Santa Catalina Island is a tiny island 22 miles off the coast of Southern California. At just 22 miles long and 8 miles across at its greatest width, Catalina is the perfect weekend getaway! Avalon and Two Harbors are accessible by ferry: the Catalina Express and the Catalina Flyer. Before booking, check out Groupon for deals on tickets (I got mine for 37% off!). If you're lucky, you might even see dolphins on the ride!
Many people spend the day on the island, arriving in the morning and taking the ferry back in the evening. There is plenty to do in Avalon, Catalina's main town, so if this is your first trip, an overnight stay is a good idea. The waters are crystal clear, so snorkeling or scuba diving is a must! The two best sites are Lover's Cove and Casino Point Dive Park (if you only have time for one, check out the Dive Park for great views of plant and marine life!).
You can see plenty of bright orange garibaldi, California's state fish. I was lucky enough to see seals, dolphins, and flying fish as well. [As a warning, be careful if you are feeding the fish at Lover's Cove, surprisingly they get aggressive...one bit me).
The island offers flying fish tours - they take you around the coast at night and shine bright lights into the water. The flying fish jump out and glide considerable distances over the water. Our captain said a few have even flown into the boat! (Check out my video below to see the flying fish).
Beside water activites, you can check out the Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Garden, the Nature Center, camp, or hike. For my backpacker friends, consider the Trans-Catalina Trail. If that sounds like too much effort, explore the island by golf cart! I got a great deal with Catalina Golf Cart Rentals (Pay for 2 hours and get the third hour free. With this
deal, we ended up paying $90 for 3 hours.) Most rental companies require the driver to be 25 years or older, but Catalina Golf Cart Rentals, a.k.a. Island Rentals, had an age requirement of 21. The company offers a preplanned 12 mile scenic route which can be completed in one hour with minimal stops. We stopped often and took lots of pictures, so it took us about three hours to complete the route.
If you are in Avalon on a Tuesday or Thursday, check out Beach Bingo!
The town of Avalon is one square mile, so stroll around and visit the shops, parks and restaurants. Some of the more popular places to eat include The Sand Trap (although it is a farther walk), Descando Beach Club, Cafe Metropole, The Lobster Trap, and Antonio's Original Pizza.
For those of you who are interested in staying overnight, keep in mind that you must either walk or rent a golf cart to reach your hotel (unless your hotel offers transportation). We stayed at the El Terrado Terrace, which was located up on a hill, so packing light made the walk much easier. Our room was spacious and included a microwave and a fridge, which was perfect for our purposes.
For more, check out this brief video!