Lying off the coast of Southern California, Catalina Island (officially known as Santa Catalina Island) is a popular day-trip destination for citizens of Los Angeles. However, with staycations increasing in popularity this year, it is totally worth considering a longer trip to this beautiful location. Most of the island is a conservation site, so there are plenty of hikes and photo spots waiting to be discovered.

That being said, figuring out where to stay isn’t as simple as it first appears! Catalina Island can get pretty expensive, and getting between the two towns on the island can take a couple of hours. To make sure you get the most out of your trip, you’ll have to do some research in advance.

That’s where we come in! Combining our own experience with hints and tips from local experts, we’ve brought you this guide on the best places to stay on Catalina Island. Whether you want to relax, admire the scenery or save some cash on an epic coastal getaway, we’ve got you covered.

So let’s get started!

Where to Stay in Catalina Island

For those of you that just want to travel around without eyeing up a specific neighborhood, we’ve listed our top three accommodations in Catalina Island. If you’re in a rush to find the perfect place, look no further!

Unique Accommodation in Catalina Island – Certified Boat

Certified Boat

Looking for something a bit different from all the condos and villas? Give boat life a shot! Sleeping up to six guests, this unique accommodation comes with a licensed captain so you don’t even have to stay on Catalina Island. It is a little pricey, but with water sports equipment and docking fee included, it’s totally worth it for a more adventurous trip.

Rustic Condo in Catalina Island – Panoramic Ocean

Panoramic Ocean

With a stunning roof terrace, white-washed walls and rustic interiors, it doesn’t get any more stylish than this! Perched on the hills of Avalon, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramas of the surrounding ocean. The unit comes with a complimentary golf cart, so getting around the neighborhood is a breeze. It’s only a few minutes to get down to Hamilton Beach – though you might need a ride back up.

Secluded Hotel in Catalina Island – Banning House

Banning House

Over in Two Harbors, on the quieter side of the island, this charming hotel is a peaceful idyll. On top of a hill, guests are rewarded with gorgeous views of the sea – completely unspoiled by tourists and villas. Hotel guests can enjoy daily shuttles to Avalon, so you’ll still get to stay connected to the main town. The ferry to the mainland is also only a short walk away.

Catalina Island Neighborhood Guide

FIRST TIME IN CATALINA ISLAND
Things to See and Do in Avalon
FIRST TIME IN CATALINA ISLAND

Avalon

Avalon is the largest town on the island, and is therefore the only destination for most visitors! First time? Avalon is a great way to get yourself acquainted with all the best attractions on Catalina Island.

ON A BUDGET
San Pedro
ON A BUDGET

San Pedro

Aside from the frequent ferries to Catalina Island, San Pedro has some interesting attractions in its own right. Often considered a creative alternative to Long Beach, this is a wonderful neighborhood for artists. There are also a few interesting historic attractions.

FOR FAMILIES
Avalon Catalina Island
FOR FAMILIES

Avalon

Avalon is also a great destination for families! With restaurants, coastal wonders and quirky local attractions abound you’ll be sure to find something for the whole family here.

FOR COUPLES
Two Harbors
FOR COUPLES

Two Harbors

Two Harbors is the only other town on the island – and it has a completely different atmosphere from Avalon. The peaceful streets provide the perfect backdrop for a romantic getaway on Catalina Island.

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Top 4 Neighborhoods to Stay in on Catalina Island

There are only two towns on Catalina Island – and they both offer entirely different experiences. They’re about two hours apart, but both have ferry connections to the mainland. For this reason, we recommend picking one base depending on what you want to get out of your trip.

Avalon is the largest town on the island and the main gateway for most visitors. The famous casino is the heart of the town, featuring multiple different attractions. If this is your first time visiting the island, Avalon will give you the best overview of what there is to do. It’s also where you will find guided tours and excursions.

Further to that, we also reckon Avalon is a great destination for families. Despite being the most visited by tourists, there are still plenty of quiet spots and it’s an all-round safe destination. Villas tend to be perched in the mountains, giving you stunning views of the scenery.

The only other town on the island is Two Harbors. This secluded gem gives you an entirely different experience away from the big tourist crowds. With two beaches and acres of conservation sites within walking distance, this is the place to visit to get up close and personal with Catalina Island’s natural attractions. It also has a romantic atmosphere – perfect for couples looking for something unique.

Worried about the cost of visiting Catalina Island? Unfortunately, this concern is totally reasonable. A great way to offset this is by staying on the mainland. San Pedro has ferries to both Avalon and Two Harbors, making it a great base if you’re happy to do day trips – and the regular ferries mean you can tick off both towns.

Still undecided? No worries, we’ve got more detailed guides to each destination below. We’ve also included our favourite accommodation and activity options in each to give you a clearer picture of what’s on offer.

