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: 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: 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: 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.

CIVR Blog: Beach Bingo Catalina Island

Family traditions abound on Catalina Island. For many families, a week vacation in Avalon is an annual migration that goes back generations. Whether it’s dinner at a particular restaurant, family hikes or beach towels at a certain spot, those family getaways often include the same activities year after year.

One spot where families can frequently be found is on South Beach during Summer Beach Bingo. Held every Tuesday and Thursday through Aug. 25, Summer Beach Bingo is hosted by the City of Avalon’s Recreation Department. Cards are only $1 and winners will receive a variety of prizes donated by local businesses. Dozens of people typically show up for Summer Beach Bingo on Catalina Island, which happens from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., although showing up a few minutes early to get a good spot is encouraged. The bingo caller will be at the lifeguard stand in the middle of South Beach. For more information, call the City of Avalon at (310) 510-0220.

CIVR Blog: Scuba diving on Catalina Island

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

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

Widely considered one of the best dive destinations in North America, Catalina Island scuba diving offers something for everyone, whether you are a complete novice or an advanced diver with hundreds of dives in your dive log. If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving, several Catalina Island dive shops offer Discover Scuba Diving experiences, which are highly supervised dive adventures open to individuals who are not certified divers. For the more experienced diver, Catalina offers night dives, boat dives, advanced classes and more much.

Catalina Island’s unique underwater topography creates a fascinating environment that is home to both near shore and pelagic creatures. Playful sea lions, friendly giant black sea bass and menacing morays are just a few of the many species that are regularly seen at the island’s many dive spots. Those dive spots are all around the island; one of the most popular is the Casino Dive Park, located just below the Catalina Casino.

Wondering where to stay for your Catalina Island scuba diving adventure? Catalina Island Vacation Rentals’ many properties offer several amenities that will be make your adventure easier. Golf carts will get you to many local dive spots without wearing you out dragging your gear. Outdoor rinse spots offer convenience and renting a house or condo lets you get your friends together to share expenses. Our website and friendly reservation staff will be happy to help you find a perfect spot for your next Catalina Island scuba diving vacation.

CIVR Blog: 3 tips for planning a great Catalina Island special event

Avalon offers a wealth of activities for a great event

Avalon offers a wealth of activities for a great event

Catalina Island is an unforgettable location for a special event. Whether a wedding or a corporate retreat, a family reunion or a getaway for a social club, Catalina’s range of activities and proximity to the mainland make it an ideal choice for group travel and special events. Here are our three favorite tips for making your event successful.

Don’t plan every minute

Catalina Island has something for everyone. Massages, shopping, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, ziplining and dining are just some of the many activities your guests will enjoy. Make sure and schedule some free time so that your guests have the chance to make their own Catalina memories.

Don’t try to do too much

Catalina Island has a dizzying array of irresistible fun. It can be tempting to try and cram all that fun on top of your special event. While adding a few activities here and there can really add an element of adventure to your event, trying to do it all may just add up to too much. Catalina Island is a great place to come back to again and again – rather than do too much, make sure and plan a return trip.

Make sure everyone has a place

Where you stay will set the stage for your entire event experience. Make sure your guests have a several options when planning their Catalina Island accommodations. Catalina Island Vacation Rentals offers a wide range of Avalon homes and cottages, Catalina condos and Hamilton Cove Villas. Call us today for help choosing the right Catalina Island lodging option.

Guest Blogger: A Stay at Hamilton Cove

Hamilton Cove Villas are one option for a longer stay on Catalina Island.

Hamilton Cove Villas are one option for a longer stay on Catalina Island.

by Sherel Purcell

On a recent trip to Catalina Island, 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles and an hour via the Catalina Express ferry (free trip on your birthday!) we stayed at a Catalina Island Vacation Rental property. The huge, two-story, two-bedroom, two-bath villa overlooked beautiful Hamilton Cove.

The sandy beach was well-equipped with volleyball nets, basketball hoops, a swing set and picnic tables with barbeques.  Further up the hill, a perfectly heated pool and hot tub, croquet lawn, elaborate mini golf course and tennis courts provided extra leisure activities.
As well as being an extremely peaceful and beautiful location, an additional benefit of staying in Hamilton Cove is that it included a motorized golf cart to make the 1.5-mile scenic trip into the main town of Avalon.

