The day of my husband’s birthday was just perfect!  I couldn’t have asked for anything more lovely.  Every detail I had planned came together and worked out without any glitches.  Now I’ll share with you the adventure my husband and I went on our second day away.  But first let me tell you that the plans for this day kind of just evolved.  I had the first day planned & everything reserved.  I was just thinking of something fun to do the second day.  I was thinking of fun things to do while in Beverly Hills/LA area.  I thought of the typical stuff; Universal Studios, Hollywood museums, etc.  One day as I was reading Travel & Leisure (one of my monthly reads), I spotted an ad about Catalina Island.  I didn’t think much of it until I saw in bold “ZIP LINE”.  I knew Dave would love that!  Right then and there an idea was born!  I had been to Catalina Island many years ago for my bachelorette party with all my girlfriends.  They made me parade around the beach in my bikini and a veil all day.  It was very embarrassing but fun!  Dave had never been to Catalina Island though and neither of us had ever been zip lining.  As I researched ferry times on the Catalina Express, I realized they would not work with our schedule because of the time we were returning the car.  I was really bummed that I had such a great idea but I couldn’t get us there to do it.  Did I give up!  Nope!  I knew there must be other transportation to the island.  But of course!  I guess we’d have to take a helicopter.  Oh bummer!!!  
Just a bit more expensive.  The roundtrip on the ferry was not cheap, $70 per person and the helicopter was $105 per person.  Ouch!  I sat on this idea for several days.  As the wheels in my brain kept churning I hatched a plan to pay for this days adventure.  My goal is always to pay for our trips by my hobby.  There are some times you can’t use your miles and points or it’s not wise to do so.  So anyway, I had just become aware of a great checking account offer from Chase for a $200 bonus.  May times checking account bonuses require bill pay and/or direct deposit before you qualify for the bonus cash or miles.  This offer was so sweet; simply open account, deposit $100 and you would receive $200 within 10 days.  So I opened two accounts, one for me & the hubby!  Within exactly 10 days I had $200 cash in each account.  Wooohooo!!! 
So with all the funds in the bank, I made the helicopter reservation.  Coordinated a taxi to pick us up from the landing strip and drive us a short 10 minutes to the other side of Catalina Island where we would do the zip line.  The Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour is brand new on Catalina Island.  It just opened in 2010.  You propel down 5 separate zip lines from 500 feet to 60 feet above sea level with one run that is 1,100 lineal feet long all on its own.  You travel up to 45mph down these zips.
So the next morning, we drove from Beverly Hills to Long Beach port and jumped on a helicopter.  We got a nice view of the Queen Mary & Carnival Cruise ships which were right next to the helicopter pad.
My husband was just floored.  At this point, he realized we were going to Catalina Island since the helicopter said Island Express Helicopter.  Little giveaway!  He still had no idea we were going zip lining.  The day was a gorgeous sunny day!  The helicopter ride was so fun!  You feel like a bird just gliding.  We saw a whale & her baby as we flew over too.  That was really fun!  The helicopter pilot did a few circles and let us get a real good look.  Upon landing we met our taxi and made the quick drive over to Descansco Beach.  It was just beautiful there.
When we showed up my husband finally realized what we were doing today.  He was excited and I was scared to death!  I knew when I planned this that he would be so pumped but I was so nervous about it.  So they got us into our equipment and we did a little training session.  Here we are before we headed out!
After our very brief 15 minute training session they loaded us up on a bus and drove us up to the top of Catalina where the first zip starts.  There was a group of 10 of us.  Everyone was really quiet.  I think they were all scared like me.  I was starting to feel uneasy in my stomach.  When we got out on the first platform everyone was really quiet.  The guides were upbeat and ready to go.  It was now the moment of truth!  The guide asked, “Who wants to go first” and it fell silent.  So as I expected, my husband stepped forward and volunteer to go.  I knew he would have no problem with this.  Before I knew it he had jumped and was off.  Everyone looked at me to go next since I was with him.  I was scared to death and didn’t have the nerve yet.  I watched about 3 more people go and then realized it was never going to get easier to make the jump.  I just dug deep and walked up to the platform.  The guide asked me my name.  When I answered, “Faith”, I knew I was done for.  How could I say I couldn’t do this with a name like mine.  So I walked forward took alot of deep breaths and jumped.  I expected myself to screen bloody murder but no sound came out.  I was now suspended higher in air than I had ever been before.  It was scary in a fun way.  As I came in for my first landing I was scared to death.  I had my legs curled up in cannon ball tight for fear that I would break or severely damages my legs if I dragged them on the landing platform.  There was a long “pop” as I hit stopping cable flying in at approximately 45mph.  BAM!  I had made it to the other side.  I was so pumped!  I did!  I was almost crying with joy!  My husband was so happy to see me.  He was getting a bit worried when he didn’t see me coming after him.  The second jump was so much easier!  I knew I had done it already and I could do it again!  By the third zip line, I was so pumped and excited.  I was now having a blast!  Here were are after our 3rd zip line!  The memories are priceless and so is the view!
 I was too nervous to carry the camera but my husband did.  He caught a few shot of me coming in.  You can get a little idea of how long these zip lines were.  It’s crazy when I look back.  I’m really proud of myself.  Now I can’t wait for the next opportunity to zip line.  It’s such a rush!  No words can explain how great it feels.
 After we finished our zip line tour, we had a lovely romantic walk back to the main downtown of Catalina.  It’s an easy 10 minute walk along the water.  Just beautiful!  It was a mellow Friday afternoon.  Very few people, off season.  Just lovely!

