Catalina Island Hiking and Kayaking

It’s 11 am and our team has arrived at Two Harbors on the north side of Catalina Island. The temperature is 70 degrees with a light to moderate southeasterly wind, ideal for the next phase of our adventure. We walk up to the beach where our kayaks are ready for us to embark on the 14 mile paddle back to Avalon. As we were stuffing our gear into the water tight storage units and double bagging our packs, we overheard the captain of the Catalina Express talking about the small craft advisory that was about to be published. After a brief discussion the executive decision was made to push on and trust our training was adequate for the conditions we were about to experience.  Our paddle would take us down the eastern side of the island past Ripper’s Cove to Lava Wall Beach and into camp at Goat Harbor just before Long Point Beach.

Within minutes of our departure, and while still inside the protection of the harbor, the winds had already picked up speed and we could see the white caps out past bird rock marking the entrance to the harbor. With our 80 liter, 50 pound, packs strapped to the back of our open ended kayaks, we slowly paddled into the open channel. Rounding the point we were now on our own with no one else in sight other than the occasional dolphin and harbor seal. Also, while it was never talked about, we all knew the history of Great White Sharks in the waters surrounding the island and as we ventured further from civilization it was certainly in the back of our minds. At this point we were committed. This is the part of the adventure we live for where there is a real sense of the unknown that gets your adrenaline rushing and your heart pounding.

Out in the channel the conditions had worsened with 5-7 foot swells building up behind us. As the waves came rolling in, our kayaks were constantly being pushed forward down the face of the wave before hitting the trough and submerging us in 60 degrees water. The high winds and rough seas veered the boat off track and pushed us further from the shore. In need a rest, we managed to paddle towards a small secluded beach with a few homes and what we thought was an easy landing sight. Looking for a chance to rest and gather our bearings we were welcomed by several locals who worked at the quarries and call this beautiful stretch of coast home. We must have looked like drowned rats because they immediately offered us a warm fire, food and insisted we stay until we dried off. With energy to burn we got back into our boats, navigated through the shore break and advanced down the coastline to our destination.

The time was now 4:30pm and as quickly as the ocean became an unpredictable roller coaster it leveled off to perfect conditions. The island’s coast is lined with steep cliffs and several rocky outcroppings jutting out into the sea providing a new view around every corner. Just when we thought the views could not get any better, we saw in the distance a remote beach a half a mile away.  Hoping this was home for the night we paddled close and as the sun shone on the clear waters of the cove, it felt like a scene from a movie. Smiling from ear to ear we could not have landed on a more perfect beach.  After managing to stay upright through the churning ocean, we confidently paddled closer to shore and assessed our landing zone.  With less than a paddle stroke to go before the beach our boat flipped over completely and before we knew it we were upside down scrambling to find our scattered gear. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day of unexpected encounters with nature.

The following day of our Catalina Island kayaking expedition was surreal. The water had completely glassed over and created ideal paddling conditions for our trip back to Avalon. With 8 miles remaining we were able to anchor to the kelp beds and snorkel inside the many harbors along the way. This trip was a true test of our endurance and team compatibility. Relying on each and every member to pull their weight and assume a specific role was the key to successfully navigating the rough seas.

If you are looking for a new adventure, Santa Catalina Island is a rocky island off the coast of California. The island is 22 miles long and eight miles across at its greatest width. The island is located about 22 miles south-southwest of Los Angeles, California. Thankfully for adventure enthusiasts, William Wrigley Jr. bought controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919.  His passion for its pristine existence led him to devote over 88% of the island to the Conservancy, ensuring this area is as natural as it was 100 years ago.

Catalina Island is one of many opportunities to explore remote coastlines. Here is a list of our top five island kayaking experiences. Each trip is unique in its own right, whether it’s seeing Killer Whales beaching themselves in British Columbia, or paddling through the white sands of the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, the chance for pure serenity is common amongst them all.

Kayaking with Killer Whales, B.C. Canada –Port Hardy, British Columbia has everything from wildlife to multiple days of exploring the Islands off the coast of northern Vancouver Island.
Paddling the Whitsunday Islands, Qld, Australia – Paddle the champagne waters and walk the untouched silica sand beaches of the world-renowned Whitsunday Islands.
Catalina Island Paddling, California, USA – Enjoy the California coast as it looked hundreds of years ago with multi-day or single day trips.
Patagonia Glacier Kayaking, Patagonia, Chile – Getting up close to the calving glaciers of the Southern Ice field is an amazing site everyone should see.
Island hopping in Belize, Ambergris Caye, Belize – The islands of Belize offer crystal clear cerulean waters and magnificent wildlife opportunities. With the option of a rainforest expedition Belize is a paddler’s heaven.

All of these adventure programs can be found at

Kevin Jackson is the owner of The Southern Terrain (, an elite adventure guiding and training organization. To learn more about their global adventures or corporate development programs call (858) 309-2311 or e-mail at