Catalina Island Review - O! Catalina, My Catalina - Happy "Birthday Island" - (part 1)


Happy Birthday to you … Happy Birthday to you … Happy Birthday dear …

So, your birthday’s coming up … what would you like to do?

Do you want to spend it alone?  Do you want to spend it with friends?

Perhaps … a romantic evening with a lover? A quiet getaway?  An adventurous day? 

Don’t you want to be pampered?  Really, what do you want to do?


Let me invite you to Happy "BIRTHDAY ISLAND"Santa Catalina

off the Southern California coast … 22 nautical miles, an hour or so from Long Beach, less than a couple of hours from LA or Newport Beach, under 3 hours from San Diego and not so far from San Francisco, when you fly … There basks Catalina, a cozy island in the Pacific where the Ocean is picturesquely blue.

Santa Catalina: Happy "Birthday Island" invites you on YOUR Birthday

Now … imagine … YOUR Birthday … you manage to make the 10 am ferry on the Catalina Express (just so you know, the ride is currently free on your birthday) …the whisper of a welcoming Bloody Mary reaches your ears long before your lips reach 

Long Beach ...


And so … The Happy Birthday begins …


Do yourself a favor - wear the birthday ribbon, you’re given - it’s a charming experience you should neither miss nor forget … no matter how old you are … you will feel like a child again … when a stranger warmly says “happy birthday” … it’s like an angel blowing you a kiss … it will make you smile … even if quietly to yourself …

Feel like a child again! Alana Oddo steps from the Pavilion Hotel

In about an hour, approaching what you will come to think of as “Birthday Island”, you arrive at the tranquil town of Avalon


From the gangplank, you will be welcomed by the PAVILION Hotel’s, courteous staff, to help with your luggage … should you be spending the night.  Undecided? … Well, whisk off in a golf cart to the Descanso Beach Club for a lazy, over-stuffed, all-you-can-eat buffet brunch, with all you can drink, as well … whatever it is that you drink.  Relaxing in a Cabana overlooking the waters that made Ferdinand Magellan famous, being waited on by friendly staff, certainly makes you feel Birthday “special”, don’t you think? 

(The Descanso Beach Club Sunday Brunch costs $35, even if it isn’t your birthday!)

How lucky can you be? Descanso Beach Club & Massages by the Sea

And this is only the beginning … the next thing you know you are summoned by the lovely Valentina of MASSAGES BY THE SEA …to another cabana where you receive a soothing massage … for her grand finale, she ends by gliding warm rocks down your back, melting away any leftover worries. (The must-have  “Birthday Special” is $ 69 for 50 minutes).


Now completely relaxed and rejuvenated, you stroll back from Descanso to Avalon, sampling the souveneir stalls and shops … treat yourself to a little trinket …  a “gratitude” rock calls out your name … perhaps you smile … at the irony?

Something to be grateful for ...

The beautiful 15-minute amble along the Pacific, gives you a chance to explore the Casino … Built in 1929, it stands majestically, as if reminding you of some fairy tale land.  Avalon’s Movie Theatre, the first movie theatre with sound, is definitely one of the most stunning movie palaces still around … gorgeous even with no picture showing … wait … look … the stars on the ceiling are twinkling … or is that a birthday wink?

Don't you want to take a look inside ?

Not sure if you should spend the night on the island or catch the last ferry heading back to the mainland? … something entices you … the Complementary Wine and Cheese generously offered in the PAVILION Hotel at this magic hour … tempting  …

and then, you can’t help but notice the roaring fire pit … bewitching …

Why should you resist? … even if it isn’t your birthday!

Would you? Could you? Should you stay?  Spend the night in Catalina?

Miss the ferry?  Happily, you decide to check into the PAVILION Hotel

Happily you check into the Pavilion Hotel

The Hotel, a freshly renovated, crisply painted, and well- manicured, mid-century structure, stands in a premier location only steps from the beach, boasting a romantically glorious view.  A boutique hotel … no, a resort … no,  just a casual beachy inn …or is it?


Before long, you wander to dinner at the upscale but casual AVALON GRILLE –  where uber-mixologist Stacy’s “Raspberry Kisses  tease you … deliciously intoxicating … be forewarned, they could make you behave like a teenager … dare you to stop at just one … Chef Paul continues the seduction with his huge Buffalo Ribs … he raises them, grazes them and marinates them himself.  Don’t worry, you’re not eating the Buffalo you’ll see on the  island.  (full review of the buffalo in part 2)


But wait … in Catalina you must taste the “Buffalo Milk”, a local libation of milk, banana, vodka, kalua, banana liquer, and sometimes a special drizzle of chocolate, as each bartender adds their own special twist … Perhaps, you’d like to try it virgin ?  Yumm …


Completely sated and satisfied …  you cruise back to your cozy room just doors away, at the Hotel, where your soft, smooth sheets beckon you … you doze off … too comfortable to count the threads …Szzz … Sweet Dreams  … Good Night … and Happy Birthday, again! 

Well rested & well treated at the Pavilion Hotel

Arising … well rested and well treated … you don’t want your birthday to end … it doesn’t have to just yet … walk out to the picturesque pier and take in the beautiful new day, knowing that the PAVILION Hotel has a Complimentary Breakfast waiting for you in the sun room … you choose to enjoy your morning coffee overlooking the mist rising off the Pacific … wishing you were awake to catch sun rise? … then, enjoying the morning cool, move over by the fire pit and eat your breakfast … why? … because you can! 

Don’t you feel special? 


Linger and gather yourself leisurely … you know, don’t have to leave the island just yet … you could spend a few hours doing a tour … there are several from Santa Catalina Island Company Tours to choose from. (I'll tell you in more detail in part 2)

Here’s to some memories for the ride called your life :)

As the last ferry leaves the island, it’s time to return home … your birthday ribbon still on … hoping to hear just one more wish … as you finish one year and start another … this year … “may your dearest wishes come true”  … Wishing you a very “HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY” my dear – And Cheers!  Here’s to some memories for the ride called your life!


Your trusted friend,  


Penelope Pehnmore


P. S. If you have any Catalina questions feel free to ask - THE Catalina Concierge - how best to make your Santa Catalina dream come true ...  

"Absolutely" - you know you will return to Santa Catalina

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