Late 19th-Century Hotel with Comfortable Cottages and Active Diving Scene
Though Catalina Island may be best known as “the island of romance,” it’s also a renowned watersports destination. Set just off the coast of Southern California, the island is surrounded by crystal-clear water, kelp forests, and abundant marine life. It’s an especially beloved spot among scuba divers, who travel here from near and far. The Historic Hermosa Hotel & Catalina Cottages, located half a block from the beach, provides a casual, laid-back setting for exploring the area. It offers dive lockers and outdoor gear showers for those interested in spending time underwater. A sense of Catalina funkiness has been at the heart of the hotel since it opened in 1896, and that spirit remains very much alive today.
Dotted with mountains, beaches, and coves, Catalina Island offers a range of recreational opportunities. Outfitters launch kayaking and snorkeling tours just steps from the Historic Hermosa Hotel, and more than 200 miles of hiking and biking trails wind through the surrounding hills. You can set up eco-excursions such as zipline tours through the front desk. With the activity package included with two of this getaway’s options, you’ll get tickets to the Catalina Island Museum and the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Gardens, two-hour bike rentals for two, and boat transportation to and from the island.
Villa arches and narrow stairways lead to the hotel’s private cottages. Casual whitewashed furnishings fill the bedrooms. Guests can take in views of the island’s beautiful scenery from the hotel’s second- or third-floor balconies or hunker down with books and coffee in the charming lobby area.
Catalina Island, California: Desert Foliage and Secluded Coves in the Pacific Ocean
The rocky Catalina Island is only about 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles, but it’s a world away from the crowded metropolis. For starters, there are hardly any cars here; golf carts are the preferred way to get around. Much of the island’s interior is unpopulated, home to a vast array of native desert foliage and wildlife. Visitors can hit the many secluded coves that dot the landscape for sunbathing or snorkeling in temperate waters among starfish, sea urchins, and bright-orange garibaldi. Travel + Leisure called these coves “ready-made for romance,” naming Catalina one of the world’s most romantic islands in 2010.
Much of Catalina Island is accessible only by challenging dirt trails, but you can see many of its endemic plants in town at the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden. Some of the featured vegetation can only be found here, including wild tomato and rare Catalina mahogany. The memorial itself was designed to incorporate as much local material as possible, including quarried Catalina stones, blue flagstone rock from the harbor, and hand-painted tiles from a local pottery company.
You can get to the gardens by catching a taxi or tour bus from nearby Avalon, the island’s only major city. This small village, with a surrounding backdrop of steep, amphitheater-like hills, occupies only about 3% of the island. Still, it’s where most visitors spend the majority of their time, thanks to a popular beach, a lively harbor, and a surprising variety of restaurants. The most famous landmark here is the art-deco-style Casino building. Surrounded by the sea on three sides, the circular structure stands at the equivalent of 12 stories tall and houses an art gallery, a museum, and a theater.