New Year, New Trails!

Happy New Year!

To me, the New Year always feels like a clean slate. There is so much more hope and excitement for the unknown. The last few years have definitely held more negative than positive, but this year has the potential to be so much better! The joy and indulgence of the holiday season also tend to present the issue of an expanded waist line, so I have decided to put together a list of my favorite walks/hikes in and around the lovely town of Avalon for all of us who are determined to make this New Year a healthier and more active one.

  1. Morning walk along the waterfront.

This is a leisurely walk that follows the waterfront. The beautiful part of this particular activity is that it can be as long or short as you desire. The beachfront is quiet and calm in the early morning. If you so desire, or if it is winter and rather chilly out, there are a number of coffee shops along the way that open at about 7 am. To follow the entire waterfront one can begin at Descanso club, following the path up and around the Casino and continue on all the way past the docks to Buffalo Nickel, just under a 2 mile trip.

  1. Mt Ada Loop

The Mt Ada Loop is a more difficult and true hike. Around 3.4 miles long, this loop starts off walking along the waterfront, from the downtown area along Pebbly Beach Rd then turns uphill. Once you get near the power station, turn up Wrigley Road for the steep uphill climb. Along the way you will get beautiful views of the hills and the ocean. Continuing along Wrigley Road, will take you all the way to the peak of Mt Ada and right past the Wrigley Mansion and its grounds. Your decent will take you down the mountainside and pop you out right on Clareissa Ave and right back into town. This hike is absolutely amazing for either sunrise or sunset.

  1. Country Club Loop/Descanso

Starting out at the Descanso Club, follow along the waterfront around the Casino and take a sharp turn once you reach East Whittley Ave and follow that up a hill to where Las Lomas Drive and Country Club Drive. Country Club Drive will take you a bit further up the hill to the Catalina Island Golf Course in the Country Club complex. Originally built for the Chicago Cubs training, the building and golf course are a fun pit stop to explore. From there a set of stairs will lead you down to Tremont Street. Following that you will be dropped off down back at the waterfront, completing the loop. Starting at Descanso will make for a 1.4 mile track while starting at Whittley Ave gives about a .5 mile loop.

  1. Botanical Gardens Path

This path is an up and back trail along Avalon Canyon Road. At a round trip of roughly 3.5 miles at a slight uphill then back down, this is a moderate level hike. It will take you past several great stop off points for a break. First you will be taken past the Catalina Island Golf Course as you make your way up on your left side, a great way to see the majority of the golf holes, and then just past that the Wrigley Bird Park on your right. As you continue uphill you will start to see those who choose to camp on Catalina Island. The Botanic Garden is nestled in right near the Hermit Gulch Campground. The Garden itself is a product of Wrigley Jr’s wife, Ada. With plants from all over the world, it has been meant to showcase the islands endemic plants.

  1. Catalina Chimes Tower

Looking over the Casino in Avalon, the Chimes Tower offers some of the best views around. Starting off on Vieudelou Ave, you can turn either way on Chimes Tower Road. Going to your left will take you further up the hill and through a bit of the Catalina “back country” before turning and bring you back around to the ocean. Here you will be able to view both the Chimes Tower and the Zane Grey Pueblo. You do stay on paved road the entire way with switchbacks to keep the incline manageable. This Loop is roughly 2.3 miles.

  1. The Trans Catalina Trail

The Trans Catalina Trail is just what it sounds like, a true hiking trail that follows the spine of the island. I just wanted to mention this particular hike because it is one of those bucket list items that anyone who regularly visits Catalina should strive to accomplish. This is a multiday adventure spanning roughly 38 miles with several campgrounds and ranger stations along the way, this trail does require permitting so make sure to hike responsibly!


As a whole, I am sure we all want to be a bit more active this year. These hiking and walking paths are a great way for you to enjoy the islands natural scenery and get the heart rate up!


Happy New Year! Here is to 2022!

For maps of the described trails please see:

Let’s Do Lunch!

