Yesterday I was invited to Catalina for the flying fish festival to and to check out their new Zip Line. I hadn't been to Catalina since I graduated high school so I was very excited. I departed out of Long Beach on the Catalina Express which was very simple. It took me ½ hour from Venice to get there and only a one hour boat ride to Catalina. Parking was easy and the terminal was very quiet and easy to deal with (nothing like going through the airport). You can bring 2 bags to check in if you need to. On the Catalina Express you can upgrade your regular ticket to the Commodore Lounge for $15.00 per ticket, which gets you priority seating, a separate room with comfy chairs, and a free drink (I had a glass of champagne). If you don't want to spend the extra $15.00 line up early (or at least when you notice others lining up) so you can get seats together. It is a big boat so you shouldn't have any problems. The seats were also comfortable in the regular seating area. The Catalina Express departs out of San Pedro, Dana Point, and Long Beach Downtown. There is also a boat out of Marina del Rey called Catalina Marin del Rey Flyer (keep in mind that it has fewer departure and arrival times than the Catalina Express). Living Social has a deal for this boat trip that expires at 5:00 AM on Sunday June 6 so if you are thinking of going buy your tickets today for $39.50 round trip. Here is a link:https://livingsocial.com/deals/2594?ref=personalized-link-box-351632&rpi=351632 (note I get a credit if you use this link). I just bought my tickets to go back during the summer with my kids. If you decide to go let me know and maybe we can make a Peachhead trip out of it. The boat ride was very smooth and calming and I even saw a pod of dolphins that was incredible…there were hundreds of them.
On the way to Catalina it was very cloudy; however, the minute we docked it was sunny and beautiful (I guess that is what they call the Catalina Eddy). The great thing about the island is that everything is pretty much walking distance. The main town of Avalon is only 1 square mile. It is amazing to think that everything the island needs has to be brought by boat or barge. They have one grocery store (Vons) and if for some reason they can't get the barge to bring over the supplies (due to weather) they have to ration the food sold at the store. There are very few cars on the island (in fact I heard there is a 10 year wait to bring a car over) but everyone drives golf carts and bikes. There are a number of stores and restaurants (but no chain stores or restaurants), a movie theater that gets a new movie once a week, and they have a cute little miniature golf park. Most of the island is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy, a private non-profit organization that was created in 1972 to preserve the island in its natural state.
When I first arrived on the island, I immediately went to the new zip line they have. What an incredible experience. There are 5 zip lines totaling 3671 feet of zip line. You go as high at 300 feet and speeds of over 40 MPH. Here is a link of the first test run that was done on all 5 segments of the zip line. The views are incredible up there. There are age and weight requirements so be sure to check first before making a reservation to make sure you fulfill the requirements.
After Zip Lining I strolled through the town to check out the stores and then went to the new restaurant Avalon Grill . We had a number of different appetizers and everything was very good (including the brussel sprouts…who knew??). There was a very good vibe in the restaurant and they have an enclosed outdoor patio. They also have a kids' menu. One thing I loved is how they pay attention to details, including providing you with a purse holder at your table so that you don't have to put your purse on the floor. I have never seen that at a restaurant before. Be sure to make your reservation in advance.
After dinner I took the flying fish boat tour. Unfortunately, we did not see that many flying fish (the water may not have been the right temperature) but the guide was very entertaining and quite informative.
Descanso Beach is a newly renovated private beach with a full bar and restaurant. You can actually sit on the beach and drink. There is a $2.00 charge per person to use the private beach and you can rent lounge chairs or a cabana. They do sell out so make your reservations in advance. I have never stayed in Catalina so I can't speak from personal experience but if anyone has recommendations on where to stay, please let me know as I would love to go back and stay a night or two. I do know that there is a new hotel that just did a major remodel called The Pavilion Hotel that looked really nice when I walked by. They have a large fire pit in the outdoor patio area.
I can't wait to go back this summer and stay longer to really explore the island.
I was invited on this trip and my transportation, activities, and dining were taken care of. I was not compensated for this review, and this review contains my honest opinions.