Welp, I did it. After 6 months, I flew Southwest Airlines (no middle seats and snagged the front row!) to visit my favorite Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins in LA. They swooped me off to their childhood camp, Catalina Island Camp, where I was able to run and swim free like a little kid again. The children’s summer camp adjusted when they realized they couldn’t open for kids this year and started offering smaller family programs, so they could still bring in some revenue and keep people separate and safe. I grew up going to Camp Longhorn in Burnet, Texas for 11 years, and my California fam always tried to get me to come to the island for a couple weeks, but I never made it. Who knew that I’d actually get the opportunity in my thirties to go back to camp and to go with all of them!
Once we took the ferry from LA, the camp had a speed boat pick us up and take a 4 minute ride to their cove. Upon arrival with masks on face, Maria gave us a tour around the camp and to our designated area where only our group would be staying, using the bathroom, sinks, and showers, beach front, and beach toys like kayaks and snorkel masks. This was so that we would never have to cross paths with other groups and everything was labeled for us. Our group had 4 separate cabins as my cousin brought 2 of his fun friends, and my aunt and uncle had 2 of theirs as well. I mean it really was camp— new friends, but safe at a distance and outside the whole time! Even in the dining hall (where masks were required by all except while eating), we had our table area and waited in line to be served instead of it being a buffet. I felt extremely safe yet still distracted by the surrounding beauty to be able to enjoy myself, my space, and our wonderful Pacific Ocean and nature.
Now onto the best parts! Life at Catalina Camp is all centered around the dining bell. Jk but it really does control your activity schedule. Breakfast is at 7:45 a.m., Lunch 12 p.m., and Dinner 5:45 p.m. We spent 3 nights in our little bunk cabins and woke up each morning launching straight into the cold, blue, salty waters. Our first Kayak trip started at 9 a.m. around the rocks to Emerald Bay where we brushed up on the rocks and chilled out for a bit. The boys dug into some cliff jumping, and we snorkeled to catch views of the gorgeous orange Garibaldi fish. We even saw a seal on our way over which is my favorite sea animal (sea lion really is but close enough), so that was a rush! We made it back in time for lunch, took a baby snooze (camp is literally the only time I can ever nap), and then were off to the races again in the ocean from our waterfront cabins.
After dinner, we hiked up the mountain to watch the sun set over the sail boats. Pink skies really do it for me, and the combination with green and blue waters underneath equal magic, peace, and serenity. We saw miniature foxes and a few deer on our gallop back downhill. On day 3 one of the friends, who is a personal trainer, taught us a sunrise yoga class before breakfast (pancakes on Sunday!).
We then rented the Banana Boat, and went for a quick ride with the little kids which is so fun to watch the splash, twist, and turns through a 5 year-old’s eyes. After, I hopped on the kayak with my aunt, and we went around to the left of the camp this time passing some of the big fancy boats and one of members-only yacht clubs. Then we hit lunch, taco salad was my favorite, but let’s not focus on the food at this place if you know what I mean. After lunch nap, we took another dip, got ready for dinner and went for our last evening run. The endorphins skyrocket up there when you see how little we were on the ledge of the mountain in contrast to the never ending ocean and gorgeous boats and sails that inhabit it. The combination of freedom on these heights, stillness, and nature beauty immediately wipes a smile across your face. At a time when things might not be going as planned, this is all you need with good people, good conversations, learning, and fresh air.
The weather was a bit iffy, cold, hot (my aunt took her mattress to the beach one night), and then still the last night. My cousin Zak and his friends Rafa and Dave went on a fishing boat one day and brought back Bonito fish, a form of tuna. They skinned the filets and Rafa, who had driven in from Tijuana came equipped with fresh ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and cucumbers to make ceviche right on the spot. IT WAS DANK! Best meal of camp, obviously. There’s so much to do on the island and so little at the same time. If you can rough it sleeping in a sleeping bag in little kid bunks and outdoor showers, treat yourself to some time away on Catalina Island Camps. All that matters is who you are with, what you can learn, and getting your body moving! They have Family Camp dates offered all through September and October still! They take groups of 8-15 and that includes up to 5 cabins so you can separate accordingly. This is all inclusive of activities and food for $150 pp per day. There were about 40 of us on the island total, and we never had to come into contact with others that weren’t in our group. Happy camping!