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CIVR Blog: Labor Day on Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a perfect destination for Labor Day

Catalina Island is a perfect destination for Labor Day

After more than a century, the tradition of Labor Day is firmly entrenched in the American psyche. This three-day weekend gives us a chance to honor our hard work and the hard work of those who have built the American Dream for all of us. On the first Monday in September, a three-day weekend of barbecues, vacation getaways and family fun seems to be the ideal way to celebrate work.

For generations, Labor Day was the last big hurrah on Catalina Island before the end of the summer season. Until late in the 20th century, Avalon was a summer town, booming between Memorial Day and Labor Day and pretty much rolling up the sidewalks in the off-season. Many businesses closed and those who remained opened had greatly reduced hours.

These days, Labor Day is still the symbolic end of summer, but it’s far from the end of the Catalina Island season. September and October are now bustling months on the island’s calendar. Those three days of Labor Day weekend are still a fine excuse for a mini-holiday, a chance to thank ourselves for all our hard work all year long.

CIVR Blog: Maggie’s Blue Rose Catalina Island

Crab and corn empanadas at Maggie's Blue Rose

Crab and corn empanadas at Maggie’s Blue Rose

Catalina Island’s newest dining experience brings together Avalon’s Hispanic heritage and its most successful restaurateurs. Maggie’s Blue Rose opened to rave reviews this spring and has been pleasing palates ever since. The latest project from the successful duo behind Steve’s Steakhouse, Maggie’s Blue Rose offers diners both a fresh take on Mexican culinary classics as well as a contemporary spin on margaritas.

Shortly after Maggie’s opened it took the Taste of Avalon by storm, winning awards for pork adobo with pineapple salsa, avocado enchiladas and mole braised duck taquitos. Since then, it has also been thrilling the over-21 crowd with its refreshing take on margaritas. You won’t want to miss the tamarindo or the cucumber and jalapeno.

Located just across from the green Pleasure Pier below Steve’s Steakhouse, Maggie’s Blue Rose offers al fresco dining, indoor seating and expansive bar seating.  Opening at 8 a.m. Maggie’s offers favorites like huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos and chorizo and eggs. Lunch brings options such as crab and corn empanadas, street tacos and watermelon salad with spiced shrimp. Beginning at 5 p.m., Maggie’s offers new Catalina classics including lobster enchiladas, street tacos with the freshest local fish and grilled anchiote skirt steak.  For more information call (310) 510-3300 or visit their website.

CIVR Blog: Catalina’s car list

Getting around on Catalina Island frequently involves something other than a car.

Getting around on Catalina Island frequently involves something other than a car.

In Avalon, the primary means of transportation is walking. This quaint village is ideally situated for pedestrian traffic. Shops, restaurants and the waterfront are all located within a few blocks, making your own two feet the perfect choice for getting around.

Visitors frequently comment on the prevalence of golf carts, which residents, businesses and visitors alike turn to as an alternative to walking. Their smaller size makes golf carts, or autoettes as they are known in the Avalon Municipal Code, a convenient substitute to full-size vehicles, which are out of reach for many Catalina Island residents.

In the 1980s, the State of California passed legislation making Avalon the only municipality in the state with the authority to regulate the number of vehicles permitted in city limits. That legislation has resulted in waiting list for full-size vehicles that currently translates to a several decades wait for a full-size vehicle. Each year, fewer than 10 blue residential permits are released. Permit holders must be full-time residents and if they move off the island for any reason other than school or military sevice, the permit must be surrendered. Commercial vehicles are regulated separately, but businesses must still wait for approval and justify the need.

CIVR Blog: Saving water on Catalina Island

CIVR conserve_waterLike many places in the United States, Catalina Island is undergoing a sustained drought. Water on the island primarily comes from underground aquifers which are feed by Thompson Reservoir, a small man-made lake in the interior. Additional water – about a third of the island’s annual usage — comes from a desalination plant located at Pebbly Beach.

Several years of less than average rainfall have created what has become a severe drought and Catalina’s fresh water supplies are dwindling. On August 11, Southern California Edison, which manages the island’s utilities, imposed water restrictions that call for a 25 percent annual reduction in water use.

Visitors and residents alike have been coming together to conserve water and evidence of that can be found throughout Avalon. Restaurants only serve water on request and frequently only serve bottled water. Streets are swept rather than washed. And accommodations are asking guests to conserve in many ways.

At Catalina Island Vacation Rentals, we’re asking our guests to limit their use of washing machines and dishwashers, restrict their showers to three minutes and shut off the water while brushing their teeth and shaving. Any leaky faucets should also be reported immediately.

By working together, Catalina’s residents and visitors will be able to weather the drought until Mother Nature brings more rain.

