What: Santa Catalina Island, California
When: Growing into a year round destination, but glorious in Spring/Summer
Where: 22 miles (35 km) SouthWest of Los Angeles
How: Private Boat, Helicopter, Jet Ski, or my favorite ferry… Catalina Express
Ever visited the Channel Islands set conveniently off of Southern California? Then you may already be in-the-know. With a blended ambience of old hollywood meets quaint small town, Catalina is hands down the crown jewel of this historic archipelago.
Craving a getaway that’s a little adventurous, a little flavorful, a little novel, yet heavy on relaxation? Island life may very well peek your interest! This destination is ideal for a day trip, long weekend, or even a week. Depending on your interests, budget, and need to disconnect, you literally can do as much or as little as you desire. I could tell you about their 9-hole golf course and 45 mph zip line eco-tour. I could entice you with their world renowned scuba diving and on trend standup paddle-boarding. I could even bore you with long drawn out stats and infrastructure, but really… it’s all about something the locals frequently refer to as Island Time. Catalina may lie within Los Angeles County, but don’t let that fool you. Everything is slowed down here; you really take a step back. There’s an ease to the pace of daily life. You won’t find the stereotypical LA scene played out here. Catalina embodies a tangible laid-back sensibility.
On one of your first mornings here, be sure to check out CC Gallagher. Enjoy a frothy seasonal latte and nibble on a crumbly scone in this upscale cafe meets boutique. I love to linger over their glistening display cases while sipping on a soy chai latte.
Take an hour or two and explore the Casino. I know what you’re thinking, but that’s not the case. Built in 1929, this Art Deco landmark has always been used as a place of entertainment – not gambling. Housed within it’s storied architecture, you can watch a movie at the Avalon Theater, attend an event at the Casino Ballroom, or bone up on the local culture at the Catalina Island Museum. I highly recommend visiting the newly remodeled museum. There you’ll find vibrant exhibits displaying authentic artifacts, historic photos, tales of Hollywood legends, and various focal points in the Island’s history. If you call ahead, you may even be able to arrange a quick tour laden with colorful details.
Feeling a little adventurous? Consider taking part in a Jeep Eco Tour. Naturalists drive you in an open air Jeep deep into the Island terrain. Wildlife spottings, twisting turning scenic dirt roads, Instagram worthy panoramas, and informative and personable voiceovers all make up this unique behind the scenes experience. Insider tip: dress warmly and grab a throw blanket from the guide if you’re hit with the wind chill.
Whether this sweet treat is a gift or a welcome addition to your room, pop into Lloyds of Avalon Confectionary. Enticing sweet-tooths since 1934, Lloyds is known for their hand made salt water taffy. I highly recommend customizing a goody bag from the 18 savory flavors on offer.
There are a multitude of options when it comes time to choosing your accommodations. Do you camp, prefer B&Bs, or lean toward boutique hotels? Do you only do 5-star fully loaded with amenities or snag an invite on a private boat? Depending on your style, budget, time frame, and number in your group, reserving a vacation rental could be the way to go. Personally, I feel there’s a time and place for everything. In the past I’ve booked vacation rentals as a couples getaway and also massive homes shared with groups of friends. There’s a level of independence, space, and homeyness that can’t be denied.
Would this be a great option for a solo traveler on an overnight business trip, probably not. However, would this be an ideal layout for a few couples or a family enjoying a long weekend – absolutely. Frankly, you get to experience the destination from a locals perspective. Sometimes running arbitrary errands exposes you to a glimpse of daily life and really submerges you into the flow of that location. Picture it: pop into the shops for a few things for the kitchen and discover the neighborhood baker. Stretch out on the couch with your fleecy throw and unwind while reading that paperback you spotted in the living room. While perusing the cabinets you notice that you’re totally set up to pull together an impromptu brunch that everyone will fondly look back on. After a full day of exploring, you’re relieved to locate the in-room washer/dryer where you can freshen up your outfits so you don’t return home with a mountain of laundry. Are you more hands on? Yes, but this is not the corporate experience. Let this be an opportunity to carve out your own memories on your own terms. Consider Catalina Island Vacation Rentals, which offers competitively priced options to suit your varying needs.
I tend to always book direct, however you can utilize a vacation rental website, such as FlipKey, for a more comprehensive overview of various available properties. FlipKey features oodles and oodles of vacation homes in over 11,000 cities worldwide. Play with their site filters, search features, and available amenities to really hone in on the experience that you’re after.
Whether you’re seeking rest, adventure, attending an event, or earning your PADI certification – you can always find a way to make Island Time all your own.