Laguna Beach – photo copyright Mine Beyaz
Catalina is an exceptionally unique island 25 miles southwest off the shore of Los Angeles. It is one of the southern islands in the Channel Islands chain. It is both an ecological hotspot and a tourist destination for Los Angeles locals and foreigners since about the 1880s. One of the most exciting things about Catalina Island, however, is that it boasts NINE MPAs off of its shores. Arrow Point to Lion Head Point State Marine Conservation Area, Bird Rock State Marine Conservation Area, Blue Cavern State Marine Conservation Area, Cat Harbor State Marine Conservation Area, Long Point State Marine Reserve, Casino Point State Marine Conservation Area, Farnsworth Onshore State Marine Conservation Area, and Farnsworth Offshore State Marine Conservation Area all exist around the perimeter of this island.
- Santa Catalina Island, due to its close proximity to Hollywood, is an icon of film history, having played a role as the backdrop in over 500 films, TV programs, commercials, and more.
- Catalina has a rich cultural history apart from Hollywood, including the fact that the island has been inhabited for 8,000 years and the fact that Williams Wrigley, Jr. the gum tycoon owned the island for many years before selling the majority of the land parcel to conservationists, who since protect it through the NGO Catalina Island Conservancy.
- Speaking of the Catalina Island Conservancy, they now protect 88% of Catalina Island’s land, including beaches, and as such the island boasts the longest publicly accessible stretch of undeveloped coastline that is left in southern California—62 miles. Read more about it here: http://www.catalinaconservancy.org/index.php?s=about&p=about_cic
- Each MPA supports a varied ecosystem and array of life. Arrow Point to Lion Head Point SMCA is often home to a myriad of lobster whereas Farnsworth Onshore and Offshore SMCAs offer purple hydrocoral, moray eels, anemones, pink abalone, yellowtail, marlin, mackerel, barracuda, and blue sharks to advanced divers.
- After a 15-minute helicopter ride or an hour boat ride to reach the island, you will never run out of activities on the island. The list of what activities are not available would likely to be shorter. Land-based activities include: zip-lining for an aerial view of the surrounding waters, hiking and backpacking up to high terrain for a similar landscape view, or taking a bike or bus tour of the island and beaches.
- In the water, you can choose from a variety of wildlife viewing tours such as glass-bottom boats, kayak tours, sailing, semi-submersible submarine tours, and more.
- Dive and snorkel around many sites. An iconic diving spot, however, is in Long Point State Marine Reserve at a place called Italian Gardens. Here, divers can sometimes spot huge 400 pound plus black sea bass swimming among the kelp and boulders. A location especially suited for snorkeling is Lover’s Cove, where fish swim very close to shore
- Come to see the flying fish. Every summer from roughly May to September, flying fish can be seen leaping out of the water up to 30 feet and gliding nearly a mile. The island hosts special flying fish tours and an annual flying fish festival in honor of this phenomenon.