I can’t remember the last time I was here. It was a long time ago.
It was a port stop on one of those horrible weekend party cruises from LA to Ensenada. I don’t remember being impressed with Catalina. Quite likely my impression was tarnished by the shoddy cruise experience.
Or maybe it has changed in 20(ish) years! (Imagine that!) I suspect the latter. In fact, we were told that there’s been a huge investment in the last decade to raise the standard on the island. But let me start at the beginning….
I was invited by my industry association, SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence) for a weekday outing with my colleagues to check out the island for potential group business. It turned into a girls’ outing – as Howard and Gabriel held down the fort at the office.
Whitney and Ellen planned our agenda to get to the harbor area early enough so we wouldn’t miss the boat (as is my reputation). Dining options for lunch in the port area of Long Beach are predictably touristy, so we went “all in” for tacky and dined at Hooters! (Yes, you read that right!) I must say that I have only one complaint: the guys that work there should wear tight orange short, shorts, too.The one-hour, 26-mile transfer on the Catalina Express could not have been smoother. Dolphins were jumping, the sun was shining . . .
Once on the island, our hosts from the Catalina Island Company pulled out all the stops to impress us. It worked. First stop was the old Wrigley Mansion – now a gorgeous 6-room inn, complete with resident cat. Wrigley bought the controlling shares of the company (and became owner of the island) in 1919. His Chicago Cubs did their spring training here for 30 years.
Next, we jumped in a big Hummer for the transfer to the Country Club – built by Wrigley and a gorgeous venue for weddings or parties. The bar features a lot of island memorabilia, including many photos of celebrities from the 20s and 30s who vacationed here, performed at the Casino (which was never a gambling venue) or had something to do with the Chicago Cubs.
Then we stopped at the Catalina Island Spa for some downtime (since we were working soooo hard!)
Our final stop was a beach party on Descanso Beach. Food, more drink – including an island specialty called Buffalo Milk – and a great cover band, capped off a delightful day’s work!
I have to say, that every time I visit a European island – in Italy, Croatia, Greece, or Spain – I’m always a bit embarrassed about the comparatively uninteresting island just 26 miles from the coast of southern California. After yesterday, I can recommend it highly. I’m planning to go back and stay awhile. It’s worth a visit!
Have you been to Catalina Island recently?