CATALINA ISAND, Calif. — Catalina Island, located just 26 miles offshore west of Los Angeles, is open again to visitors looking for an escape amid the surf and sand.
Greg Bombard, founder and president of the Catalina Express transportation company, is thrilled to welcome eager passengers back. He was born and raised on Catalina Island and created his business to honor his hometown.
“It’s just been a lot of fun taking people to the island that we know well and that we lived on,” said Bombard.
Bombard's company had to stop ferrying people to the island when Catalina shut down to visitors from March to about June, in an effort to reduce the risk of the coronavirus, which was difficult because the island relies on tourism.
“It was really unfortunate for all of us during that period, but we need to get through it, and now that we are back open, we want to keep it that way,” said Bombard.
Travel will look a bit different. Catalina Express is following public transportation rules. You must wear a mask at all times and social distance from other parties. The boat company is even limiting capacity to keep everyone safe, which Bombard says is important for the guests and his staff.
Once guests make the hour and 15-minute trip to Catalina, they can enjoy tourist hotspot Avalon or the less crowded Two Harbors, where we find Andrew Allen, the company's managing director. He grew up visiting the island and now lives and works in Two Harbors.
“It’s a really special spot and when people come here, they really see that,” said Allen.
Two Harbors has one restaurant and hotel, and Allen explains the closure was tough on the entirety of Catalina’s economy. Now, businesses are yearning for visitors.
“When we closed, it was a huge hit for the island company and the local businesses around us. Coming here really helps support that entire community and helps us thrive,” said Allen.
He recommends Catalina Island as the perfect staycation. It’s closer and cheaper than Hawaii and has many of the same amenities between Avalon and Two Harbors, like hotels, cabanas, water sports. With extra precautions in place, facilities are all cleaned between each use. To really become socially distant, guests can also hike or camp.
“It’s a place to get away from the busy atmosphere of L.A. and Long Beach. People feel like they are in a different world,” said Allen.
It may feel like a different world, but you don’t have to leave L.A. County to explore and play in the sunshine and salty air.