Posted by: cj | November 19, 2008

Catalina Island: An outdoor enthusiast’s heaven

Catalina Island is located 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. Avalon, Catalina's only city, provides fine dining, shopping and day spas along with hotels, quaint bed and breakfasts and vacation homes.

In keeping with the topic of scuba diving in warmer parts of the world, Catalina Island off the coast of California is another amazing place for ocean recreation, or any type of outdoor recreation in general.

It’s hands down one of my favorite places of all time (I swear I’m going to get married there).

Getting there is a bit of an adventure in itself. If you have a bit of money to spend, you can get there by helicopter in about 15 minutes. Or you can take an hour and a half ferry ride from Long Beach, Dana Point, Marina del Rey, San Pedro, or Newport Beach. I would suggest the ferry for the sole fact that you have a pretty good chance of seeing dolphins on your ride over.

I stayed for several days at Toyon Bay as part of the Catalina Island Marine Institute program and it was simply spectacular.

We went on day hikes to the top of a bluff with a breathtaking view of the ocean, where we got to eat some of the cactus growing up there. There were also night hikes to see bats and owls and study constellations. We got to go rock climbing (so sore the next day) and ocean kayaking (even sorer!). There were night dives, which I really regret not going on (damn you, sore muscles!).

Early in the mornings there would be deer wandering through our camp, and a herd of buffalo grazing right outside it. That’s right—buffalo. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It turns out that in December 1924, 14 American Bison were turned loose for the filming of the movie “The Vanishing American.” Today, there are an estimated 250 buffalo roaming the island.

The one thing that has stayed with me after all these years was ocean kayaking. We paddled out near an ocean bluff, put on snorkels, and those of us who had managed not to flip over took a dive down into the kelp forest. It was so beautiful. If you’re lucky enough, you might be able to see a sea lion threading its way around.

If you’re into the whole outdoors thing, Catalina Island is the place for you. There’s boating, horseback riding, golfing, hiking, para-sailing, scuba diving, jeep and glass-bottomed boat tours, fishing and whale watching. If you’re not, there’s plenty of nightlife, romantic hotels, restaurants and shopping in the harbor city of Avalon.


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