Catalina Island, once a playground for Hollywood’s elite set (think Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe), was first placed on the map as spring training grounds for the Chicago Cubs in 1921. Located 22 miles from Los Angeles, the rugged, 22-mile-long by 8-foot-side island is easily accessible by ferry or helicopter from nearby cities such as Long Beach and San Pedro.
Formerly owned by chewing gum tycoon William J. Wrigley, the car-free island (residents and visitors use golf carts) now boasts a slew of eateries, a spa, and outdoor adventure options from zip lining to jeep tours and hiking. Operated by the Catalina Island Conservancy and guided by a naturalist, the 2-and-3-hour Jeep eco tours offer a close-up look at wildlife from bald eagles to the infamous American Bison (now numbering 150, and brought to the island in 1924 for the filming of The Vanishing American), and a pit stop at the island’s airport.
After finishing your eco tour, we recommend cruising Avalon, the island’s main drag, for a choice of eateries. Our top two picks are Blue Water Grill for appetizers ranging from grilled artichoke and crab cakes to fresh seafood entrees including our favorite dish, lemon pepper mahi mahi, and Avalon Grille, where we recommend the tuna tartare, fish & chips, and Angus skirt steak.
End the day at The Island Spa Catalina, with a detoxifying Seaweed Surrender body wrap which uses an organic blend of seaweed and acai, or soothe sore muscles and relieve excess tension with the Island Deep Massage.