The Best Hotels on Santa Catalina Island, California
Spend some dollars at the Catalina Casino, or take a trip round Avalon harbor in a sailboat | © Zoonar GmbH / Alamy
So you think you’ve ‘done’ the California coast? You may have driven across the Golden Gate Bridge, walked among redwoods, and boogie-boarded in Santa Barbara. But what about Santa Catalina Island? Here’s our guide on where to stay, bookable on Culture Trip.
This is one coastal gem you can’t reach by convertible: the dream-like Santa Catalina Island lies 22mi (35km) off the mainland, a mountainous island with a Mediterranean feel with a wealth of history, amazing restaurants, and more than a few exceptional hotels that’ll make you feel as if this treasure island is all yours.
The Avalon Hotel on Catalina Island
Courtesy of The Avalon Hotel on Catalina Island / Expedia
Named after the mythical island of Arthurian legend, there’s no better base for exploring Santa Catalina than this pretty, balcony-wrapped pad. A few paces east and you’re at the beach; a few west and you’re learning about history at the Catalina Island Museum. The slots and card tables are waiting up north but a jackpot of a view is absolutely free at Buena Vista Point to the south. Better yet, leave the map on your balcony coffee table and just wander.
4.2/5 (331 Reviews)
Courtesy of Hotel Metropole / Expedia
Just a heads up: picking a room at the Hotel Metropole is a bit of a Goldilocks experience. The Ocean Front Mini Suites may sound small but punch above their weight with a fireplace, king-size bed, and jacuzzi. You’ll find the VIP Wing’s digs a bit bigger, with separate walk-in showers and full ocean views. The Beach Houses are the biggest, however, with their entertainment deck and full kitchens. Which size is just right? We’ll let you decide.
The Pavilion Hotel
4.7/5 (957 Reviews)
Courtesy of The Pavilion Hotel / Expedia
Fourteen steps — that’s all it takes to get you from the Pavilion Hotel onto the sands of South Beach. The hotel’s laidback atmosphere means there’s no judging if those steps turn into more of a shuffle or stumble, especially after the courtyard wine and cheese reception. That said, with an exclusive discount for tours and a daily credit for meals at nearby restaurants, you’ll want to make every minute count.
Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel
Courtesy of Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel / Booking.com
With the beach so close, we suppose you don’t need a heated swimming pool, ocean-view rooftops, or an exclusive collection of fine art and antiques in your hotel. But, then again, you do deserve them. Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel goes the extra mile to make your stay on the island as unforgettable as possible. Need an IEX Helicopter or private-boat charter at the drop of a hat? Say no more.
Courtesy of Bellanca Hotel / Expedia
Looking like somewhere that’s been relocated from the Tuscan riviera, the Bellanca Hotel is all sun-drenched white walls and terracotta tiles. Saunter into a king cabana room, with a patio overlooking the palm-tree-lined beachfront and engage holiday mode. If you do get bored with the views (you won’t), borrow one of the hotel’s electric bikes and explore at your own pace. When the sun goes down, it’s cocktails at the Naughty Fox downstairs.
Courtesy of Aurora Hotel / Expedia
With its blue-tiled roof and splashes of aquamarine throughout its rooms and suites, the Aurora Hotel is as cool and fresh as an ocean wave. If you were ever going to be tempted to go full influencer, this is the place to do it starting, say, by streaming your walkthrough of the Celebrity Suite, panning ever so slowly from the fireplace and bar to the six-head shower in full view of the ocean. Just don’t overdo it; no-one likes a gloater.
Catalina Island Inn
Independent Hotel, Inn
3.7/5 (236 Reviews)
Courtesy of Catalina Island Inn / Expedia
When you have views this good, you don’t want to overcook it on the decor. Thankfully, the Catalina Island Inn walks the line between style and restraint, with its paired-back, beach-chic rooms. Waking up to a harbor view over a cup of coffee on your private balcony will never get old, nor will the strolls around downtown to the Catalina Coffee & Cookie for a midday snack, or plunging into that sapphire-blue sea when the midday heat kicks in.
Hotel Mac Rae
3.9/5 (654 Reviews)
Courtesy of Hotel Mac Rae / Expedia
The century-old Hotel Mac Rae has seen it all. Now in its fourth-generation of family ownership, you’ll be treated to the same hospitality that welcomed World War II troops and Hollywood filmmakers. You’ll start each morning with breakfast in the courtyard then cross the brick Front Street promenade en route to the beach. Before stepping out, ask the staff to detail the rich history of the hotel, the city of Avalon, and the island itself.
La Paloma Las Flores
Courtesy of La Paloma Las Flores / Expedia
We assure you that you won’t mind the quarter-mile walk to Middle Beach from La Paloma Las Flores. A quiet island cottage with a little bit of New Orleans charm, these secluded rooms were designed for uninterrupted afternoon naps. Speaking of which, when you make it back to the hotel after a morning dive, you’re free to use their gear showers and lockers. Snorkeling, sailing, and everything in between are all available with a custom tour package the staff will happily curate to your desires.
Independent Hotel, Bed and Breakfast
Mt Ada | Courtesy of Mt Ada
Mt Ada is a mountaintop mansion and, if that’s not enough of a reason to book a stay at the former Wrigley home, we don’t know what is. Just as you start to take in the little details of Avalon Bay from the wrap-around terrace, a bald eagle will soar through your sightline and leave you wide-mouthed. Indulge in drinks and snacks from the Butler’s Pantry in between fantastically prepared breakfasts, lunches, and evening wine tastings or take your appetite downtown with your own golf cart.
These recommendations were updated on May 25, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.