CIVR Blog: Catalina Junior Lifeguard

Many visitors to Catalina Island are intrigued with the idea that people live full time in this island paradise. We have a school, a hospital, churches and nearly all the necessities of life. For kids growing up on Catalina, the island provides a wealth of experiences and adventures that children growing up on the mainland can only dream about.

Junior guards on South Beach. Photo courtesy Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce

Junior guards on South Beach. Photo courtesy Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce

One activity that Avalon’s youth share with other kids in Los Angeles County is the challenge and achievement of the LA County Lifeguard Junior Lifeguard program. With limited pool exposure, many Catalina kids grow up learning to swim in the ocean. The Junior Guard program accepts those kids that are ready to challenge themselves – a swim test is only the first hurdle. Throughout the month-long program kids learn beach and ocean safety and are taught CPR, first aid, rescue techniques and lifesaving skills. As part of the program they continue to expand their swimming skills with daily ocean swims and additional physical conditioning.

Catalina’s two dozen junior guards completed their session at the end of July, commemorating their achievement with a dinner and awards banquet August 1.

CIVR Blog: Overlook Hall

Overlook Hall is a beautiful events venue on Catalina Island

Overlook Hall is a beautiful events venue on Catalina Island

The hills above Avalon are home to a cornucopia of quaint cottages, expansive estates, historic churches and tempting vacation homes.  Nearly all of them feature beautiful views and intriguing architectural character. One of those historic churches has been recently reimagined into one of Catalina Island’s premier event venues.

Perched on a hill on the west side of Avalon, Overlook Hall was for decades the home of Avalon’s Christian Science Church. It was originally built in 1929 and features classic European style and decadent woodwork. It was completely renovated in 2010 and reopened as a dramatic spot for weddings, corporate retreats and other special events.

The main space, which served as the church’s chapel, has 1200 square feet of open space with wood beams, Douglas fir flooring and a raised stage. Occupancy in the main space is limited to 125, making it ideal for all but the largest of gatherings. An outdoor deck has breath-taking views of Avalon Harbor and the Catalina Island hills. Downstairs, formerly the home of Sunday School classes, has a large lounging area. Facilities include a full kitchen and restrooms. For more information about Overlook Hall, visit their website.

CIVR Blog: Little Harbor hike

Catalina Island Conservancy Trail Map

Catalina Island Conservancy Trail Map

Catalina Island’s 76 square miles provide a wealth of opportunities for hiking. With dramatic vistas, awe-inspiring seascapes and flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth, you could spend a lifetime exploring the island and only begin to discover all its secrets. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to discover Catalina Island one visit at a time.

Two Harbors, at Catalina Island’s remote West End, is a great spot to begin exploring the island via hiking. The five-mile hike from Two Harbors to Little Harbor is moderately challenging adventure that provides the opportunity to see American bison, bald eagles and perhaps the diminutive Catalina Island fox. Two options are available for the hike: the TransCatalina Trail, which traverses the ridgeline, and the road, which tends to be a bit dusty when vehicles pass.  Little Harbor is a great spot for a picnic, with a sheltered cove, wide sand beaches and primitive services. The area was inhabited for thousands of years, with many generations of native islanders creating an extensive village. Today, Little Harbor is a popular spot for camping by both residents and visitors.

If the return hike seems a bit daunting, the Catalina Safari Bus is available to shuttle you back to Two Harbors.

CIVR Blog: Transportation in Avalon

Catalina Transportation Service's trolley offers a regular route around Avalon.

Catalina Transportation Service’s trolley offers a regular route around Avalon.

First-time visitors are always intrigued to find that golf carts seem to be the primary means of transportation in Avalon. The resort village is home to hundreds of the autoettes, with visitors, locals and business owners all taking advantage of the convenience afforded by the small vehicles.

Catalina Island vacationers who rent a vacation home through Catalina Island Vacation Rentals will frequently have access to a golf cart during their vacation, but there are several other ways to get around in Avalon. Catalina Transportation Services offers a low-cost shuttle every day in the summer months. The Avalon Trolley makes a loop that includes the Wrigley Memorial Garden, the boat terminal at the Cabrillo Mole and Descanso Beach.  Tickets on the trolley are only $2 per ride or an all-day pass is available for only $7. The shuttle’s loop takes approximately one hour and it stops at various shuttle stops around town or you can request a stop.

The Catalina Island Trolley operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. During the winter, the trolley operates on a more limited schedule, but is still available many days.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island in summer

IMG_20140703_152012_255For more than 100 years, Catalina Island’s siren song of summer has been irresistible to travelers. In July and August, its beaches echo with happy kids, its restaurants are full of hungry travelers and visitors can be found enjoying the island’s many activities.

Plan Ahead. Summer – particularly the weekends – is not the time for spontaneity. This is a time when planning ahead will serve you well. Accommodations, boat trips and activities tend to fill up a few weeks ahead of time in the summer, so preparation will ward disappointment.

Make reservations. Speaking of planning, summer is a good time to make reservations. Calling ahead to secure your spot will help ensure that your chosen kayak tour, cross channel carrier or restaurant is available when you want it.

Be flexible. Even during peak season on Catalina Island there are times when you can escape the crowds. Visit your favorite restaurant before the rush – have lunch at 11 a.m. instead of 12 p.m. or dinner at 5 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.  Things to do on Catalina also have a prime time, depending on what you want to do that maybe in the late afternoon or the early morning.

Head for the hills. Even when Avalon and Two Harbors are bustling with visitors, the rest of the island can frequently feel quite deserted. Summer is the perfect time to hit the trail and explore the rest of Santa Catalina.

CIVR Blog: Island Spa Catalina

An artist's rendering of the new spa scheduled to open this month on Catalina Island.

