Many years ago, when we first began visiting Catalina Island, we couldn’t find a hotel that was contemporary and suited our needs, as we might today. Eventually, we began renting a condominium. The condo gave us the good-sized space and amenities of a home at the price of a smaller hotel room.

And then, we discovered the condominium we now own. We fell in love with the wonderful unobstructed view over the entire city of Avalon, across to the mountains, to the Catalina Casino, with the sea beyond.

But one question always bothered us: Why couldn’t we find a first-class resort hotel in this wonderful resort years ago? The answer, we discovered, is that there once was a very famous first-class resort hotel, but it was torn down.

St. Catherine Hotel in Descanso Canyon on the sea is no longer here.

St. Catherine Hotel in Descanso Canyon on the sea is no longer here.


The hotel, the “St. Catherine,” was named after the Patron Saint of Catalina Island. In its day, it was internationally known. Movie stars, athletes, and other famous and important people flocked to the hotel. It was written about, photographed and made newspaper headlines.

The “St. Catherine Hotel” had its own private beach, a very short walk from the world famous Catalina Casino. It had a first class dining room that could seat 1200 people. (We have an old menu in our collection).

St. Catherine Hotel dining room seated 1200 guests

St. Catherine Hotel dining room seated 1200 guests.

The hotel opened on June 28, 1918, on the former estate of the Banning family, some of the original developers of Catalina Island. When William Wrigley Jr. purchased the Island in 1919, the hotel came along with the purchase.

Motion Picturte stars Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Godderd relaxing at the St. Catherine Hotel

Motion Picture stars Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard relaxing near the St. Catherine Hotel.



Great lawn in front of the St. Catherine Hotel. the hotel is gone but the lawn is still there.

Great lawn in front of the St. Catherine Hotel. The hotel is gone, but the lawn is still there.










Unfortunately, with the beginning of World War II, cross-channel boat traffic to the Island was stopped by the Defense Department. The Catalina Island tourist economy came to a halt. The Merchant Marines took over the hotel. After the war ended, there was an attempt to return the hotel to civilian use, but there was much wear and tear. The hotel was very old-fashioned. Many rooms did not have private baths. In 1966, it was decided to tear down the “St. Catherine” and, to this day, it has never been replaced. Suddenly, a world famous hotel simply disappeared.

Nicely landscapeed grounds of the Descanso Beach Club

Nicely landscaped grounds of the Descanso Beach Club.



Today, you can still see the ruins of the old foundation on the hillside overlooking the old hotel’s beach, which has been nicely developed into a private resort beach. It is called the Descanso Beach Club and, to enjoy certain of its facilities, requires a small fee.

Impressive new facilities at the Descanso Beach Club

Impressive new facilities at the Descanso Beach Club.






All the amenities of a hotel are there – except the hotel itself. We have found the restrooms and changing rooms to be very clean and up-to-date. There are showers to wash off the sand. There are no lifeguards watching the beach.






We have enjoyed the very nice beachside bar. There is reasonable food service, an ice cream shop and a few resort shops. A stylish new building is available to host private events.

Kayak rentals are available right on the beach.

Kayak rentals are available right on the beach.


We have also enjoyed renting kayaks and exploring the Island coast, as well as swimming, snorkeling and relaxing on the beach. We have not yet tried the private cabanas available for rent nor have we tried the Massages by the Sea.


The Descanso Beach Club is about a 15-minute walk from our condo on flat ground– or you can hire a cab for a few dollars. A free shuttle bus carried people from Crescent Street to the Descanso Beach Club, the last time we visited.


Private cabanas available for rent at the Descanso Beach Club.

Private cabanas available for rent at the Descanso Beach Club.

So, with the Descanso Beach Club, you have available the facilities of a resort hotel by the sea. Then, at the end of the day, you can return to our Bahia Vista condominium, where you will have a totally unobstructed view from the tallest building in Avalon. From our patio, you can watch the sun set behind the western hills, look over the village, across the bay, and, on a clear day, see the distant San Gabriel Mountains on the mainland (snow-capped in the Winter) ….just as we do as often as we can.

Old Banning home in Descanso Canyon before 1917

Old Banning home in Descanso Canyon, which was torn down in 1917 to build the St. Catherine Hotel.

Descanso Beach Club bar where you can sip by the sea

Descanso Beach Club bar where you can sip by the sea.