 We had a nice dinner on the waterfront and took a night ferry back to Long Beach.  We were so happy to return to our “love nest” at the SLS.  When we arrived to our suite, it was just the perfect end to  our long fun and adventurous day.

It was very chilly as we left Catalina Island, so we were so looking forward to going to the hot tub.  Here is where I have to break the only bad news I have to report about the SLS Hotel.  The SLS has NO HOT TUBS!!!  We were so BUMMED!!!  We got into our suits and called the front desk to find out what floor to go to and were informed there was no hot tubs.  The pool is heated which is nice but it’s not hot tub temperature.  Not to mention, the pool closes at 9:00 p.m.  Are you kidding me!  LA and you expect the party to stop at 9:00 p.m.  Shocking!  So we had be content with our sexy all mirrors shower.  Oh… was rough!  We were surprised though that a category 6 Starwood property could possibly not have a hot tub.  It’s really considered a basic amenity in lower level hotels.  So if you are visiting the SLS Hoteland you want a hot tub soak the only possibility is to rent a Presidential Suit which offers a large tub in the room. Here is a few pics of the heated pool & lounge area which is on top of the hotel.

With that being said, we are still crazy about the SLS Hotel and would return again in a heart beat.  The next morning, we ate again at Tres Restaurant and our breakfast entrees were so impressive.  I just have to include a photo.  Mine was the eggs benedict (some fancy name) and my husband’s was the french toast dish (another fancy name).  The eggs benedict had the most impressive presentation I have ever seen.  It had a foam hollandaise sauce on the top with shavings of Italian ham in the middle on a super soft light bread that was so easy to cut with your fork.  It was simply divine.  The best eggs benedict I’ve ever eating in my life, hands down!  My husband’s french toast was also yummy.

After breakfast, it was unfortunately time to say “goodbye” to the SLS and head homeward to our kiddos.  The SLS Hotel has so many little nice touches and I loved even the way they said goodbye.

They slip this little note under your door in the morning.  Cute!  Anyway, we loved our stay and would definitely return.  On our way home, we stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch and a little shopping on State Street.  It was the perfect end to our extended “dream date”.  Now you see what I meant about having a “bachelor date”.  You get it if you have ever watched the show Bachelor or Bachelorette.

So now for the miles & points break down that I promised.  How did I pay for this fancy fabulous dream getaway?  Is it really possible?  Yes, it sure is.  Here is the break down.

