Designed for randy 20-somethings who can rage until 4 a.m., the Catalina can be a godsend. It's moderately priced, across from the beach, and in the heart of the fashionista bar scene. Although there are nice touches like Tempur-Pedic beds and a hip rooftop pool, it's a party hotel at heart, with small rooms and an indifferent staff.
Young students and recent grads enjoy the Catalina's party lifestyle. There's a daily free cocktail hour.
Attracting college students and recent grads (most folks are in their early to mid-20s), the Catalina is perfect for partiers. During less popular times of the year, the Catalina might have the occasional middle-aged or elderly European tourist, sometimes with families in tow, but with free cocktail hour in the Red Bar, this place is designed for guests who like to get their drink on.
The staff is friendly, but the service can be slow.
The doorman, the bellboy, and the front desk attendants are all bubbly and friendly. Unfortunately, it takes forever to get anything done. My check-in took about 15 minutes, but it was preceded by 20 minutes of waiting in line. When I forgot the code to my safe, the receptionist told me I'd have to wait an hour and a half. Fortunately, maintenance only took 15 minutes.
Just a block from the beach, the Catalina is also close to bars, restaurants, and shopping.
Located two blocks from Lincoln Road and across the street from the ritzy Delano, guests don't have to go far to find restaurants and bars to suit their budget -- whatever it might be! Plus, the Catalina is only one block from the beach!
Some rooms and hallways are too dark, not to mention excessively humid. Stay in the main hotel for a lighter feel.
My king bedroom at the Dorset -- the Catalina is actually a conglomeration of three squat art deco hotels, the Dorset, the Catalina, and the Maxine -- was unsettling. The hallways were so dark that I couldn't even see where to put my key into the door. I tried multiple times! The room itself was large and swathed in darkness. When I pulled back the floor-to-ceiling velvet curtain, I found a small window that looked out onto an alleyway and into the neighboring building. The only real source of light came from the window in the shower stall, which was meager at best.
In the bathroom, the toilet stall was on the opposite side of the sink and shower, right by the front door. I freaked out when I turned on the light and heard the loud whoosh of the exhaust.
The king-size bed was comfortable and the linens seemed clean, though on closer inspection, they didn't quite match. The room was extraordinarily humid -- a function of having a shower in a room with few windows -- but at least the bed was reassuringly dry.
There was an iPod dock and a 32-inch JVC TV strapped to a flimsy table with a seat belt, although select rooms have 27-inch flat screen TVs. Both the El Grande and B-Room suites have 42-inch flat screens.
Guests who have a "can-do" attitude probably won't mind staying here, especially since it's relatively cheap and right by the beach. But claustrophobic travelers who like plenty of light should probably try the rooms in the actual Catalina. Plain white with red-hot furnishings, they let in plenty of light.
At the Dorset's rooftop infinity pool, visitors can catch sunlight for much longer than they'd be able to at the beach. Shade seekers can pop over to Maxine's backyard pool. It's even possible to get a massage in the cabana!