Want to stay right on the waterfront? Book a room at the bright yellow Hotel Mac Rae (409 Crescent Ave., 800/698-2266, www.hotelmacrae.com , $239–259). This bit of Catalina  history has been in the Mac Rae family for four generations, and they’ve been running the hostelry since 1920. The Mediterranean flavor of Avalon follows you into the rooms and common spaces of the Mac Rae. Relax with a drink in the bright brick courtyard. You can choose one of the premium rooms that looks right out into the harbor, or a more economical courtyard-view room.
Grab a complimentary continental breakfast downstairs, and either eat in the courtyard or take your coffee and your pastries back to your pretty Côte d’Azur–styled room for more privacy. Catching the afternoon ferry but want to enjoy one last morning in the warm Catalina  water? The Mac Rae has luggage storage and even a public shower for use after you check out.
For a European hotel experience in Avalon, stay at the Hotel Metropole (205 Crescent Ave., 310/510-1884, www.hotel-metropole.com , $175–550). The comfortably cluttered and warmly decorated rooms feel like home almost immediately. You’ll find gas fireplaces in some rooms and oversized two-person whirlpool bathtubs in a few pretty, tiled bathrooms. The beds feel great after a long day of ocean swimming or the ferry ride over from Long Beach. The little extras are nice too from the nightly turn-down service to the L’Occitane toiletries. You can also use the Wi-Fi service in your room and grab a snack from the honor bar.
The Metropole is built in a modern style with a pretty gray paint job. On the roof you’ll find a whirlpool tub with glass walls enclosing its deck, letting you look out over the rooftops into the harbor. The lower-end rooms don’t have much in the way of ocean views, so for a window on the water you’ll need to pay premium rates for an oceanfront suites. You can walk half a block down the street to the oceanside. For extra pampering, make an appointment at the day spa located on the bottom floor of the hotel. Just outside by the back elevator, start a shopping jaunt in the little Metropole center, where you can grab a cup of coffee, or walk down Crescent Avenue for a meal.
The Villa Portofino (111 Crescent Ave., 888/510-0555, www.hotelvillaportofino.com , $215) offers Mediterranean elegance on the Avalon waterfront. The bright-white exterior with red tile roofs invites you inside this 34-room boutique hotel. Guest rooms range from small standard rooms up through immense, lush, individually named suites with fireplaces, soaking tubs, and richly colored furnishings. Amenities include a complimentary continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free beach chairs and towels, and an on-site restaurant. The Portofino’s location is perfect—right on the main drag running along the harborside beach.