Catalina. Just the name conjures up the Golden Age of Hollywood during the 1930s. Movie moguls, famous actors, actresses and directors were all frequent visitors to Catalina Island aboard their yachts or at the Hotel St. Catherine. Cecil B. DeMille, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Betty Grable, Jimmy Cagney, Johnny Weissmuller and Irving Thalberg lead the roster of stars and celebrities whose comings and goings were grist for the gossip columns of the day.
It was William Wrigley, Jr., whose wealth came from his family’s chewing gum fortune, who spent millions during the 1920s to develop Catalina Island as a tourist destination. Wrigley was also the principal owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, and the Cubs used the island for their spring training for 30 years, starting in 1921.
Today, standing on the end of the Santa Monica Pier on a clear day, Santa Catalina Island rises 30 nautical miles to the south across San Pedro Channel. It is easy to spot, even from that distance, because the tallest point on the island is a mountain 2,097 feet high.
Throughout the year, Catalina Island hosts a variety of special events, such as festivals, concerts, parades and workshops for all ages and interests. No matter when you visit, there will be no shortage of new experiences to be discovered.
GETTING THERE BY BOAT
Catalina is an easy day cruise from any of the marinas in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. Navigation is straightforward and the only time additional precautions should be taken are during fog, high
winds or winter storms. The island has three ports of call: Avalon Bay, Isthmus Cove and Catalina Harbor. There are no transient overnight docks on Catalina Island, but all three harbors contain mooring fields. Call Catalina Island Moorings or contact the harbor patrol on VHF Channel 9.
WHERE TO DINE
- The Avalon Grille (423 Crescent Ave., 310-510-7494), overlooking Avalon Bay, showcases environmentally responsible, fresh seafood.
- Descano Fresh (1 Descanso Ave., 877-778-9399), a gourmet espresso bar and cafe, located at the Beach Club, serves homemade breakfast pastries, fresh pressed juices and spiked ice cream confections.
- Harbor Reef Restaurant (Catalina Isthmus, 310-510-4215), located in Two Harbors, serves the freshest and tastiest local seafood, with a breathtaking harbor view from the patio.
- Luau Larry’s (509 Crescent Ave., 310-510-1919) located just steps from the Avalon harbor, offering live music and entertainment, delicious food and popular libations such as the Wiki Wacker and the Buffalo Milk.
WHAT TO DO
- The Island Spa Catalina (163 Crescent Ave., 310-510-7300) offering a variety of treatments and rejuvenating therapies using island-grown ingredients.
- The Descanso Beach Club (1 Descanso Ave., 310-510-7410) one of the last private beaches in California with public access. The open-air restaurant offers lunch and dinner with fire rings on the beach and two popular, beachside bars.
- Outdoor Activities – Snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding, kayaking and fishing are the top water activities. West Spot Rentals is in Avalon and Little Harbor. Hiking, zip lining and mountain biking the undeveloped trails are the best ways to see the island (and you might even spot the native Island Fox or bison). Catalina Island Cape Canyon Expedition is the perfect off-road adventure to experience the rugged outback.