December was full of travel for me, and the month wrapped up with a visit to Catalina over Christmas. It was my first time seeing the island, and I enjoyed everything that Avalon had to offer. While I would recommend a trip out to see it, there are some things you should keep in mind to make your journey to the island more comfortable, fun, and closer to the getaway you’ve been dreaming of if you choose to go during the colder months.
Pay Close Attention to the Weather
Most of you will get to Catalina by boat. Sailors know they need to keep an eye on the winds and the waves (and these can be particularly tricky during the winter months), but many people going by ferry don’t think about it. The idea that a big boat (and most of the ferries are large) will never have to worry about the weather is just not true. Boats from San Pedro and Long Beach to the island were stopped multiple times while we were there. Now, there’s very little you can do about Mother Nature, but you can keep the possibilities in mind, and prepare accordingly. Have a contingency plan in place, and know that you may have to shell out for an extra night on the island should the waves make the crossings dangerous. Safety is their first concern, so get ready to go with the flow.
Sea-sickness Remedies are Your Friend
Speaking of waves, even on the ferries, the waves can cause some serious discomfort. We hit some big swells on the way over, and a number of people on the top deck got sick. I’m personally a big fan of Dramamine (and it saved me this time around), but whatever your favorite product is, take it. The crossing from San Pedro to Avalon is only 70 minutes (the return trip is actually closer to 2 hours because of a stop), but that’s a long 70 minutes when your stomach and the waves are churning.
It May be Colder Than You Think
When you see that the island temps will be around 60, you may be tempted to think that means warm breezes, too. And yes, the island is in Southern California. However, the winds coming off of the ocean can be quite chilly, and the nighttime temperatures will get down into the low 40s. Your best bet is to wear layers. That way, if you are hiking during the day, you can easily get down to a more comfortable level, but can address the winds if you need to do so.
Casual is king
While there are some lovely restaurants in Avalon, casual clothing still rules the day. I brought one dress up outfit for Christmas dinner, but never wore it. It simply wasn’t necessary. So, if you have limited room in that suitcase, don’t fret about brining a lot of “dress up” gear.
Bring Walking Shoes
Speaking of casual, leave the high heels at home, and be sure to bring sneakers or hiking boots. This is true all year long, but especially so when you might want to walk the wild portion of the island after heavy winter rains. Even in Avalon, there are a lot of hills, so be prepared to go up and down throughout the day. Don’t be afraid to bring a heavier sweater or coat for night excursions.
If you are there over holidays, you may want to look into hotels and rentals with kitchens. While some restaurants were open even on Christmas day, many were closed. We stayed at El Terado Terrace Mini Suites, and had the peace of mind of knowing that we had options.
Consider the Golf Carts
As I mentioned, even if you stay in Avalon, there are a lot of hills to roam. If you stay in a hotel a couple of blocks up, that means there is going to be some hiking up or down every time you leave (and when the winter winds are blowing, you may be less excited to tackle the hills). Some hotels and Airbnb rentals offer golf carts for their guests (you can also rent them, but they can be a bit pricey). If you have any physical limitations, but still want to see the area, consider getting a place that offers the golf carts to get around. Cabs are also an option (we took this option to go up to the Botanical Gardens, and then opted to walk back to town).
There is so much to see on Catalina, and with some solid preparation, even a winter trip to the island can be perfect. Grab your layers and some tennis shoes and get ready to enjoy this unique SoCal spot.
(This article was originally posted on Examiner.com. Due to that site’s closure, it has been republished here).