This baby seal was stuck on Avalon Harbor sea wall rocks after the tide went down. She didn’t know what to do and was waiting for her mother. We couldn’t wait for high tide to see the uniting of mother and daughter but we learned that the story had a happy ending and that they both swam away.


Avalon Harbor during an off-season day. The boat in the foreground is tied to our 30 foot Avalon private mooring. The Catalina Casino is in the background. Inside the Casino is a world-class dance hall and a lovely Movie Palace where the latest movies are shown.


A member of a group of plein air artists from the east coast who have come to Catalina to  paint the outdoor scenes. Catalina Island offers an unending source of visual opportunities for both painters and photographers. As you can imagine, many movies have been filmed on the island.





Walking along Casino way with the bay in the background and with a cruise ship at anchor. Avalon is a popular stop for cruise boats. Casino Way, at night, is one of the most romantic walks we’ve ever taken.






A sleepy afternoon on the beach in Avalon, one of two beaches we visit. Here, there is a lifeguard on duty.. One of the reason families love both Avalon Beach and Descanso Beach is that they are relatively safe beaches without the large rolling waves of the mainland beaches.





The float platform to swim out to and dive off of. A great thing  to do on a summer afternoon. And it’s not just for kids –





For those who prefer a more relaxed holiday there is a lively bar overlooking Descanso Beach. Try the same bar at night under a full moon shining off the water. It is memorable.






Ocean adventurers returning on rental kayaks to Descanso Beach.

Sunset from the patio of our Catalina Home, Unit C-59 at the Bahia Vista Condominiums. Our guests always leave us nice comments on this view.

Avalon at sunset. This is the view from from the patio of our Avalon, Catalina  rental condominium at the magic hour, just before the lights of the village are turned on..

We love sharing pictures of our experiences on Catalina Island. If you have been a guest renting our Avalon, Catalina Island condominium and would like to share your pictures, please send them in.

Thank You


Where do the wild buffalo of Catalina Island go?  Anywhere they want.

Where does the wild buffalo of Catalina Island go? Anywhere he wants. I shot this as he casually walked passed our jeep


Catalina Island is an incredible world with mountains, the ocean, fascinating plant life, animal life, hiking trails, back country roads, surrounded by 44 miles of beautiful coastline with hidden coves, sandy beaches, underwater gardens, and a fascinating history. Then, when the sun sets, there are plenty of good restaurants, music, entertainment. We’ve been Catalina Island enthusiasts for over 30 years and we still love it.

We’d like to share some photographs from a recent trip into the interior of the island.

On the Track of the Wild Buffalo in the interior of Catalina Island

On the Track of the Wild Buffalo in the interior of Catalina Island


This was the first time we took the Catalina Conservancy Eco Tour and, as you will see, it was special. Because we had explored the interior of the island many times before, we requested, if no one objected, that the tour start on the east end of the island, above Avalon. We wanted to see the ruins of the old Renton Mine, the beginning of the Trans- Catalina Trail, as well as the view west to the Pacific from a high ridge.







Catalina Island Fox. Smaller than a normal fox, they were almost extinct 15 years ago. The Catalina Conservancy has patiently increased their numbers on the Island. This little fellow was posing for me, but I had to use a telephoto lens.






Red dirt roads allow travel by four-wheel drive across the mountainous terrain. Many of the roads were originally built for stagecoaches. For a time, Phineas Banning owned Catalina Island. He made his fortune running stagecoaches in California and as far east as Phoenix. He was also one of the developers of San Pedro.




View of the Casinoa very few people see- from the Interior of Catalona Island



A View of Avalon that very few people see: looking down from the interior mountain at Avalon Bay with the Catalina Casino on your left.






Eagle hospital interior Catalina Island





This Bald Eagle is a patient at the Eagle Hospital of the Catalina Conservancy.

The Conservancy is increasing the number of Bald Eagles on the Island








Eco Tour Jeep on the road in Catalina’s Interior.  The tour begins and ends at the Catalina Island Conservancy in Avalon. The length of the tour varies, depending upon your time, schedule and interests.

Winter scene- Catalina Interior







Island in Winter, waiting for Spring



Road to Airport in the Sky









Colorful gardens at the entrance to Airport in the Sky, where private planes visit.












The amazing thing about Catalina island is that after an exploration of the interior, you

can wrap up the day with a fine meal. Here’s a view table at the Bluewater Grill.