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Catalina Island - Best Getaway Destination

Updated on September 14, 2019
Photo Courtesy of Justin Marty
Photo Courtesy of Justin Marty

Approximately 20 miles off the Southern California coast you will find one of the most enchanting islands not only in the Pacific, but perhaps the entire world. Just a short ferry ride from port will lead you to Santa Catalina Island, a 22 by 8 mile square geographically insignificant, yet visually immense, secluded swath of beautifully forged earth located just to the west of Orange County.

2000 Census data documents roughly 3,700 residents call this peaceful place home, 3,100 live within the city of Avalon and the remaining 600 are scattered within unincorporated areas throughout the entire island. If you're traveling via the waterway to this isle, as you approach port, the first captivating sight that comes into view, a large structure with a rounded dome cap on top which happens to be the most popular local landmark, is the "Casino" which sits prominently on the shore of this island's only incorporated city of Avalon. The casino, not a high stakes venue for wagering, but a luxurious ballroom and gathering place was built in the early 1900s by the Wrigley family to be used as a romantic seaside venue to facilitate and entertain the Hollywood crowd when they arrived for a relaxing getaway vacation, or, to film a vibrant sequence of on location scenes, backdrops, and ocean front aquatic shoots. And yes, this is the same Wrigley of chewing gum fame, the wealthy investors who financed the construction of Wrigley Park, home to the Chicago Cubs Baseball club.

Even though 20 miles of vast, tumultuously active pacific ocean separates the two land masses, if you look beneath the surface to discover historical facts, you will find this island paradise is technically a legal attachment of California, and although the two distinct regions share inherent similarities such as abundant sunshine, indigenous wildlife, and spectacular shorelines which command the envy of the entire world, Catalina Island is endowed with a romantic European quality all its own. An irresistibly contagious Mediterranean mystique and atmosphere deserving of special recognition and acknowledgement as such. From the time the anchor breaches the water surface, drops below to the depths and submerges to find a firm grip, and once the boat is securely docked unto the harbor, and you finally get the anticipated opportunity to take your first panoramic look at the charming scenery and cozy beach, a hypnotic visual which resembles a movie set more than a naturally created land mass, you will surely be hooked.

On my first journey to Catalina Island I was anxious to arrive yet quite surprised to find as soon as we had this destination in sight, it was rapidly evolving into an exhilarating excursion which resembled none that I had ever experienced before. Hopefully, the exclusive photos provided within this entry will illustrate in vivid optical expression, exactly what I'm referring to. However, I will concede the well known fact that images, regardless of quality or brilliance, typically fail to capture the true ambiance and feeling which inevitably renders them deficient, thereby, photos cannot be presented as a substitute for seeing, touching, and experiencing this special remote place in person. To experience the full dynamic dimension, a walk along the beach is absolutely essential. I would be so audacious as to describe this diamond of the pacific as a delicate cross between Southern California, the Italian or French Riviera, and the Caribbean islands. Not a bad eclectic mixture of delectably attractive and sweet elements.

The casino has a tropical or even Aruban feel to it, and a good number of the narrow side streets will surely remind you of an old rustic Italian cobblestone roadway which you would find winding through the agriculturally rich soils in Tuscany or Capri. It's like all of the above rolled into one multi- architectural and culturally intertwined isle. A location like this is not only a premier site for romantic weekend getaways or extended vacations, it also exhibits aesthetic natural qualities and characteristics which are utter perfection for motion picture production companies to capture magical big screen images. With such diverse optical and geographically interesting features within a very short distance of each other, no wonder Catalina was the filming venue for numerous motion pictures and television shows.

Boats Docked at Catalina Island

- Photo Courtesy of amyrod -
- Photo Courtesy of amyrod -


Filmed on location at Catalina Island (Partial List )

  • Glass Bottom Boat - Starring Doris Day & Rod taylor

Chinatown - Starring Jack Nicholson & Fay Dunaway

  • The Navigator - Starring Buster Keaton

Episodes of - 'Arrested Development'

  • The Television Show - 'Endurance'

Soap Opera - 'The Bold and the Beautiful'

  • MTV Reality Show - 'Daddy's Girl's

And the list goes on.

Getting To Catalina

When planning your getaway to Santa Catalina, you will be one of at least one million visitors from all over the world who travel there annually. There are several modes of transportation to choose from which will get you safely to the island including private plane or Lear jet, but the most popular, convenient, and least costly way is by ferry. Daily departures include excursions from the Orange County area via Newport Beach and Dana Point, and the Los Angeles area via Long Beach, San Pedro, and Marina Del Rey. So if you're traveling from just about anywhere in the Southern California area, there's a convenient port of departure within a reasonable driving distance. The voyage takes approximately 45 minutes.

