WHERE TO STAY
L.A./South Bay Hostel, Hostelling International, Angels Gate Park, 3601 South Gaffey St., Building 613, San Pedro, CA 90731; (310) 831-8109, http://www.hiusa.org. Five private rooms, sleeps 60. Open June 13-Sept. 11. All bathrooms shared. In San Pedro's Angels Gate Park, overlooking a grassy knoll and Korean Friendship Bell. Communal kitchen, free breakfast (pancakes and coffee), free parking and internet, no alcohol. Rates $28-$60 per person, with $3 discounts for members. This location puts you 32 miles south of the Hollywood sign, but step outside and you have a grassy park with a 270-degree view of the ocean and Catalina. Next door, you can visit the recuperating seals and sea lions at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Ft. MacArthur (www.marinemammalcare.org).
Avia Hotel, 285 Bay St., Long Beach, CA 90802; (562) 436-1047 or (866) 644-2842, http://www.aviahotels.com. Boutique hotel opened in 2009 with 138 rooms. Olive-tree art installation in the lobby and a small pool on the roof. Doubles begin at $159.
Hotel Maya, 700 Queensway Drive, Long Beach, CA 90802; (562) 435-7676, http://www.hotelmayalongbeach.com. Can this boutique lodging really be part of the Hilton empire? Yes, it's now a DoubleTree by Hilton. But thanks to a 2009 renaming and renovation by previous management, the Maya and its Fuego restaurant are a mod-Mexican riot of bold colors and geometry. Its 11 acres feature views of the harbor and Long Beach skyline. Edgier than your average business hotel. Lots of fire pits, cactus and yellow patio chairs. You can't walk really anywhere from there, but it's a nice perch. 194 rooms. Doubles from $160.
Pavilion Hotel, 513 Crescent Ave., Avalon, CA 90704; (310) 510-1788 or (800) 626-1496, http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com. Formerly known as the Pavilion Lodge. This 71-room, two-story lodging occupies a prime spot on Avalon's waterfront main drag. A 2010 renovation has made it into a welcoming space, with lush landscaping, a tempting fire pit and pleasant mid-century design details. Rack rates vary by season, with doubles typically running $168-$280 (winter weekdays) to $400-$526 (summer weekends). On most weekends, there's a two-night minimum.
Snug Harbor Inn, 108 Sumner Ave., Avalon, CA 90704; (310) 510-8400 or (888) 394-7684, http://www.snugharbor-inn.com. A six-room inn with wood floors, bay windows, fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs. Better for couples than families. Doubles from $140 (smallest room, winter weekdays) to $385 (biggest room, summer weekends).
Catalina island Vacation Rentals, 119 Sumner Ave., Suite B, Avalon, CA 90704; (310) 510-2276 or (800) 631-5280, http://www.catalinavacations.com. Scores of houses and condos can be rented in downtown Avalon and Hamilton Cove, north of downtown Avalon. Rates run as low as $155 nightly (room for two people), high as $635 (10 people).
Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275; (310) 265-2800 or (866) 484-5558, http://www.terranea.com. The 582-room blufftop resort opened in 2009 on a 102-acre site that was occupied by Marineland. This coast is more rocks than beach, but the hotel has three pools and a nine-hole golf course. Doubles from $360 plus $25 daily resort fee).
WHERE TO EAT
555 East, 555 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90802; (562) 437-0626, http://www.555east.com. An old-fashioned steakhouse with checkerboard marble floors and lots of dark wood. Dinner main dishes $19.95-$49.95. Don't overlook the meat loaf. Dinner nightly, lunch weekdays.
Tantalum, 6272 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, CA 90803; (562) 431-1414, http://www.tantalumrestaurant.com. In a corner of the Marina Pacifica mall, with unexpected views of Alamitos Bay and big happy hour crowds. Asian fusion menu, big bar area, lots of Asian-tropical atmosphere. Main dishes $16-$34.
Belmont Brewing Co., 25-39th Place, Long Beach, CA 90803; (562) 433-3891, http://www.belmontbrewing.com. Hand-crafted beers, patio with a beach view and a spot next to the Belmont Pier. Good chowder and bread ($3.50-$5.25).
Open Sesame, 5201 and 5215 E. 2nd St., Long Beach, CA 90803; (562) 621-1698, http://www.opensesamegrill.com. Long Beach Lebanese cuisine. Two busy dining rooms on one block in the heart of the Belmont Shore commercial strip. Lunch and dinner. Main dishes (big portions) $10.99-$24.99.
Lola's Mexican Cuisine, 2030 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, CA 90814; (562) 343-5506, http://www.lolasmexicancuisine.com. Lunch and dinner. Dinner main dishes average $10.95. Spicy tortilla soup.
