For the 50+ Traveler

Catalina Island has reopened for business. Love Catalina, the official tourism authority for the island located off the coast of Southern California, said many businesses, restaurants, retail shops, and housing are once again available after Los Angeles County Public Health officials announced new orders last week.

“The ability to safely welcome leisure travelers back and resume overnight accommodations, outdoor tours, activities, dining, and more, is not only a promising sign for the future of travel, but will also be a vital lifeline for saving so many of the businesses and jobs on our small island that relies on tourism,” said Jim Luttjohann, president and CEO of Love Catalina.

Businesses remain under strict protocols because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Tourists must follow social distancing and mask requirements while on the island or face up to $100 fines.

Catalina, an island of about 75 square miles, has about 4,000 permanent residents. The majority live in Avalon at the southern tip of the island, which sits about 30 miles west of San Clemente in the San Pedro Channel. It relies on tourism for the bulk of its economy.

So, what exactly does open to leisure travel mean? Here’s a rundown:

  • Many accommodations are accepting bookings for guests, ranging from hotels to cabins to bed and breakfast facilities. Some have yet to reopen, so it’s important to check ahead and have a reservation before making the trek to the island. Island campgrounds are scheduled to reopen on Feb. 12.
  • Restaurants remain closed to indoor dining, but most are offering takeout and outdoor dining, including some with tables on the beach.
  • Retail and activity-based businesses are a mix of open and closed. Calling ahead to find the status of a particular store is recommended, and reservations are required for almost all island recreational activities.
  • Catalina Island Museum is among the businesses reopening. Its outdoor Artists’ Plaza and Schreiner Family Plaza invited members and visitors back for the first time Wednesday with half-priced admission.
  • All beaches on the island are open, although no fishing, group sports, or group gatherings are permitted. Chairs and coolers are allowed, although visitors must remain at least six feet apart from anyone not in their immediate household.
  • Hiking trails are all open, and hikers are allowed to remove their face masks as long as others are not on the trail near you.
  • The Catalina Express is offering daily service to the island from Long Beach, as well as weekend service from Dana Point and San Pedro. One-way tickets for the approximately 1-hour boat ride cost around $40. Helicopters from a variety of Southern California locations are also available on an on-demand basis.

Despite the restrictions and strict protocols, the tourism authority is simply happy to have people returning to the island.

“The health and well-being of our residents and all visitors is the top priority right now, and businesses on the island have done an incredible job of implementing appropriate safety protocols,” Luttjohann said. “Being open for President’s Day, Valentine’s Day and spring break is wonderful.”

With travel conditions potentially improving in the coming year, consider these quaint islands to explore in 2021.