Kayak Camping

Kayak Camping


Planning Your Own Adventure


Santa Catalina Island is a part of Los Angeles County, 21 miles south of the Port of Los Angeles. The majority of the island (88%) is owned by the Catalina Island Conservancy, and will never be developed. Camping by kayak is one of the best ways to enjoy this natural environment.

Since the island is privately owned and protected, all camping must be done in approved campsites. These are Established Campgrounds or Primitive Boat-in Campsites. Please have a couple back-up plans in case your first choice campground or camp sites are not available.

There are five Campgrounds: Hermit Gulch (in Avalon); Black Jack (in the pines near the center of the island); Two Harbors (on the lee shore at the village of Two Harbors); Parson’s Landing (near the west end, still on the lee shore); and Little Harbor (on a protected bay on the windward side of the island). All but Hermit Gulch and Black Jack can be reached by kayak. All the campgrounds are reserved through the Santa Catalina Island Company, online at www.visitcatalinaisland.com  – you may reach them by telephone Mon – Fri. at their Two Harbors Visitor Services office for assistance in reserving campsites at 310-510-4205 (be patient and keep trying), they also schedule the Safari Bus (which runs between Two Harbors and Little Harbor).

There are also eleven primitive Boat-in beach Camp sites, all on the lee shore between Avalon and Two Harbors: Willow Cove, Long Pt. Beach; Italian Gardens A,B & C (3 separate beaches, NOT on the same beach with each other); Goat Harbor; Cabrillo; Gibraltar; Lava Wall; Paradise; and Rippers. For descriptions and other information, please check out our Kayaker’s Map, and the Primitive Boat-in Campsites website at www.CampingCatalinaIsland.com.  Online reservations must be made in advance on the Santa Catalina Island Company website, or by calling the phone number listed above.


Kayaks are easy to paddle, can carry all your equipment, are easy to haul ashore in just about any island nook for a rest stop or opportunity to snorkel. Even novice paddler’s will find the paddling an easy challenge. On our Kayaker’s Map you’ll see various notations regarding weather, keep these in mind as you plan your trip. For families, double kayaks are helpful for paddling with children, but keep in mind that the sit-on-top double kayaks have a bit less below deck storage for campers’ gear. Therefore, we suggest using as many single kayaks as you can, and perhaps only one double boat for every two singles. The more gear you can stow below, the less tippy the kayak will be.

Sleeping bags: we recommend a back-pack size with synthetic stuffing (keeps you warm if it gets wet)- just like back packing, the more lightweight and compressed your equipment, the better. Line your stuff sack with a trash compactor bag (heavyweight plastic) and stuff your sleeping bag into it first, tie off, then cinch your stuff bag tightly.

Stoves and lanterns can be ultra-light equipment if you already have it, but depending on the size of your group and length of your trip – a two burner propane “Coleman” stove may make life easier. One will fit in the storage compartments of our single kayaks. Double trash compactor bags should protect it. Briquets may be helpful, but keep in mind there is no use of starter fluids or gasoline allowed on the island- briquets must be burned in a metal container (BBQ). Some of the Boat-In sites have fire rings with grates for cooking and small fires.  Because of extreme fire danger, and our remoteness, no fires are allowed at sites that are not equipped with these metal fire rings.  L.A. Co. Fire may determine there will be no fires during 2017, due to the extreme fire danger and high fuel load after the much-needed rains.  We’ll keep you posted.

Clothing & personal items: “Be Prepared” for any type of weather, it can change rapidly and is absolutely unpredictable. Have clothes for hot sun and cold winds. A change of socks and shoes for night. Synthetic materials are best on the water as they dry fast and continue providing warmth even if damp…polar fleece outerwear, nylon underwear etc. Cotton sweatshirts, if they get wet, will be worthless (and heavy). A lightweight windbreaker is helpful tied on deck for instant protection if the breeze should come up. DON’T FORGET hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, sting-eze and antihistamine if you have members of your group who are sensitive to yellow jackets, which are generally more plentiful during dry years as opposed to wet years. In years’ past we noticed that very perfume-y sunscreens (fruity ones, coconut etc.) seemed to attract them. For hikers, bring hiking boots and wear long pants – like the mainland, rattlesnakes do live on Catalina – stay on trails wherever possible, watch for cactus. For fishers – bring your California Fishing License and gear and try to angle up a fresh meal! Check out where the new Marine Protected Areas are to make sure you don’t invite an infraction, see Calif. Fish & Game website www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/scmpas_list.asp   Snorkel gear is a must, Catalina’s clear waters will astound you…look for kelp and rocks for the best habitat and don’t be afraid to try spots that aren’t on the map (some are still secret).

