There are three ways to arrive on Catalina Island – helicopter, airplane and boat. The most economical mode of transportation is taking one of the high speed Catalina Express boats from Long Beach, San Pedro or Dana Point. Within one hour, your will be transported to a more laid back vibe, rich in history, and abundant in water and land activities.
Recently I was invited to be one of the first guests to stay overnight at the newly renovated Hotel Atwater. Originally opened in 1920, the hotel is named after Helen Atwater Wrigley, wife of Philip Knight Wrigley, and daughter-in-law to chewing gum industrialist, William Wrigley Jr. In 1919, Wrigley became the owner of the Santa Catalina Island Company. He improved the island with public utilities, providing new steamships to transport visitors to the island to hear Big Bands perform inside the Casino Building, and stay in this hotel.
Walking into the soaring lobby, one can immediately see the exceptional attention to detail in the elegant beach decor and design. Soothing marble floors, and a color palette of cream, green and blues create a relaxing lounge area. Soon Avalon’s newest restaurant PKW Eatery + Bar, honoring island developer Philip Knight Wrigley, will open inside.
Completely renovated in 2019, this historic hotel stays true to the Wrigley family legacy with nostalgic photos, vases filled with colorful flowers and splits of Napa sparkling wine in each guest room. I learned that Helen Atwater Wrigley loved fresh flowers in her home and sipped a glass of bubbly every evening before bed.
Staying in guest room number 330, I appreciated the rich wood accents, luxury linen bedding with bright colored decorative pillows and ocean-inspired finishes. This room is a little larger than a standard room, offering a comfortable king sized premium mattress.
Since the hotel is not fully completed, my room had a notice apologizing that the mini-refrigerator hasn’t been installed yet, and that the shower water temperature may not be as hot as desired. After taking a shower in the large tiled shower with two shower heads, I felt the temperature was ideal and wouldn’t want it any hotter.
Next to the bed is a digital concierge tablet displaying an array of activities, dining options, tours to book and messages from the front desk. Each room also offers high-speed Wi-Fi, a safe in the closet and a flat screen smart television.
The hallways and inside guest rooms display color enhanced family photos and historic brochures creating a unique and memorable “Island Deco” experience.
Suites feature king beds, one and a half baths, a separate living space with sleeper sofa, bar and desk, and views of the ocean, town of Avalon or surrounding mountains. An elevator, ADA-compliant rooms, meeting and event space, and other resort-style services and amenities further enhance the guest experience, making Hotel Atwater one of Catalina’s premier lodging destinations.
Staying overnight at the newly renovated Hotel Atwater, guests receive a lot of perks when paying the $30 destination fee:
1. A $40 food and beverage credit per day at one of the Santa Catalina Island Company’s dining venues including lunch at Mt. Ada ($67 per person), Avalon Grille, Bistro at the Atwater, Encanto Cafe at the Island Spa Catalina, Descanso Fresh and Descanso Beach Club.
2. Guests can get a complimentary certificate at the reception desk to take a glass bottom boat voyage.
3. Take a fitness complimentary class at the Island Spa Catalina. Want to stay longer and use the pool and jacuzzi, there is a ($75 fee) or book a spa treatment for full use of the spa.
4. The Hotel Atwater staff will offer striped beach towels to guests to use while swimming in nearby Avalon near the Green Pleasure Pier.
5. Obtain tickets to the Discover the Casino Tour for a historical exploration of the magnificent Catalina Casino. Never a gambling casino, but a dance pavilion with some of the best Big Band orchestras performing while guests dance the night away. Also inside the Casino is the island’s only movie picture theatre, and it’s an Art Deco masterpiece.
6. When using your $40 food and beverage credit at Avalon Grille, dine between 5 to 6 p.m. and get a free movie ticket at the Casino per paid entree. This time give you enough to enjoy a leisure meal, before walking along the waterfront to the Casino.
7. Get two complimentary hours of bike rental and a map of Avalon. In the morning, request your free bike pass at Brown’s Bikes from the front desk at Hotel Atwater. Walk over to Brown’s Bikes and receive a multi-speed cruiser bike. The map they give you will alert you to flat and level roads, intermediate slight hills and those that are recommended for advanced riders, mountain or electric bikes due to it’s steep hills.
Catalina Express offers up to 30 departures daily and year-round service to Avalon and Two Harbors from San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point. Click on this link to learn how to upgrade to the Commodore Lounge. It offers even more comfortable airline-style seats, a drink, snack, grouped table seating, and first on and first off privileges.
Click on Visit Catalina Island to learn more and make a reservation.