With the Thanksgiving holiday now behind us, lets talk more about food! At this point in the holiday cycle, I am sure we are all done with anything even remotely having to do with leftovers so lets talk about my top places to eat out for lunch in Avalon.


The Sand Trap

Probably the most casual of the places on my list. I am slightly obsessed with this restaurant because it has a bit of everything. Further off the beaten path then the rest, the Sand Trap is a prime location for people watching during lunch. Located directly across the street from the Catalina Island Golf Course with a large patio and happy hour from 2pm to 7pm. Best part of all of it is you can get two tacos and a margarita for $10 during this incredible happy hour. There are lots of other great options for lunch while you are enjoying the patio.


Descanso Beach Club

With tables on the beach and umbrellas to keep the sun from burning too badly, Descanso Beach Club is a great choice for an extended lunch. They have plates to share which are amazing, however I do have to recommend the Pokè bowl if you are a bit hungrier. Descanso is on the pricier side of things but it is all about the experience and this place does not disappoint on that front. If you are looking to kill several hours enjoying some snacks, a view, and a few dips in the ocean I would highly recommend stopping by the Descanso Beach Club for lunch.


Luau Larry’s

Right on the waterfront, Luau Larry’s is notorious for their amazing hats. Coming along with their signature drink, the Wikki Wacker, it has a fun environment that just gets to be more fun as the afternoon rolls along. It came as a shock to me, but the pizza at Luau Larry’s is some of the best on the island. They have tables out on the sand as well as a full indoor restaurant depending on the amount of sun you are looking for. Luau Larry’s is a great spot to visit even if you don’t enjoy some lunch because it is an icon on the island, operating for going on 30 years.


Lobster Trap

One of the most beloved locals spots on the island, the Lobster Trap has some of the best décor around. With a full size boat inside, the dinning room of is quaint and comfy. This local does not have any outside seating so it is a great spot when you need to get out of the sun or if the weather is a bit cooler than anticipated. With local catches of the day this is one of the best spots for seafood on the island. Diffidently one of my favorite chowders for sure. The staff here are absolutely wonderful so if you have any questions about what to do or where else to go they are great to ask.


Buffalo Nickel

On the far side of the island, the Buffalo Nickel is located by the helicopter pad. This fact is something to think about when making a visit as it is really fun to watch them land but it is a bit loud. The biggest note that I will emphasize is that the serving sizes are absolutely huge. Definitely a great place to share a few different plates. I am always surprised when I try something new here. They have the best ribs that I have ever had and if it is a good day for ceviche I highly recommend giving it a try, even add the octopus! Everything I have tried at the Buffalo Nickel is great even if it does take some time to get to.


Lunch is the best meal. It can be casual, formal, business related, or just a snack. These are the places that I have found to be the most versatile, filling, and delicious. There is something so wonderfully enhancing about being able to sit in the sun with your toes in the sand while you enjoy something to eat. If you have time to visit all five of these locations let me know what your favorite was and why!

A Few Marine Standouts

Not much is more idyllic than the view coming into Catalina Island. The city of Avalon stretched out before you, complimented by an array of moored boats floating lazily in the harbor, how does it get any better? Dip below water level and you will find yourself in an entirely new but just as beautiful and tranquil environment. The waters around Catalina Island are home to over 150 species of marine animals and plants, we will be discussing 5 here.


Giant Kelp Macrocystis pyrifera

Much of what makes the waters around Catalina Island so special is thanks to this giant algae. The fastest growing plant in the world, Giant kelp can grow up to 14 inches per day and is held in place by a “holdfast” on the rocky ocean floor. This particular species makes up true kelp forests, providing ample habitat for all sorts of other plants and animals to make their home or find their dinner. It is no wonder so many different marine animals make their way to Catalina Island.


