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SoCal’s Own Private Shangri La – Catalina Island

Our Own Private Shangri La - Catalina Island
Written by Jane Emery

The island gem of Catalina is a great vacation destination within reach for a day trip or a longer staycation. Located just 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles, it is one of California’s Channel Islands.  Catalina is like an E Ticket excursion on a whole other level! They offer many sightseeing opportunities, from escorted tours around town, adventure rides into the interior, to zip lines, ropes courses, rock climbing, boating and underwater adventures. Independent activities are plentiful, from camping, hiking, snub, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, spa treatments, beach lounging, golf, motor boating, parasailing, fishing, boat rides down the coastline, and more. If you want to find out more, go to Visit Catalina Island

Catalina Express
And getting there is a breeze. Catalina Island is accessible by boat from three ports via Catalina Express: San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point. 
Since I had lived in Los Angeles most of my life and have never been to Catalina (!) we decided to finally see what all the excitement was about. The trip over on the Catalina Express was quick and fun. We had the choice of sitting inside or out, or in a more private VIP section.

We stayed at the charming boutique-style Avalon Hotel, which provided taxi vouchers from the port. The elegant 1920’s Craftsman-style hotel was beautifully decorated with period-influenced elements and is centrally located where everything is in walking distance (unless you want to rent a golf cart for the fun of it!) Our comfortable room, equipped big comfy robes, had a sliding glass door that went out onto a balcony with seating and had a great view of the harbor. The nice spacious bathroom had a beautiful tub with great high end toiletries. 

The staff is very gracious and accommodating, and we were made to feel at home. There were plentiful free snacks, ice tea, coffee round the clock, and they provided a nice buffet-style continental breakfast, which is served in the lovely courtyard that features a beautiful koi pond with fountains, fire pit, secluded seating and intricate landscaping with many palm trees, abounding with hummingbirds and even red-headed woodpeckers.

The Avalon Hotel has a great rooftop deck lounges and tables with a view of the Avalon Harbor. Purchase wine and beer from the hotel to enjoy as you watch the sun go down. I highly recommend this hotel and can’t wait to return there.

The Avalon Hotel rooftop deck

The Avalon Hotel rooftop deck Photo courtesy of the Avalon Hotel

Island Spa
Right up the street from Hotel Avalon is Island Spa, located in the grand historic El Encanto building within the Avalon resort community. What better way to  unwind and rejuvenate then Catalina Island’s own first-ever destination resort spa. Island spa Catalina has  a cool, relaxed seaside vibe and offers a many choices of treatments and rejuvenating therapies in which they use intrinsic island botanicals. The Spa features 15,000 square feet of indoor bliss and choices of outdoor ‘experiential spaces’ including luxurious lounges, a soaking pool and the vista deck with one of the best views on the island.

To know more, click here Island Spa

Blue Water Grill
Voted “Best of Catalina”, the Blue Water Grill in Catalina has the perfect ambiance with waterfront views, excellent service, full bar, happy hour, a pet friendly space and remarkable food. From their mouthwatering appetizers and steaks to their fresh sustainable seafood, Blue Water Grill is a must-visit favorite located right on Avalon Bay. The ambiance was great with sea-inspired decorations inside and out. They also offer gluten-free meals. Their fresh fish of the day is a popular option which usually ranges from longfin tuna to Mahi Mahi to Swordfish. Their popular turf items include chicken under a brick, baby back ribs, and their Angus New York steak. The clam chowder was world-class and the roasted artichokes were my favorite ever.

The Lobster Trap is a casual seaside pub that features an incredible seafood-centric menu. The owner himself uses his own boat to fish for the fresh catch of the day. Their large portions, relaxed ambiance, draft beer, and live music on weekend nights are some of the key highlights of this Catalina gem. With an upper terrace seating area and lively crowd the Lobster Trap makes you feel like a local. They play classic rock at a perfect volume to allow guests to converse freely. For more information visit: CatalinaLobsterTrap.com

Descanso Beach Club is a beautiful private beach club with cabanas. It’s the only seaside club in Avalon and offers families cabana and lounge chair rentals. They feature a lively bar right on the beach with spectacular views. Their food menu is casual American comfort food and their handcrafted cocktails are fit for an island. Walking around the beach club you see so many different aspects of the beauty of Avalon. For more information visit www.VisitCatalinaIsland.com/activities-adventures/descanso-beach-club

About the author

Jane Emery