Catalina Island offers tropical paradise with domestic convenience
Ryan Summerlin March 17, 2013
It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking you have to travel to foreign lands to experience dramatic views, rocky island cliffs, incredible diving, open-water fishing and other typically tropical activities that we Coloradans enjoy. But it’s simply not true. Just an inexpensive flight to Los Angeles and a boat ride will have you sunning, casting, paddling and hiking – as well as eating and drinking – on one of the most beautiful and relaxing islands off North American shores: Santa Catalina Island. In view of the California shoreline, it’s a place that most have heard of but one that even many Angelenos have never been to. And here you can not only escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but you can get your Colorado-style kicks with a variety of eco- and adventure-based activities. When planning your trip, there are three ways to approach your stay on Catalina. If you want to go quiet-rustic, head to the northern settlement of Two Harbors. Here you will find a solitary bed and breakfast with 12 rooms, one restaurant, a dive shop, no more than 200 permanent residents, a handful of camps and private yacht clubs, tent camping, sea lions, birds, bison, fish, beauty and peace and quiet. It’s wonderful. The southern colony of Avalon is equally as beautiful but quite different from Two Harbors. Maintaining the same beach-town vibe, with a distinctive Southern European look, Avalon sometimes has upwards of 3,800 residents and offers dozens of restaurants, many hotels, golf, sightseeing tours, numerous water-based activities, camping, trails and scenery.The third option, of course, is to see both. During summer months and certain weekends into the fall, the island tends to fill up, so consider planning your trip during one of the shoulder/off seasons. The temperature of the high-visibility azure waters – ideal for scuba, snorkeling, sea kayaking and spear fishing – remain cold even when air temperatures reach typical Southern California highs, so come prepared with your wetsuit. And campsites do require reservations, with a roughing-it scale ranging from primitive to platform pup tent and gear haul. For the paddling enthusiast, a circumnavigation of the island while camping several nights is the ultimate thrill. Sea lions, flying fish, whales and dozens of other species await your arrival. Read up on conditions and navigation before departing. For the serious bipeds, look into the Trans-Catalina Trail and multiday backpacking options.You can bring anything you want over on the ferry (www.CatalinaExpress.com), from coolers and golf clubs to dogs and mountain bikes, so decide while planning your trip if you are looking for hardcore recreation, lightweight backpacking or luxury.