Catalina Island: 5 Things We Love

This Southern California island retreat is full of relaxing activities.

elevated view of Hamilton Cove on Catalina Island, California, picture
Hamilton Cove offers travelers a glimpse of Avalon Bay.
Ron Adcock / Alamy

Reach Southern California's quiet island retreat with a leisurely one- to two-hour boat ride from Long Beach, San Pedro, Dana Point, or Newport Beach. Stroll Avalon, the isle's hub, for cafés, shops, and stellar views.

1. Island Spa Catalina transports guests back to the 1930s, Catalina's heyday for sunbathing silver-screen stars. A day pass lets you soak in the pool, peep at the Pacific from the relaxation deck, and lunch at Encanto Café. For a fun splurge, try the Seaweed Surrender, a 90-minute scrub, body wrap, and massage combo.

2. Each month, pop-up meals by Zest Catering & Events celebrate the seasons at Hotel Metropole's M Restaurant. Brunch might include a ricotta soufflé or honey crème brûlée; dinners spotlight California's bounty with dishes such as swordfish cioppino and sand dabs in lemon-caper sauce.

3. Learn about Avalon's wealth of historic tiles on a tour of Silver Canyon Pottery just outside town. You'll craft two tiles of your own design, which the studio can ship to you once they're dried and fired.

4. The Catalina Island Museum's splashy new digs feature rotating celebrations of local and international art. Souvenir hunters will delight in the gift shop's selection of jewelry, books, and tile work.

5. Recently spruced up by the Catalina Island Conservancy, the 38.5-mile Trans-Catalina Trail crosses the isle's rugged mountains. Scale Lone Tree Point, a six-mile hike from Avalon, to spot bald eagles, bison, and the evasive Catalina Island fox. From high elevation points, it's possible on clear days to spy the other Channel Islands and the California coastline in the distance.