Avalon, Santa Catalina Island
||Los Angeles, CA|
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Santa Catalina Island is a touristy, wallet-gobbling place! But, it is an easy getaway and there are some fun tours to do. Also, it has some great 1920s history, and the color of the water is just gorgeous!
You take a high-speed ferry from Long Beach to get there. It takes about an hour and it can make you queasy. As you approach the island it looks so delightful, with its tall mountains, and perfect crescent harbor! You get off the boat and the color of the water takes your breathe away! We saw orange-gold fish in the water the minute we arrived. The water is so clear that you can see everything as if you are in the water snorkeling, even though you're just standing on the sidewalk!
It takes only a minute to walk to the main strip. There, your delight starts to fade away, because although it's very pretty, it's almost too colorful. Basically, you're in Disneyland. There are endless souvenir stores and other ripoff shops. Kids love this kind of thing though. The smell of diesel from the boats in the harbor and from the golf carts that the residents use to get around is very strong and nauseating.
My favorite place to walk is to the casino. It's just a ten minute walk and you go through a beautiful white archway with colorful Spanish tiles. The casino was built in the late 1920s by chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. who bought the island in 1919 and whose family still owns it. In the late 1920s, Catalina Island reached its heyday. Movie stars and rich Los Angelans sailed to Catalina Island in fancy steamers and Wrigley hired big bands to play in the casino. Upstairs, the flappers danced in the exquisite, round dance hall, and looked out on the moonlit sea. The casino is a gorgeous, graceful building. I love to just stare up at its cream-colored exterior, and its lines and curves. There are paintings of mermaids on the outside by the ticket booth. At night, when they show a movie, even if you don't want to watch a movie, ask if you can run in and look at the wonderful interior of the theatre. It's magic- all red and sparkling. Don't miss out on this! It's one of the best things in Avalon.
Past the casino, you can stroll along a pretty, palm-lined walkway. It was Wrigley's son who decided he wanted the island to have a distinct California feel to it, and had rows of palm trees put in place, as well as the serpentine rock wall, and fountains. He also chose the bright colors for the buildings and pier of Avalon. The short walkway leads to Descanso Beach. The beach is pebbly, but the colors of the water are wonderful. I found it a bit annoying that music was playing there on loud speakers and you couldn't escape it.
It's nice to take some tours. There are two tour organizers, both owned by the same company (Wrigley's family). Both have offices on the main strip where you can buy tickets. The Avalon Scenic Tour takes about an hour and you get to see some gorgeous panoramic views and eucalyptus forests from the open-air bus. The tour guide is friendly and tells you some interesting facts about the island, Wrigley, and the residents.
The glass-bottom boat tour is pleasant. Don't pay the $5 extra for food! It's a real ripoff because the food only attracts huge schools of ugly fish that scare away the orange fish. Plus, you paid enough for the tour already. And, putting the food down the tube is really not as exciting as they make it out to be!! The glass that you look through is huge, and it's wonderful to see the kelp forests below the water. This is the first place that glass bottom boats were ever used, in the 1870s!
There are many other interesting tours to choose from, including the Inland Motor tour, which is supposed to be good, with its views of the pacific side of the island, arabian horse show, stop at the Airport-in-the-Sky, exploration of the inner island, and possibility to see wild bison (though unlikely).
There are botanical gardens and a Wrigley memorial, which are a steep 45-minute walk from the main strip, past nice vegetation and the golf course. If you can't do the walk, you can rent a golf cart to get there. The memorial is an imposing structure and the gardens don't have that much there- some nice trees, ice plants, and cactus. I'd give it a miss.
Most of the restaurants are mediocre, but we found a good one owned by a Mexican family: Mi Casita Mexican Restaurant. It's warm, pretty, and inviting inside, and you can sit at the large arched windows and enjoy good food!
A stroll along the waterfront at Rainbow Harbor is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon! Eat at one of the many great restaurants! Shoreline Village right next door is fun for kids.
Photo GalleryClick on photo to see large version
The red tab is on the spot where the Catalina Express docks in Avalon. You can easily walk to the town of Avalon from there.
Catalina Express Ferry, 1(800) 481-3740. Long Beach to Avalon: $72.50 per adult, $57 per child, under 2 years old is $4, seniors are $66 (slightly higher in summer). Making reservations in advance is a good idea since it fills up. You can also catch a ferry from Dana Point to Avalon.
Descanso Beach costs $1 per person during summer, and is free the rest of the year, call (310) 510-7410. There are restrooms, and you can rent kayaks or snorkels here.
Discovery Tours, call 1(800) 322-3434, $20 for adults, $15 for kids, $18 for seniors for the Avalon Scenic Tour or Glass Bottom Boat Tour. These are worth the cost!
Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens, one and a half miles up Avalon Canyon Road, call (310) 510-2595. Open 8-5 daily. Cost is $7, Seniors $5. children (aged 5-12) $3, children under 5 are free.
Mi Casita Mexican Restaurant, 111 Claressa Ave, (310) 510-1772.
There are plenty of public restrooms on the island- at the pier, and at Descanso Beach.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating:
|I love being able to view and explore the natural beauty of this island.|
|Pretty and colourful!|
|Santa Catalina Island is my absolute favorite place to b! The romantic hotels, the boats in the harbor, sailing, and the unique, bright downtown....it just doesn't get any better.|
|Spent the day in Avalon and had a memorable swim. I could see several varieties of colorful fish in the water swimming right around me. I definitely had an fantastic time on the beach and in the water and would love to go back soon.|
|superbe prise de vue, c'est trÃ¨s bien|
Greg from Nevada
|I hope to make it!|