Descanso Beach Club. Having a private, shady, beachfront cabana made all the difference in our day by the bay; we lounged in our comfy chairs while an attentive server regularly brought us buckets of cold water, drinks and food we had ordered.
For the physically adventurous types, stroll up the hill from Descanso Beach Club and try the new Catalina Aerial Adventure's five self-guided courses suspended by ropes and cables in a grove of trees; also, check out the nearby five-line Zip-line EcoTour and climbing wall.
Snorkeling. We found two great spots: the Casino Dive Park in Avalon, and the University of Southern California marine science center's protected bay near Two Harbors. They have gorgeous plant life and a good amount of fish, especially brilliant orange garibaldis. If you like to snorkel, you can rent gear if you didn't bring your own.
Note: If you don't snorkel, go on one of the underwater viewing tours in Avalon; the boats look like floating submarines but stay at the surface. It's a blast feeding the waiting hordes of fish and observing their surprisingly colorful, plant-filled wonderland.
If time permits, visit Two Harbors for a full day (or longer for a completely different, tranquil experience). The new Cyclone ship sped us there in just 30 minutes, giving us from 10:30 a.m. until 5:40 p.m. to enjoy the tranquillity of Two Harbors. We loved the South Pacific-like ambiance at the new Harbor Sands, where we blissfully lounged in one of the new, thatched-roof palapas by the beach. There's nothing better than being served hot food and cold drinks in a shady refuge before going swimming and snorkeling. Also, at this narrowest spot on the island, you can walk from one side to the other in just 15 minutes (about a quarter-mile).
So if you want a unique vacation getaway just an hour away from the mainland, Catalina should be high on your list. To do this vacation right is not necessarily cheap, but it is really fun and worth every cent. I know for certain that "We'll be back."
If you go
Catalina vacation planning information: www.visitcatalinaisland.com/island-info
Catalina Express: catalinaexpress.com or call (800) 613-1212
(Hansen is a travel writer and photographer in Carlsbad.)
(c)2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune
Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at www.sandiegouniontribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.