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Introducing Catalina Island

Mediterranean-flavored Catalina Island is a popular getaway for harried Angelenos, but sinks under the weight of day-trippers in summer. Stay overnight, though, and feel the ambience go from frantic to romantic. Catalina has a unique ecosystem and has gone through stints as a hangout for sea-otter poachers, smugglers and Union soldiers. It was snapped up by chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr (1861–1932) in 1919, and for years he sent his Chicago Cubs baseball team here for spring training. Today most of it is owned by the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy. Commercial activity is concentrated in Avalon, which is small enough to be explored in an hour or two, so there’s plenty of time for hiking, swimming and touring.

The only other settlement, even tinier than Avalon, is Two Harbors on the remote west coast, which has a general store, a dive and kayak center, a snack bar and a lodge.