Dry Bags for Gear Stowage: Pack your supplies & clothing in dry bags available for rent ($4 each) at DBOS. Remember to keep your personal items to 2 large paper grocery bags-worth & you’ll have no trouble getting everything into your kayak. For campers we rent many different size bags as follows: XS (for personal items, or carry snacks on deck) 6” diam.x10” high (8 liters); Sm. 7.5” x 15” (10 liters); Med. 9.5” x 18” (21 liters) These all fit easily below deck. The more smaller sized dry bags, the easier it is to pack your kayak. Another item that comes in handy is a very lightweight (nylon parachute) tarp. This can be spread on the beach as a clean place to organize your gear before packing your kayak and for unloading at your campsite. For deck-loading on the double kayaks we have XL drybags 12.5” x 28” (57 liters). An alternative is to double bag in heavy trash compactor bags and hope they don’t snag on something, if you have any stuff sacks to put around the plastic bags you’ll, hopefully, eliminate that possibility. Double zip-lock bags are great too, just handle them carefully so that you don’t poke a hole in them.  Bring extras, including extra trash bags for – your trash.


You can use back-pack type meals, or go gourmet. People get hungry with the combination of sun, sea and exercise so bring lots of food & snacks! Here are some menu ideas from our own trips…the key is the fresh produce. For your own trips, remember that you must pack up and remove all of your trash, so eliminate extra packaging before you leave the mainland. Ice chests don’t really fit in kayaks, they need to be lashed down on top (bring bungee cords!) and remember about that higher center of gravity which may present a greater opportunity for tipping. We use collapsible, insulated soft coolers- and freeze any food items we can to keep the interior space cold for a few days.

•Chiliquiles (eggs, cheese, salsa, tortillas)
•Quesadillas (corn or flour tortillas, ortega chiles, salsa)
•Bagels with cream cheese & jam or sliced tomato, onion,
fresh basil, capers
•Cream of Wheat, raisins & honey
Coffee, hot chocolate, herb & black teas
don’t forget the espresso maker
fruit juices

•Sandwiches or Wraps
Pita bread, flour tortillas, bagels
peanut butter & jam
lunch meat & cheeses
sm. indiv. tuna tins or sardines
hummus spread
tomato, onion, sprouts, cucumber
mayo & mustard

SNACKS: (These are put in XS drybags and carried on kayak deck for quick energy)
Energy bars, jerky,
pretzels, string cheese sticks
trail mix, hard candies
carrot/celery sticks
oranges, apples
indiv. sport drinks or fruit juice

•Pasta with chicken breasts (or vegetarian variation)
including: shallots, green & red bell peppers,
squash, garlic, mushrooms, fresh basil
French bread, butter, fresh parmesan cheese
•Couscous with turkey or chicken apple sausage curry
(or vegetarian variation)
peppers, broccoli, onions, almonds, coconut, raisins
Sourdough rolls or bread, butter
•Chili (can be made ahead and frozen to keep other items chilled)

•Soup & Sandwich (for a late Friday night meal)
“Trader Joe’s” individual soups 1 or 2 each (just add hot water)
Variety of sandwich fixins including: lunch meats, cheeses,
vegetables, hummus
bottled water

Baked apples w/ cinnamon or banana boats w/ nuts & chocolate

The more you can prepare ahead of time and freeze, the more time you’ll have for fun & relaxing, plus the added bonus of frozen “done ahead” meals helps keep your sodas cold.

Figure one to one & one-half gallons of fresh water per person, per day! Each paddler should have a personal water bottle on deck which can be refilled in camp. It is important to drink water while paddling! They say a liter an hour combined with an energy bar snack, or drink an electrolyte-replacement drink to keep your energy level up and save you those sore, tired muscles! A sun shower, although heavy, is a treat for rinsing hair after days of snorkeling. (Water weighs about 8 lbs/ gallon). The Campgrounds (except for Parson’s Landing) have fresh tap water. BOAT-IN SITES DO NOT HAVE WATER. Purchase gallon-jugs in Avalon or Two Harbors, they stash under your seat, (below deck) in both single and double sit-on-top kayaks.


The single kayaks can carry any of the free-standing, dome type tents available these days. Tents provide needed shade, as the primitive boat-in sites do not have any structures (while the Campgrounds do) Many of the boat-in sites have picnic tables, (See website www.CampingCatalinaIsland.com for Boat-in Campsite specifics). It is important to keep your food in a tent during the day (and zipped if you all leave the camp site….the ravens & foxes are notorious thieves!) At night, put all food away, and keep it in your tents with you if possible….island critters will most certainly visit you in search of food. Securely tie up your trash as well, so it doesn’t end up all over the beach by morning! Take all trash with you when you leave!! You will not be welcome back if you do not! Bring plenty of spare trash bags.


There is no plant collecting or harvesting of wood allowed on the island by L.A. Co. Ordinance 602(a) P.C. and 602 (b) P.C. and this will be strictly enforced by the Coastal and Campground Rangers. No smoking is allowed outside of the Campground fire ring areas, and none at all is allowed in the primitive boat-in sites per L.A. County Fire Code. No beach fires are allowed per Los Angeles County Fire due to high fire hazard on the island(Fire Code section 1102.3.9 & Division 2 appendix IIa, section 3 & 13 will be enforced).  Only Boat-In sites with metal fire rings in place are allowed a small wood fire.  No collecting & burning wood of any kind from the island – bring a small bundle of wood from the grocery store… our local Von’s in Avalon and the General Store at Two Harbors sell bundles of firewood.  Briquettes may be used in the fire rings for cooking, they have attached grates.  L.A. Co. Fire may determine there will be no fires at all during 2017, due to the extreme fire danger and the high fuel load after our much-needed rains. At this time (May 2017) there are NO FIRES ALLOWED. We’ll keep you posted if that should change.
The cross-channel carriers: Catalina Express, & Catalina Passenger Service (the “Flyer” out of Newport) have varying baggage restrictions. None allow (Fed. regulations) flammables (stove,lantern fuels). Chet’s Hardware in Avalon sells propane canisters, white gas etc. call 310-510-0990 to make sure they stock your type. The Two Harbors General Store also sells fuel including MSR Isopro all-season fuel blend canisters.