Number Nine, 2118 E. 4th St., Long Beach, CA 90814; (562) 434-2009, http://www.numberninenoodles.com. Noodles, spring rolls, salads, sandwiches, beer and wine, served in a deep, narrow, white space. Try the Vietnamese lemonade. All dishes $10 or less.
Avalon Grille, 423 Crescent Ave., Avalon, CA 90704; (310) 510-7494, http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/avalon/dini_avalonGrille.php. This sleek new Catalina restaurant (with horseshoe bar in middle) sits along the Avalon waterfront, offering American regional dishes. Lunch and dinner year-round, Wednesdays through Sundays, and lunch and dinner daily in summer. Dinner main dishes $14-$35. Excellent pan-seared scallops.
The Corner Store, 1118 W. 37th St., San Pedro, CA 90731; (310) 832-2424; no website. This neighborhood favorite (which isn't on a corner and is less than half a mile from Point Fermin and Angels Gate Park) offers excellent picnic fodder—breakfasts, burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs and a kid's menu—and everything is $6.25 or less. Extensive old-school and global soda selection too—more than 170 brands.
Nelson's, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275; (310) 265-2836; http://www.terranea.com. Among eight restaurants and bars on the Terranea resort property, this is among the most casual. It's even has pints of Pabst for $3. But it sits atop a bluff, its patio warmed by a fire ring and fireplace. Lunch and dinner. Main dishes $11-$17. Good seared ahi tuna sandwich.
Parker's Lighthouse, 435 Shoreline Village Dr., Long Beach, CA 90802; (562) 432-6500; http://www.parkerslighthouse.com. Surf, turf and 144 patio seats. Lunch and dinner. Dinner main dishes $19-$58. Burgers, gumbo and sushi and rolls go for $7 and less during weekday happy hours.
WHAT TO SEE:
Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802; (562) 590-3100, http://www.aquariumofpacific.org. Adults $24.95, children 3-11 $12.95. With Queen Mary admission, $36 for adults, $20 for children. With LA Zoo admission, $31 for adults, $19 for children. Packages with boat cruises and behind-the-scenes tours also available. Open 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. daily (except Christmas and during the Long Beach Grand Prix April 13-15 next year).
Wayfarers Chapel, 5755 Palos Verdes Drive South, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275; (310) 377-1650, http://www.wayfarerschapel.org. The chapel, built in 1951, is made almost entirely of glass, flanked by trees and sponsored by the followers of the 18th century mystic Emanuel Swedenborg. The architect Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright. Donations optional.
Gondola Getaway, 5437 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90803; (562) 433-9595, http://www.gondo.net. Since 1982, this 10-vessel company has offered gondola tours of the waterways of Naples in southern Long Beach. Cruises (50 minutes) start 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Cost usually $85 a couple, $25 a person for groups of 7-19 people.
Descanso Beach Club, 1 Descanso Ave., Avalon, CA 90704; (310) 510-7410 (DESCANSO) or (800) 626-1496 (reservations), http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com. Open from mid-April through mid-October, this beach spot, a short walk past the historic casino building, 20 minutes' walk north of downtown Avalon, includes a restaurant and patio bar, an inlet for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking, Sea Trek Undersea Adventures (like scuba diving, no certification required). It's also the staging ground for a Zipline Tour Center that opened in 2010. The Catalina Zipline Eco Tour includes five zip lines of up to 1,100 feet long, descending Descanso Canyon toward the ocean. The two-hour zipline tour costs $113 per person including tax. Reservations recommended. To ride zipline alone, participants must be at least 10 years old and 80 pounds, but not more than 245 pounds.
The Vintage Collective, 2122 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, CA 90814; (562) 433-8699, http://www.facebook.com/vintagecollective. Vintage clothes, furniture, art and music. For a sense of the neighborhood, check http://www.4thstreetlongbeach.com.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro, CA 90731; (310) 548-7562, http://www.cabrillomarineaquarium.org. Near the tip of the Palos Verdes peninsula, this aquarium isn't as big, new, bright and shiny as the one in Long Beach, but it's charming, well-stocked and inexpensive. Recommended donation $5 per adult, $1 per child.
Catalina Express, 95 Berth, San Pedro, CA 90731; (800) 481-3470, http://www.catalinaexpress.com. Catalina Express offers daily ships between Catalina and Long Beach, Dana Point and San Pedro. The quickest trip, about an hour, is the 22-mile journey from the downtown Long Beach landing (320 Golden Shore St., Long Beach, CA 90802) to Avalon. In peak summer months, Catalina Express offers eight departures daily from Long Beach, at round-trip prices of $69.50 per adult and $54 per child 2-11.