1. Avalon – Best Place to Stay in Catalina Island for your First Time

Avalon-Catalina-Island
Head over to Avalon for some truly unique views

Avalon is the largest town on the island, and is therefore the only destination for most visitors! First time? Avalon is a great way to get yourself acquainted with all the best attractions on Catalina Island. The massive casino was once the largest in California and is still a major attraction to this day.

If you’re staying long enough, day trips are totally possible from Avalon. Two Harbors can easily be reached within a couple of hours by public transport. There are also numerous excursion providers in the area offering trips to the secluded second town of the island.

Private Yacht Charter in Avalon: Certified Boat

Certified Boat

This boat actually departs from Los Angeles, and takes you to Avalon on Catalina Island for an overnight stay. The licensed captain can give you suggestions on other great spots to visit along the way. Tandem kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and fishing gear are included – so there are plenty of opportunities to tailor the experience to your desires.

Modern Villa in Avalon: Hamilton Cove

Hamilton Cove

This gorgeous five-star villa has unparalleled views of the sea, as well as the white-washed buildings of Avalon dotted along the cliffs. The outdoor patio area comes with a small barbecue and seating area – perfect for a relaxing dinner by the sea. Hamilton Beach is only a short walk from the front door, and you’ll also have complimentary access to a four-person golf cart.

Scenic Hotel in Avalon: Pavilion Hotel

Pavilion Hotel

Nestled in the heart of Avalon, this four-star hotel is the perfect choice if you just want to kick back and relax! It’s a five-minute walk from the Catalina Grande Casino – one of the most popular attractions in the town. Rooms combine modern design with traditional finishes to create a welcoming and bright atmosphere. The on-site Descanso Beach Club is the perfect spot for mingling with other guests.

Things to See and Do in Avalon:

  • Head to the casino – it’s not just the home of gambling, you’ll also find a museum, historic cinema, and ballrooms
  • Take a walk through the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden for stunning views across the town and coastline
  • There are plenty of fantastic hiking trails in the area – just make sure you grab a permit before you set off
  • Armstrong’s Fish Market and Seafood Bar is the place to be to sample the best fish on offer on Catalina Island

2. San Pedro – Where to Stay near Catalina Island on a Budget

San Pedro
San Pedro is a quirky destination for art lovers

Ok, so we’ve cheated a little bit with this one! San Pedro isn’t actually on Catalina Island – but if you’re on a budget, you’ll want to avoid the high prices of accommodation on the island. San Pedro has direct ferries to both Avalon and Two Harbors, so you could easily visit both as part of a day trip.

Aside from the frequent ferries to Catalina Island, San Pedro has some interesting attractions in its own right. Often considered a creative alternative to Long Beach, this is a wonderful neighborhood for artists. There are also a few interesting historic attractions.

Quirky Studio in San Pedro: Spanish Studio

Spanish Studio

Nestled in central San Pedro, this quirky studio is built in the Spanish Colonial style. It has a small courtyard where you can bask under the Southern California sun. The city centre is the best district for food, so you’ll have plenty of great restaurants nearby. We like J. Trani’s Ristorante and The Whale & Ale in particular.

Gorgeous Townhome in San Pedro: San Gabriel Mountain Views

San Gabriel Mountain Views

AirBnB Plus properties are hand-picked for their stunning interior design and next-level guest service. This townhouse might be a little pricier than our other budget options – but it is far more affordable than other AirBnB Plus choices across Los Angeles. It benefits from two balconies, giving you unbeatable views across San Pedro. If you want to splurge a little without taking it too far, this is a great option.

Comfortable Hotel in San Pedro: DoubleTree by Hilton

DoubleTree by Hilton

DoubleTree by Hilton is the family-oriented wing of the world-famous hotel chain. Famous for their signature cookie on arrival, this is a great pick for budget travellers who are bringing their kids along. It’s a two-minute walk from the ferry terminal, so you’ll also have quick access to Catalina Island itself. All without having to empty your wallet!

Things to See and Do in San Pedro:

  • Get the creative juices flowing with this unique marbled scarf designing workshop hosted by a local artist
  • Angels Gate Cultural Centre offers a fascinating programme of exhibits, performances and events throughout the year
  • Busy Bee Market is considered by many to be the best deli in Los Angeles – though be prepared for long lines
  • Sample local produce in a fun way with this freshly picked happy hour experience – you get to source and mix the ingredients yourself!

3. Avalon – Best Area in Catalina Island for Families

Avalon Catalina Island
Avalon makes a great day out for the whole family.

Avalon is also a great destination for families! With restaurants, coastal wonders and quirky local attractions abound you’ll be sure to find something for the whole family here. Avalon has a busy events calendar throughout the year, so it’s also worth checking out what’s on before you arrive for a truly fun family holiday.