SLS Hotel
27,000 Starwood points
*Booked King Premium room
*Starwood Gold Status – request upgrade and was given Studio Suite

Dream Cars West – Ferrari rental
Exotic & Luxury Rentals
Rental Cost: $850
*Paid for with Chase Sapphire points.  Redeemed 100,000 points.  Requested a check for $1,000.

Tonight Show with Jay Leno
*Free tickets available online here

Island Express Helicopters
Helicopter to Long Beach to Catalina Island
$105/per person
$210 total cost
*Paid for with Chase checking account bonus – $400 cash.

Catalina Express
Ferry from Catalina Island back to Long Beach
$35/ per person – one way
$70 total cost
*Paid for with Chase Sapphire point to cash conversion

Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour
$109/per person
$226.00 (inc. tax)
*Paid for with Chase checking account bonus – $400 cash.  Extra $36 from Chase Sapphire point to cash conversion.

Chase Checking  – Chase is always running checking account offers.  Best offer is currently for $200 cash.  You can read here for more details on how to get the coupon code needed for this offer.  If want the $150 checking account offer, I have 3 coupon codes I can offer my readers.  Just drop me an email and let me know you would like one.  Or if you have a Chase credit card check you next statement envelope.  They typically put them in those envelopes with your statements.

Chase Sapphire – Points to Cash
100,000 point = $1,000
$850 Ferrari
$ 70 Catalina Express ferry
$ 36 Extra on Zip Line
*Remaining cash used for food & gas expense.

Chase Checking – Cash Bonus $400
$210 – Helicopter
$436  *Extra $36 cash from Chase Sapphire points to cash conversion

The only actually out of pocket cost for our getaway was for our food & gas.  Now, let me show you what this getaway would have cost.

SLS Hotel
Suite suite
Best Available Rate: $429
Including tax: $495.80/night
2 nights @ $495.80

Hotel  $991.60
Ferrari – $850.00
Helicopter -$210.00
Zip Line – $226.00
Ferry – $70.00
Total Cost: $2,347.60

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express OPEN
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card – CANADA
Currently offering a 25,000 sign up bonus

Chase Sapphire℠ Preferred Card
Currently offering 40,000 sign up bonus

Don’t have these cards yet, get one or all and start planning your own getaway.  I just showed you what these points can really do.  It’s very real and very fun!


  1. Happy Bday to your husband. Nice trip report. I once made the mistake of booking an overnight stay at a hotel with no hot tub too. While I'm not a huge fan of hot tubs, they are relaxing at the end of a busy travel day.

  2. I was wondering how much was the food cost since you dine at the hotel and other fancy locations. I would imagine not so budget friendly and my estimate around $400. If so did you factor this into your budget in the planning ?

    1. @choi – Yes…you are right about eating at the hotel. We only ate breakfast 1 morning and it was like $50. Very pricey but a treat. The other meals were eating at budget cafes and restaurants around the area. I also packed a picnic lunch for our 1st day riding around in the hot rod since I didn’t want us to miss any time in the car. We ate in the car along the beach in Malibu. I think for the 2 days we spent around $250. 1st day – Breakfast @ SLS Hotel, picnic lunch, dinner at the SmokeHouse in Burbank. 2nd day – breakfast in Beverly Hills – small cafe (about $30), snack for lunch, dinner on Catalina island (burger joint ($30). 3rd day – Breakfast in Beverly Hills – cafe, lunch downtown cafe in Santa Barbara -dinner @ home.

  3. also forgot to ask, with the chase account bonuses, when you open the double accounts, isnt there a monthly fee associated each month. I have a checking account with chase and it comes with monthly fee. how do you get around this or do you intend to close it after the bonuses ?

    1. Yes, Chase has a monthly fee but they don’t seem to charge it until about the 3rd month. They give you a grace period. I have found this same thing with Citibank. It gives you time to get the bonus and then cancel before you fee starts. I just cancel via email and indicated that I’m not using the account enough to justify the fee which is the case

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