Although each of us had been to Catalina Island before, staying on the island was this mythical experience we never dreamed would be a possibility. The harbor city of Avalon is small, and there aren’t a ton of hotels to be found. But when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the chance—and could not have been more glad we did.
When the boat dropped us off on a sunny winter day, we decided to walk to the hotel. It was less than a mile away and we wanted to see the sights as we went. Lugging out bags along (maybe it wasn’t such a bright idea after all) we made our way down Crescent Avenue.
We passed restaurants and shops galore, taking note of where we’d like to come back for dinner. Upon reaching a small traffic circle—created for golf carts, the main form of transportation on Catalina Island—we turned onto Marilla Avenue.
The uphill climb was daunting on our out-of-shape lungs and legs, especially with bags strapped to our backs. But we eventually made it, and learned to love the little hill that the Aurora Hotel sat upon.
Room With a View
Walking into our room, a corner room situated on the fourth floor, the first thing we noticed was the view. A small balcony, complete with a few chairs, overlooked the sloping street leading to the harbor. We arrived mid-day so the deep blue water was dotted with a few white boats as green palm trees towered around. Later on in the trip, we discovered that the balcony is the perfect spot for pinkish purple sunset views.
Once we got over the picturesque scene from the balcony, we took a peek around the room itself. Aqua and brown accents were the perfect touch, representing the land and ocean coming together on the island.
Even though our zipline adventure was coming up quick, we sunk into the wide, comfortable bed to rest. Warm, fuzzy blankets and thick bathrobes helped keep us warm throughout the winter trip, and the comfort of the plush bed continued with each sleep we had on Catalina Island.
Other amenities made the room the perfect spot for a short island getaway. Welcome chocolates on the bed provided a sugary snack before we set out while a bottle of wine (for purchase) on the counter was the perfect complement. Chilled water bottles in the mini fridge came in handy on our hike in the botanical gardens. There was also a coffee maker for early mornings, and a well-lit makeup mirror at a small desk in the room to ensure we looked our best when we hit up the local restaurants after some outdoor exploration.
The Sun and Stars
While the view from the balcony was beautiful, it didn’t hold a candle to the cozy rooftop deck. Located down the hallway from our room, the deck offered sweeping views of the bay and hillsides dotted with houses.
A bar top with high stools along a short wall of glass offered the best views. However, the covered wooden structure with padded cushions to recline on was the perfect reprieve from the warm winter sun. A variety of round tables, loungers and straight-back chairs decked out the space, but the real highlight was the daybed. A giant round cushion beckoned us more than once, whether we were giggling and stargazing over wine or enjoying breakfast in the sunshine.
We also met a few other hotel guests—in fact, the only other guests we encountered during our off-season vacation. This deck was the perfect spot to engage in conversation, similar to the common room of a European hostel. Whether alone or with new friends, it’s a surreal spot in which to enjoy the beauty of the island.
Starting the Day Right
Downstairs in the lobby, complimentary breakfast was a highlight of our mornings. While it’s always nice to save some money on the first meal of the day, the spread offered at the Aurora Hotel was impressive. From muffins, bagels and English muffins (complete with jams and peanut butter) to cereal, yogurt and fresh fruit, there was something for everyone.
In addition, we enjoyed a variety of coffees, teas, milk and orange juice. After filling our plates, we were able to choose between dining in the lobby, our rooms or on the rooftop deck. The deck was, of course, the best option, but we varied the experiences throughout our stay.
Deck the Halls
Because we visited Catalina Island in December, we were lucky enough to experience plenty of holiday charm. A waterside Christmas tree along Crescent Avenue added to the citywide cheer, but the Aurora Hotel also added its own touches. Shiny ornaments and glittering reindeer adorned the main desk and the tables in the lobby, alongside little pieces of chocolate. A white-as-snow Christmas tree was also situated in the lobby.
While the holiday décor added a little something to the experience, what really made it feel nice and cheery was the service. From letting us check in way earlier than expected and calling a cab to take us back to the Catalina Express on our last day to letting us stargaze on the deck long past the time it was supposed to close, they went above and beyond to ensure that our winter stay was magical.