Catalina, an island so close to home but makes you feel so far away. It has the undeniable feel of Positano, Italy, at least in our opinion. My husband and I first visited here 8 years ago. Justin knew I had always wanted to go, so he arranged a surprise date where we rode bikes and napped on the beach. It was perfect. While riding all over the island we came across the Wrigley Mansion, and it’s this lookout that gives it an “Amalfi Coast” feel. On our bike ride, we saw deer prancing in the woods that had no fear of our presence. We didn’t see any bison on our first visit but knew that about 150 of them roam free due to a 1924 movie production called the “Vanishing American.” The Hollywood producers never finished the film and decided to just leave the 14 bison there to their own devices. After growing to 600 in number the conservatory decided to ship some off to South Dakota and inject the rest with a birth control vaccine. They keep the number at 150 in population and are one of the biggest tourist attractions for the cruise ships.
After our bike ride we relaxed on white chaise lounge chairs that Justin reserved ahead of time. They fill up quickly, so you might want to do the same if you’re visiting during peak season. After laying out for a bit, Justin proposed that we get married and travel the world together. I thought it was a pretty good plan, so here we are 8 years later coming back to one of our favorite places.
I’m writing this now on the ferry ride home so I can share with you some of our favorite spots that make us so fond of this island.
Our favorite hotel by far is the Metropole. I love the dark hardwood floors, the cozy bed, clean, crisp white linens, and white duvet covers. The bright, clean, bathrooms with huge showers and modern glass shower doors. They leave chocolate by your bed and complimentary bottled water which is always appreciated. It’s the little things that make a difference. There is a lot of natural lighting and no fluorescent lights, thank goodness.
The rooftop has a small hot tub where you can relax and watch the cruise ships pull in and out of the harbor. Breakfast has your usual selection of pastries, cereals, OJ and coffee. The most pleasant surprise is how many healthy options there are, including oganic oatmeal and organic fruit. This is because the Metroplole is privately owned by a lovely couple who truly care about the health and wellness of their guests. Gregg, who built the hotel over 20 years ago with his dad, and Sauna are almost always there on site and pour their heart and soul into this place. There's also an in-house organic juice bar downstairs with plenty of healthy breakfast and lunch options. It's tiled white walls and light wood furniture make it an airy and peaceful place to catch up on emails and breathe in the salty ocean air.
Catalina Casino is a short ½ mile stroll from the hotel. This 11 story casino, built in 1929, is a spectacular historical icon. This used to be a romantic escape for the millions who made the 26 mile trip across the sea to enjoy a movie, dinner and dancing during the casinos early days as the hub of Avalon nightlife. It hosts the world's largest ballroom where as many as 6,000 dancers once twirled to the sound of big band music. Today, there's 3 walking tours you can take and a nightly movie at 7:30 pm.
This beach is lined with rows of white loungers and cabanas that you can rent for the day. There's also a public section of beach where you can lay out complimentary with your own towel and get bronzed while listening to Bob Marley, which is almost always playing at the Descanso Beach Club open-air beachside bar. The views here are absolutely spectacular. The ocean varies in blue colors from deep royal hughes to light aqua marine. The couple sitting beside us at this outdoor bar said it was on their bucket list to visit for 35 years. They were from the East Coast and said that if they would have come sooner they would've been back every year.
If you are able to make it out to this little gem of an island you won't be disappointed. You’ll leave refreshed, relaxed and dreaming of your next trip back.