Fall and Winter Getaway to Avalon

JILL WEINLEIN

After graduating from UCLA, JIll traveled the world looking for unique destinations. She’s been writing about her travels for almost 30 years in various publications.

She writes a weekly restaurant review for the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News. It’s inserted into the Los Angeles Times every Thursday and delivered to subscribers from Hancock Park to Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills to the Wilshire Corridor.

Fall and Winter Getaway to Avalon

By Jill Weinlein

The newest hotel in the Mediterranean-style city of Avalon, is the Bellanca Hotel. It’s one of Eat, Drink, Sleep Hospitality Group’s newest acquisitions renovating the former 1940’s Scari’s Hotel, that later became the Hotel Villa Portofino. The multi-million dollar renovation included four new guest rooms offering a peek at the Avalon Harbor and Pacific Ocean beyond.

The easiest way to get to Catalina Island is onboard the Catalina Express. They offer a fare discount to seniors 55+ cruising from the ports of Dana Point, Long Beach and San Pedro.

During the pandemic, the boats are sailing with only 40% capacity, and the captain and crew are taking extra safety precautions based on the guidance of the County of Los Angeles, CDC and other local health departments. Masks or face coverings are required when entering the cruise terminal, waiting to board the boat, and while cruising on the vessel.

Once in Avalon, face covering and masks are also required in public areas. The island has only had a handful of Covid-19 cases since February. The first case was traced to a passenger from one of the large cruise ships that visited the island in the beginning of 2020. Since cruise ships are no longer visiting the port of Avalon, the infection rate has remained low and the island wants to keep it that way.

The Bellanca’s is a short taxi ride or walk from the cruise terminal. Stepping into the new light wood and white tiled lobby, it’s modern and clean open air also features a new bar and lounge.

Staying in one of the spacious new guest rooms, we found the marine blue and green accent colors appealing. The cloud-like comfortable mattress and luxury bed linens provide a good night’s sleep, and the new modern bathroom has an extra large tiled shower, vanity and separate commode area.

Three of the four new rooms have a sliding glass door leading to a small balcony. For better views, guests have privileges to the rooftop terrace overlooking the boats in the harbor. During the day and at sunset, guests bring up beverages from the bar and relax in white wicker style chairs, under shade umbrellas, while enjoying the fresh marine air.

Another popular spot at the boutique hotel is the new onsite restaurant, the naughty FOX. The small open-air dining patio and innovative menu by Executive Chef Russell Hayden is popular with hotel guests and locals. Known for his creative fare at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, Hayden brought two of his chefs from the desert to the sea to prepare beach favorites, including ahi poke nachos, lobster sushi rolls, grill fish tacos and a cioppino filled with treasures from the sea.

The hotel offers complimentary beach cruisers for guests to take a spin up to the The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden, Lovers Cove, Pebbly Beach and Descanso Beach Club.

For those who really want to getaway while on the island, the Catalina Express and a bright yellow open-air Cyclone boat, take visitors to Two Harbors for the day. The 40 minute scenic boat ride arrives at Catalina Island’s west end. It’s named Two Harbors due to it’s half-mile land isthmus separating the leeward side Isthmus Cove and Catalina Harbor on the windward side. It’s a charming village with one small hotel, the Banning House built in the early 1900s, and one restaurant, The Harbor Reef.

This area has become a popular outing during the pandemic for day-trippers and outdoor enthusiasts. Once off the boat, the Dive & Recreation Center on the pier rents kayaks, bicycles, and paddle-boards. There are flat groomed paths to explore the area for a short walk or hike up the hill for sensational views.

Stories have been told that Spanish explorers named the island – Santa Catalina in honor of Saint Catherine. Pirates stored smuggled treasures in the nearby coves and fur traders used to visit.

Guests enjoying lunch or dinner at the Harbor Reef Restaurant can kick off their shoes and dine while wiggling their toes in the sand. The open-air restaurant is known for its coconut milk cocktail, stuffed quesadillas, salads and burgers.

Visitors can reserve a cabana for the day and receive a bucket of waters and food service or for $30 they can reserve two lounge chairs and towels on the soft imported sand.

Around 4:15 p.m., the Cyclone boat cruises back to the Green Pier in Avalon, just in time for dinner at The Bellanca Hotel or one of the restaurants providing outdoor tables on the sand.

Catalina Island offers pleasant temperatures year round with the average in the mid-60s. It’s an ideal Southern California get-away for a change of scenery and pace.

Right now the Bellanca Hotel is offering a ‘Go & Play Winter Getaway’ special from Nov. 8, 2020 to March 5, 2021. You will receive a round-trip ticket aboard Catalina Express from Long Beach or San Pedro, a bottle of sparkling wine, and guest room at the Bellanca Hotel. The rate is for double occupancy. Valid for arrival Sunday-Thursday and departure Monday-Friday. Another special, The ‘Love Catalina Island Midweek’ includes a third night free when staying two nights. The discount is applied as 33% off each night on Sunday-Thursday stays. Or mention and show your AARP or AAA card and receive a $10 discount.

To make a Catalina Express boat reservation, go to https://www.catalinaexpress.com/schedule-fares.html or call (800) 995-4386. The Bellanca Hotel is at https://www.bellancahotel.com or call (310) 510-0555.

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