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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Escape SoCal Sprawl on Catalina Island


3. What to Do

The Trans-Catalina Trail offers spectacular views throughout the island.  

Choose your own adventure on the Trans-Catalina Trail, a 37.2-mile hiking and biking route through the island’s interior that opened two years ago. Catch spectacular Pacific views and sightings of wild buffalos and bald eagles throughout this 43,000-acre nature preserve. For a day hike, the five-mile Hermit Gulch Loop just outside Avalon combines grassy ridges with a leisurely stroll through the Wrigley Botanic Gardens. Trail maps and free hiking permits (required) can be picked up at the Conservancy House (125 Claressa Ave.; 310-510-2595).

Trade trekking through palm trees for wading in a giant kelp forest with Sea Trek ($89 for 90 minutes), a program launched this month that outfits guests in special diving helmets that enable walking on the ocean floor up to 30 feet underwater. No diving certification is needed to get up close and personal with everything from schools of tropical fish to sea lions and bat rays.

Switch to the surface and learn stand-up paddle boarding along the island’s eastern surf. Halfway between surfing and kayaking, it feels a little like walking on water once you get your sea legs—easy to do here as these are some of the calmest waters found in the region and ideal for beginners to learn on their own. Catalina Island Kayak Expeditions, walking distance from most hotels in Avalon, rents boards and paddles ($24 per hour; $60 per day).

Coast through the air on the year-old Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour ($109), which takes riders from 600 feet above sea level, down though a flora-filled canyon before landing on the beach. The two-hour ride includes five Zips, one of which is over 1,000 feet long, with stops along the way where nature guides point out the wide range of wildlife on the island. Advance reservations are usually required.

Published on May 19, 2011 as a web exclusive.

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