Garibaldi Hypsypops rubicundus

The state marine fish of California, this bright golden orange fish can be easily spotted both above and below the water line. When young, Garibaldi have a more reddish color, but the real give-a-way are their bright blue spots. As they age, the spots fade and the true orange of their coloration develops. Able to reach roughly 15 inches in length, the Garibaldi is most highly sought after for aquariums or other marine displays because they are not allowed to be kept if caught, protected as they are.


California Sheephead Pimelometopon pulchrum

True wonders of the ocean, all sheephead are actually born female. As they age, some of the fish transition into males. The males are most easily identified by their black head and tail, large red eyes and reddish-orange midsections. Those that do stay female are usually a bit smaller with a washed out pink color and a white underside. This is one of the more delicious fish found around the island and is sometimes used as a lobster substitute in recipes


Opaleye Girella nigricans

Opaleye is best identified by its large, blue-green, opalescent eyes. They are herbivores within the kelp forests, snacking on various algae, including our ever important giant kelp. Usually found in large schools of 2-4 lb fish near Pleasure Point Pier, these fish can grow up to almost 2 feet in length and can put up a good fight if hooked. If you do have the pleasure of bringing one in, they are a great fish to fry.


California Barracuda Sphyraena argentea

Yup! California has its own Barracuda. Like their other relatives, this fish does have a mouth that is full of very sharp fang-like teeth. Able to grow up to 4 feet in length, this terror starts out life usually in bays, making Catalina Island an ideal home. If you are able to keep one that you ketch, they are absolutely great to eat. Though make sure to keep them out of the sun and on ice so they don’t get mushy.


Though there are many other amazing and unique marine animals present in the waters off of Catalina Island, these are some of the standouts. The Catalina Island Conservancy works hard all along the island to keep a watchful eye on this important marine environment. If you want to see some for yourself, there are all sorts of different guided expeditions and viewing options, however for a real look at the wild visit the Casino Point Dive Park.

5 Unexpected Things To Do On Catalina Island

Catalina Island has something for everyone. Whether you want a relaxing get-a-way or a new and exciting experience, this one of a kind escape is packed with all sorts of surprises. Some of the best experiences I have had on Catalina have been the days where all I do is turn off my phone, lay on the beach and relax, but here are a few of the more unexpected adventures you may want to try out.


Catalina Aerial Adventure

If you have ever wanted to traverse the trees of a wooded gorge, you have found your spot. The Catalina Island Company hosts this aerial adventure just a stroll away from the Descanso Beach Club. There are five different rope and ladder courses strewn throughout the tall eucalyptus trees that offer multiple skill levels for most ages and abilities. (2 beginner, 2 intermediate, and 1 advanced course) Open year round from 9am to 3pm, this is an excellent option for those who are not the biggest fans of sand between their toes.

To make reservations please call 877-778-8322 or visit


Zip Line Eco Tour

Maybe, climbing isn’t quite your style, the Zip Line Eco Tour gives you the option to not only learn about the native plants and animals but also fly through the air! This excursion is roughly two hours long and takes you from 600 feet of elevation back down to the Descanso Beach Club. As you descend from the top of the ridgeline, you experience ocean views and up close contact with the native species of Catalina Island. Nothing like flying through the air at 35 mph to really get your hear racing.

To make reservations please call 800-626-1496 or visit


Bison Expedition

In the Long Beach Catalina Island Express terminal, there is a plaster statue of a bison. At first this really does not make any sense. Why would bison be on an island? Well, it has a lot to do with the relationship of Catalina Island and Hollywood. Since wrapping for a 1920’s film production, the bison have been allowed to roam the island and have been maintained by the Catalina Island Conservancy. This expedition is done from an open air, bioful hummer that allows for full view of any and all wildlife found during the tour. Lasting about two hours and open year round, this thrill is one that can only be experienced on Catalina Island, which helps explain the popularity of Buffalo Milk as the islands signature drink.

