Friday, December 21, 2012

Catalina Island

Located just 22 miles from Long Beach – a trip to Catalina Island is practically a staycation. 

In 1924, 14 buffalo were brought to Catalina for a movie shoot. When filming was over, the buffalo continued the roam. By 1969, there were about 400 of them on the island until the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy began monitoring. Today the buffalo population hovers around 150. Stop and take a selfie with one, just watch out for poop.

Golf carts! They're the only mode of transportation here. Though, rental isn’t cheap - $80 for 2 hours. If you’re sticking around Avalon, the port town, you really don’t need one, but they're convenient for things further away like the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens.

William Wrigley Jr. (chewing gum king and owner of the Chicago Cubs) bought Catalina Island for a cool $3 mill in 1919. So from 1921 – 1951, Catalina was home to the Cubs’ spring training. (Hence, all the Cubs gear for sale.) Before Wrigley, the island was undeveloped. He attracted tourists to Catalina by building hotels and the Avalon Grand Casino - which isn't what it sounds like. It gets it's name from the Italian word "casino" which means "gathering place." Disappointed? Check it out anyway. The building is historically beautiful and right on the water. Now, it functions as a movie theater and ballroom for events.  

The Catalina Cubbies. Hmm...nope.  

There are a handful of hotels in Avalon. Most are decorated like your grandma’s house, but if you're looking for something a little sleeker, Aurora Hotel & Spa is just that. The rooms have a minimal, modern interior. They're on the smaller side, but come equipped with a flat-screen & cozy robes. Our room had an absolutely beautiful view of the harbor. And the hotel is in walking distance of all the shops, restaurants, bars, bowling alley, docks, everything. I had a little spill on my bike while here and Kathleen and the Aurora staff could not have been more accommodating - making sure I had enough ice and checking in on me. Ask about specials on a cruise/room packages from Marina Del Rey or Long Beach.

Top: Aurora's lobby and hotel room  // Bottom: Gorgeous view from the room's balcony 

If your adrenaline is looking to get pumped (that's weird, sorry) check out the Zip Line Eco Tour at Descanso Beach Club. Alex and Lorenzo were our guides along the 5 zip course. 

Catalina's not cheap. Expect to pay more for all imported goods – that means everything. Food. Drinks. Tourist traps. If you're on a budget, camping is a good alt and bike rentals are available for a fraction of the price of a golf cart rental.