Taking CABIN the Overnight Sleeper Bus Service between San Francisco and Los Angeles

Port Of San Francisco Ferry Building

What does a CABIN bus look like?  I understand it isn't a normal bus, but an overnight sleeper bus full of beds that runs between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  The route is pretty simple.   Two overnight CABIN buses depart at 11pm; one is heading South from San Francisco and another heading North out of Los Angeles.  Both arrive at 7am at their destinations.
The CABIN overnight sleeper bus waiting for passengers.

When I arrived at 10:45pm the CABIN coach was right were it should be in an empty parking lot just below the Oakland Bay Bridge.  An attendant confirmed my reservation and showed me around the lower level of the bus.  It included a restroom and some booths for those who can't or do not want to sleep.  Upstairs are the sleeping berths.  If I had luggage, it would have been stored by the attendant and not accessible during the trip. 

A basic overnight sleeper berth on a CABIN bus.

Up a narrow stairway you find each side of the bus has lower and upper beds.  With the lower ones you get on your knees and easily slide in.  The uppers are at about waist height, and you just roll in and out.  Either way the space is tight.  I'm 5ft 11 inches and 185lbs.  I would suspect a person 6ft 2 inches and 220 lbs would easily max out the space.  Each berth had an air vent, an AC power outlet, and two USB outlets.  They provided a USB powered reading light.  Other than that, no internal lighting was available during the night.  Opening your curtain would allow some light to enter from the hall.  The bus has WiFi.

Bus converted to sleeping berths waiting for passengers in San Francisco.

As the 11pm departure time neared, I headed downstairs to change in the washroom.  It would be almost impossible for a person my size to do it in the small berth.  I returned to my bed wearing some light weight bottoms and a t-shirt and pulled closed my curtain.   CABIN provides: Pillow, comforter, large bottle of water, ear plugs, a small bag for shoes and personal items.  They also provide a 2.5 ounce bottle of "Dream Water" which is a mixture of Melatonin and other sleep aid ingredients. (You can buy Dream Water on Amazon)  11pm, departure time, but we didn't move...then we heard a voice in the hallway; it was our attendant for the trip.  She welcomed us aboard and encouraged us to relax, get a good night rest, and assured us that she would be available if we needed anything.  We would be leaving in 20 minutes.  At 11:20 the bus began to move.

Screenshot showing our route from Geo Tracker App

And move we did.  When you are alone in a small darkened space, your senses have only one thing to focus on, and that is the movement.  The sway of the big bus was expected as we made wide turns on the first few city streets, then onto the highway.  The signature feeling of bridge decking was obvious as we crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge just minutes after departure.  But the bumpy roads that continued for the first 30 minutes or so made it difficult to fall asleep.  A GPS app, Geo Tracker, tracked the route and speed on my cell phone. 

Route Screenshot from Geo Tracker AppAfter getting used to the movement, I was dreaming sweet dreams, waking only occasionally and falling immediately  back to sleep.  Then the bus slowed dramatically and began making turns.  Is this Santa Monica?  No, we were moving to the other side of the 5 Freeway so that our Southbound CABIN bus could meet the Northbound CABIN bus and swap crews.  This stop makes sense - it allows the crews to return to their respective homes.  Even before we came to a complete stop at the Coalinga/Arenal Rest Area, I was fast asleep.

 Screenshot from Geo Tracker App  Screenshot from Geo Tracker App
You could call it Mother Nature, or maybe physics that caused the next short sleep interruptions.  The images above are the stats from the Geo Tracker cell phone app covering the ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  See the spike on one of the graphs?  Yes, a large elevation bump happens when you approach LA from the North on the 5 Freeway because you pass through a mountainous area known as the Grapevine.  This section of freeway shouldn't be a problem, but the elevation made my ears pop on the way up and on the way down, something I wasn't expecting to interrupt my sleep. 

The Cabin overnight sleeper bus arrives in Santa Monica at 7am.

The last few turns and stops on the streets of Santa Monica, a city on the coastal side of Los Angeles, woke me up and signaled the end of the ride.  The bus pauses here for a few minutes while passengers disembark.  One passenger was still fast asleep and had to be awakened by the attendant.  