To make reservations please call 800-626-1496 or visit


Falconry Experience

Birds of prey are some of the most beautiful, terrifying, and underappreciated animals on our planet. In the Descanso Canyon not only can you meet, interact, and learn about several different raptor species, you can also hold and cast them off your arm. This informative experience is a great way to learn more about the animals around us and the important roll they play in keeping balance in the wild. However, if you would rather stand back and watch the beautiful birds soar and dive, almost every seat at the Descanso Beach Club offers a view. This experience lasts around 75 minutes and is only available on the weekends during the spring and summer so make sure to plan accordingly if this is something you would like to try or see.

To make reservations please call 800-626-1496 or visit


Flying Fish Voyage

Catalina Island is home to some of the healthiest marine environments in the world, as a result there are some pretty interesting local species. The Flying Fish is one such species that not everyone gets to glimpse. Only done at night, the Cyclone cruises, shining bright lights on the incredible fish as they leap and fly through the water and air. This memorable experience is only offered during the summer season so please make sure to plan accordingly.

To make reservations please call 800-626-1496 or visit



Top 5 Breakfast Stops on Catalina Island

Breakfast, the first meal of the day. Sometimes it is an early, quick bite before a hike around the island, other times it is pushing itself into brunch and needs a stiff drink to cure the hangover from the night before. On Catalina Island it is always a good idea to have a plan for food. What follows is a list of personal favorite breakfast restaurants with some suggestions to enjoy while there.

Toyon Grill – Breakfast with a view!

Toyon Grill & Event Center is located at 708 Crescent Ave, and is on the second story of the Catalina Island Conservancy building and their shop The Trailhead. They offer a smaller menu which is great for easy decision making. The food is always fresh and on the healthier side of things. The real show stopper for this breakfast spot is the view. The restaurant boasts two patios both with striking views of Avalon harbor. The level where you order has a few tables inside with windows that open up to a full patio and more tables and chairs there. If you go up a second set of stairs, there is a “hidden” rooftop patio for diners as well. This is my favorite spot to look out and enjoy the quiet of the harbor in the early morning hours. Toyon Grill opens at 8 am and serves breakfast until 11 am.

Pancake Cottage – Bacon IN the waffle!

The Pancake Cottage is a fairly new addition to the Avalon food scene. Located at 615 Crescent Ave, it is a major stop for those getting off the morning ferry. This is definitely something to plan around as they do get very busy when the morning ferry lets off. However, if you can get a spot before or after the rush it is worth it. My personal favorite item on the menu is their bacon waffle. As a big fan of the sweet and savory combination this gives me some bacon, waffle and syrup in every bite. They have a great amount of other carb filled foods as the name suggests but also feature other breakfast staples such as eggs benedict, corned beef hash, and huevos rancheros. The menu has a bit of everything but as far as I have tried its all delicious. Open from 7 am to 2 pm this is a great stop for the early birds as well as those of us who enjoy sleeping in.

The Sandtrap – Something for everyone!

As far as I know, this is the local spot. The Sandtrap is located on Avalon Canyon Road just across from the Catalina Island Golf Course. Open at 8 am every day it is a little further off the main road, but worth the trek. A classic Mexican restaurant they have some of the best breakfast burritos in town and the chilaquiles are some of my favorite. There are options for everyone and plates ranging in size. For those on the go, the hole-in-one is a must. Serving breakfast until noon and featuring a full bar that is open all day, The Sandtrap is a great late breakfast option. They have ample outdoor seating on a Spanish themed patio and a view of the first and ninth holes of the Catalina Island Golf Course. No need to worry about errant golf shots though, all patrons are protected by a large net. The staff have always been friendly and welcoming.

Catalina Island Brew House – Quick, delicious, and great for on the go!

Catalina Island Brew House is the only brewery on the island, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out for breakfast. Located right on the main drag, this brewery makes some of the best coffee in town. More of a coffee shop setting then a sit down eatery, they do offer some outdoor seating. They have a good selection of coffee drinks and baked goods that will quickly fill you up and put a smile on your face. With banana bread that is worth searching for and some of the best meat and cheese croissants around Catalina Island Brew House has a nice snack for anyone at any time of day. The real treat though, is to get some coffee, or hot chocolate also very good, and a snack and walking along the waterfront.

