It isn't a secret that you get a free ride on the Catalina Express on your birthday, but have you taken advantage of it yet? Getting away for the day or a few nights is always the best medicine for stress - and let's just say I was due for a mini vacay! If you're looking for a place that gives you adventure, thrill, good eats, and friendly people than Catalina Island should be your next stop. Being a California native, growing up in LA county, I am ashamed that it took me this long to get over to Catalina. While this was my first trip, it will certainly not be my last as I fell in love with the beautiful decor and lively atmosphere of island. Honestly, this place is the best spot for photographers, models, and bloggers because there are a million places you can shoot at/in. KSOLE and I seriously were sad that I did not bring more outfits to shoot, lol.
[The Start] We started my birthday with a 6:45AM ride on the Catalina Express and were given the Commodore Lounge (equipped with a free snack and drinks). The seats were located upstairs on the boat and you were given the choice to either sit outside or inside (free to wander in and out during the trip). The Catalina Express is the fastest method of transportation to the island and provides up to 30 daily departures year-round, leaving/picking up from San Pedro, Long Beach, and Dana Point. Note: you do have to pay for parking overnight if you leave your car at the port (San Pedro $12; Long Beach $15; Dana Point $12).
I attempted catching the sunrise in the freezing cold that morning via time-lapse no the iPhone, but failed miserably. I must say that I am proud that I did not get motion sickness to the island, but the ride back was nauseating. It took an hour to get to the island and we arrived to our hotel at 8AM, by foot. Taxi's and golf carts are available to rent if you don't want to walk around but everything is pretty close to each other so unless you want to shell over $$$ for the day, I suggest packing good walking shoes! The island itself is only 1 square mile so you can't get lost.
[Check-In] Sheree of The Avalon Hotel was a sweetheart the second we stepped in. I forgot what great service and hospitality felt like until then. It was such a cozy three-story hotel, tucked away on Whittley Ave., near Step Beach. It was close enough to town but not in the middle of it, which I loved. I'll have a full review of our stay and the hotel in the next post!
[Jeep Eco Tour] After check-in, we headed to grab a quick bite before exploring the island. A two-hour jeep eco tour was scheduled for our afternoon with the Catalina Island Conservancy. We met up with our tour guide at 1PM and were joined by 4 others, as the jeep can seat up to 7 people. As we escalated through the mountains on the dirt road, we passed their popular zip lines and got a gorgeous overview of the island from above the clouds.
While I didn't know what to expect, I was surprised that we did get to see quite a few bison, Catalina Island foxes, and eagles. The Catalina Island fox is native to Catalina Island and is not found anywhere else in the world. They are about 4 to 6 pounds and 25% smaller than the gray fox. Super cute and furry! Unfortunately they were way too fast for us to catch on camera.
The bison, on the other hand, were gracefully eating away as we passed by. We got pretty close to these large animals, however don't be fooled as they can run up to 45MPH and weigh 2,000 pounds. We saw a number of plants during our tour and received fun historical facts about Catalina Island from our tour guide. The island was formed in 1972 and is one of California's oldest land trusts. It does have an operating airport, Botanical Garden, and two nature centers. It also is home to more than 60 plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. I enjoyed the fresh air and the views were spectacular. If you do visit the island, I suggest taking this tour as you will see parts of the island that you don't normally see, unless you plan on hiking for hours :) Thank you to our tour guide for the fun filled tour!
Here is a quick recap of our jeep eco tour on the GoPro, created by *Remember to click on "HD" for the best quality.
[The End of The Day] After the tour, we grabbed a quick bite to eat. However, restaurants do have a brief break between lunch and dinner so we grabbed a hot dog instead of trying out a clam chowder from Steve's. I have to try it out the next time I'm back as a local resident raved about it! During your birthday stay, you have a ton of great discounts to utilize and you get a pin that tells everyone it's your birthday - just like Disneyland!
If you happen to go during the summer, take advantage of all the sea specials including snorkel rentals, divers supply, parasailing, seaways and more during your birthday. You either get it for free or 2 for 1, which is a huge money saver. I certainly want to try the Taste of Catalina Food Tours the next time I'm back, along with mini golfing, bowling, and a massage. Due to our 1 night stay, we didn't have too much time to get to do everything we wanted (plus I'm still recovering from my car accident so I was limited in activities).
Catalina Island is such a fun getaway that is just an hour boat ride away. It's great for all ages and is a good way to get away from LA, even if it just for a day, you will come back so relaxed and refreshed! Thank you again to Karen and Catalina Express for taking great care of us.
Stay tuned for recaps of our hotel stay and restaurant experience!
Catalina Express: Follow them on Instagram/Twitter @Catalina Express
*This trip was sponsored by Catalina Express, however all opinions, images, and video are of my own opinion and creation.
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