If you plan to stay overnight, be sure to reserve a room in advance because most places fill up quickly during the summer and holiday seasons. There are only a handful of hotels whose accommodations and amenities actually justify the rates that they charge. Some are downright scary, so book as far in advance as possible to get a room that makes the trip worthwhile. Don't stress too much over your accommodations, as you'll probably spend most of your time outdoors. Keep in mind that the best time to visit is in September or October when the water is warm, the crowds have somewhat subsided, and hotel occupancy is easier to come by. If you're having trouble finding a vacancy, try calling the Catalina Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau (310/510-1520); they keep daily tabs on last-minute cancellations. It's also easy to go the home-rental route.
Any hotel you choose in Avalon will be within walking distance to everything. Ones set back from the water may be slightly uphill but will be more likely to have views. Pavilion Hotel (877/778-8322; www.visitcatalinaisland.com), a 71-room, two-story inn with a courtyard that opens out to Crescent Avenue and the water, is one of the top places to stay. Service is strong (free wine mixer every afternoon), beds are big with rich linens, and there are fire pits to enjoy after dark. (Eerie trivia: Natalie Wood spent her last night on earth here.) Continental breakfast is included, and eaten in the open air facing the harbor. It's $180–$390, depending on the season, plus another $25 nightly as a facilities fee. The Avalon Hotel (310/510-7070; www.theavalonhotel.com; $195–$499, depending on season and sea view) has a leafy patio, central location, and careful service that are all grade-A. The most expensive rooms, like 306 and the ones ending -01, have their own balconies, and having wine with your loved one as you look out at the water may be the most romantic things ever. Portofino Hotel (310/510-0555; www.portofinohotel.net; around $200) has a cute location on a corner by the water; rooms are modestly sized and many open onto a shared patio, and it's generally well-run. Guests like people-watching from the sun deck. If you're really splashing out, you can stay in William Wrigley's own island home, Mt. Ada (877/778-9395), on the hilltop overlooking town. It's luxe to the max and has a view to make you swoon (and high price to keep you knocked out—usually more than $500 a night).
Inexpensive — Our recommended choices for inexpensive lodgings are Hotel Catalina (800/540-0184 or 310/510-0027; www.hotelcatalina.com), a well-maintained 1916 verandah hotel just a half-block from the beach, with tons of charm, family cottages, a courtyard with beautiful stained glass, and large verandas with bay views. It's $115 to $265 based on whether you can see the water, plus a family room and a grand suite.
Hermit Gulch Campground (877/778-1487; www.visitcatalinaisland.com), one of Avalon's three campgrounds, can be crowded and noisy in peak season. Campsites can be tough to secure, especially when hotels are booked, so it's a good idea to make reservations in advance. The walk to town and back can be draining, so hop on the red trolley that runs you back and forth to town for a couple dollars each way.
Zane Grey, a Hopi-style pueblo built in 1926 and former home of American author Zane Grey, used to be a top choice, but it's been under total renovation. Check to see if it's back in service. It's situated uphill, above town.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.