Santa Catalina Island has welcomed visitors to explore its gorgeous landscape, secluded coves, and join in adventurous activities for years. Back in 1887, George Shatto purchased the island and made it a tourist resort. He established the town of Avalon, where I was lucky enough to visit.
Catalina passed through many hands. In 1892, the Banning brothers purchased the island, built roads, installed telephone/wireless telegraph systems and built tourist attractions: dance pavilions, a band stand, an aquarium, a Greek amphitheater, a railway from Avalon to Lover’s Cove and the Catalina Island Golf Course. Fishing expeditions, stagecoach sightseeing trips and glass-bottomed boat tours were offered too. The island also became world-renowned for sport fishing.
The Banning brothers then sold the Island to William Wrigley Jr, who owns it to this day. Catalina is a great escape from Los Angeles in that it has activities for everyone, beaches, spas, and restaurants. It can be a great day trip or a true getaway for a few days or more.
We hopped onto the Catalina Express, which was a quick hour ride, and arrived around 11 am. The island is so quaint and cute, you feel as if you are part of a movie set. We checked into the Pavilion Hotel, where everyone was friendly and helpful on island information. I loved how the hotel’s wine bar, fire pits, and green lounge area were all central and outdoors. It reminded me of a tropical paradise. The room was perfect, with a huge bathroom, and extremely comfortable bed. Plus, each room had a small patio area to relax on.
We explored town, and made our way to the zip line tour. I was nervous, but we made our way up the mountain and as soon as I stepped off the platform, the view was all I could think about. It was beautiful. We zipped, 5 times overall, slowly making our way down. It was an amazing experience and I highly recommend this tour when you visit Catalina.
For dinner, we headed to Avalon Grille. It was absolutely amazing. The space was beautiful with and an indoor/outdoor, upscale, steakhouse feel. We had appetizers of ceviche, calamari, and Brussels sprouts. The ceviche was as beautiful as it tasted. It was fresh with a little kick in the end. Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite foods, so I always lean towards anything that includes them. Avalon Grille’s were perfectly roasted with almonds, cranberries, and pancetta. If they had a whole meal of this dish, I would have ordered it.
For entrees we had the lobster mac n cheese and the short ribs. The lobster mac n cheese is one of those dishes we are still talking about a week later. It was creamy and full of chunks of lobster. The short ribs were melt in your mouth good and the portion was huge. Either dish was a great choice.
The next day we headed to Descanco Beach, a hidden beach club past the casino. I think for someone who is always on the go, this was my favorite “activity”. The cabana was literally having your living room on the sand. We lounged with the complimentary fruit platter and smoothies (ask for a double shot of vodka or rum and mix it in). The waitresses are more than accommodating and the food is delicious. Lil hint…there are items available that aren’t on the menu. Get the sesame ginger wings. You won’t be disappointed. Also great, the lobster roll or any of their salads. Wash it down with the island’s signature drink, Buffalo Milk, made with vodka, coffee liqueur, banana liqueur, crème de cacao, whipped cream, nutmeg. Hey, you’re on vacay!