If you’ve never visited or researched Catalina before, you may think it’s a small, uninhabited island off the coast of Los Angeles. Standing at the shore of Long Beach or San Pedro you can barely see the silhouette on the horizon. Not knowing any friends who’ve been there, I thought it was something you could see in a morning and then move on, I was very wrong.
Truth is, Catalina is one of California’s hidden gems and it’s only accessible by cruise, ferry, helicopter, or personal boat. There are two main cities on either side of the 75 square mile island and between them an estimated 5,000 people call it home. The local population is made up of retirees who enjoy the sea breeze and quiet nights and hard working individuals who help their thriving tourism industry.
After ferrying across the Pacific early in the morning, we joined over one million people to visit this year. We decided to travel to Two Harbors, a much smaller town made up of only 10% of the island's population. This is known to be a nature lover’s choice instead of the busy, tourist filled shopping paradise that is Avalon on the other side of the island.
The Beauty of Simplicity: Two Harbors, Catalina
After docking we quickly understood the nook that was Two Harbors. This area was sat in a narrow part of the island with a harbor on either side and in between them was one restaurant, a general store, a school, a set of public restrooms, a small B&B or two, and a handful of houses to give shelter to the 150 souls that live there. What existed around this town was a hikers/campers Valhalla.
“Hills” may be a bit of an understatement, but the way that the mountains hugging two harbors roll into each other seems too beautiful and symbiotic to be referred to as mountains. They burst forth on either side of the village and seem endless. When taking the path right from the dock through the beach and up the hillside you will come upon a fork in the road that will either climb the peak or sneak around the side to a well hidden yacht club not visible from the rest of the island.
These hills are absolutely breathtaking and made us think of Lord of the Rings or any other adventure movie you generally lead to. It’s no wonder campers take to them for weeks at a time, there are so many peaks to climb and so many views to be had. The trails are; however, poorly marked and the maps you can get from local shops barely help, but with perseverance you can find the best view in Catalina atop a hill, swinging in a hammock, under a beautiful tree canopy.
Since it was one of our birthdays, the local snorkel/scuba shop gave us a two-for-one deal on snorkeling gear and we took to the water. I don’t do well with cold water at all, but I sucked it up and plunged into the harbor anyways. What lay beneath was beautiful sea life as far as you can see. Small fishes swim around you in the barnacled, coral filled rocks in the harbor. Large schools of fish and eels dance like cat and mouse under the pier. Monstrous rays effortless float about minding their own business, one of the seas most beautiful creatures. This was all accessible by snorkel, I can only imagine what awaits in the deeper waters for those who scuba.
When visiting any sort of island or waterfront city, always bring your Helix Towel to keep you dry and warm on your adventure!
Always Be Adventuring