CIVR Blog: Avalon Pleasure Pier

Avalon's green Pleasure Pier attracts visitors and locals alike

Avalon’s green Pleasure Pier attracts visitors and locals alike

Catalina Island’s Moorish-inspired architectural wonder is known throughout the world – its red tile roof and distinctive circular shape creating a landmark that instantly identifies Catalina’s place. While the Catalina Casino is Avalon’s most iconic landmark, it is far from its only one.

The Avalon Pleasure Pier, with its unique vibrant shade of green, is a magnet for visitors and locals alike. In the summer months, an extension is added to its 400-foot length, providing additional wharfage for water taxis, tour boats and Avalon Harbor patrol boats. Whatever the time of year, it’s the perfect spot for a stroll, offering wonderful views of Avalon, the scent of salt air and the susurrus of the sea.

Avalon Seafood, at the end of the pier, and Eric’s, at the foot of the pier, are both perfect spots to grab a beer and bite – and take part in some serious people watching. The pier is also home to several businesses, including Catalina Adventure Tours and Catalina Discovery Tours, both of which offer semi-submersible excursions to Lovers Cove. Island Water Charters, which offers parasailing and tubing adventures, makes it home here, as does Catalina Divers Supply, the island’s oldest dive shop. Joe’s Rent A Boat rents skiffs, paddleboats and paddleboards. You’ll also find Los Angeles County’s Baywatch Avalon lifeguards, the Avalon Harbor Department and – a must visit for any visitor – the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce’s Visitors Services Center, which offers a wealth of information.

CIVR Blog: Three Palms Avalon Arcade

Three Palms Avalon Arcade

Three Palms Avalon Arcade

For generations, growing up has frequently involved a trip to the arcade. With a soundtrack of rumbling skeeballs, tokens are transformed into tickets and then carefully traded into trinkets and treasures. Those treasures and trinkets echo with the skill and luck that accompanied their acquisition – making their value as a souvenir much higher than anything purchased outright.

Several arcades have been part of the cultural fabric of Catalina Island and generations of visitors and locals have experienced the fun and frustration of family fun at the arcade. Avalon’s newest iteration is Three Palms Avalon Arcade, a locally-owned, family-run fun fest in the Metropole Marketplace. Named for an Avalon overlook that used to have three distinctive palm trees, Three Palms Arcade includes a wide range of traditional and modern ticket dispensing games as well as four lanes of duckpin bowling, a shooting gallery and pizza, appetizers and sushi. Beer and wine insure that mom and dad can relax while the kids have fun chasing down those illusive game tickets.

In addition to its everyday fun, Three Palms Arcade also offers private parties for everything from a small child’s birthday party to a corporate team-building extravaganza that will be fondly remembered ‘round the water cooler for months.

Its range of activities makes Three Palms a perfect spot for the entire family and somewhere that’s sure to figure prominently in your Catalina memories.

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 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: Catalina Art Festival

Cataina art festival 2014

Cataina art festival 2014

Catalina Island’s fall calendar is filled to the brim with festivals, shows and events. Music, wine and athletic events will all take center stage during the autumn, but one of Avalon’s longest-running events remains one of its most popular.

The Catalina Island Festival of Art has been bringing artists and art lovers together in Avalon for more than half a century and – based on its popularity with both – will continue to do so for another half century. The festival attracts dozens of artists, who set up booths on Crescent Avenue, along Avalon’s picturesque waterfront. Art aficionados spend hours perusing the booths, chatting with the artists and finding irresistible treasures to take home.

Hosted by the Catalina Art Association, one of Avalon’s oldest organizations, the art festival’s participants are juried and include a number of acclaimed artists. A children’s art show offers an opportunity for younger artists to showcase their creativity and win art supplies to encourage their interest in art. Live music and a charity art auction round out the festivities. This year’s Catalina Island Festival of Art is scheduled for Sept. 19-21. Visit www.CatalinaArtAssociation.org for more information.

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: 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: 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.