Things to Do on Catalina Island

Ocean Recreation: Ocean Kayaking

An Up-Close and Personal Way to Experience Catalina's Shoreline

Among Santa Catalina Island's greatest natural blessings are its rugged, sinuous shoreline and the crystal-clear waters that encircle the island. Possibly no way exists to experience both with greater immediacy than to explore the island's perimeter in a kayak.

The small, slender lightweight watercraft known as a kayak, originally developed centuries ago by the Eskimos, is an easy, fun way to navigate through the water. (And if that "easy," gives you pause, you're probably thinking of traditional kayaks you've seen on TV or in films, into which you insert yourself through a hole and run the risk of flipping over. Not so with today's more easily balanced open-deck sea kayaks.) If you know how to swim and are water-safe, in no time at all you'll be able to paddle your kayak through the water, ready to explore the island's coastal waters.

Catalina-based kayaking companies will make organizing a kayaking trip effortless for you. You can go kayaking for as little as an hour and a half, or all day, or even as the centerpiece of a multiple-day camping and hiking trip. You can even combine kayaking and snorkeling into one doubly fun adventure. Depending on the tour or options you choose, kayak companies will include or can rent to you all the gear you need: your choice of single or double kayaks in a variety of styles and makes; paddles; wetsuits and paddle pants; paddle vests (life jackets); bottled water; and meals for the longer expeditions. Depending on the option you choose, you'll get to explore the waters of the Lover's Cove Marine Preserve southeast of Avalon; Descanso Beach to the northwest of town; Little Harbor on the island's western coast; and other scenic spots.

What can you expect to experience when kayaking? You'll glide above hypnotically undulating kelp forests. You'll see colorful sea creatures, including garibaldi fish and maybe leopard sharks or bat rays. You'll behold tranquil coves and majestically craggy cliffs-and the birds that live there, including bald eagles!

All the while, on organized kayak trips you'll be led and watched over by expert guides trained in CPR and First Aid, many of whom grew up on Catalina and all of whom know it intimately and will warmly share their knowledge with you. Or, with guidance from the kayak rental company, you can plan your own itinerary of explorations. Either way, you'll gain an up-close, personal relationship with the island's shoreline and its natural wonders, making you feel all the more as if Catalina Island is your home.

Kayaking on Catalina Island
Whether you want an organized kayak tour or just want to rent a kayak for your own explorations, plan to call the kayak company as well in advance of your visit as possible to ensure that you get the experience you want.

In order to go kayaking safely, you should be able to swim proficiently and be in good health. No prior kayaking experience is necessary, however: The company will give you all the basic training you'll need and, on organized kayak tours, the guide will look after you to make sure you're getting the most from the tour.

Kayak companies offer a range of boat choices, including single and double kayaks and open-deck and traditional models, with paddles. Waterproof camera bags are also available. They can also provide paddle pants, wetsuits, paddling vests (life jackets). For longer excursions, including overnights and kayak camping/hiking trips, they provide meals, though you'll need to bring along your own sleeping bag. Be sure to bring along sunscreen, as well!

Time to Allow: Two hours to overnight.
Reservations are recommended.
Prices and availability are subject to change.