Kayaking is one of the most popular ways to see otherwise unreachable parts of Catalina.
Rent a kayak, or if you’re not confident in your own navigation abilities, take a tour with a reputable company. Descanso Beach Ocean Sports/Catalina Island Kayak & Snorkel (310/510-1226, www.kayakcatalinaisland.com, $40–80) offers several kayak tours to different parts of the island. You don’t need previous river or sea kayaking experience to take these tours, since double-sized, sit-on-top kayaks make the trip easy and safe even for total beginners and small kids. But if you are a rescue-certified sea kayaker, the folks at Descanso Beach also have an array of lean, sleek, enclosed ocean kayaks for advanced paddlers.
This company offers regular, year-round trips to Frog Rock (2 hours), Fox Canyon (3 hours, includes a nature walk), and Willow Cove (half-day excursion with snorkeling and hiking). All trips start north of Avalon and the Casino at Descanso Beach Club.
Another kayak tour provider, Wet Spot Rentals (310/510-2229, www.catalinakayaks.com, $40–150) specializes in a full-day land and sea tour that includes both kayaking and an auto tour into the Catalina backcountry. After a van trip and nature tour at the airport on top of the hill, you’ll travel down to the less-traveled windward side of the island. You’ll get a rare opportunity to kayak on the other side of the island from Avalon, exploring the coves and cliffs around Little Harbor.
A brief portage and hike takes you to a waterfall. This fabulous, nearly whole-island tour takes all day, and lunch, water, and all equipment (including sit-on-top beginner kayaks) are provided. Wet Spot also offers several shorter kayak expeditions; they’re a great operator if you want to combine kayaking with snorkeling the reefs of the leeward (Avalon) side of the island.
These operators also rent kayaks to individuals (you’ll have to prove yourself capable to rent an enclosed sea kayak). They also have an array of snorkel equipment, and you can take a kayak out for some fabulous fish-watching and even skin-diving.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition