Our recent stay at Pavilion Hotel in Avalon was one of the nicest travel experiences we've had. I bought a Groupon for Catalina Express, but then learned later that if you book at one of the higher end hotels (We did. Stayed at The Pavilion) they will pay for your ride over. Since it was our first time staying on the island, we choose a more expensive hotel. I read reviews on Expedia & TripAdvisor that many of the low cost hotels are run down. That may not be the case today, since the Santa Catalina Island Co. has begun a massive campaign to "clean up" the accommodations and attractions. The Pavilion Hotel, though, was near perfection. Very clean, in the heart of Avalon, professional & polite staff, upscale and luxurious. The cost of a standard room w/King was $150 nightly. Well worth it!
The city of Avalon is one mile long. Unless you like eating, drinking, and shopping the only major attractions are water based. We took an interior bus tour (an old person's tour, not the fun open jeep tour) to the Airport in the Sky. It was better than expected. We got to see buffalo, one came within feet of the bus. The Ghost Walk was fun and the Casino tour is a MUST. We also did a semi-sub to feed fish, which was actually pretty cool. The prices on the island are reasonable, both meals and shopping. The main selling point of Catalina Island is relaxation! We felt very relaxed and peaceful the entire 4 days. Watch for special discounts to help with the cost, but don't go too low budget.