From Long Beach, California, only 22 miles away via the Catalina Express, I arrived at Avalon, the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island of the California Channel Islands. This southernmost city in Los Angeles County is a resort community situated along the glamorous waterfront, with a population of approximately 2,500; 88 percent of the island is a private reserve. On Avalon, everywhere I went was within walking distance.
Each morning, I left my room at the Avalon Hotel and headed downhill to view the harbor in the morning light. It was easy to understand why so many celebrities take a break here on the island. It's remote, yet packed with restaurants and fish 'n' chip shacks, and things to do, including a spa day at Island Spa Catalina, where I was fortunate to experience a warm, quartz sand massage. I didn't know what to expect when I read about "sand" in the massage. I thought it might be messy, but it wasn't! The bed is filled with a light layer of sand, but topped with a layer of material so your body is never actually touching the sand, but you feel its warmth and your body is adjusted to whatever area the massage therapist works on. A bit of glut work and the sand is shoveled in a hill under your leg. Get the picture? The sand is conformed to the massage therapist's best efforts to work on knotted areas in the easiest way possible.
Almost as beneficial as the massage is time spent outside of the spa on the rooftop lounge area that overlooks the harbor. Mesmerizing. Just steps below is a pool area to enjoy if you can break away from the intoxication of the waterfront views.
12 fun facts about Catalina Island:
#1 - There are five remaining members of the Tongva tribe that once dominated the island.
#2 - The chewing gum magnate Wrigley first purchased the island.
#3 - Before a movie begins at The Casino entertainment venue, a pipe organist plays.
#4 - This Casino is pictured in an ending scene in the film, "The Shining".
#5 - Mount Ada was named after the wife of Wrigley.
#6 - The inn on Mount Ada has a three-year waiting list.
#7 - President Ronald Reagan enjoyed time spent on the island.
#8 - Marilyn Monroe worked on the island when she was still named Norma Jean. She worked at Lloyd's pulling taffy until she was discovered by Hollywood. Lloyd's is still there.
#9 - Paul Newman stayed at the Avalon Hotel, where I stayed, and his favorite coconut-fried shrimp is my favorite too, and is still served at Steve's Steakhouse .
#10 - The toilets on the island flush saltwater.
#11 - When you're in transit on the Catalina Express, dolphins escort you almost the entire way.
#12 - Carrier pigeons delivered mail on the island from 1894 until 1902.