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Have you ever wondered what it's like to stay on Catalina Island, CA? Part 1 of 5   by Nancy C. Brown

How many times have you thought about escaping the mainland altogether and spending some time enjoying life on a paradise island? What would you say if I could show you how to do it much closer, and very much cheaper than you thought it would be?

Santa Catalina Island, located 22 Miles west of Los Angeles, is America's greatest island retreat, and best kept vacation secret.

Catalina is wonderfully unique in that it is the perfect distance away from the mainland. It is close enough that you can get there by a one-hour ferry ride, but also far enough away to feel totally separated from the mainland altogether, giving you the full experience of a tropical resort isolated in the middle of the Pacific.

There is one major resort town, the City of Avalon, where you will arrive by any commercial water route. Once there, the Island has 76 square miles of adventure in every form waiting for you, from mountain climbing to scuba diving, all within easy reach of your luxury accommodations.

Avalon is a city that was literally created for the lone purpose of being an exotic tourist destination. Even now, over a hundred years later, the beautiful city still excels at this vision. There are no office buildings there; no government buildings, no people employed for any reason other than the tourism trade, and the supporting industries (like groceries and utilities) that are needed to support the town. This makes the entire island an ideal paradise retreat for escaping the problems we face in our modern world.

So, what is there to do on the Catalina Islands, CA?

What ISN'T there to do? Not just the town of Avalon, but the entire Island is open for your exploration, with many different parks (complete with park rangers) of different settings. It even has a unique golf course that winds through the 'suburb' of Avalon city.

The interesting and varied wildlife on Catalina Island, and even the minor surrounding islands, is extremely rich. On the north shore there is a whole beach that is full of Seals almost year-round, while on the high plains, near the airport in the interior of the Island, you can usually catch a glimpse of the herd of Buffalo that have made Catalina their home since the 1920s.

There is a tour, either by boat or by bus, sometimes both, for everything you can see on Catalina. In the summertime the most famous tour is their world-famous 'flying fish tour,' where your boat pulls up alongside a swarm of flying fish feeding at night! However, those who visit for short trips always go home and share their pictures from the submarine ride, which takes you six feet under water into a kelp bed where you'll be surrounded by thousands of beautiful fish in every direction... It is truly a unique experience for all ages.

If you're into the shopping scene, you'll be pleasantly surprised by Avalon's shopping district. I won't exaggerate here and lead you to believe that it rivals the best shopping values found on Earth, but the location and surrounding embellishments are not to be missed. -And they simply can't be duplicated elsewhere! Imagine a hundred or so small, cozy shops all nestled among your hotel and favorite restaurants in a multi-tiered, labyrinthine fashion with cobblestones underneath, interesting architecture everywhere, palm trees above, all surrounded by the most fragrant smells from every direction, and all right by the beach and your room. The way they fit so many quality shops, restaurants, and hotels in so tight, yet still giving you enough room to not feel crowded is nothing short of magical.

Since you don't need any other transportation that your own feet in tiny Avalon, you can literally keep all of your bags in the hotel room and just walk between them all, in less time than you'd expect. The ideal setup of the main strip along the Avalon Beach is one of the leading reasons that Catalina is such a paradise.

The giant, art-deco Casino building, right on the beach, was built in the roaring 20s as a dance hall & movie theater. ("Casino" didn't mean gambling yet when they named it.)

Easily within walking distance of your hotel, this giant, round building that sits up on the north end of the Avalon strip is the most obvious landmark in Avalon. It offers movies, tours, and there's even a museum in the basement, detailing the whole fascinating history of Catalina Island.

Thanks for reading the first of five installments of my Catalina Island series. Our next chapter will explore the rest of things to do on the island, as well as cover how to get there.

About the Author

Nancy C. Brown is a travel industry professional who has lived and worked on Catalina Island for several years. For more detailed information on Santa Catalina Island, visit her website at Http://