Catalina Island is a good idea in any season. However, if you’ve traveled for any amount of time, you’ve most likely learned that the “off season” of a highly desired destination can be an ideal season. Catalina Island, although amazing during the summertime, has its own beauty and activities (along with less crowds) to offer during the winter season. Here are Trekaroo’s picks on the best of winter on Catalina Island.
Best of Winter Package: Winter on Catalina Island
Now through March 28, 2019, Catalina Express and Boat and Hotel Package Partners are offering a combination package for boat and accommodations (including 16 hotels in Avalon with savings up to fifty percent), for your visit during the “non-summer” months on Catalina Island. Special events are happening on the island to make this time even extra special.
My family and I took a weekend to check out all that Catalina Island has to offer and our time in this Mediterranean-like island off the coast of Southern California did not disappoint. We are already planning our return back to this picture-perfect, family friendly getaway.
What to Do: Living the Adventure
If you have adventurous kids like I do, Catalina Island has just the itinerary for you. Your kids will not be bored. Since it was officially wintertime we forewent any submerge IN the water activities (although those SUP boards were calling our names and it wasn’t stopping anyone from parasailing), and ventured over to Descanso Canyon (right above Descanso Beach around the corner from the iconic Catalina Casino). Here we explored the Catalina Aerial Adventure. High up in the Eucalyptus trees, we tested ourselves to a course of skill, strength, and bravery. My 10-year-old surprised me by being so adept at clipping in and out and traversing from platform to platform via moving logs, zip lines, trapeze bars, and many other challenges. Our guides were skilled and helpful and our two-hour time flew by up in the air.
We followed this up with the Catalina Climbing Wall nearby. From beginner to incredibly difficult we ascended up a cylinder skyscraper, all with the view of the pristine crystal blue ocean. On property, there is also the Zipline Eco Tour that although this time we were too exhausted to do, we plan to return and soar high over the canyons of Catalina on our return trip.
For your underwater adventurer, try the Undersea Expedition. This semi-submarine (a more advanced version of a glass bottom boat) begins in the harbor and for about 45 minutes travels just under the surface of the water to Lover’s Cove to see the local fish. California’s state saltwater fish, the Garibaldi, is abundant and its bright orange color pops beautifully amongst the plethora of fish. After peering through your own porthole through most of the trip, guests are invited to climb up top to watch the entrance back into the harbor.
Descanso Beach also has kayak and SUPboarding rentals if you don’t mind taking the chance of falling into the cool ocean water.
Another highly recommended activity for the thrill-seeking family is a two-hour golf cart rental to cruise around the island with Catalina Island Golf Cart Rentals. Now it may appear as if a golf cart cant be too thrilling, but believe me, when you’re wandering high above Avalon on the steep streets and rugged back hills, with postcard-worthy sites of the sea below, a thrill is what you get. By renting a golf cart we were able to see far more than what we could have by foot. If your time is limited on the island, be sure to start with this to get the lay of the land.
Don’t forget an evening stroll along the strand from downtown to the Casino. The sparkling lights and sound of the waves make it an evening to remember.
For a little more chill time after all this adventure, take your family to Golf Gardens to leisurely play 18 holes on the mini-golf course. The vegetation is lush (thus the name) and the holes lack the gimmicks of other putt putts. Instead, the course includes some challenging levels to get a friendly rivalry going.
Where to Eat: And What is Buffalo’s Milk?
For our leisurely Saturday afternoon, we ate at Bluewater Avalon centrally located in the hub of Avalon. Right on the beach and overlooking the water, we sat outside and enjoyed the winter sun and fresh fish. Bluewater has an eclectic mix of seafood and innovative menu choices. The kid’s menu was beyond the typical fare and my kids were thrilled when the Shark Attack drink (blueberry soda with a gummy shark) was accompanied with Pom juice. Pour in slowly for the effective “shark’s blood” to accent the drink.
I, on the other hand, got to experience what the locals refer to as Buffalo’s Milk. This sweetly smooth, alcoholic concoction was amazing. I now see why when I asked people what is a must do on the island, most referenced the need to try this drink.
For a little afternoon sweet treat, pop into Lloyd’s Confectionary and try their made in-house caramel apples or freshly-pulled salt water taffy. Lloyd’s is a 75-year tradition on the island and now a tradition my kid’s will want to revisit upon return.
Where to Stay: In the Heart of Avalon
Avalon has a long history of starlets and Hollywood icons gracing its shores. At the Pavilion Hotel my kids and I indulged in all that was offered and in doing so we began to feel slightly famous.
Located 10 steps from the sand with a courtyard that overlooks the ocean, we spent late afternoons lounging in the gardens (ok, we technically napped, and it was wonderful!), sipped on wine (me) and ate gobs of cheese (all of us) at the nightly wine and cheese soiree for all guests of the hotel. In the evening we sat by the fire pit. Come morning we feasted on the breakfast in the “library” complete with European-inspired treats. Being so conveniently located, we found ourselves returning to the Pavilion Hotel throughout the day just to relax and unwind.
See a Sample of our Winter Paradise Trip
Why You Need to Go Now
Within just an hour from one of the three ports (Dana Point, Long Beach, or San Pedro) your family could be in a vacation paradise, enjoying fine dining, thrilling activities, and beautiful beaches. Our “off season” on Catalina Island was a dream of a trip and we definitely experienced the best of Winter on Catalina Island.
Read more at our Catalina: An Island Vacation Close to Home
Discover the other side of the Island at Two Harbors: The Other Catalina
Look for Other Off-Season Options
Find out about National Parks in the Off-Season
Do you know about Tahoe’s Shoulder Season?
It’s called the “rainy season” but it’s always the right season to go to Costa Rica.
All photos by the author WomanInTravel
Disclosure: My family and I were invited guests by Catalina Express and Paradise Hotel Partners to experience the “Best of Winter”. We enjoyed the Pavilion Hotel, Bluewater Avalon, and many thrilling activities, but as usual, all opinions are my own.