must try is the Bison Expedition where knowledgeable tour guides take guests in an all-terrain, 12-passenger eco-friendly H1 Hummer, on a thrilling off-road eco-adventure into the heart of the island to look for bison, foxes, and eagles.
After a long day out exploring on land, sea or air, Island Spa Catalina offers a stress-free environment in Avalon’s historic El Encanto building. From a Warm Sand & Ocean Therapy to Citrus with a Twist Body Scrub, the Spa’s unique signature treatments use local plants and marine extracts to rejuvenate the mind and body. Amenities include a Wellness Studio offering yoga and virtual fitness classes, an ocean-view relaxation deck, salon, soaking pool, jacuzzi and more. Just down the road, grab dinner at Avalon Grille the urban chic and island casual restaurant which features indoor and outdoor bayside seating plus live music and more.