The Cove Bar and Grill – Hidden Gem!

The Cove Bar and Grill is located inside the Holiday Inn on Catalina Island. Open at 8 am, they have great outdoor patio and indoor seating options. With a smaller menu that covers all the bases, The Cove keeps eating breakfast enjoyable. They have both healthy and hearty options with some of the best potatoes on the island. As the name suggests, The Cove does offer a full bar and, even more exciting, they deliver. While it is off the beaten path and further from the main hubbub of Avalon, the hotel restaurant offers a relaxed and quiet atmosphere, great for those of us who enjoy waking up slowly.


As always, have fun, be safe, and enjoy your stay!

Off the Beaten Path

I stepped off the ferry onto the dock. The crossing was pleasant and I even splurged and sat in the Commodores Lounge. So far, this little get away is going my way. I walked down the road toward Avalon and started to see the lines of people. First, for the golf cart rental. Next, a souvenir shop selling all the expected items branded with Catalina Island in various forms. After that, another golf cart rental stand. Then, the first restaurant on the road, a Pancake House, which is excellent even if it is crowded.


Catalina Island is amazing, don’t get me wrong. But like any other absolutely beautiful and a isolated place, the main economic drive of the City of Avalon is tourism. Flashy signs and small souvenirs abound. Everyone should absolutely get their “wikki wacked” at Luau Larry’s and enjoy some sun at the picturesque Descanso Beach Club. Highlights can be found on the Visit Catalina website and most Instagram and Facebook posts of visitors.


Anthony Bourdain said “Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.”. To me that translates to, get off the beaten path.


If you wander your way back into the blocks behind the main road in Avalon, you will find an array of colorfully painted houses with a few restaurants sprinkled in. Keep following the road back a few more blocks and you reach a five-way intersection. Why that is a thing I do not know, but turning up the left fork will take you past a small locals’ favorite called The Sand Trap directly across the street from a golf course. Keep following this road and it will take you past the school, a baseball field, the bird park, and the campground. Take a right at the fork, and it will take you up a steep hill right past the pro shop for said golf course and it will continue on to more houses and another hotel and even more breathtaking views.


Naming a restaurant that is directly across from a golf course, The Sand Trap is just funny. It doesn’t make it less funny that the course in question, Catalina Island Golf Course, has some pretty steep bunkering so the irony was not lost on me and it really is some great marketing.


The course has a long history and in its current incarnation is a 9-hole golf course with five Par-4’s and four Par-3’s. For a golf course on an island, there is no water features which to me was a surprise. The course instead uses the natural beauty of the island, highlighting its canyons by actually bringing you back into them and the views by providing a different vantage point. Catalina Island Golf Course doesn’t let up showing you the island from a new points of view. The absolute biggest obstacle, for me anyway, is the sandy pot bunkers; they are deep, they are fluffy, and they are everywhere.


After playing my first round at Catalina Island Golf Course, I returned my cart and rental clubs and the gentleman in the pro shop recommended I walked back down the stairs and grab some food. I looked around in the pro shop for a while and found a memento for the trip. Then, I walked back down the hill and I sat down at The Sand Trap… and then didn’t get up again until they closed. I made friends at the bar with both employees and locals.


They told me who to talk to, where to go and best of all, what touristy places are worth the stop. I did end up getting my “wikki wacked”, and have the hat to prove it. Not to mention stopping off and enjoying Descanso’s Mai Tai and poke bowl with my toes in the sand is now one of my favorite things to do on a warm day.


Getting off the beaten path isn’t always about missing the touristy stops, it is about finding out which ones are really worth it. Not only did I get to experience the places everyone puts on their Instagram and Facebook but, I also got to see the island from an entirely different point of view and made new friends. Getting off the beaten path is the best way to experience a new place and you never know what you might find.