Nothing like a little get-a-way! ~ Santa Catalina Island is one of those places where you can spend the day and feel like you've been on a week long vacation. It's the perfect day trip.  Maybe because the only way to get there is by boat. And if it happens to be your birthday your ferry ticket is free!  So I thought it would be a great thing to do for my husbands birthday which fell on a Wednesday in December. We'd play hooky, and I'd surprise him which was pretty easy by the way, I just had to say we're leaving at 7 AM, bring a sweater. It's about an hour drive from where we live to the port of San Pedro where the ferry terminal is located.  He tried guessing where we were going the whole way, heehee.
Oh these views! I think every time I step off the boat onto Catalina Island my blood pressure drops like it would say ahhhhh, if it could talk.  It was pretty quiet, after all it was a Wednesday in December, but the weather was perfect, cool in the morning, 70 in the afternoon, then back to cool at night.  Catalina is a popular place in the summer, there is the obvious beach, after all it's an island, snorkeling, scuba diving, glass bottom boating, zip line, etc. and all the cruise ships stop here on their way to Mexico. But it's very nice to go in 'winter', it's quiet with mostly people who live on the island. And although there's none of the above beach things going on, there's still plenty to do.

One of the most popular thing to do on Catalina is rent a golf cart or bicycle and explore the island. Last time we did electric bikes, you pedal until you get tired, like when you're going up hill, (or after I pedal for five minutes), then you flip a switch on the handle bars and 'viola' it becomes an electric scooter, genius! When you walk off the ferry into town you can't miss the golf cart stand. Bring cash, they don't take cards. Last time we visited we rented the bikes so this time we did the golf cart.
There are no cars on Catalina either, another part of it's charm, no cars, no traffic, and no crime, because say you robbed the bank what's your get-a-way car, a golf cart? And where do you go, it's an island!

Anyway, we just love the golf cart, it's so much fun chugging it up hill and along the cliffs into the hills with gorgeous custom homes and then around the Wrigley Manson and Botanical Gardens. And don't forget to cruise by the old Casino. It opened in 1929 and still retains it's old world charm, it has a movie theater and a ballroom. We have friends who went this year for New Years Eve and had a blast. May have to think about that for next year. This is how it looked at the end of the day with its little Christmas tree on top.
When it was time for lunch (which for me is any time) we headed to the Avalon Grill. There are lots of choices of restaurants for all tastes along the water and in town. We also play miniature golf every time. Yes, we are those people. This is a very competitive version of mini golf, at least for the hubbs, I'm more interested in the perfect instagram photo.
If you plan on more than a day trip I have two hotel recommendations on two completely opposite ends of the spectrum.  The first is The Zane Grey built in 1925 by the famed Western Novelist and converted into a hotel after his death. It's a Hopi-Style Hilltop estate, a great walk from the harbor with amazing sweeping views, so get room with a terrace. It's full of authentic western history. On the downside it probably hasn't been updated since 1925.  When we stayed here there was a note on the heater in our room telling us not to leave it on for more than an hour or we'd blow out the power in the whole place. We froze!  And though the room was oozing with western charm, don't expect a big white fluffy down comforter, in fact you may want to bring your own blanket. Because of it's distance from the harbor, and age, this hotel is a bargain on Catalina for about $85 per night, including breakfast.  But breakfast was bread in a baggie with jam, there was a toaster. We loved the historic feel of this place but probably wouldn't have stayed there again, but as I'm writing this post I just looked it up and found out it's currently closed for renovation! I'll be excited to see what it will be like when it reopens. I require a white fluffy comforter and a full breakfast, just sayin.

The other hotel I highly recommend is the Aurora Hotel & Spa this is the polar opposite of the Zane Grey, a modern spa hotel. Here you will not only find the big white down comforter but also the matching terry robes. The breakfast here is included too, but this time instead of toast in a baggie it's fruit, eggs, pastries and anything else you can think of classified under breakfast, a fest that you load up your plate with and head to the amazing roof top deck. This hotel runs about $200 per night. We discovered it when we were trapped on the island. We had stayed over for our anniversary and the day we were to leave a big storm came in and the water was too choppy for the ferry's so we had to stay another night.  Stranded on Catalina Island, poor us ;) I loved that instead of gouging, which they easily could have, all the hotels offered 50% discounts to those of us that were stranded. So we picked this one and will happily stay there another time at full price!

So if you are planning a visit, here are the Catalina Island basics;