The Weekenders

Get your paddle on: sunset on the waters off Catalina Island     Photo: courtesy, Catalina Island Expeditions

Most families plan one big blowout vacation each summer—which still leaves a lot of summer left to enjoy. Our advice: Think weekends. Our seven getaways are active enough to keep older kids entertained, yet won't be daunting for the younger ones. And they're close to major cities, so you won't have to miss a single day of work. (Well, maybe just one.)

Sea Kayak around Catalina Island
A draconian permit system and countless logistical challenges (the island allows no cars, for one) make planning your own paddling trip around Catalina Island rather time consuming. Enter Catalina Island Kayak Expeditions, which offers a three-day, two-night excursion that's perfect—and easy—for families with teens. You and the clan bring only sleeping bags and personal items; the company handles the details and provides everything else you need, down to the grub and the sleeping pads.
On Friday morning, board the high-speed catamaran, next to the Queen Mary berth in Long Beach, for the 20-mile, 55-minute open-ocean ride to Catalina. While you're being geared up with a sit-on-top kayak, the group's tents and provisions will be chugging along by support boat to a campsite on the island's lee side at Goat Harbor, your base camp for the weekend. "Your personal craft is loaded with nothing weightier than lunch and snorkel gear," promises outfitter owner Mary Stein.

You and the kids will spend two days paddling (at your own pace) about 13 miles of unspoiled and otherwise inaccessible coastline. Guides will regale you with island lore: After William Wrigley bought the island in 1919, for example, he flew his Chicago Cubs here for spring training. The lucky paddler might spy a blue whale; guaranteed sightings are harbor seals and seabirds like cormorants and pelicans.

If the water levels cooperate, plan on exploring an eerie but beautiful sea cave. You can snooze, swim, and snorkel near Goat Harbor, or hike to the island's interior, home to groves of ironwood trees, native only to Catalina. You might even see one of Catalina's resident buffalo.

Details
FERRY TIME FROM LOS ANGELES: one hour
WHO CAN GO: No experience is required, but the trip is best for active adults and teens 14 and older. Families with younger kids can kayak a half-day and then hang out in Avalon, the island's only town, the rest of the weekend.
COST: $345 per person.
CONTACT: Catalina Island Kayak Expeditions, 310-510-1588; www.kayakcatalinaisland.com

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