Just 22 miles of the coast of Los Angeles California there is a little jewel called Catalina Island. This little town of 4000 is known as a place for relaxation, leisure and some buffalos that are living there. The only city on the island is called Avalon, its the place most ferry’s and yacht’s arrive and its colorful streets adorn the place almost looking like a small version of Santa Barbara. As a traveler I like to go to places and check out their historic roots as well as major events that have happened recently. Catalina and Avalon have a rich 20th century that involves a Casino, Mr. William Wrigley (Best known for his Chewing Gum and the Chicago Cubs) and some well known celebrity, Norma Jeane Mortenson, who spent part of her first marriage in this small island, of course you wouldn’t recognize her by this name. Marilyn Monroe was mostly anonymous when she lived here much as her original name is unknown to most these days.
If you live in southern California, getting to the island is as simple and straightforward as it can get. You buy your ticket for the Catalina Express from Dana Point if you’re closer to San Diego or from Long Beach if you live in L.A. You take a nice 70 minute ride to the island enjoying the views from the sea of Long Beach Port (one of the largest in the world) and if you are lucky like me you can catch some dolphins doing their thing in the middle of the tram. As you arrive you’ll immediately be situated in the heart of Avalon Harbor where restaurants, shops, bar’s and convenience stores can be reached a few steps away from each other. One curious thing to note is that there is no first or second street. The town starts out at the third street, and as the local tour bus lady said, don’t ask me why!
From the harbor you take a 1 mile walk towards El Descanso beach where you can relax with a nice drink and watch people in a bunch of activities that include Kayaking, Surfing (sort of) and more. Me? I just wanted to relax. I sat down, drank a couple of beers and enjoyed the view. It kind of reminded me of Cabo on a much smaller scale. On your way to El Descanso lies the most historic building on the island: The Casino. This building was constructed with the sole objective of attracting tourism, when it proved to small for the growing population it was blown away and was rebuilt to what it is today: The Largest Circular Ballroom in the world. It’s Art Deco style gives it a distinctive old school style that proves to be a nostalgic view of the island’s past. Today the lower level is a movie theater while the second level still has the ballroom.
There are all sort of activities in the island involve the sea, as glass bottom ships tour the reefs and shipwrecks of the area. Scuba Diving and Snorkeling are also popular among tourists. Even though I’m a fan of these kind of activities, my day in the island mostly involved getting to know the place, walk the streets and enjoy the view. It was a fun and insightful day in this small island that was highlighted by my sight seeing tour bus experience. Even though the lady, Becky, was a little obnoxious with her unfunny jokes and unlistenable descriptions, it was still a good way of getting to know the atmosphere of the island and some little things that many don’t get to experience.
Some things that caught my attention: The amount of golf carts and mini coopers must be some sort of record as you see them all over the place. There is a waiting list by city habitants to get a regular car, no wait for a golf cart. The wildfires have marked the island as people refer to them as the before and after in the island event timeline. Mr. Wrigley is a hero in this island as he brought the world to Avalon harbor and even took the time to bring the Chicago Cubs to the island and install them through their spring training for a while.
Overall I would highly recommend a one night visit to this island. Its a good place to relax and take some time off the heated battle of day to day work.