One word of advice if I may, if you've never been on a ferry, boat or ship, or, if you're prone to motion sickness while riding in a car or other vehicle, it would be a good idea to be prepared by bringing appropriate prescription or over the counter medications as a precaution prior to embarking upon your voyage. Recalling a personal experience, even though the typical route to Catalina is precise and without detour or intermittent ports of call stops which can create substantial delays, and the ferry ride is usually smooth and uneventful, there is always the chance that you may experience a few bumps in the road which can be magnified in force due to the negligible size of the craft. So take proper precautions and prudent preventative measures to avoid or significantly mitigate the effects of a sea weary incident which may turn out to be a little less than enjoyable. Another alternative option for small groups or individual travelers is helicopter service which is available out of San Pedro. Pricing varies, but if you have concerns about the possibility of experiencing seasickness while on a ferry, it might be something to consider.

*Top 3 Guest Rated Hotels*


Accommodations Include

  • 15 Guestrooms ( All rooms are non smoking ) - Patio - Children friendly - Complimentary Breakfast -
  • note - Pets not allowed -

Room Amenities Include

  • Air Conditioned Rooms - Phone - Microwave Oven - Refrigerator - Internet Access - Cable Television - Coffee maker -


Accommodations Include

  • Spacious 400 Square Foot Deluxe Suites - Kitchens Granite Tops - Full Sized Refrigerators & Stoves -

Room Amenities Include

  • Wireless Internet Access - Flat Screen TV - Restaurant Discounts for AAA & Pilot Members -


Accommodations Include

  • Courtyard & Deluxe Oceanview Suites. ( Suites offer Fireplaces ) - Air Conditioning & Heat - Telephone -

Room Amenities Include

  • Cable Television - Coffee Maker - Refrigerator - Hairdryers - Irons & Ironing Boards - WiFi for Internet Access -

My extensive due diligence in accommodation research reveals the hotels listed above are some of the finest Catalina has to offer, but due to high demand combined with limited room availability which inevitably drives price, they are not the least expensive. An important consideration which can be a dampening factor for the budget conscious who either has a personal mandate to maintain a travel plan which includes tight expenditure constraints, or, who is simply not willing to pay a premium for a stay at any venue short of Buckingham Palace. Even though Catalina Island flys well below the proverbial getaway radar for most individuals, she has always been famous for attracting domestic travelers, international visitors, and snowbirds from throughout the country. Catalina tends to cater to the tourist demographic which usually equates to moderately higher pricing verses mainland accommodations, so I would recommend a diligent accommodations shop, and depending upon the time of year you are planning a vacation, you never know when you'll come across a good off season discount bargain.

The 'Casino' at Catalina

- Photo Courtesy of Monica's Dad -
- Photo Courtesy of Monica's Dad -


Attractions - Activities - Shopping

Santa Catalina Island has so many diverse attractions to offer for such a charmingly petite locale. There are plenty of shopping venues, but I certainly wouldn't call it a shoppers paradise if deep merchandise or cuisine discounts are a predominant expectation, although both can be had with a generous amount of searching. If your preference is adventurous, rough and rugged outdoor activities, there are several inland dirt roads and trails to explore while hiking or horse back riding. Of course water sports and activities are plentiful, swimming, boating, kayaking, and sailing are among the most popular. For the avid fisherman or bird watcher, you won't be disappointed, Catalina is home to a vast array of interesting species. Tennis courts and bicycle rentals are available so you won't miss a beat performing that rigorous cardio workout. For the real adventurous types, parasailing may offer an all out adrenaline rush if gliding around at high altitudes is your idea of exhilarating fun. And for underwater adventure seekers, you will find crystal clear waters for snorkeling and scuba diving. Submerge yourself in the pacific waters off the coast of Catalina to get an up close, personal view and experience of this unique marine wildlife.

Photo Courtesy of noelweathers
Photo Courtesy of noelweathers
Photo Courtesy of noelweathers
Photo Courtesy of noelweathers

Personal Touch - I truly believe anyone who visits this exquisitely quaint nugget would render a decision containing a description of Catalina as one of the most charming and unique islands they had ever experienced. It's like encountering and walking amidst three different exotic countries all wrapped up in one little special place of elegance and allure. It's pricey, and certainly not a destination for the bargain shopper or budget restrained, but it is however the perfect getaway for those who enjoy a vacation, special occasion, or well deserved breather far away from modern civilization, a memorable time which will resonate for years within the vast expanse of beautifully harmonious visuals held close to the heart. It's not a place I visit that often, but I certainly would reserve this gem of an isle for that extra special engagement.

- Photo Courtesy of Accretion Disc -
- Photo Courtesy of Accretion Disc -

Find Your Way To Catalina Island CA -

Santa Catalina Island :
Santa Catalina Island, Avalon, CA 90704, USA

get directions

124 Whittley Avenue
230 Marilla Avenue
111 Crescent Avenue
Avalon, CA 90704
Avalon, CA 90704
Avalon, CA 90704
(310) 510-7070
(310) 510-0831
(310) 510-0555
"Read, Explore, & Experience" more literary and original visual works by this highly acclaimed author / publisher - Click "Alternative Prime" next to avatar at top of page -

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