Best Catalina Island hotels
Splurge top pick
The Avalon Hotel is the kind of island style home-away-from-home that you’d expect in Southern California: elegant, comfortable and thoughtful with a B&B vibe, but close to the beach and far from pretentious. This beautiful Craftsman-style hotel is small (only 15 rooms), which makes the amenities that much more enjoyable. Take a bottle of wine up to the rooftop patio at sunset (coffee in the morning is just as delightful) or relax with a book in the garden courtyard (complete with a koi pond, if you’re into that sort of thing). There’s a free continental breakfast, and the front desk loans out laptops, GPS units and binoculars, too. The hotel staff is friendly and full of good local recommendations. Make sure to ask about the local artists whose pieces hang on each floor of the hotel.
Budget top pick
This beach hotel is on the main drag—if you can really call it a main drag—of Avalon, which means it’s across the sidewalk from the beach and next to many of the island’s best restaurants and bars. It’s been owned by the Mac Rae family since the 1920s when Wrigley owned 99 percent of Catalina, and from your first steps in the hotel you’ll be reminded of the island’s history. A collage of historical photos line the walls of the street entrance. Your room will probably also have a painting by Margaret Mac Rae, one of the original owners (and great grandmother of the current owner). This is the kind of beach hotel where you won’t get dirty looks for walking around with sandy bare feet. The rooms are comfortable enough, but you’ll probably spend most of your visit out in Avalon. Perhaps best of all: If you want one more dip in the ocean post-checkout but before your ferry leaves, there’s a complimentary restroom and shower. That’s thoughtful.
You can’t miss the Pavilion Hotel—it’s one of the first things you see as you walk from the ferry into Avalon. The lovely outdoor patio is sandwiched between two small buildings, one housing the front desk and the other a cozy breakfast room that doubles as a complimentray wine and cheese station in the late afternoon. There’s no pool here, but lounge chairs and umbrellas surround an expansive patch of green grass that’s almost as good (and the ocean is right across the street). The rooms are sizeable and comfy, with silky sheets, flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. Don’t be shy to talk to the concierges—they’re some of the nicest on island, and can help you set up almost any tour, reservation or adventure during your stay.
This charming, six-room inn—in the heart of Avalon and only steps to the beach—blends old-school charm with contemporary style and top-notch amenities. Case in point: Hot continental breakfast is brought to your room, comfy beach towels and chairs are on hand for trips to the sand, and the hotel’s lounge offers complimentary wine and hor d’oeuvres. Other highlights include free Wi-Fi, in-room fireplaces and king-sized beds in every room. The feel is more New England summer than SoCal, which is actually rather refreshing.
If you want to look down your nose on Avalon and Catalina Harbor, Mt Ada is the only place you should stay. The gorgeous old mansion is the former residence of William Wrigley Jr. and his wife Ada, who once owned 99 percent of Santa Catalina Island. It was converted to an inn in 1985 and it’s now the island’s most exclusive inn (at 92 percent occupancy year-round, according to the front desk). If you stay there, count on magnificent views of Avalon and the mountains, plus your own private van ride from the harbor up to the inn and a private golf cart in case you want to mix with common vacationers or island-folk in town. Don’t expect a warm welcome if you hike up the hill to try and enjoy the awesome view from there—you can, however, book a lunch reservation without staying at the hotel.
Hotel Metropole has all the poshness of an island retreat without too much snobbery. The location, above a quaint shopping plaza, is discreet and the rooms are spacious and luxurious. And, like any good island hotel, you can count the steps from the front entrance to the beach. Whether you’re looking for an affordable winter getaway or an all-out weekend of luxury, Hotel Metropole offers a range of comfortable and centrally located options.