Getting to Catalina is an enjoyable escapade in and of itself. Book a trip on either the Marina Del Rey Flyer, which leaves from Marina del Rey (catalinaferries.com) or Catalina Express (catalinaexpress.com), departing from San Pedro, Long Beach or Dana Point. Prices, departure times and length of trip vary for each company, and during the off-season (now through Memorial Day) there are fewer daily trips. You can choose to go to either Two Harbors to camp or Catalina’s only city, Avalon.
Evening One cozy and cute, not to mention centrally located, hotel option is the historic (serving since 1896) Hermosa Hotel (131 Metropole Ave.). Not only is the staff incredibly helpful in advising you where to go and what to see, but you’ll be surrounded by hip, young adventure-seekers like yourself. Once settled in, shake off those sea legs by strolling around Avalon, which consists of, at the most, 10 main streets filled with shops, restaurants and tourist centers. With a steady population of 3,500, the city swells to 15,000 during the peak season (read: summer, so book July 4 weekend early). The offseason is relatively calm in comparison, except for holiday weekends like Valentine’s and President’s Day.
Grab a bite to eat at the Landing (El Encanto Market Place) or El Galleon (411 Crescent Ave.), then stop by Luau Larry’s (509 Crescent Ave.) for late-night libations or Chi Chi Club (107 Sumner Ave.) for dancing.
9 a.m. You’re going to need a big breakfast for all the activities you’re going to rack up today. Original Jack’s Country Kitchen (118 Catalina Ave.) has an extensive menu with tons of mouth-watering choices ranging from the high protein Country Breakfast with biscuits and gravy to a Hangover Chili Omelette. Why not even try a slice of coconut or banana cream pie?
11 a.m. There’s a handful of land action to be had here. Renting bikes at Brown’s Bikes (107 Pebbly Beach Rd.) is an easy and fast way to see more of the island. You can secure a bike permit from the Catalina Island Conservancy (125 Clarissa Ave.; catalinaconservancy.org) if you plan to leave the city limits or just take a ride to Descanso Beach (and go for a dip and drink) and up to the Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens (one and a half miles up Avalon Canyon Rd.) if you’re staying local.
Another excellent option for adventure is to take a jeep or bus tour to the interior of the island to see the buffalo, deer and breathtaking landscape. For those into rigorous challenges, obtain a hiking permit (for free) from the conservancy and embark on a variety of scenic walks. One recommendation is looping around the Hermit Gulch Trail, which takes you up to Divide Road and offers an awesome view of both coasts.
7 p.m. After a jam-packed day of outdoor adventure, treat yourself to a hardy meal at Steve’s Steakhouse (417 Crescent Ave.) The best part about Steve’s, besides the flavorful and filling food, is the owner’s, Steve’s, hospitality. Why not order a Filet Mignon or Baby Back Ribs, or keep in the spirit of the sea with Australian Lobster or Alaska King Crab? Another highlight is you overlook the harbor!
9 p.m. Take in a movie at the Casino, a beautiful art deco landmark that shows one movie per week, and twice on Saturdays.
8 a.m. Get an early start and fuel up at the Pancake Cottage (615 Crescent Ave.). You’ll begin to see a pattern in Catalina: The owners of the establishments are very hands-on and welcoming. That’s goes for the Cottage owner Lou Wilhite. Go for a traditional order like a large stack of fluffy pancakes or try the cheese blintzes.
9:30 a.m. While there’s tons of water adventure to be had here – sailing, kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, jet skiing – there’s one activity that’s bound to impress your friends back home: a snuba trip. The only place to arrange such a unique adventure is Scuba Luv (126 Catalina Ave.; scubaluv.com).
A cross between snorkeling and scuba diving, snuba divers wear a mask and a regulator in their mouth that’s attached to a 20-foot hose, which is attached to a tank that lies on a raft on the surface of the water. This allows the diver to wander 20 feet away from the raft without carrying the tank on his/her back.
One ideal place to scuba is right off of Descanso Beach, winding your way through the kelp forest, where you’ll see tons of Garibaldi, the California State Fish. On your way back to town, poke your head in the Catalina Island Museum (next to the Casino).
2 p.m. Conclude your trip with a freshly made pizza pie at Antonio’s Pizzeria & Cabaret (230 Crescent Ave.), sitting on the back deck, watching the fish below and the boats in the harbor.
The Catalina Island Triathlon takes place Nov. 8 and the Catalina Island Eco-Marathon takes place Nov. 15. For more information, visit catalina.com or catalinachamber.com.