July 12, 2017

Social stratification at Two Harbors on Catalina Island

 Let me begin this article by stating that I adore Catalina Island and I especially love the Two Harbors area on the northeast side of the island.

I always will.

I grew up in southern California and now own an old, yet sea-worthy, Newport 30 sailboat. I am doubly blessed in that each year, I make the 76 nautical mile crossing from San Diego to Two Harbors.

Boat routes from LA to Two Harbors and Avalon on Catalina Island


Set off-shore of the crowded and crazy land of southern California, Two Harbors is a quiet, sleepy refuge. It is beloved by visitors because it has no pretensions, it is relatively affordable to visit and it maintains a salty, sea-faring feel.

Boaters can grab a mooring ball in the harbor. If you don't have a boat, you can take the day ferry in from LA. There are some campgrounds and a few simple options for room and board.

Sleepy and scenic Two Harbors, the gem of southern California.


There is not much happening at Two Harbors and that's what's so special about it. You can sip a beer on the patio of the Harbor Reef bar, you can paddle around or snorkel...and that's about it.

It is an honor to visit this gorgeous harbor. I hope future generations can experience Two Harbors as I have done.

Unfortunately, it is now changing in a manner that caters more to the upper class.


For better or worse, the Catalina Island Company owns all operations at Two Harbors in Catalina Island.

In recent years, this organization has been ramping up their efforts to commercialize and monetize their significant holdings on Catalina island. They have installed zip lines and added spas and resorts in the Descanso and Avalon part of the island. Opinions vary on whether this is good or bad for the island.

This year, the Catalina Island company is focusing it's 're-vitalization' efforts at sleepy Two Harbors.

The Catalina Island Co. has recently installed a new oceanfront at Two Harbors called, 'Harbor Sands'. This includes 6 cabanas, a bar, lots of lounge chairs and 1,900 tons of imported white sands.

Sounds innocent enough? Actually, it sucks and it introduces a toxic, divisive element to the harbor.

two harbors
The new Harbor Sands resort at Two Harbors.

The new 'Harbor Sands' dominates the coastline northwest of the pier and it is very much, Pay to Play.

The whole area is gated off and if you want to walk upon their imported white sand, be prepared to pay 300$ to rent a cabana or 60$ to rent chaise lounges.

These were the prices I saw during the first week of July. See photo below.

harbor sands


Keep in mind, up till a few months ago, all this coastline was open to the public. For many decades, families have been using this space to BBQ food and enjoy the scenic waterfront. It was free to use for all visitors. Now it is off limit to everyone except those paying through the nose to rent chairs, palapas and order over-priced drinks.

harbor sands at two harbors
6 picnic benches remain for those that don't want to play the Harbor Sands game.

new changes at two harbors
Public space on the left, gated off Harbor Sands on the right.


I just sailed out to Two Harbors in early July, I picked up a mooring ball in and spent a week in the area.

Here is what I observed...

All the Two Harbors locals I spoke with are vehemently against the invasive Harbor Sands. I also failed to find one boater who likes Harbor Sands. Instead, all the stories I heard were about long-time visitors being angered by the invasive new development.


Now let me wrap this up by re-stating how much I adore Catalina Island and Two Harbors. I am writing this article as an expression of tough love for the island.


I don't want to see the public waterfront encroached upon. I hate the idea of the middle class having to peer in across the rope-line to see how good the upper class has it.

If island visitors want a super-fancy 'elite' Catalina Island experience, they already have Descanso.

There is no need to introduce such flagrant social stratification onto the sleepy coastline of Two Harbors.

I am hoping the Catalina Island Company will make better decisions in the future.