View of the Pacific Ocean from the steps of the CABIN overnight sleeper bus.

A million dollar view awaits you as you step off the bus in Santa Monica.  Now that we have some light, I can give you some better photos of the inside spaces of the CABIN bus.

Interior passageway in the CABIN overnight bus.

The 2nd story passageway has an upper and lower berths on both side.  The area has a low ceiling, so watch your head.  At night there is just enough light to see your way to the steps down if you need to visit the washroom or see the attendant.

Upper level berth on CABIN bus.

This is a very small area, but you don't need much space to sleep.  Note that several of the cabins have unblocked windows for safety reasons.  Those passengers are given an eye/sleeping mask to block the light.  My berth had an insert covering the window.  I suggest you bring into your space only what you will need overnight.  I slipped several loose items like my wallet and iPad between the bed and the wall, and piled up my street clothes beside my feet.  The mattress was very comfortable, as was the pillow and bedding.  A single adjustable air conditioning vent kept the temperature just right while I was under the soft comforter. 

Lower level berth on CABIN bus.

TIPS: Bring only what you need into your sleeping space.  If you have too much stuff, ask the attendant if she can store it in a nearby empty berth or downstairs.  Don't expect this to silky smooth ride.  Even on the smoothest road, you will feel some bumps.  I couldn't sleep on my side.  Any slight motion was amplified and I rolled around.  I was much more comfortable on my back or stomach.

Restroom on the CABIN overnight bus.The washroom on the lower level was very, very small.  It was OK for use as a toilet, but as a changing area it wasn't very workable. 

Lounge area on lower level of CABIN bus.

The attendant informed me that if I didn't want to go to sleep right away or if I awoke early, I was welcome to come downstairs and use this seating area.  During my trip, I don't think anyone used this space.  I would suggest CABIN remove one of the tables and create a changing room. 

View of the Santa Monica Pier.

Was the overnight CABIN sleeper bus worth it?  That depends on a variety of factors.  If I lived in LA and needed to be in SFO for a 9am meeting, I would consider it.  Much nicer than getting up at 4am and heading to LAX, or flying in the night before and paying for a hotel.  Or if I dislike flying and didn't want to take the train or regular bus.  For current pricing, check the RideCabin.com website.

NOTE: On this ride I was a guest of the CABIN service and didn't pay for my transportation.  I was not compensated in any other way.  If circumstances were right I would use this service again and pay for it out of my own pocket.

I enjoyed my trip and see the value in an overnight sleeper bus on this route.  Like many things in life, the staff told me the second trip is much more comfortable.

Hotel Metropole, Review of Mini Suite 215, Avalon, Catalina Island, California

Catalina Express boat from Long Beach to Avalon, Catalina Island, California

You can't just jump in the car and drive to the Hotel Metropole.  It takes more planning than that since it's located on Catalina Island, in the city of Avalon, 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles.  A Catalina Express high speed boat is the best bet for visiting this picturesque town and Catalina Island.  

Boat ride to Avalon Harbor and Catalina Island.

These high speed boats leave up to 30 times per day delivering passengers from Long Beach and San Pedro to Avalon Harbor in about an hour. The boats are fast and comfortable, although the ride can be rocky when seas are stormy.  Seats are available inside and outside for that wind in your hair excitement. 

Catalina Express boat arriving in Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island.

Catalina Island was made famous years and years ago in this song by the Four Preps: 26 Miles (Santa Catalina).  Today it's a great weekend getaway from the hectic lifestyle of Los Angeles.   

Beach in Avalon with Casino Ballroom in distance.

It's an easy walk from the dock to the Hotel Metropole. Cabs are available if you have lots of luggage. Along the harbor path you will see several gift shops, restaurants and bars. 

Front, ocean/harbor view rooms at Hotel Metropole Avalon.

The Hotel Metropole offers four mini-suites with excellent views of the ocean and Avalon Harbor. The rooms overlook the street, but you won't hear much traffic.  This review is of Suite #215, which is the lower left room in the above photo. 

