SANTA CATALINA, CALIFORNIA - In the early days of Hollywood, Santa Catalina Island's sand coves doubled as Tahiti and its mountains stood in for the Wild West. A 76-square-mile island located 25 miles southwest of Los Angeles, Catalina has retained its flair for drama because 88 percent of the place is a land trust. Charter a sailboat on the mainland in Marina del Rey (from $100 per day; marinasailing.com), five miles from LAX, and sail five hours to Catalina. Catalina's port town of Two Harbors provides immediate access to the island's 50-mile network of rugged hiking and mountain-biking trails (daylong bike rentals from Two Harbors Dive & Recreation Center, $53; 310-510-4272). For cozier digs than the berths on your boat, stay at the Banning House Lodge, which has 11 ocean-view rooms (doubles, $216; 800-626-1496). To branch out from the sails and trails, sign up for Two Harbors' annual buffalo-chip contest, during which townsfolk gather at the pier to throw buffalo dung onto the beach. The record toss—187 feet—is waiting to be broken.
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