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If you’re craving a Mediterranean-style vacation but don’t want to fork over the cash for a flight to Italy or Greece, head to Catalina Island, instead. This scenic, sunny slice of paradise is located just 22 miles off the southern coast of California, and while the island is small, there’s plenty to do here. Thanks to Catalina’s pristine, unspoiled nature and azure, crystal-clear waters, activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, and snorkeling are very popular. Whether you’re looking for the perfect family-friendly destination, a fun place to spend the weekend with friends, or the ideal romantic getaway spot, there’s a little something for everyone on Catalina Island — here’s where to stay when you go.
Best Overall: Pavilion Hotel
Just steps from the beach, in the heart of Avalon, the Pavillion Hotel is our pick for best overall lodging in Catalina. This 71-room mid-century hotel offers cozy, well-appointed rooms that come with all the amenities one needs, including a fridge, complimentary Wi-Fi, premium bedding, sleek LCD TV, iPod dock, coffee and tea maker, and more. The hotel is cheerily decorated with vibrantly colored furniture, whitewashed walls, and light-filled windows. There are also fun communal spaces, including a large fire ring encircled by chaise lounges and lush tropical greenery, as well as evening wine-and-cheese receptions in the oceanfront courtyard. Breakfast at the Pavillion is exceptional and includes a build-your-own omelet bar. Guests get access to the Descanso Beach Club, the Island Spa Catalina’s Wellness Studio, personalized concierge services, and the use of a bicycle during their stay. On all counts — style, comfort, and amenities — the Pavillion Hotel is the best place to stay in Catalina.
Best Budget: Hermit Gulch Campground
If you’re traveling to Catalina Island on a budget, Hermit Gulch Campground is likely your best bet for lodging. Situated in lovely Avalon Canyon near The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens and the Nature Center, this is the only camping facility that’s firmly located within city limits. It’s also near all of the restaurants, shops, nightlife, and other attractions that Avalon has to offer. On-site amenities include restrooms with showers, on-site water hookups, BBQ pits, picnic tables, and tent and equipment rentals. Sleeping in a tent not your thing? You could always opt to stay in one of the tent cabins, instead — these sleep up to six people, and include (if needed) a lantern and propane stove. There are lots of scenic hiking trails nearby; plus, since you’ll be so close to town, you’ll have easy access to grocery stores and other necessities. For true budget lodging in Catalina, Hermit Gulch Campground is ideal.
Best Boutique: The Avalon Hotel
When it comes to boutique lodging on the island, there’s no contest: The Avalon Hotel is easily Catalina's best. Boasting breathtaking views of Avalon Bay and the glimmering ocean waters, the Avalon oozes with elegance and understated charm. Choose from one of several room types that include the Ocean View Room, the Balcony View, and the Garden View — they all feature luxe amenities like a 42-inch flat-screen TV, high-end bath products, a mini-fridge, desk, wet bar, high-speed Wi-Fi, and truly sumptuous bedding. Guests can lounge on the rooftop deck and take in the views with a cocktail in hand, or sit around the crackling fire pit on the Garden Patio. There’s a delicious complimentary breakfast that’s served every morning and consists of bagels, eggs, granola, muffins, and fresh fruit.
Best for Families: Hotel Vista Del Mar
One of Avalon’s most popular hotels, Hotel Vista Del Mar is a luxurious yet family-friendly resort ideally located along Crescent Avenue’s front-street promenade. Families with kids will appreciate that the hotel is just steps away from the beach; there are also complimentary chairs, towels, and umbrellas available for guests. In terms of other on-site perks, the hotel provides a sizeable continental breakfast and (to every kid’s delight) there are milk and cookies served at turndown. All of the elegantly appointed rooms at the Vista Del Mar have ocean views, and if your family needs more space, there are three suites that each have their own separate living and sleeping areas. Each room also has a sleek flat-screen TV and DVD player, and there’s a comprehensive DVD library available if you want to have a family movie night during your stay.
Best for Romance: Portofino Hotel
Scenically situated on Avalon’s oceanfront, the Portofino Hotel bursts with sophisticated European charm and grand, Mediterranean-style touches, like a terracotta roof, a sundeck overlooking the harbor, and a sunny, idyllic courtyard. It’s also the best lodging on the island for romance-minded travelers, thanks to its thoughtful amenities and intimate yet opulent accommodations. Most of the rooms here face the courtyard, though if you’re in the mood to splurge, there are a number of rooms that have prime ocean views and extras like private balconies and marble bathrooms. Couples can sunbathe and snuggle up together on the sundeck while enjoying stunning views of the harbor below or take the hotel’s complimentary beach cruisers for a spin. There’s a hearty complimentary breakfast served every morning, while the Portofino is also located near a slew of gourmet dining spots if you want to eat out for lunch or dinner. For adventurous, active couples who’d like to try parasailing or ocean kayaking, the hotel also offers package deals with Catalina Island Tours.