Entrance to Hotel Metrople Avalon, California.

The hotel entrance is along the side, just up a small hill. You will notice the golf cart above. Very few traditional cars are allowed on Catalina Island, but golf carts and other small vehicles are popular. You can rent a cart for a few hours and drive around town for fun.  Avalon is a small town, and very walk-able.  

Lobby of Hotel Metropole Avalon CA.

The two story lobby is small and simple. Check in was fast and easy.  Access to room #215 was either by elevator, then walking across the hotel, or the fast way -- exiting to the sidewalk, entering an unmarked side door, and climbing a flight of stairs.

Ocean View Mini Suite #215 at Hotel Metropole Avalon CA.

Rooms at the Hotel Metropole are lovely. This mini-suite is one very large room with a comfortable bed and a romantic fireplace. I've also stayed in a "Superior" room overlooking the courtyard and found it to be equally well appointed. 

Chairs at window in Hotel Metropole.

A cocktail table and two chairs look out over the balcony to the ocean beyond.   Moving the balcony chairs to the side improves the view when inside.  The dark wood floors add a modern, elegant feel to the room.

Balcony overlooking ocean from Mini Suite 215 Hotel Metropole, Avalon CA.

A balcony overlooks Avalon Harbor and the ocean. All four mini-suites at the Hotel Metropole have a similar view, but the second floor units have a balcony above.  So if you want full sun exposure, ask for a third/top floor room. 

View of Harbor & Ocean from Mini Suite #215, Hotel Metropole, Avalon CA.

From the balcony it's easy to spend hours watching the water, boats, and passersby on the street.  This is one of the best hotel room views available in Avalon.   

Mirror artwork in room #215, Hotel Metropole, Avalon CA.

It should be noted that this room is located next to an outdoor bar. After dark the music shouldn't have been an issue, but the speakers for the bar are screwed into the exterior wall that makes up this part of the hotel.  The wall vibrated with the music all evening.  Front desk had no solution.   

Bath room #215.

Bath is spacious with a jet tub and separate glass shower. It also has a sliding door that opens up the view out to the ocean. 

Bath in mini suite #215.

The Hotel offers a variety of basic amenities. You can find more information about the Hotel Metropole on their website.

Balcony rooms overlooking courtyard at Hotel Metropole, Avalon CA.

A few other rooms have ocean views; most have courtyard exposures that are nice. But they are not as spectacular as the views the mini-suites offer. 

Evening view from ocean view mini suite #215, Hotel Metropole, Avalon CA.

Open the window, turn on the fireplace, pour two glasses of wine, and the view from the bed or the balcony will last a lifetime.  

Morning view of ocean and harbor from mini suite #215, Hotel Metropole.

Many visitors leave on the evening boat, only spending the day on Catalina Island, and missing the evening stars and the morning sunrise.   

Classic old Catalina Island tour bus.

A large variety of tours are available for those that want to explore this vast Island.  It is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy, which limits development and tries to keep the area outside of town as wild and natural as possible. 

The Casino Ballroom overlooks the ocean and Avalon Harbor.

Take one of the tours of the area and learn about the history of Avalon and Catalina Island. On the pier -- a two-minute walk from the hotel -- are a variety of water sports and boat tours. A few small sandy beach areas are found along the harbor.  One is just opposite the Hotel Metropole. You might want to ask first before swimming in the harbor; water pollution from the large number of boats has been a problem in the past.  

Swing dancers and a Big Band perform in the Casio Ballroom.

The Casino Ballroom is in a beautiful, historic structure and a must-see for anyone visiting Catalina.   It also houses a movie theater that plays current releases.  Arrive early for the show and take in the beauty of the classic art deco movie house

The high speed Catalina Express boat leaves Catalina Island for Long Beach.

Catalina Island is a magical spot.  It might be just minutes from the City of Angels, but it will transport you back to a time when things were slower and simpler. If you make the extra effort to visit this charming place, you might want to stay at one of the finest hotels in the harbor town of Avalon -- the Hotel Metropole.