Parking $15/day Roundtrip Ferry $74.50 Hotel $306/nite Descanso Beach Club $35/per person Bike Rental $15/day Total $720 for the weekend
There isn’t much to do on Catalina island, but that is after all, it’s true the allure. I’m so used to taking vacations that call for a vacation after the vacation that I was determined to relax during my visit to California. And relax we did. Prior to our trip I scoured the internet for Catalina itineraries and found only one on Trip Advisor. Needless to say, it provided no direction and so for the first time we set out to (mostly) play it by ear.
We took the Catalina Express outside of Long beach. After some research and confirming with the concierge in LA, we determined that this port would be our best option for departure. It took us about 40 minutes from downtown LA. Tip #1 Get the commodore lounge ticket. It’s $15 more each way and you get larger seats, most of which are headed by large tables. A snack and 1 beverage is also included with your ticket and the staff will come by and serve you. The lounge also has private deck access and you’ll be allowed to board and depart before everyone else. It’s simple creature comforts but it does make all the difference.
It took me quite some time to settle on a hotel and after choosing the Pavilion we were exceedingly pleased. Tip #2. Do not book a deluxe room at the Pavilion. The difference is perhaps $50 in total for a 2 night stay and the difference between the deluxe rooms and the superior rooms is incredibly vast. The hotel is a beautifully renovated motel but you won’t be able to tell that in a superior room. Where as you will be reminded of nothing but that in deluxe. The deluxe rooms are towards the back . They are much smaller and the patio area is shared between two rooms. The air conditioning is manual and the carpet leaves much to be desired. Upon sharing how displeased I was with the accommodations, the staff kindly upgraded us to a superior room and it was just gorgeous. The French doors that lead out to our beautiful private patio made all the difference. The hotel is beautifully landscaped and once your doors are open it renders the most wonderful indoor-outdoor setting. The beds are plush and the rooms incredibly cleaned. Wifi is complementary in the open areas. Because the deluxe area is far back the signal is poor and often cannot be accessed in the room. In our superior room we did not have this problem.
Upon arrival to Catalina, the hotel had a steward who took our bags. Avalon’s port is remarkably close to the city center and we were able to take a quick 5 minute walk to our stay. We got in at about 4:00 pm after our 1 hour ferry ride. Upon checking in, we made it out just in time for the hotels complementary wine and cheese session. They had an array chardonnays, roses and reds as well as an impressive number of cheeses. We spent the rest of the evening walking around and visiting the La Via Casino. The Casino is in fact an old monument and home only to a local movie theater. We later had a delicious dinner at the popular Ristorante Villa Portofino and closed an early night by the hotels fire pit. If you’e not wiped from a long day, I’d suggest visting Luau Harry’s, the island’s equivalent to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Enjoy live music, and unconsciously mixed spirits, and if you have a few dollars to spare, take home a souvenir straw hat.
The next morning we woke up at leisure and enjoyed the hotels continental breakfast. We rented bikes ($15 pp) and headed out for lunch at Descanso Beach Club. Tip #3 Bring your room key and you’ll get free access to beach area (otherwise) $2. Tip #4 Do not pre-book your day at Descanso. All online excursions to Descanso are drastically more expensive online, upwards of 100 per pair just to lay out. Once you’ve arrived, for $35 pp you get access to the beaches private area. This fee includes two lounge chairs, 2 complementary frozen fruit daiquiris, a bottle of Artesian water and a large umbrella. The place is just beautiful and the epitome of relaxation. The lunch menu is pretty basic, with just about 4 options but it’s well done and rather inexpensive. If you’re up to it, Descanso also has zip lining. After we left the beach we rode our bikes around Avalon. The ocean views and etched rocks were the perfect backdrop for an afternoon ride and provided the highlight of our trip. We made it back to our hotel for wine and cheese. Later that night we had a pretty good American dinner at El Galleon.
On our last day we had breakfast at the hotel and strolled through the shops we missed on days prior. We allowed the hours to pass in our room until check out and strolled over to our departure port.