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Avalon on Catalina Island, Great Escape 1 Hour Away

Who doesn't love Avalon on Catalina Island? This is the island of romance. As you arrive by high speed Catamaran boat, Catalina Express from Long Beach, into the colorful harbor, you are welcomed by a saturated scene on sunny days. The water is a rich hue of blue, contrasted by the Green Pleasure Pier, clay-tiled roofs and pink, yellow or mint colored buildings ranging from hotels and shops to hillside homes—brightly smiling.

 The picturesque destination easily accessed by boat, helicopter or small plane usually takes about an hour to get to and while the ride itself is a refreshing experience, it's just the beginning of many pleasant surprises. When you step off the boat you can see bright orange fish swimming in the crystal waters next to the boat.

As there are limited motorized vehicles on the island, you won't see and hear cars waiting at the port to deliver overnight passengers to their hotels and homes. You will, however, notice golf carts. Within a three minute walk from the boat you can snag one if you have a reservation and are willing to pay the rental fees. The majority of arrivals just walk to their hotels, dragging their luggage on wheels behind them. Daytrippers may want to rent a cart to check out the vast scenery, since time is short (you have about 6-8 hours of exploring before heading back to the mainland on return boats.)

If you're hungry, the first thing you'll do is go straight to the cluster of restaurants to grab a bite. But other options include shopping, sunbathing at the beach, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, jetski, paddleboarding, parasailing, golfing, fishing, bicycling, visiting museums and botanic gardens, zip lining or even touring the island on a tram ride. At the private Descanso Beach you can lounge around sipping cocktails if that's your style. You just have to pay a fee to visit this beach.

Head on a tour either in your cart, or buy a ticket for one of the island tours, and you'll be glad you got to see the many treasures waiting for you.

One of the favorites stops is the Wrigley Memorial Botanical Garden filled with native plants, and a hilltop tribute to the once owner of the island who deeded most the land to a conservancy to stay in a natural state in perpetuity. What a nice gift!

Scuba and snorkeling, glass bottom boat tours, and now the Zip Line which takes you through a forest with a rush, all are offered on the island. Next to the zip is a private Descanso Beach where you can rent your own cabana for the day, complete with shade, water, and prime beach sand.

The island hosts many signature events such as Jazz Traxx, a marathon, annual film festival, New Year's gala in the Casino Ballroom, free summer concerts, 4th of July fireworks, and the list goes on. It's a fun place that combines the laid-back atmosphere of island destinations with a decent lists of things to see & do, and everything's just an hour from mainland Southern California. Go!

When you go: Catalina Express departs  almost hourly during the peak daylight hours from Long Beach and once a day from Dana Point. A slightly slower boat ride is Catalina Flyer out of Newport Beach (only makes a trip each way per day leaves Newport Beach around 9:30 a.m. and heads back to Newport from Avalon around 4:30 p.m.) We've ridden both services many times and slightly prefer the Catalina Express from Long Beach because of the flexible hours and upgraded service options.

The price of the boat trips are about the same, and for those who fear getting sick, not to worry! The boats are high speed Catamarans that are as smooth as glass.

Things to do include riding the zip line attraction.

Avalon Casino Ballroom New Year's Eve Celebration

Need Some Zip in Your Trip? Catalina's Got It!

Wrigley Memorial on Catalina Island


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