Harbor Healing

As part of a five-year, $40 million revitalization plan, Island Spa Catalina (Avalon, CA) recently made its debut as Catalina Island’s first resort spa. Located in the historic El Encanto building, the 15,000-square-foot spa features nine treatment rooms, including the Starlight couples’ suite and two tower suites, El Encanto and Silver Peaks, which are ideal for groups or VIPs. There are also a variety of outdoor experiential areas, such as the courtyard, the soaking pool, and the vista deck; dry saunas; wet steam rooms; a nail studio; a blow-dry bar; a wellness studio, the Spa Shoppe, with a selection of local artisan goods, lifestyle and gift items, and spa products; and the Encanto Café, which offers fresh spa cuisine. “Island Spa Catalina echoes Catalina’s mellow and friendly vibe, and offers a refreshing new venue for guests to connect with nature, unwind, and enjoy treatments that are designed to detox, relax, rejuvenate, and revive, all in a five-star atmosphere,” says spa director Criswell Abel. According to her, the ocean-view relaxation deck, products chosen for their connection to Catalina, and results-driven treatments are just some of the highlights that help the spa stand out.

“When we were creating the menu, we wanted to feature treatments that were island inspired,” says Maureen Fletcher, executive vice president of spa development and operations of American Leisure, the management company behind the spa. “We also wanted treatments that sounded fun.” What they came up with were offerings such as the Shrink to Fit ($130, 50 minutes), a cellulite smoothing treatment; Sun on the Run ($30, 15 minutes; $60, 25 minutes), an organic anti-aging sunless spray tan; and Hot Sand Therapy ($25, 50 minutes; $50, 80 minutes), a relaxing add-on to any massage, and the Catnap ($45, 25 minutes), a restful snooze, which both take place on a heated rose-quartz sand table to facilitate deeper healing. Interestingly, the island is rich in quartz, which explains why some of the beaches feature silvery-grey sand.

According to Fletcher, it was important that the chosen product lines be sourced from the ocean or plants found on Catalina Island. With that in mind, Osea, a marine-based skincare line, was selected for use in the Sea of Life Facial ($110, 50 minutes), which involves a custom cleansing and a treatment mask along with a relaxing facial massage, and Sun Undone ($110, 50 minutes), a skin-soothing facial that calms irritation, replenishes lost nutrients, and boosts the skin’s natural ability to protect itself against environmental damage. The Cactus Cooler ($130, 50 minutes), a hydrating wrap, and Citrus with a Twist ($125, 50 minutes), a body exfoliation, both incorporate ingredients found on Catalina, such as aloe, eucalyptus, lemon, and rosemary.

While most of the products are organic, natural, or vegan, the spa also offers advanced facial therapies that rely on more high-tech ingredients. For example, the Regenerating Anti-Age Treatment ($160, 50 minutes) uses products from Stemulation, a luxury skincare line that incorporates epidermal growth factors to smooth, tighten, and tone the facial contours. Spa-goers can also take advantage of the HydraFacial ($170, 25 minutes; $210, 50 minutes), which treats sun damage, hyperpigmentation, uneven skintone, and more with a potent delivery of antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, and peptides. 

The spa also gives the hands and feet their own special treats. Encouraging guests to create exfoliating body scrubs or whipped body creams, a manicure and pedicure Custom Blend Bar features all-natural, vitamin-rich grapeseed oil-based ingredients from Salt of the Earth. With either the Blend Bar Manicure ($60, 50 minutes) or Pedicure ($70, 50 minutes), guests are given a choice among four signature aroma blends: Catalina Breeze, Island Citrus, Ocean Calm, and Succulent Silk. In addition, they are also asked to select one of three booster-enhanced serums. Their options are Moisturizing, which features hyaluronic acid for an extra surge of hydration; Anti-Inflammatory, which contains maqui berry oil to help improve circulation; and Anti-Aging, which includes lactic acid to smooth and brighten the skin. After the indulgent treatments, guests are given a complimentary Whipped Body Crème to take home.

Because spa-goers can work up a healthy appetite, the spa also provides a nourishing menu at Encanto Cafe. There, guests can enjoy a bite to eat or a refreshing smoothie. “I went with a health and wellness approach for the spa menu,” says executive chef Matt Alleshouse, who oversees food and beverage for the cafe. “Seasonal, fresh ingredients that are high in nutritional value add to the relaxing and pure experience of the spa. As summer rolls near, we will continue to add new elements from the season to the menu, all driven by a health-inspired concept.” Chia Porridge, Sprouted Quinoa and Bok Choy Salad, and Smoked Wild Salmon on Sourdough Bread are just some of the options available. For those who like to imbibe when they spa, there is also a selection of beer and wine (most featuring organically grown grapes).

Another highlight of the spa is the Spa Shoppe, which guests can peruse for a variety of fabulous and fun retail items. Sarong totes from Mud Pie, island-inspired jewelry from Alysha Kurzy, organic cotton yoga wear from Satva, cosmetic bags from Stephanie Johnson, and more make the boutique popular with both guests and the general public.

Staffed with 45 employees in season and 25 the rest of the year, the spa can handle approximately 35 guests each day. According to Abel, her greatest challenge is getting the word out and ensuring the world knows about Island Spa Catalina. Thanks to the beautiful island setting with harbor views, enticing treatments, and delicious cuisine, it doesn’t seem like such a hard sell.

Owner: Santa Catalina Island Company

Spa Director: Criswell Abel

Opened: November 2014


85% female

15% male



15,000 square feet; 9 treatment rooms



Ajna Designs, Alysha Kurzy, Binka, Blinc, Catalina Tile Design, Cirépil, Clarisonic,
CND, Coola, Dr.’s Remedy, Ecru, Emotion Apparel, Himalayan Candles, Hydra, I AM, Illum, Island Spa Signature Products, Jholie, La Bella Donna, Mio, Mud Pie, Organic Male OM4, Osea, R. Nichols, Salt of the Earth, Satva, Spoonk, Stemulation, Stephanie Johnson, Tara Spa Therapy, Towne & Reese, T Spheres, Vita Liberata, Yansi Fugel



Chadsworth & Haig, Gharieni, HydraFacial, Oka B., Open Course and Micros, SpaEquip



Kollin Altomare Architects (Long Beach, CA)



SFA Design – Smith & Firestone Associates (Santa Barbara, CA)



American Leisure (Nanuet, NY)