Try a Catalina Island adventure with the kids


The Four Preps’ golden oldie — “26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is awaitin’ for me. Santa Catalina, the island of romance!” — was my earworm as I boarded the Catalina Express in Long Beach one day in June with my husband and grandsons. I wondered if “romance” was still the theme on Catalina, the closest island getaway from Los Angeles. Over two days we viewed undersea life aboard a semi-submersible submarine, fished off the Avalon pier, bounced on an off-road bison tour, played miniature golf and checked out the newish outdoor-adventure options at the Descanso Beach Club. My daughter had said “no way” to zip-lining, but her 5- and 7-year-old boys clambered all the way to the top of the 32-foot-high rock wall. During our stay I saw romantic couples holding hands, but I realized Catalina is also a perfect spot for a family adventure. The tab: $253 for the Catalina Express; $218 a night for the hotel; $300 for food and $200 for activities, plus taxes and tips.


The 3-year-old Holiday Inn Resort Catalina is perched on a hillside, a 12-minute walk from Avalon’s tourist action. I booked a room anyway because it included a king-sized bed, bunk beds and a mini-fridge, plus the hotel has a swimming pool. A shuttle van was available most of the time to give us a ride up the hill from town, but we enjoyed the walk, especially at dusk when the doves cooed in the eucalyptus trees.


My favorite entree was the succulent ahi tuna sandwich I enjoyed at the Descanso Beach Club. Paul was in Wagyu-beef heaven with the Wagyu burger with brie at Mt. Ada and the Wagyu burger with cheddar at the Avalon Grille. What blew the boys away was a special kids’ drink I surprised them with at the Bluewater Grill. The waiter served them each a glass of fizzy, blue-tinged soda with a gummy shark floating on top, then handed them tiny cups of pomegranate juice. They poured in the “blood.” Bingo: “Shark attack!”


Our bison expedition in an eco-friendly H1 Hummer was a blast. As we jounced over bumpy dirt roads in Catalina’s rugged back country, we were amazed to encounter at least 50 bison. Some of the woolly animals were so close we could hear them snorting. The family of five from Singapore that shared our Humvee also shared our enthusiasm. “We saw more bison on Catalina in two hours than we saw in our week of camping in Yellowstone,” the mom said.

I had arranged to arrive in Catalina on a Tuesday to avoid the weekend crowds. Little did I know that cruise ships now moor offshore on Mondays and Tuesdays, disgorging as many as half their 6,000 passengers. Keep that mind when you plan your Catalina getaway.

Catalina Express, 385 E. Swinford St., San Pedro; (800) 613-1212, Wheelchair-accessible.

Holiday Inn Resort Catalina Island, 888 Country Club Drive, Avalon; (310) 510-0325, Wheelchair-accessible.

Bluewater Grill Avalon, 306 Crescent Ave., Avalon; (310) 510-3473, Wheelchair-accessible.

Avalon Grille, 423 Crescent Ave., Avalon; (310) 510-7494, Wheelchair-accessible.

Mt. Ada, 398 Wrigley Road, Avalon; (877) 778-9395, Wheelchair-accessible.

Descanso Beach Club Restaurant, 1 St. Catherine Way, Avalon; (310) 510-7410, Wheelchair-accessible.

Descanso Beach Zip Line eco tour, aerial adventure & rock-climbing wall, 1 St. Catherine Way, Avalon; ( 310) 510-7422, Not wheelchair-accessible.

Undersea Semi-Submersible Expedition, Green Pleasure Pier, Avalon; (310) 510-0211, Not wheelchair-accessible.

Bison Expedition, Island Tour Plaza, Avalon; (310) 510-0211,
Not wheelchair-accessible.