Best for Luxury: Mt. Ada
Mt. Ada is a spectacular Georgian colonial mansion that’s easily the most luxurious lodging in all of Catalina Island. The former residence of William and Ada Wrigley (who once owned 99 percent of the island), this exclusive hotel sits atop a hill 350 feet above town and commands majestic views of Avalon Bay and the surrounding rugged mountains. There are just six en-suite guestrooms here, each of which is lovingly decorated with fine antiques and the cushiest linens imaginable. Each room does have its own unique charms, however; The Grand Suite features a giant private balcony overlooking the shimmering bay, the Bethany Glen has a fireplace and sitting area, and the Garden Porch is technically an old-fashioned “sleeping porch”. On-site amenities at Mt. Ada include complimentary access to the Island Spa Catalina (there’s a pool, hot tub, and relaxation deck here), complimentary van pickup from the airport, heliport, or boat terminal, and a complimentary “Butler’s Pantry” available throughout the day that includes beer and wine, ice cream sundaes, fresh fruit, mixed nuts, and more.
Best for Nightlife: Hotel Mac Rae
Located on Avalon’s main street, right next to a cluster of the island’s best bars and restaurants, Hotel Mac Rae is ideal lodging for travelers hoping to get a taste of the local nightlife. You’ll be just a 15-minute walk away from Descanso Beach Club — one of the island’s most iconic buildings. This beachside bar is also on the only public beach where you can drink alcohol; in addition, one of the most popular local watering holes, The Marlin Club, is right next door. As far as the hotel itself, accommodations at Hotel Mac Rae are comfy, and guests have their pick between an ocean-view king or queen, a courtyard king or queen, and a patio double twin or patio one double. All of the rooms are newly decorated and include a complimentary continental breakfast, flat-screen TV and DVD player, free Wi-Fi, hair dryers, and air conditioning. If you want to experience all that late-night Avalon has to offer, Hotel Mac Rae makes for the best possible home base.
Best B&B: Snug Harbor Inn
If it’s cozy beachfront charm you’re after, look no further than the Snug Harbor Inn. This quaint six-room hotel is nestled in the heart of Avalon, within walking distance of several eateries, shops, local attractions, and the beach. Each of the six Cape Cod-themed rooms is decorated with lovely wicker furniture, cheery yellow walls, gleaming white woodwork, and light blue accents, and each has a sweeping view of Avalon Bay. In-room amenities include a deep-soaking jetted tub, HD-TV, free movie rentals, king-sized beds, fireplaces, complimentary Wi-Fi, and beach mats and chairs. A delicious continental breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, bread, granola, and coffee is delivered to your room every morning, and in the evenings, guests can enjoy complimentary wine and hors-d'oeuvres in the Nantucket-style lounge. Snug Harbor also offers several customized packages that come with add-ons like chilled champagne, an in-room Swedish massage, round trip boat transportation, and even access to a zip-line.
Best for Business: Hotel Metropole
Centrally located in downtown Avalon and within walking distance of the beach, Hotel Metropole is an upscale boutique that’s ideal for business travelers. The hotel is a mix of spacious guestrooms and oceanfront mini-suites, as well as a VIP wing and an 1,800-square-foot villa, the Beach House. While accommodations in the VIP wing come with a few extra perks (think: whirlpool bathtubs and fireplaces), all of Hotel Metropole's rooms are cozily luxurious, with crisp white linens, hardwood flooring, and beachy-chic decor, and they come equipped with Wi-Fi, a 42-inch flat-screen TV, and high-end bath products. Opt for one of the mini-suites if you’d like a private balcony and panoramic ocean view. At Hotel Metropole, guest amenities include a complimentary continental breakfast and access to the rooftop jacuzzi tub and sprawling sundeck. Conveniently for business travelers, there’s a small collection of shops and services (like a laundromat), called the Metropole Marketplace, located on-site. There's also a popular day spa if you’d prefer to indulge in a relaxing mud wrap at the end of your workday.