The great thing about Avalon is that whilst it can get really busy during peak times, the accommodation is nestled among the hills. This gives you a peaceful location to rest at night, making this a super convenient choice for families. It’s also a great stop if you’re considering an epic California road trip.

Budget Friendly Apartment in Avalon: The Big Blue

The Big Blue

Catalina Island is one of the most expensive destinations in California – but if you really want to stay on the island, this is your best chance to save some cash. There’s a sofa bed in the living area, making this an excellent choice for families and groups on a budget. It comes with a gorgeous balcony and designer interiors, adding a touch of luxury to the experience.

Spacious Condo in Avalon: Panoramic Ocean

Panoramic Ocean

There’s no hiding it – this lavish villa is simply gorgeous! It comes with a spacious outdoor area where you can admire the stunning views over breakfast. As a top floor apartment, you’ll have completely unspoiled panoramas of the Catalina Island Coast. The stunning interiors utilise rustic interior design and modern furnishings to create a truly unforgettable space.

Beachfront Bliss in Avalon: Hotel Metropole

Hotel Metropole

Another gorgeous four-star hotel, the Hotel Metropole is located right on the coast. Hamilton Beach is right on the doorstep – so no need to worry about walking back up the hill. Their on-site spa facilities are second to none. We totally recommend getting a massage during your stay! The hot tub is a great spot to unwind in the evenings, and they provide a complimentary breakfast every morning.

Things to See and Do in Avalon:

  • For families visiting Avalon, one of the best places to eat is along the pier – where you can grab hot dogs, fish and chips, and typical casual dining fare
  • Descanso Beach Ocean Sports offer a variety of water-based activities – we recommend the kayaking for unique views of the town
  • Head to Catalina Island Golf Course for some of the best views in Southern California – they also have an excellent clubhouse
  • Snorkelling is an activity that the entire family can enjoy – our favourite spots include Descanso Beach, Lover’s Cove Undersea Gardens and Casino Point
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4. Two Harbors – Romantic Place to Stay on Catalina Island for Couples

Two Harbors
Check out stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Two Harbors is the only other town on the island – and it has a completely different atmosphere from Avalon. The peaceful streets provide the perfect backdrop for a romantic getaway on Catalina Island. Since it has two harbors on either side of a narrow isthmus, you’ll also get your pick of sunrise and sunset views.

There is a safari bus that connects Two Harbors with Avalon – and it’s a pretty scenic route along the coast of the island. Alternatively, Two Harbors has its own direct ferry connections with the mainland, so you can head straight over without having to worry about the local transport.

Eco Friendly Bungalow near Two Harbors: Nauti Bungalow

Nauti Bungalow

Conscious about the environment? This small bungalow is located in an eco-village that is committed to keeping everything carbon neutral. It is located about halfway between Avalon and Two Harbors, giving you a rural retreat without staying too far from the heart of the action. It is right next to the longest white sandy beach on the island – and also one of the most secluded.

Luxury Camping near Two Harbors: Whites Landing

Whites Landing

This glamping tent is located within the same complex as the property above – but is a better option for those looking for something a little more adventurous. It’s also more budget-friendly, so ideal for couples looking to save some cash. Over on the beach, you can hire kayaks and snorkelling equipment – or head off on a hike around the centre of the island

Spacious Hotel in Two Harbors: Banning House

Banning House

Right on top of the hills of Two Harbors, this laid-back hotel has beautiful views of both sides of the isthmus. The spacious rooms come with hardwood floors and private patios. Guests are offered complimentary bicycle hire – a great way to travel around this remote part of the island. We also love the 2-hour sightseeing shuttle connecting the hotel with Avalon.

Things to See and Do in Two Harbors:

  • You can hire kayaks and bikes from small equipment stores located along the coast – a great way to take in the natural scenery
  • Harbor Reef Restaurant is the only sit-down restaurant in the town – offering stunning views and a decent menu
  • Simply relax on the beach – the lack of things to do in Two Harbors is part of its charm, making it an idyllic getaway destination.

Final Thoughts on Where To Stay in Catalina Island

If you’re travelling around Los Angeles, you have to check out Catalina Island! The vast conservation site that makes up most of the island is full of unique hikes, stunning scenery and picture-perfect photo stops. Ferries to the mainland are frequent, and with staycations becoming hugely popular this year, it’s absolutely worth taking an extended trip.

Our favourite destination has to be Avalon! It’s the only major town on the island, so has everything you need. It can get a little expensive, but it’s totally worth it if you’re looking for a luxurious getaway this year. If you can, we recommend staying up in the hills for unbeatable views.

Two Harbors is an excellent alternative if you’re looking to get away from the big tourist crowds. San Pedro has fast ferry connections to both towns, so you can easily take two separate day trips to each for completely different points of view.

Finally, if you are struggling for accommodation, check out some of the hostels in Los Angeles! Day-trips to Catalina island are awesome too, and definitely worth it!

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

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