Catalina Island Getaway 2020

Looking to get a little fresh air, after two weeks of being cooped up inside (due to the global pandemic and hazardous air quality from the California wildfires), we booked a cruise onboard Catalina Express’ Cat Express from San Pedro to Two Harbors at Catalina Island.

The 300 passenger double hull boat, only allows about 40% of capacity onboard, as a safety precaution due to the global pandemic. Passengers must wear a mask at all times.

It’s just a little over one hour boat ride to Catalina Island’s west end, known also as the Isthmus. The rustic town offers one hotel – the Banning House built in 1910. It was a summer house for the Banning Brothers, who owned the Santa Catalina Island before chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., purchased the Santa Catalina Island Company and the Island from them in 1919. Guests look out to the Isthmus Harbor and Catalina Harbor from the main house, and two villas (Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz).

There is one general store that sells camping provisions, hand sanitizer, snacks, drinks and souvenirs. There are multiple camp grounds on the island, and many hikers and campers enjoy exploring the 37.2-mile Trans Catalina Trail from one site to another.

At the base of the pier is a dive shop to rent a locker for the day for under $3.50. You receive a tiny key for a tiny lock to keep your valuables safe and dry, while you swim, snorkel, hike, kayak, paddle board and enjoy the Harbor Reef and Harbor Sands Restaurant.

During the pandemic, Two Harbors has gained popularity for day-trippers and outdoor enthusiasts, because there is plenty of space for social distancing. 

Before lunch, we took a hike from the Isthmus to Catalina Island Harbor along a paved dirt path along the half-mile wide Isthmus. Along the way we stopped to take in the beautiful views of two bays.

Stories have been told about how Spanish explorers named the island, Santa Catalina Island to honor Saint Catherine. Pirates arrived on the island to store smuggled treasures in the nearby coves and fur traders used to visit and sell their products.

Working up an appetite, we took our shoes off to wiggle our toes in the sand at Harbor Sands Restaurant. Known for its coconut milk cocktail, stuffed quesadillas, salads, burgers and golden brownie dessert, visitors can sit at a beach front table or reserve a private cabana for up to $150 a day with a bucket of waters and food service, or $30 for two lounge chairs, umbrella and towels on soft imported sand.

Next we rented a double kayak and paddled in crystal clear water, near sandy beaches, caves and nearby coves, before jumping into the refreshing sea water to cool off.

Drying off, we returned the kayak, retrieved our packs from the locker, and boarded the open air Cyclone boat for a 40 minute cruise. Cruising near the coastline by Rippers Cove, Long Point, Toyon Bay, YMCA’s Camp Fox, and Willow Cove before arriving to scenic Avalon with a Mediterranean vibe.

The newest hotel in Avalon is the Bellanca Hotel, from the Eat, Drink, Sleep Hospitality Group. This renovated (former Portifino Hotel) harbor front property, features 40 rooms with brand four new spacious guestrooms.

The open-air, ocean view, rooftop deck is available to guests to relax and enjoy drinks and meal throughout the day. We purchased a half-bottle of rose’ and a charcuterie board from the onsite bar to take up to the rooftop to enjoy the sunset.

Staying in the brand new room #109, the comfortable king size mattress enhanced a good night’s sleep. The sliding door leads out to a street level patio. Stepping outside we looked to the right for a slice of the Avalon harbor view.

The extra large tiled shower has a peek-a-boo window looking into the room. Other amenities include a large flat screen television, mini refrigerator, and multiple charging outlets, however I could not find a safe to store our valuables.

Bellanca Hotel offers complimentary beach cruisers, beach towels and beach chairs for guests to use while sitting by the water or going for a swim.

The onsite restaurant – the Naughty Fox, has Executive Chef Russell Hayden preparing elevated beach favorites such as ahi poke nachos, lobster sushi roll, grilled fish tacos, and a tasty seafood cioppino with crunchy grilled bread. Food and beverage Manager Jose from Eat. Drink. Sleep, made sure every guest was taken care of and enjoyed their culinary experience. 

Right now the hotel is not offering breakfast due to COVID-19, hopefully they will later. Each employee is temperature scanned at the front of the hotel before entering to work. Masks are mandatory to wear in the lobby and while walking to your room and rooftop. It may be removed once you order and your drink and meal has arrived.

For a change of pace for the COVID weary, a boat ride to Catalina Island is a welcome change of scenery. (Next week read my review of 10 hotspots to see when renting a golf cart, riding a bicycle or walking around Avalon).

The Bellanca Hotel is located at 111 Crescent Ave, Avalon, CA 90704 | (310) 510-0555 | http://www.bellancahotel.com.

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