Although our rental was completely outfitted with a large, open-concept contemporary kitchen and dining room, we headed for the Bluewater Restaurant right on the waterfront in the center of town. We did however, enjoy breakfast on our sunny patio overlooking the ocean.

The Bluewater is THE place to eat on Catalina especially for seafood lovers and those into creative appetizers. Reservations are recommended as it fills up with locals and visitors alike dropping in for afternoon drinks and staying for dinner.

On our drive into town, we passed the new zipline operated by Catalina Island Zip Line Eco Tour. Perched on a cliff, the zip line provides thrill seekers with unparalleled views of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Long Beach from heights of 600 feet above sea level.

Closer to town, we passed the local cinema (the movie changes once a week) housed in an art deco rotunda – the famous Catalina Casino, which is also the home of the Catalina Island Museum containing 8,000 years of human settlement history.

Two other attractions deserve special mention: Jeep Eco Tours are a hair-raising way to explore the surrounding mountains while supporting the conservation efforts of the Catalina Island Conservancy, which protects 88 percent of Catalina Island, including more than 62 miles of deserted beaches.

Underwater, Catalina Ocean Expeditions allow visitors to come face-to-face with Catalina’s abundant marine life in their semi-submersible boats.


CIVR Blog: Avalon Beach on Catalina Island

Avalon Beach includes three sections.

Avalon Beach includes three sections.

Avalon’s beach

Nearly all of Avalon’s visitors are attracted to Catalina Island’s proximity to the ocean. No matter where you are in this quaint city, the sounds and smells of the sea surround you. Getting your feet in the sand and dipping your toes in the Pacific are nearly required activities and the siren call of the beach is irresistible.

Locals typically divide the beach in Avalon into three areas. South Beach, to the right of the green pier as you’re looking toward the mainland; Middle Beach, to the left side of the pier; and Step Beach, on the other side of Bluewater Avalon, Antonio’s Cabaret and Big Olaf’s.

South Beach includes a small area with palapas and tables, perfect for a picnic. Stairs separate the main part of South Beach from the water. In the summer months, the harbor off South Beach is home to the swim float, a favorite spot for the younger set to challenge their swimming skills. Beach Bingo finds a home on the sand of South Beach every Tuesday and Thursday evening during the summer.

Middle Beach is, well, in the middle of Avalon. Like South Beach it is very popular with families and staking out your clan’s place on the sand can become a summer vacation tradition.

Step Beach, located near the Via Casino Arch, is the narrowest of Avalon’s beaches. It gets its name from the set of stairs that lead into the water, making it a popular spot for exercise swimmers.

CIVR Blog: Adventures at Two Harbors

Isthmus Cove at Two Harbors on the Island's West End.

Isthmus Cove at Two Harbors on the Island’s West End.

Catalina Island travelers looking for an experience off the beaten path can find just what they are looking for at Two Harbors, at Santa Catalina’s West End. A beautiful pair of bays creates the isthmus and gives the community its name. Isthmus Harbor, on the island’s lee side; and Cat Harbor, on the island’s windward side, both invite exploration, with hiking trails and walking paths, calm waters perfect for paddling and a wealth of marine life. Two Harbors, CA beckons travelers both those looking for adventure and those eager for relaxation.

Catalina Island is one of the top spots in North America for scuba diving and Two Harbors sports several beautiful dive spots in the many coves on the front side of the island. Those spots are also spectacular for snorkelers with amber kelp forests, curious fish and crystal clear waters. Above water adventures are prevalent at the isthmus, including kayaking, stand-up paddling and big game fishing. Not ready to get wet? The hiking around the West End is some of the best on the island, with dirt roads, hiking paths and the Trans-Catalina Trail all beckoning to be explored. Sound a little too strenuous? Relax with a good book and soak up the rays – or just take in the beautiful views.

Catalina Island Vacation Rentals offers Two Harbors travelers the perfect Isthmus lodging option with two luxurious casas.