Are you ready for the most thrilling ride of your life?

While Catalina has always boasted tons of fun (jeep tours, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking), Santa Catalina Island Company has invested $11 million to beef up island adventure and accommodations.

Open just one month, the latest excitement to hit the town of Avalon is the Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour.

Get ready to drop from 500 to 60 feet above sea level traveling close to three quarters of a mile (3,671 feet) over five consecutive zip lines at speeds of 45 mph and faster. Before you loose your cool, you’re not actually 500 feet from the ground, but rather 300 feet above the canyon floor. It’s a spectacular feat to achieve!

After you meet your two guides, get set up with gear and watch a demo presentation, your group (usually about 10 people) climbs into the van that takes you high up in the hills near Avalon. Beginning at the Hog’s Back gate, your group gathers on the first platform and prepares to descend through Descanso Canyon.

It’s nerve-wracking to stare into the canyon and realize you will soon be jumping into the air and zipping across a cable line – each run averages 734 feet. Knowing that the cable that you are hanging from can hold a car (or withstand 26,000 pounds of pressure) does relieve some of the anxiety. But as you stand on the first platform, everyone in your group eyes each other, wondering who will be the bravest and jump first.

Once you take the initial plunge, though, and zip across the first line, you feel completely exhilarated. It isn’t as scary as you think! Plus, you feel totally invincible and fearless, like you just ate 20 cans of Popeye’s spinach.

Each of the five zip lines offers a unique treat. The first is phenomenal because … it’s the first. People congregate at the top of the hill, watching you on the platform. And you’re thinking, “Oh my God, I’m really gonna do this!” Then, once you’ve finished the initial jump, you’re hooked. The second is the longest at 1,100 ft. The fourth takes you through the trees. It is even suggested that you can actually catch some leaves in your hands as you swing by. And the last, lovingly referred to as the “Soul Zip,” is the easiest. On this one you’re instructed to … dance (or try to). One of our guides did the “lie down,” while the other pulled off the “twist.”

The cost of $89 per person is a deal (adrenaline rush = priceless), and the entire tour lasts approximately two hours, depending on the size of your group. In between rides, your guides deliver factoids about the landscape and history of the island, and they’re open for any questions you might have, except maybe, “Do I have to jump?”

Now that you know the Zip Line is right up your alley, it’s time to book your hotel and ferry.

Here are the easy answers: Hotel Atwater (125 Sumner St.), built in the 1920s but recently renovated, is a half of a block from the beach and centrally located to all of the action. For passage, reserve a seat on the Marina del Rey Flyer (

At Atwater, you’re steps away from bars, restaurants, clubs and right down the road from the newly upgraded Descanso Beach Club, with its private cabanas, an outdoor restaurant and bars. The Descanso is the hub of waterfront activities (i.e. kayaking, snorkeling), including the new Sea Trek Undersea Adventure, which opens later this summer. Guests will be outfitted in special diving helmets for a walk along an underwater trail. No diving experience is required.

Other new additions to Avalon are the Avalon Grille and Pavilion Hotel, both of which have also been open just one month. Catalina Island is celebrating the opening of the Pavilion Hotel with an “Unlimited Package,” including free, unlimited access to 15 Island Tours and activities and half-off the two newest tours (Zip Line Eco Tour and Sea Trek Undersea Adventure), plus preferred seating at the new Avalon Grille, through Oct. 16.

Stay tuned for Part II of our Catalina series, when we review the Sea Trek Undersea Adventure.

For more information, visit