Just a quick jaunt by sea from Los Angeles, this island attracts a diverse crew, with Southern California blondes and East Coast fashionistas mixing with divers and locals. Throw in a few hundred cruise passengers and you’ve got quite a scene. Head out of the port town of Avalon for some quiet and book a wildlife tour to see wild bison, mule deer, and maybe even eagles.
What We Love
Two Harbors: This small village on the other side of the island is where the SoCal sailboat set drops anchor in summer. If you overnight on Catalina, get over there and party with them all weekend.
Bison: There’s actually a decent-sized bison population on Catalina, stemming from a small herd that was brought over for a film production in the 1920s and set free.
Best Known For
Diving: The Pacific waters can be rough, but brave it at the Avalon Underwater Park to see a school of flying fish or have a shark encounter.
Buffalo Milk: Experience some local color by skipping the fancy restaurants and popping into any local dive for the island’s signature cocktail. Warning: it tastes like a milkshake but hits like hard liquor.
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Who It's Best For
Underwater Tourists: With the underwater park, Snuba excursions, and the shore diving near Avalon, the island offers marine access with no dive boat reservations required.
History Buffs: Catalina has quite a history, starting with the Native Americans and followed by Spanish colonialists, gold miners, and then Old Hollywood. Learn more at the Catalina Island Museum, housed in a former casino.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Food and Drink are Pricey: The cost of shipping ingredients to the island, plus the California drought, mean high restaurant and bar tabs.
Weather Woes: The island’s charms are much diminished when it’s 50 degrees and raining, as is often the case from October to March. You may end up huddled in a sweatshirt staring at gray, choppy seas.
Lena Katz is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Brides.