4 Southern California weekend escapes
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( Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times )
Want to travel more but spend less in 2010? It's not wishful thinking. If a cruise or a European tour isn't in the cards, you can tap the recreational resources of our local region, rich with natural wonders and diversity.
-- Susan Derby
Stuck for ideas and/or motivation? Here are some of my favorite getaways just outside Los Angeles. Prices below do not include tax unless noted.
Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park
When I visited Santa Cruz Island for the first time several years ago, I was astonished by the lack of crowds. Everything about my experience was wonderful: the scores of dolphins swimming alongside our boat from Ventura; our tranquil, tree-shaded campsite (a half-mile uphill walk from the pier); our hike to a remote beach, where we snorkeled among fish and came within an arm's length of a reef shark; and cliffside walks. Kayaking is popular here and at the neighboring Channel Islands too.
Distance from L.A.: 65 miles
Approximate drive time: One hour to Ventura
Cost: Island Packers' round-trip boat trip for campers, leaving from Ventura or Oxnard, costs $64 for adults, $48 for kids ages 4 to 12; for day trippers, the cost is $48 for adults and $32 for children, including tax (1691 Spinnaker Drive, Suite 105B, Ventura; 3600 S. Harbor Blvd., Oxnard;  642-1393, www.islandpackers.com). For information on camping and to make a reservation, go to www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/camping.htm. National Park Service campsites cost $15 per night.