Party Time In Catalina
The Best And Most Fun Bars In Avalon
There's always a party when people go to Avalon's bars like El Galleon.
"There's this One Particular Harbor,
So far and yet so near..."
This song by Jimmy Buffett is not about Catalina Island, but the words do apply so appropriately.
Catalina Island is near the sprawling city of Los Angeles, but when one changes latitudes the changes in attitudes follows as naturally as a sailboat to a seabreeze.
The beauty and the beach at the relaxing Descanso Beach Club.
Catalina is a largely remote island 20 miles – well, 26 according to a locally famous song – off the coast of California. It has two ports of call, Avalon and Two Harbors. It is known by sailors, scuba divers and weekend escapers as a place to experience the laid-back island life of the Caribbean and still be back at work come Monday.
Visible on clear days from L.A., Catalina is that island in the southern distance seemingly close enough to touch. It was put on the mental map of most people by the Wrigley family, which built a mansion.
In the 1920s, buffalo were brought over for a movie. The Wrigleys may be gone but the buffalo still roam, as do signature Catalina items such as buffalo burgers and buffalo milk, a potent cocktail with whipped cream and topped with a local bartender's special touch.
Getting to Avalon
Avalon is so near, yet so far mentally from Los Angeles.
The scenic island is reached by ferry or helicopter. Ferries run from Marina del Rey ($60 R/T, Catalina Ferries, 310-305-7250), Long Beach, San Pedro and Newport Beach ($78 R/T, Catalina Express, 800-481-3470). The Ilsand Express helicopter ($110 each way) is out of San Pedro and travels only to Avalon. Travel time is 15 minutes by helicopter and 1 to 1 1/2 hours by ferry. The ferry serves both Avalon and Two Harbors. A small airport serves private planes; it's on a cliff outside of Avalon and is legendary for having a dip near the end of the runway that has frightened many a novice pilot.
The PubClub.com party group gathers outside of Luau Larry's on Avalon.
The place to begin the bar journey is Descanso Beach Club. Just past the Casino, it's a small beach area with swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. Lounging is also a favorite "activity." With a drink menu posted on a palm tree, a waitress bringing buffalo milks and the "Descanso Destroyer" (heavy on the rum, especially the 151 floater, $7) out to a spot on the beach, the place is is straight out of a Caribbean outpost. There are bands most Sundays which attracts big crowds.
Rum drinks at the Descanso Beach Club is the way to start the party.
You can drink on the beach or take a table at Descanso Beach Club.
The bar and adjacent restaurant, uncovered tables providing uncovered views of the beach and Pacific, serves sandwiches. Is LA really only 26 miles away???
Is Luau Larry's the noisy bar in Avalon mentioned in "Southern Cross?"
Those aren't the hats you get with the
The busy bar at Luau Larry's, Avalon's tropical bar.
The noisy bar in Avalon is Luau Larry's, a Hawaiian-themed tiki-type bar complete with hanging blowfish for light fixtures and plenty of JB to make this seem like Margaritaville. We're pretty confident it's the bar mentioned in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's "Southern Cross." Luau Larry's signature drink is the Wiki Wacker, a mai tai of sorts that, for an additional $2 comes with a straw hat just made for a Buffett show. For some, this alone is worth a day trip.
Bachelorette parties like to to go El Galleon because of the karaoke.
From Luau Larry's, just stroll toward the casino for a bar-hopping adventure. The first stop is The El Galleon, a nautical-themed bar with mardi gras beads, German beer on tap served in huge Oktoberfest-sized glass mugs and drinking tourists singing karaoke. Yes, this place is lively and fun.
After a round of shots, you'll flip for Flip's!
At some point, flop over to Flip's, a small sushi restaurant turned bar by night, often with a band.
Chi Chi's is what passes for a dance club. It plays today's dance music, has pool and a large area for relaxing on chairs and couches. Don't worry about a no-sandals, no-shorts policy; there isn't one. Expect a $5 cover on Saturdays. The Marlin and JL's are the beer-drinking dive bars with beer-drinking dive locals.
No trip to Catalina is complete without having a buffalo burger. The best on the island are at the airport's small restaurant, called Buffalo Springs Station. Some locals, however, argue it's just outside of Avalon at the Buffalo Nickle, though it's tough to pass on the carne asada nachos (it's at the helicopter landing; there's a free shuttle service).
There are dozens of otherfood choices and finding one is as simple as walking down the main street. One of the most popular restaurants is Antonio's Pizzeria, with a harbor view, pizza and breakfast with bloody marys. Busy Bee is a Catalina tradition, right on the water serving breakfast, sandwiches and burgers. The Cottage is the best breakfast in town; arrive hungry and get the biscuts and gravy side dish. On the high end, there's Steve's Steakhouse., Armstrong's Seafood Restaurant (great view) the Channel House and Catalina Country Club.
"A most mysterious calling harbor
So far and yet so near
"Where I see the day when my hairs grow gray
And I finally disappear.
But NOT YET!