With its exotic island setting, sweeping ocean views and almost unlimited activities, it's easy to see why Catalina Island has beguiled visitors for generations. Take an express sea shuttle 22mi/35km across the sparkling Pacific, and then relax in the town of Avalon, a hamlet rich in movie-star history and romance. From there, it's your choice on how you want to play - or not. It's also perfectly fine to simply stretch out and wiggle your toes in the warm sand.

Exploring the island
High-speed vessels depart daily from Long Beach, Dana Point and San Pedro. Cycling is a great way to get around the 76 sq mi. of Catalina. Nearly 90 percent of the island is now protected by the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy, with preserved lands open to hiking and biking. Try Brown's Bikes for mountain bikes; ask for maps and details on daily permits (required) to access the island's back roads and trails.

To explore the back country without working up a sweat, take a guided Jeep tour to see Catalina's bald eagles and imported herd of American bison.

Catalina's aquatic environment also offers opportunities for having fun - and for learning. Experience a watery world during a semi-submersible tour of Avalon Bay. Catalina Express voyages are offered by Discovery Tours.

For another fun way to get around Ca-talina, consider hiring a London cab limo through Catalina Transportation Services.

Classy dining and lodging
The Avalon Hotel lets you relax in spacious, craftsman-inspired interiors; the ocean view from the rooftop is not to be missed. For a central location in the heart of town, try the luxurious Hotel Vista Del Mar.

Fresh seafood is the obvious choice when you're on an island. Try Armstrong's Fish Market & Seafood Restaurant on Crescent Avenue for patio dining overlooking the bay. Dial up the romance at Ristorante Villa Portofno, also on Crescent Avenue, with soft candlelight, warm Tuscan decor and delicious Italian specialties.