Catalina Island is a stretch of 22 miles off the coast of California. An incredibly relaxing place to getaway for a few days. Either for pure relaxation, family-fun, romantic weekend or an adventure-filled trip. Just an hour boat ride which you can catch on a ferry from Long Beach, San Pedro or Dana Point port via Catalina Express. Catalina has 2 main islands: Avalon and Two Harbor. On a recent trip, I explored the wilderness of Avalon through a 10 mile bike ride down the scenic hillside. Here are all the highlights for a Catalina Island Day Trip.
Avalon is a picturesque harbor where most visitors begin their Catalina Island day trip. Right off the ferry terminal, Cabrillo Mole, unless they arrive by private boat or plane. It is the southern most city in Los Angeles County with approximately 3600 residents tucked into 2.9 square miles of Avalon Canyon. Most visitors will not leave Avalon, especially on a day trip. The 1 mile stretch along the waterfront from the ferry terminal to Descanso Beach has enough to see and do. Though I strongly advise you to get out and explore as there are so many more adventures that await outside this area.
Catalina Island Day Trip
To see as much of Catalina Island in a Day, I highly recommended booking ahead of time to the best bike rental in Catalina Island: Bike Catalina. They offers 4 main tours: Ridge Route to Avalon, Two Harbors Land & Sea Experience, Avalon Canyon Self-Guided Tour and Little Harbor Loop ride. We chose the “Ridge Route to Avalon” for $88 a person. Randy, the owner, met us at 8:30am in his truck and drove us up the scenic mountain road up to the quaint Catalina Airport known as “Airport in the Sky“. This is where mail & UPS is delivered on week days. Some via old DC-3 planes that was used in World War II.
95% of people who arrive to the island use the Catalina Express Boat as a mode of transportation. Though people who take private helicopters and airplanes would land at “Airport in the Sky”. It’s one of the rare flat areas on Catalina Island.
The airport hangar is small and cozy. One restaurant and souvenir shop sits in the main building named “DC-3 Gifts & Grill aka Runway Cafe At Catalina Airport“. While we didn’t get a chance to eat, the food there did look and smell like delicious comfort food. And many come up just for an excuse to taste their Big Buffalo Scramble and a warm bowl of Chili.
Explore Nature’s Finest in Catalina Island
From the patio deck, we took some photos of the various plants and flowers while trying to spot a fox. At around 10am, the daily mail arrives by plane. Watching the mail professionals unload for residents is a sight in itself.
The mountain bike has several gears to help you as you incline or descend. It is not a difficult ride as the path is mainly downhill through Catalina’s rugged and beautiful interior into Avalon. The journey is about a 10 mile ride downhill that takes an average of 2 hours if you ride at a leisure pace, stopping along the way for photos and rest.
Catalina Island’s Hollywood and Bison History in the 1920s
Catalina Island has been a favorite vacation & hang-out spot by celebrities since the early 1900’s with many famous films filmed on the island. The island is reminiscent of the seaside villages that hug hillsides overlooking the Mediterranean. Randy who took us on the drive up said it looks exactly like the village his mother grew up in Italy by the Adriatic Sea. But instead of Olive trees, there are Eucalyptus trees that frame the island and wake up all our senses.
In 1924, 14 American bison were brought to the island for the filming of a movie. They remained and are like island mascots today as well as their pride and joy. Of course with time, they have multiplied and there are an estimated 150 buffalos still on the island today. If you’re lucky, you could spot one grazing along the hillsides along with deer and bald eagles, which we did not fortunately see though we did spot friendly squirrels and birds.
At about 2/3 down the hill, you will see where the Catalina Zipline Tours begin. That is where you’d stop if you want to zip down with the sea as your main view.
In case you don’t feel like biking, other options would be to take the Cape Canyon Expedition which is an eco-friendly H1 Hummer Island Tour. You can also rent a Golf Cart ($45 an hour). Or even hike up as we met a French solo female traveller who did just that and camped along the road overnight. There are plenty of options and it would never hurt to ask a local for their recommendations as the friendly, laid-back islander mentality is certainly the case in Catalina!
Getting To Catalina Island and Where to Stay
How to Get to Catalina Island: Catalina Express
Ferry rides taking off from Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point
Free Ride on your Birthday! (with a purchase of another ticket)
Getting Around: Bike Catalina
http://www.bikecatalina.com / (310) 913-1028
Where to Stay
Avalon Hotel – http://www.theavalonhotel.com/welcome-to-the-avalon
Aurora Hotel – http://www.auroracatalina.com