Escape to Catalina
Story and photographs by Greg Aragon
atalina is not just an island paradise off the Los Angeles coast; its
a very close island paradise, which makes it a perfect day or weekend
getaway. In fact, at only 24 miles across the sea from Long Beach, the
place can be reached by boat in one hour.
With this in mind, a friend and I recently escaped to
the island for a memorable summer Getaway.
Catalina Island is an island paradise, only 24 miles
off the coast of Long Beach, California.
Our journey began in downtown Long Beach, where we picked
up tickets from Catalina
Express and boarded one of the companys sleek, catamaran-styled
vessels for an hour journey across the Catalina Channel.
Featuring comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, lots
of big windows and a full bar and snack shop, the boat makes for a fun
trip. Highlights of the crossing include views of the legendary Queen
Mary, the giant, white geodesic Carnival Cruise ship dome (former home
to Howard Hughes Spruce Goose wooden airplane), and
schools of playful dolphins that usually follow the boat into Catalina
Catalina Express offers island trips in sleek, comfortable,
When we reached the city of Avalon, the captain anchored
beside hundreds of colorful boats and yachts, and schools of bright
orange Garibaldi the California state fish. From here we walked
about 10 minutes along the waters edge, through town, to our room
at the Aurora Hotel
Located a block from the beach, Aurora combines sleek
and modern décor with a cozy Catalina bed and breakfast feel.
Our spacious suite featured a large Jacuzzi tub and shower, a comfy
king bed, lots of couch seating, flat screen TV, small fridge, free
high-speed internet and a free continental breakfast.
Aurora Hotel & Spa combines sleek and modern
décor with a cozy Catalina bed and breakfast feel
Once acquainted with our room, we walked up a flight
of stairs to the rooftop of Aurora, where a groovy outdoor lounge area
awaits guests. Since the hotel sits atop a hill, and we were on the
3rd story, we had a magical, birds eye view of the island and
After relaxing at the hotel, we walked a few minutes
Beach Club for lunch. Set on the beach, the club serves casual fare
and signature cocktails, with incredible ocean-front views. For our
lunch we enjoyed a plate of shrimp, Caesar
salad, chicken sandwiches and beer, while watching sunbathers and
scuba divers a few yards away.
Set on the beach, Descanso Beach Club serves casual
fare and signature cocktails, with incredible ocean-front views
We also had a great view of the historic Casino Building,
which 50 years ago used to bring hundreds of people to island each week
to see big bands such as Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Gene
Autry and other greats play on one of the biggest wooden dance floors
the world had yet seen.
After lunch we strolled along the boardwalk to Catalina
Sea Spa, which is located on a small side street off the main drag.
Along the way we passed the old wooden pier, charming island shops and
eateries, and we waved at passengers in the ubiquitous and colorful
golf carts that crisscross Avalon.
At Catalina Sea Spa, we met owner Michelle Bray, who
told us about her company, which offers full service spa treatments
in the heart of island paradise, and is the only spa to offer Ashiatsu,
a unique form of Japanese barefoot massage. Spa services also include
hot stone, Thai, Swedish, pregnancy, and Lomi-Lomi, a relaxing Hawaiian
massage. For treatments, we had two rejuvenating Swedish rubs.
My massage was so soothing, I found myself napping on
the beach afterwards. For those who want to take island relaxation to
the next level, I highly recommend a visit to Catalina Sea Spa.
Catalina Sea Spa offers soothing massages on an
For dinner, we discovered Steves
Steakhouse. A local favorite featuring steaks, seafood and lamb,
Steves is located on the 2nd floor of an oceanfront building,
with beautiful panoramic harbor views. Our meal began with Oysters Rockefeller,
with fresh and hot with spinach, cheese and spices; jumbo shrimp cocktail
with spicy sauce and lemon; and Caesar salad. While eating, we met owner
Steve Bray, who helped us choose a main course. I went with a big juicy
T-bone steak, with rice pilaf and veggies, and my friend had a succulent
local swordfish with mashed potatoes.
A local Catalina favorite featuring steaks, seafood
and lamb, Steves Steakhouse boasts great food with beautiful panoramic
After dinner, we walked along Avalons wooden pier,
watching seals and fish swim in the clear water and the sun go down
behind the casino building. We concluded the evening with a couple Maui
Mai Tais at Luau Larrys bar.
In the morning we experienced a thrilling two-hour ride
with Zip Line Eco-Tour.
This new island attraction propelled us down five separate zip lines
dropping from 500 ft to 60 ft above sea level, with one run that is
1,100 lineal-ft-long all on its own. Along the way, we traveled nearly
three quarters of a mile above an untamed canyon floor at speeds pushing
After the zip-line adventure, I walked to the sandy
beach, spread out my towel and relaxed like a baby seal on the deck
of a swaying boat in a serene harbor.
Catalina Island can have one relaxing like a baby
seal in a serene harbor
For more information on visiting Catalina Island, visit:
County Oceanfront, San
Luis Obispo, Central
California Coast, Hotel
del Coronado, San