Happily Whisked Away to Catalina Island

A Three-Day Adventure of Hiking, Snorkeling, and Dining

Credit: Gareth Kelly

After many months of barely going anywhere, my wife and I decided to step out from our Goleta home and see what travel adventures we could find.

Embracing all the world’s pandemic-related idiosyncrasies, the Catalina Island Company prepared for us an expansive three-day visit conforming to all state safety protocols while still allowing us the opportunity to enjoy everything this iconic island has to offer. 

Boarding the Catalina Express out of Long Beach, we lowered our masks and sipped our complimentary mimosas as we sailed across the bright blue Pacific.

Credit: Gareth Kelly

Disembarking in Avalon, we were greeted with brilliant sunshine and an abundance of Garibaldi fish in the crystal clear waters.

Meandering along the Avalon waterfront past the historic Catalina Casino and arriving at Descanso Beach Club, we enjoyed fresh ceviche, nachos, and a couple of margaritas while our toes played in the sand under our table.

A big yellow powerboat, the Cyclone, then whisked us up the Catalina coast to the picturesque seaside village of Two Harbors — our destination for night one.

At the renovated Banning House, a magnificent hilltop lodge, we gazed at Catalina Harbor to the west and Two Harbors to the east as the stresses of mainland life drifted away. 

Our first morning was spent kayaking to the USC Wrigley Institute at Fisherman’s Cove, where we were informed the snorkeling was excellent. We glided through the just-warm-enough-for-no-wetsuit water, spotting fish of all shapes, sizes, and bright colors in the serene world beneath us.  

At the Harbor Reef Restaurant & Saloon that evening, we tucked into delicious tuna tartare, coconut shrimp, and the best swordfish I’ve ever tasted, washed down with the island’s signature Buffalo Milk cocktail. 

Returning to Avalon, we checked into the newly renovated Hotel Atwater and after dinner overlooking Avalon harbor, took an evening stroll to the clock tower high above the town to take in the phenomenal views. 

Fueling up the next morning with coffee and pastries from the Bistro at the Atwater, a delightful coffee shop on the ground floor of the hotel, we walked to Tour Plaza in the center of town to board our Rumble & Trek biofuel Hummer. 

We were greeted by our guide and longtime island resident, Delilah, before she drove us up to the famous Airport in the Sky restaurant, 1,602 feet above the sea. A two-mile hike along the Airport Loop Trail with incredible vistas of the entire island got our blood pumping as did a sighting of the island’s most famous residents ― bison! 

We decided to forego the zip line tour that afternoon and instead slow down, taking the hotel’s complimentary bikes and exploring the island at our own pace. 

Sailing back to Long Beach the next day, relaxed smiles under our masks, we were already dreaming of our return. 

For more information on Catalina Island and all it has to offer, go to visitcatalinaisland.com.


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