If you have never been to Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angels California, it is a beautiful and stunning Island with crystal clear water and tons of great hiking and camping in addition to the water activities provided! On my last trip to Catalina, my girlfriend and I hiked the Trans Catalina Trail. On this trip, we decided to kayak instead of hike, and we checked out the boat in only campsites on Catalina.
Boat in only campsite locations can be found on the Official Catalina Conservancy Trail Hiking map which can be found on the Conservancy Website. If the Conservancy website link does not work, I also uploaded the pdf map they offer onto Google Drive for download here.
This kayak camping trip can get expensive because you are required to take a ferry from the Los Angeles area to Catalina Island. Also, the campsites are not super cheap, and you will most likely have to rent kayaks overnight unless you can find some way to transport your kayak on the ferry...
For Planning purposes, you can check out the ferry information on the Catalina Express Website. For booking boat in campsites call the Catalina Island Conservancy. Current phone numbers for the conservancy can be found on the Catalina Island Conservancy Website.
For this trip we got lucky, the boat in campsite can book up very quickly, and we were able to pick up a campsite in which someone canceled a few hours before we called the Catalina Island Conservancy to book. The reservation we got was for Goat Harbor. We decided to rent kayaks from Descanso Beach club on the Avalon side of the Island.
Our rough estimate of Kayaking distance using Caltopo was about 7 mile:
For a zoomed in look at our planned route:
This trip was absolutely fantastic but we never actually got to Goat Harbor.
When we arrived on Avalon, we called a cab once we got off the boat, not everyone in our group had a backpack so it was easier to throw all of our gear in a cab instead of carrying it awkwardly the mile to the Descanso Beach Club where we would pick up our Kayaks.
Descanso Beach club offers two different types of Kayaks besides either a one or two-person kayak. If you are just renting for the day you get a day kayak, and if you rent for an overnight trip for camping you get what I call the "travel" model which has a nice storage area up front in the hull of the kayak. I was not expecting this and I brought my HMG 4400 Southwest and planned to tie it to the bow of my kayak. When I was showed the storage in the hull I was able to take everything out of my pack and put it inside the hull of the kayak which provided a little bit more protection than if I were to strap my pack to the bow of the kayak. Luckily I had all my gear in waterproof stuff sacks, dry bags, and HMG Dyneema pods.
On this trip, I really enjoyed the HMG Pods (Review to come soon) and the LiteAF Dyneema Food bag performed great! You can check out my LiteAF First impressions here.
The Kayak bow storage is not 100% watertight and I would expect a few centimeters to a few inches of water to get in and puddle in there, so if you plan to put items in there, make sure you put them in dry bags!
Other than getting on the water a little late the first part of our kayaking adventure was fantastic, we had fantastic weather, calms seas and the water was warm! If you have never been to Catalina the water is crystal clear, and the entire time you are kayaking you will be on the lookout for fish. We kayaked over plenty of schools of thousands of tiny fish and saw a handful of orange Garibaldi Fish. We saw more Garibaldi the closer we kayaked to the coastline, if we went away we didn't see as many of them.
As we neared the final portion of Kayaking we came up to White Cove (Lower section of the map below), it was later in the day and we cut across the cove a little instead of hugging the coast at this point. While we cut across the cove the waves got a little bit rougher but not too crazy and once we got across and hugged the coast again it calmed down just south-west of Hen Rock.
From Hen Point to Long point I would say it was medium rough seas for our kayaks and then once we turned the point at Long Point it got really rough. Waves were constantly coming over the bow and swamping the sea kayaks. At one point my girlfriend looked over to me and said, "I don't think I am going anywhere."
Once our group of 4 got around Long Point we made an initial landing at the point marked on the map below and met an awesome group of campers who came in a powerboat to camp ashore. They were having a family reunion, helped us land or kayaks on their rented out beach campsite and made sure we were all ok. As we talked they mentioned they had rented multiple boat in campsites because they thought they were connected but they weren't. They offered us the next beach over so we didn't have to continue all the way to Goat Harbor. We graciously accepted and got back in our kayaks after resting up and ended up at our private beach for the nite.
The campsite was a little cramped for two, two-person tents but we made it work and ended up having a beautiful night on the beach! Southern California often has a sea haze that comes in at night and can block the stars, and this night the sea haze didn't come in! Despite being across the water from Los Angels we had beautiful views of the stars and even saw a couple of meteors because it was the height of the Perseids meteor shower!
Milky way galaxy high in the sky:
Can you spot the bright red planet Mars:
After breakfast in the morning, we took some time to swim in the crystal clear blue water, and spotted a stingray! The cool water in the morning felt amazing on my sour muscles from the long kayak out the day before. It was a nice way to relax a little before the long kayak back to Descanso Beach Club.
On the kayak trip back to Descanso Beach Club, the water was calm the entire way back. When we hit the beach we grabbed burgers beers, and mixed drinks at Descanso Beach club and spent the rest of the day relaxing. After more beer, mint gelato and one last beautiful view of Avalon at night we boarded the ferry and headed home!