CIVR Blog: Fall festivals on Catalina Island

The Catalina Festival of the Arts is just one of many fall festivals

The Catalina Festival of the Arts is just one of many fall festivals

Fall is festival season on Catalina Island and for many visitors and locals alike, a favorite time to experience the island. Temperatures are still balmy, crowds begin to dissipate and the entire island is open for adventure.

Art and wine, music and aviation are just a few of the festivals on the Catalina Island calendar this fall. The Catalina Festival of the Arts is one of Catalina’s longest running events and will take over Crescent Avenue with art, artists and art aficionados Sept. 19 to 21. On Sept. 13  the Catalina Island Women’s Forum will host its popular Catalina Island Wine Festival in the shadow of the Catalina Casino Building. Featuring wine from dozens of wineries as well as a silent auction, the wine festival is a fundraiser for the forum’s various charities, including scholarships and domestic violence prevention.

Scheduled for the first weekend in October, the Catalina Air Show has found resounding popularity, with demonstrations both on the ground in the air. The second two weekends in October will see the return of JazzTrax, which brings top names in smooth jazz to the Casino Ballroom as well as a number of additional venues around town.

CIVR Blog: Catalina Coastal Tours

Dolphins are a popular sight in Catalina waters.

Exploring Catalina Island is a never-ending voyage of discovery that involves adventures both above and below the water, natural history and human culture. Several companies can help guide you on that voyage of discovery, with tours, adventures and more.

Catalina Coastal Tours, a local family-run company, offers a range of unique tours that allow a glimpse of the island seldom experienced by most visitors. With a 24-foot boat, limited to only six passengers, Catalina Coastal Tours offers an intimate tour experience that is ideal for exploring Catalina’s wild coastline. One of their top tours offers a boat trip to White’s Landing, just down the coast from Avalon, and includes beach and water activities, like kayaking, stand-up paddling and snorkeling as well as lunch or dinner. Catalina Coastal Tours also offers an hour-long sea lion and dolphin tour to experience the popular mammals. Sightseeing, fishing and custom tours are available as well. An astronomy tour takes place in Avalon and includes an in-depth look at the night sky with telescopes and the guidance of a trained astronomer.

Catalina Coastal Tours is located at Pebbly Beach Road just across the street from the basketball courts. For more information call (626) 290-2888 or visit their website.

CIVR Blog: Kid-friendly Catalina

Family Biking

Families will find plenty of activities for all ages on Catalina Island

Despite its reputation as the Island of Romance, Catalina can also be an ideal vacation for the entire family. For more than a century, families have been escaping the mainland madness and discovering the allure of Avalon as a place to relax and reconnect.

In the summer, spring and fall – and even frequently in the winter – the beach is an inescapable attraction; its gentle waves and sloping sands perfect for even the youngest island visitor. Several playgrounds are located in Avalon: boat park, near the boat terminal is great for smaller kids, City Park and Friendship Park have playscapes more suited to grade school kids. Avalon has its own skate park and older children will also enjoy the adventures of ziplining, snorkeling and kayaking.

Families with kids of all ages will appreciate Three Palms Arcade and most of Avalon’s restaurants are family friendly.

Catalina Island Vacation Rentals offers a wide array of family-friendly Catalina Island lodging choices, including Avalon condos, Avalon homes and cottages and Hamilton Cove villas. All welcome families and are a perfect choice for travelers looking for room for everyone. With full kitchens and separate bedrooms, there’s room to gather for a family meal, play games and watch Frozen one more time.

CIVR Blog: Cabrillo Beach on Catalina Island

Catalina Island has been “discovered” several times. It was inhabited by native islanders for thousands of years – those intrepid explorers had discovered that life on the island was much more intriguing than life on the mainland and created an island culture that lasted hundreds of generations.

Juan Cabrillo was the first European to explore the Channel Islands. Image from http://www.ecodivecenter.com

Juan Cabrillo was the first European to explore the Channel Islands. Image from http://www.ecodivecenter.com

The first European to explore the Channel Islands was Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, who came across Catalina in 1542 while exploring what would become California’s coast. Cabrillo didn’t give the island its current name, that was Sebastian Viscaino, who named it in honor of Saint Catherine. Cabrillo’s visit to the island is, however, commemorated in the name of a small beach just past Long Point on the lee side of the island. There’s no way of knowing if Cabrillo Beach was where Cabrillo’s galleon first anchored, but the cove’s name honors that long-ago explorer.

Today Cabrillo Beach is home to a primitive campsite and is an occasionally stopping point for those kayaking or boating between Avalon and Two Harbors. The campsite can be reserved; access to the beach is by boat only.

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: 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.