An artist’s rendering of the new spa scheduled to open later this year on Catalina Island.

Island Spa Catalina

Catalina Island’s newest attraction is scheduled to open later this year in the form of Island Spa Catalina, a luxurious retreat located in what was the El Encanto Marketplace. Island Spa Catalina offers 15,000 square feet of indoor space, which includes nine decadent treatment rooms and a variety of relaxing experiences.

The new spa will pamper guests with a soaking pool, sun deck and expansive views of Avalon Harbor. The treatment rooms will be the location of massages, facials and body wraps and a hair and nail salon will offer a new level of beauty treatments, including spray tans and make-up application.  At the corner of Crescent and Marilla avenues, Island Spa Catalina will be the first destination day spa for Catalina and will allow visitors to treat themselves to hours of relaxation. Specialty showers, a dry inhalation sauna and a eucalyptus steam room will be available for spa guests in addition to the outdoor spaces.

Island Spa Catalina, which will also be home to a cafe and gift store, features a marine inspired color palette and includes original Catalina tile.

CIVR Blog: White’s Landing on Catalina Island

Catalina Island, California

White’s Landing has one of the largest sand beaches on Catalina Island

White’s Landing

One of Catalina Island’s largest sand beaches is located at White’s Landing, a wide cove about four miles northwest from Avalon.

The wide sand beach and gentle canyon at White’s Landing have long appealed to humans and the area was a center of activity for thousands of years before Europeans arrived on Catalina Island.  Past archeological excavations in the area have revealed that generations of native islanders inhabited White’s Landing.

In the 19th and 20th century, the beach at White’s Landing proved to be an ideal location for loading ore and livestock to ship them to the mainland. Herds of cattle and sheep were driven aboard ships and sent to the mainland, and lead and zinc ore mined from Blackjack were transported to White’s Landing before being sent across the channel for processing.

Today White’s Landing on Catalina Island is home to two private beach clubs belonging to Balboa Yacht Club and San Diego Yacht Club, as well as a large summer camp facility known as The Catalina Experience.  A number of moorings are available and the White’s Landing is a popular destination for boaters.

CIVR Blog: Hiking on Catalina Island

Many hikes on Catalina offer amazing views.

Many hikes on Catalina offer amazing views.


Hiking on Catalina Island

Hiking Catalina Island offers something for everything.  Whether you’re looking for a quick jaunt from your vacation rental or a multi-day challenge that will get you completely off the grid, Catalina Island hiking is an activity not to be missed.

The centerpiece of hiking on Catalina Island is the Trans Catalina Trail, a multi-day (or multi-trip) challenge that stretches from the East End of the island to the West End. Cleared, maintained and owned by the Catalina Island Conservancy, the Trans Catalina Trail requires planning and preparation and hikers should be in good physical condition due to the sometimes extreme elevation changes.

Catalina Island hiking doesn’t always require such an investment in time, however. Whether you’re visiting Two Harbors or Avalon, there are several rewarding day hikes available, ranging from an hour-long stroll to full-day adventures. The Hour Trail in Avalon Canyon is a popular escape off the beaten path, providing great views of both Avalon and, when the weather is clear, the Southern California mainland. In Two Harbors, the hike along Cat Harbor to Ballast Point is a great chance to experience the undeveloped, natural beauty of Catalina.

Whichever option you choose for hiking on Catalina, the island will provide unparalleled views, spectacular vistas and flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth.

CIVR Blog: Long Point on Catalina Island

Catalina Island, California

Long Point is the widest point on Catalina Island

Catalina Island offers a number of interesting numbers. 76 square miles. Half a mile wide at its narrowest. 22 miles long. 2,097 feet high at its highest. 54 miles of coastline. One of the most common Catalina Island dimensions is width: Catalina Island is eight miles wide at its widest point. On the lee side, that point is Long Point — a geographic designation and place name that appears on nearly every map of the island.

Like many place names, the exact origin of Long Point is lost to history, but it’s not hard to imagine how it got its name. Long Point juts toward the mainland and is easily spotted from just offshore of either Avalon Harbor or Isthmus Cove. Long Point is nearly at the center of Catalina Island and boaters can frequently find shelter from rough water on one side or the other, depending on the origin of the prevailing swell.  A Coast Guard Light illuminates Long Point to alert boaters to its presence.

Beaches on either side of Long Point on Catalina Island provide respite for kayakers and other paddlers and the area sports one of Catalina Island’s boat-in campsites.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Island Casino Dive Park

Catalina Island is one of the best dive destinations in the USA

Catalina Island is one of the best dive destinations in the USA

In the shadow of the Catalina Casino Building is one of the most popular scuba diving spots in North America. The waters off the Casino Point Dive Park have been welcoming underwater explorers since before scuba diving was invented and today sees tens of thousands of dives each year.

In the early part of the 20th Century, the Catalina Diving Bell took intrepid tourists below the surface for a peek at Catalina’s fascinating marine life; as scuba became recreationally available, the waters off the Casino Breakwater became a popular spot to the take the plunge.

With depths ranging from 30 to more than 100 feet, the park is an ideal spot for new divers to have their first underwater experiences, but also offers enough marine life and challenges for even the most experienced diver. Very few days don’t see at least a few divers in the park, but its popularity can vary from just a few intrepid souls during the week in the winter to hundreds of divers on a busy summer weekend. The park is home to wide array of marine life, from fascinating octopus, menacing morays and brightly colored nudibranchs, to schools of baitfish, graceful bat rays and playful sea lions. Several wrecks dot the bottom and a plaque dedicated to ocean pioneer Jacques Cousteau inspires continued ocean exploration.

Air fills are available at the park and local dive shops offer both guided dives for certified divers and Experience Scuba adventures for those with no experience.