Active weekend in Catalina Island

I’ve been looking forward to this long weekend ever since the holidays only 3 weeks ago, ha…my friend Julian and I decided to head down to Catalina Island off the coast of LA. Julian and I both gravitate towards active travel and we were so looking forward to this weekend of warm(ish) weather, diving, hiking, and beautiful coastal scenery of Catalina!

Day 1: Road trip to LA + not bad for a charging stop

Julian picked me up from work in the early afternoon on Friday so we could get a head start on traffic. I must say, this was the smoothest drive out of SF on a Friday afternoon ever…especially given everyone and their mothers were heading out of the city for the long weekend. Despite the drive down to LA being 7 hours, it surprisingly felt SHORTER than my 4 hour-road trips to Tahoe. Not being stuck in traffic does wonders on happiness.

Julian and I chatted away with snacks and music the entire ride, also making time fly by. We stopped at a charging stop halfway for his Tesla; at the stop was a steakhouse and so we decided on that for dinner! Not bad for a charge stop 😉  

We made it to Long Beach around 10pm and passed out quickly. We had an early ferry and lots of activity to rest up for.

Day 2: Scuba diving + ziplining  

We were up by 7am to catch the morning ferry to Catalina Island. The ferry ride was 1 hour off the coast of Long Beach and we even spotted some whales.  

As we pulled up the shore of Catalina, I was blown away. 90% of Catalina is preserved by the Nature Conservancy, and so there is endless untouched scenery and wildlife, with Catalina residents and tourists densely occupying the remaining 10% in a charming small town. With that said, the whole island looked straight out of a postcard with colorful houses/restaurants/hotels lining the coast, boats docked in the beautiful blue marina, with huge majestic mountains and canyons behind it all.  

We went straight from the ferry to the dive shop to get going on our first dive. Catalina is one of the top places to dive in California (and the U.S. for that matter), and a big reason we came here was for the diving!  

Julian is a super experienced, advanced diver, while I hadn’t dove since my open water course in Thailand last year. I thought it would come back to me like riding a bike, but I definitely forgot a lot of details…and the divemaster had to help me in and out of the water. On top of that, this was my first cold-water dive (around 60 degrees), and so I was dealing with an extra 20-pounds of gear. With that, this was my most difficult dive to date and a wake up call that I definitely need to review my course material before jumping back into it! All things considered, the dive went really well in that I didn’t feel too cold and we saw lots of amazing marine life, including swimming in and out of kelp. Also, our dive lasted 65 minute which was my longest dive to date!  

We were pretty exhausted after scuba diving. Something about lugging all the heavy equipment + losing body heat and nitrogen will really knock you out! We rewarded ourselves to a big burger lunch.  

Then while Julian took a nap, I got some ice cream and walked around town.  

In the late afternoon, it was time for our second activity…ziplining! Catalina is a top spot for ziplining given the vast among of preserved nature. Our tour covered 5 lines starting at one of the highest points on the island. I’ve zip-lined in a few different countries, and this was probably my favorite yet. The lines were super long (>1000 ft) and looking down into the groves and peaks of the canyons was really breathtaking. We were also zipping at golden hour which provided the added bonus of a sunset backdrop. I’m glad Julian booked this for us since it was a truly unique way to experience the island’s scenery.  

After zipping, we hung around that side of the island – I was in heaven watching the purple-ink sunset while Julian flew his drone. One of the prettiest sunsets I’ve seen in a long time. ❤  

When in Catalina, you gotta try the seafood! We had an amazing seafood dinner including oysters, lobster rolls, and swordfish, all for a surprisingly great price…perfection. After dinner we stopped by a candy shop and watched a Black Mirror episode before passing out early. What a day!  

Day 3: Hike + massage + relaxing evening

It felt really good to sleep in. Between marathon training + an early day yesterday, extra sleep was certainly a treat.

We ate breakfast at the hotel and then got ready for a hike. Catalina has a large network of trails, the most popular being the Trans-Catalina trail which is 37-miles in length and a popular backpacking challenge. We chose an abridged version at 6 miles, which still got us to one of the highest points of Catalina.

 

The hike was really nice. The first two miles were a straight ascent, but didn’t feel too hard given the switchbacks (and maybe some added strength of marathon training 😉 ). Before we knew it, we were at the top and overlooked both sides of the island. The summit was truly breathtaking and soooo worth the climb.

 

On the way back down, we stopped by the Botanical Gardens, which were filled with the largest array of cactuses I’ve ever seen. Some of them shot straight to the sky, so neat!

We unwinded over some Mexican food + football for lunch, and then I took a nice long nap, despite sleeping for 11 hours yesterday. 😛 Looks like my body needed a lot of rest and I’m glad I got it this weekend.  

After nap time, we treated ourselves to massages. Catalina is a bit on the bougey side and it felt necessary to pamper ourselves, at least a little bit. 😉 My massage felt like heaven…I loved the use of different essential oils throughout – it makes me want explore using essential oils in a relaxation routine for myself (how Californian do I sound right now?)

Julian and I enjoyed one last seafood dinner + candy shop run before retiring back to our hotel. We read our books and unwinded before another early night. I’m glad Julian and I were both on the same page with wanting active days + low key evenings…Julian’s training for a triathlon right now so we had a lot in common in what we were looking for this trip.  

Day 4: Last morning in Catalina + soaking everything in

Final morning on the island! Mine started off with 3 miles. I usually don’t like to exercise on trips (a habit I’m trying to break), but I wanted to front-load my miles this week since Christine is visiting, and also there was one last spot on the island that I wanted to check out that was conveniently 1.5 miles from the hotel.

 

After the run, I enjoyed the rest of the morning with some coffee and pastries, a walk on the coast, reading my book, and soaking some more vitamin D (which felt sooo good after a few rainy weeks in SF). I’m really glad we decided to stay a little longer this final morning – it was just what I needed to slow down and enjoy the island for what it was.  

And before I knew it, I was on a plane back to SF while Julian continued his adventure to Mammoth Lakes. I’m really happy we took the plunge in this last-minute adventure. It had all my favorite elements of a trip: long drives, being in nature, water activities, adrenaline, relaxation, good food…what a wonderful trip, I’ll definitely be back!


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