The city of Avalon seems miraculously tailor-made for navigation, exploration, and appreciation via a bicycle. Whether you're a casual peddler, an athletic cyclist, someone fresh off of training wheels (or still on them!), or even if you haven't ridden a bike in years, you'll find it easy to enjoy Catalina's main outpost on two wheels.
Some of Catalina Island's most beguiling and fabled pleasures are not found on the island at all, but in the waters that surround it. The simple geological fact that the island is the top of an undersea mountain peak means that, very close to shore, deep waters abound, making for a wealth of opportunities to go diving, sportfishing, or sailing from the island paradise.
Two of Catalina's most popular and plentiful nature-oriented activities, boating and camping, strike the happiest of harmonies in the 11 primitive boat-in beach campgrounds. No experience offers a greater opportunity to savor the simple pleasures of living and sleeping close to nature in the most serene of settings, where land meets sea.
Since the vast majority of Catalina Island's 76 square miles (48,640 acres) remains undeveloped and protected, one of the best ways imaginable to experience the island is to camp there. The Santa Catalina Island Company maintains good-quality campgrounds at five different locations, making it possible for you to enjoy the island in its great variety.
Many golfers only dream of playing a course where the likes of Tiger Woods–not to mention Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler, John Cook, Toni Seals, and Amy Alcott–have competed in tournament play. Yet the beautiful and historic Catalina Island Golf Course gives you the chance to do just that, at green fees that seem low by the standards of most courses today.
Ask anyone who has visited Catalina Island even once, and especially those who've been visiting regularly since childhood, to name particular reasons for the island's special appeal, and almost without fail golf carts–or "golf cars," as some folk like to call them–make the short list.
"The helicopter approaches closer than any other vehicle to fulfillment of mankind's ancient dreams of the flying horse and the magic carpet," mused Igor Sikorsky (1889-1972), the Russian-born American aviation pioneer who created the first practical helicopter.
"Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow," observed the great American nature writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. Indeed, a vigorous hike through nature has the amazing ability to stimulate our minds and our spirits as much as it does our bodies.
More than a century has passed since Santa Catalina Island's first glass-bottomed boat debuted, the clever invention of an Avalon fisherman who thought that tourists might pay for a ride if he inset a pane of sturdy glass into the bottom of his rowboat.
Time was, a motorized tour of Catalina Island meant climbing onto a tourist bus in the center of Avalon and heading off with several dozen other visitors on a very informative and enjoyable–but quite tame–guided drive around the island.
Spa vacations are among the hottest trends in the world of travel today. The premise is simple: You head to a beautiful, remote destination, then avail yourself of its carefully planned program of spa and massage treatments, fitness classes, and healthy cuisine.
In these days of anxiety-laden air travel, few folks consider a trip to any airport fun anymore. Santa Catalina Island's "Airport in the Sky," however, will reward you with beautiful scenery, great food, enjoyable souvenir shopping, and a fascinating and artfully displayed open-air exhibit on the island's natural history.
Avalon has preserved a bygone way of life, when seaside getaways typically moved at a more gracious pace in settings that fostered an air of serenity, ease, and gentle pleasure. One way in which you can always be assured of getting old-fashioned enjoyment is to go to the movies at the Avalon Theatre in the historic Casino building.
Play 18 holes at Catalina Island's renowned Golf Gardens. Miniature golf, a recreational phenomenon that has delighted Americans for almost a century, may be one of the best, most wholesome, most delightful activities ever created for people of all ages, families and friends alike.
The words "treasure" and "island" are forever linked in the popular imagination-and not just because Robert Louis Stevenson joined them together in the title of his best-known book, published in 1883, a rollicking tale of pirates and buried gold.
"Until mountain biking came along," observed legendary woman mountain biker Jacquie Phelan, "the bike scene was ruled by a small elite cadre of people who seemed allergic to enthusiasm." That statement captures the gung-ho enthusiasm of mountain biking, a sport with a contagiously high energy level that finds a perfect outlet on Santa Catalina Island.
Among Santa Catalina Island's greatest natural blessings are its rugged, sinuous shoreline and the crystal-clear waters that encircle the island. Possibly no way exists to experience both with greater immediacy than to explore the island's perimeter in a kayak.
If you spend any time at all on Santa Catalina Island, soaking up all the natural and manmade beauty of Avalon and the surrounding land and sea, and you can't help but begin to wonder to yourself: How amazing must all this look to the birds I see flying overhead?
Experienced scuba divers consider diving sites in the waters around Catalina Island to be among the best in North America, and with good reason. Though close to the coastal ports of greater Los Angeles, here the ocean is generally calmer, clearer, cleaner, and warmer, all characteristics that optimize the diving experience.
Some folk are likely to feel exhausted at the mere mention of a vacation spent enjoying the crystal-clear waters that surround Santa Catalina Island. After all, the island is renowned for such recreational activities as scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and sport fishing.
If you have even moderate swimming ability, snorkeling has the magical power to turn you almost instantaneously into an undersea explorer. Put on a watertight face mask, insert into your mouth one end of the long breathing tube called a snorkel and put your face beneath the surface of the water. It's that easy.
If you feel the urge to escape from the bustle and merriment of downtown Avalon, but have limited time to do so, a welcome break awaits you just a mile and a half from the water's edge. Tucked into the narrow canyon, the 37.85-acre garden invites contemplative strolls, fascinating studies of native plants, and breathtaking views.