Jan 22nd
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Home Travel Guide Travel Guide Topics Island Capers Exploring Santa Catalina Island

Exploring Santa Catalina Island

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Island Capers
Exploring Catalina Island

    For hundreds of years, Chumash Indians canoed across twenty-two miles of open ocean to an island off the Southern California coast. Their rewards were not only the beauty of rugged yellow and green cliffs veiled behind a dreamlike mist, but also some of the finest fishing in what is still today a pristine marine environment. If your family prefers tepees to hotels and ocean kelp “forests” to swimming pools, a snorkel and camp adventure on Santa Catalina Island is waiting for you.
    Your first glimpse of sea life is likely to be a pod of porpoises jumping the waves of the catamaran that skims across the channel from the mainland reaching Avalon Harbor in about an hour. Watching the activity at the harbor as you arrive will give you an idea of what your adventure might hold: scuba divers go out on boats to dive sites, kayakers paddle between sail boats and yachts, and children rent snorkeling equipment on the green pier.
    As you walk one and a half miles up Avalon Canyon Road past horse stables and the old Chicago Cubs training field, you can't miss Hermit Gulch Campground nestled in a canyon just below Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens. The campground is dotted with tepees that will inspire the imagination of anyone who has ever dreamed of living in America when the rivers ran crystal clear and the bison roamed free as they still do on the interior of the island. Equipment rentals, toilets, coin operated hot showers, fire rings, picnic tables, barbecue pits, and group campfire activities make this campsite perfect for families. If you're carrying a lot of your own gear, you can catch a taxi or a tram from the city plaza to the campground.
    Being on the leeward side of the island, Avalon is protected from rough waves making it an ideal place for both beginner and advanced snorkelers. Lover's Cove is a marine sanctuary free of scuba divers and fishermen. A nearby glass bottom boat feeds fish, turning the cove into a colorful aquarium. Ecstatic children come nose to nose with neon orange garibaldi fish, lavender sea urchins, colorful snails under translucent green kelp fronds, and schooling silver jack mackerel.  
    On the other side of Avalon, the landmark octagonal Casino building with its red tiled roof and white stucco walls gleams in the sun. Scuba divers and snorkelers slide into the clear water directly off Casino Point into a fascinating underwater park alive with some of the finest kelp forests in the world. More advanced snorkelers may encounter bat rays, pink and black striped sheephead, bright yellow and red gorgonian coral and an incredible diversity of sea life along the artificial reef.   
    Research the island before you set out by reading Secret Seas or Last of the Bluewater Hunters by Carlos Eyeles, renowned free-diver and Catalina enthusiast. These books may inspire your family to charter a boat or participate in a guided kayak snorkel tour to discover less frequented sites.

Getting There:
Catalina Express departing San Pedro or Long Beach Harbor
Catalina Flyer departing Newport Harbor (949)673-5245

Camping and Equipment Rental:
Hermit Gulch Campground
 (310) 510-TENT

Ocean Sports Rental Shops:
Wet Sport Rentals (310) 510-2229; Catalina Scuba Luv 800-262-DIVE; Descanso Beach Ocean Sports (310) 510-1226

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--by MaryAnn Mahajan


Where are Tricia and Marla?

Tricia and Marla climbed these steps to this magnificent temple. Where are Tricia and Marla?
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