If you live in Los Angeles and haven’t been to Catalina yet, what are you waiting for? Just $72.50 (round trip on the Catalina Express ferry—the Island Express helicopter takes only 15 minutes, but costs $250 round trip) lands you in Avalon, a tiny beach town that feels like a cross between a sleepy Mediterranean seaside village and a good, old-fashioned American boardwalk. I hadn’t been since I was a kid (actually, the verdict is out on whether I’ve ever been—my mom can’t remember exactly and I didn’t recognize Avalon at all), but I went this past weekend for an early birthday present and it was the perfect two-day getaway. You feel like you’re really away on vacation, even though you’re only one hour away from the Southern California coastline.
1. Zip Line Eco Tour: Snorkeling, scuba, and parasailing get higher billing on the island, but only because they’ve been around longer than the 3 year-old zip line. I’m super scared of heights, but the five lines on this tour are nothing short of exhilarating (after you throw yourself off the ledge on the first run).
2. Descanso Beach Club: If you really want to feel like you’re at a resort (or on a beach in Europe), rent one of the lounge chairs (or splurge for a cabana) and order the Buffalo Milk—a Catalina Island specialty drink made from coffee liqueur, banana liqueur, crème de cacao, and lots of vodka. You can also BYOBT—bring your own beach towel—and lay out (for free!) on the sandy strip next to the lounge chairs and order Buffalo Milk directly from the beach club bar. I had one after going on the zip line to take off the edge from my adrenaline rush.
Disclaimer: A herd of bison was brought to Catalina Island back in the 1920’s for a western movie shoot and never left. This drink doesn’t actually contain any bison (or buffalo) milk but is topped with healthy dose of whipped (cow’s milk) cream.
3. The Lobster Trap: Sit at the bar and ask Israel to make you a spicy Bloody Mary. His jokes get funnier and funnier the more you sip.
Disclaimer: In Avalon, the sun sets on the mountainside, not over the ocean. I took this photo at six o’clock in the morning, when the sun was rising.
Note: Catalina Island offers lots of birthday discounts so if you’re a sale seeker like me, check out visitcatalinaisland.com before booking. For instance, if you register in advance and travel on your actual birthday, the ferry ride is free!