Last Updated on May 9, 2023
Stepping off the ferry, I see a bellman from The Pavilion Hotel, a luxury Avalon, Catalina Island hotel, holding up a sign with my husband’s and my name on it.
“Welcome to Catalina Island, Mr. and Mrs. Kompanik” he said with a big smile. “I’ll take your luggage from here.”
Catalina Island is located about twenty miles offshore from the traffic jams and urban sprawl of Southern California. It feels a continent away. Accessible only by boat, plane or helicopter, the remote island is a perfect place to escape.
Twenty-two miles long and 8-miles at its greatest width with evergreen-shrubbed hills dotted by colorful summer homes, Catalina Island is surrounded by azure waters. Arriving in Avalon at the island’s main harbor town, we immediately noticed how much the picturesque seaport village reminded us of the Mediterranean islands we’ve visited.
Catalina Island the Pavilion Hotel
Avalon Catalina Island hotel properties range from sophisticated boutique hotels to simple bed and breakfasts. Some visitors even prefer Catalina’s rustic campgrounds.
My husband and I stayed 14 steps from the beach in the heart of Avalon at the Catalina Island Pavilion Hotel. This Avalon, Catalina Island hotel is the epitome of casual ambience. Tastefully appointed island-inspired rooms and suites surround a lush courtyard with swaying palms and tropical flowers.
The Pavilion Catalina Hotel’s 73 rooms range from standard and premier doubles to deluxe and premier kings. Colorful Catalina Island prints don the walls and bathrooms feature designer toiletries.
Deluxe rooms also include a balcony or private patio. With premium bedding and soft down comforters, peaceful slumber comes easily here.
The Pavilion Catalina
Lounge chairs and umbrellas scattered throughout the Pavilion Catalina inviting guests to sit a spell and take in the laid-back island vibe. An outdoor fire pit area facing the ocean is immensely popular as evening temperatures can dip to sweater weather.
Each afternoon on the patio, the Pavilion Catalina offers a complimentary happy hour wine and cheese reception that’s quite impressive. A wonderful hot breakfast buffet including made-to-order omelets is also included with the stay.
We found service at the hotel to be unhurried and impeccable. Staff is extremely helpful with suggestions for places to dine and play and there is a concierge on site as well.
Though there’s no spa on property, the nearby Island Spa Catalina offers a range of treatments and fitness classes.
Harbor Town of Avalon
Avalon is the island’s main harbor town where most visitors disembark from their boats or ferries. Two Harbors is the second and much smaller resort village located on the wilder side of Catalina.
Cars are scarce on the island as the number of vehicles is limited and residents wait years to obtain a vehicle permit. Walking, bikes and golf carts are the principal forms of getting around.
Avalon is an easily walkable town with a lovely ocean promenade. Charming streets veering off the central square are filled with a myriad of fascinating boutiques and restaurants.
If you’re into history, don’t miss taking the “Behind the Scenes Casino” tour. Catalina’s premier citizen, chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., commissioned the construction of the island’s most glamorous iconic landmark, the Casino. This massive edifice isn’t a gambling casino at all.
Built in 1929, the majestic 12-story circular Art Deco structure standing watch over a yacht-filled harbor takes its name from its Italian meaning – gathering place. It’s a true journey back to the Big Band Era.
Dining in Avalon
If you only dine at one restaurant on the island, make it Avalon Grille. Situated on the waterfront, it offers stunning views of Avalon Bay and is only a 10-minute walk from The Pavilion Hotel.
The menu features contemporary American cuisine with a focus on fresh seafood, steak, locally sourced produce, and seasonal ingredients.
What to do in Catalina Island
One of the best ways to navigate the island’s mountainous terrain, steep curves, and inclines is by electric bike, available from Brown’s Bikes on the waterfront.
There are more than 20 miles of paved streets through Avalon and its surrounding hillsides, leading to unparalleled views of the island and the Pacific Ocean from up high. You’ll be so glad you explored the island by bike. It’s one of our favorite ways to get around.
Golf cart rental is another great option when venturing further out. There’s so much incredible coastal scenery to explore and our golf cart gave us the freedom to lug our camera, pack a picnic lunch, and enjoy all the beauty of the island.
With a preplanned 12-mile scenic route highlighting the must-see stops, it seemed that each pull-off along the way featured a breathtaking vista more incredible than the one before.
Catalina Island’s waters are clear, but cold. If you plan to do any snorkeling or diving, you’ll have to don a wet suit unless you’re used to these frigid temps. Water sports are popular here including kayaking and stand-up paddling. Zip-lining tours allow visitors to soar through the island’s stunning landscape while enjoying panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean.
The island’s stunning coastline can also be seen by boat. There are several companies offering tours, including glass-bottom boat and semi-submarine tours and sunset cruises.
The Catalina Island Conservatory is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the island’s natural resources. Visitors can take a tour of the conservancy’s nature center, join a guided hike on scenic trails with breathtaking views of the island’s rugged terrain and coastline, or explore the island’s rugged interior on a Jeep trek.
We loved the sign in one of Catalina’s boutique shops that read “Paradise was always over there, a day’s sail away.”
Catalina Island is a wonderfully surprising piece of paradise and a stay at the Pavilion Avalon, Catalina Island hotel puts everything it has to offer at your doorstep.