Did you remember that these are PRIMITIVE campsites?  There are no restroom facilities at the Boat-In Campsites.  Boaters are required to bring their vessel’s porta-potti ashore, while kayakers need to use a bag system which has been developed for emergency, the Forest Service, Firefighters etc.  There are a few manufacturers of these systems, we still call them WAG Bags (waste alleviation and gelling) after the first ones produced. You may purchase them online from REI.com or buy them from us, but you must use them. “Leave no trace” burying of waste is not allowed on Catalina Island, ESPECIALLY the small, boat-in beaches which hundreds of campers share over the course of a season!  Nobody wants to clean up after your mess, and you will not be allowed to camp again if you are found to leave human waste & toilet paper near the beaches, up the canyon, whatever… don’t do it.  Use the WAG bag.


It is advisable to carry a marine VHF radio on your kayak camping trip. Avalon Harbor monitors channel 12, Two Harbors monitors channel 9. They both will pick up on emergency channel 16 along with the Coast Guard. Cell Phone coverage varies greatly (depending on where you are around the island), we’ve heard Verizon is perhaps more reliable, but not necessarily adequate. Sometimes you can get reception by paddling offshore, or hiking up a hill, but no guarantees. Phone numbers as follows: L.A. Co. Sheriff, Avalon 310-510-0174/Two Harbors 310-510-0872; Avalon Harbor Dept. 310-510-0535; Two Harbors Harbor Dept. 310-510-2683 (COVE); US Coast Guard Rescue L.B. 562-980-4444


Avalon has a Von’s Market and an auxiliary “liquor/quick-stop” Von’s Express where last minute food items and gallons of water can be purchased. Avalon’s “Chet’s Hardware” store (310-510-0990) is in the post office arcade for propane, mixed cannister gas, white gas & other supplies. Two Harbors has a general store for food, beverages, supplies including various camping stove fuels (310-510-4217). Make sure you are clear with the cross-channel carriers as to what their baggage restrictions are.


Rentals include: Open deck (sit-on-top) Kayak, PFD & Aquabound Paddle.  Many of these kayaks we rent for camping are no longer in production, we keep them just for kayak campers. There are a limited number in our fleet and that is why Reservations are Imperative!
Single boats: the Necky ‘Vector’ and Scupper Pro’ by Ocean Kayak(OK) with 2 covered hatches for multi night trips, the ‘Scupper Pro’ single hatch with tank well is available for 1 nite campers.  We also have the ‘Prowler 13’ (rod holders for fishing) which are a bit wider and more comfortable for larger campers. Experienced paddlers and smaller people on a 1 nite camp trip will enjoy the performance of the ‘Triumph 13’. For very experienced paddlers/backpackers, double boats are available but remember it would be like 2 people sharing 1 backpack on a multi-day backpacking trip. Double boats: ‘Cabo’ with 1 hatch & tank well; ‘Zest II’ with 2 Gaspachi hatches & tank well.

High Season- May 27 through October 31 and Holidays

1 Night/2 Days$72$130
2 Nights/3 Days$108$202
3 Nights/4 Days$144$274
4 Nights/5 Days$178$338
5 Nights/6 Days$196$378
6 Days/7 Nights$216$420

Low Season- November 1 through May 26

1 Night/2 Days$50$90
2 Nights/3 Days$76$140
3 Nights/4 Days$102$190
4 Nights/5 Days$128$228
5 Nights/6 Days$148$266
6 Days/7 Nights$168$304


Each paddler must sign a liability release and statement of responsibility. Descanso Beach Ocean Sports is not responsible for predetermining a paddler’s skill or ability. Paddlers should be competent in the equipment they are renting, be aware of emergency procedures and open water rescues. We reserve the right to refuse rentals to those who’s skills and preparedness do not seem suitable for their intended outing. Rental waivers are required to be signed by parents of minors. Please ask for a copy of our rental waiver. Be advised that you are embarking on a primitive camping experience, there will be nobody to count on if you get into trouble… make sure you have a copy of the emergency phone numbers (you may have to paddle off shore, or hike uphill to get a cell signal – Verizon seems to work better than other services here). Any rescue you may require, for any reason, will be at your expense.

RESERVATIONS: CALL 310-510-1588 Tuesday through Friday.


2 person tent$12$4
3-4 person tent$24$4
High-density foam sleeping PAD only$3$1
1-burner stove with 1 propane$18$3
2-burner stove with 1 propane$21$3
Lantern with 1 propane$18
Cook Kit for 2 includes: plate, bowl, cup, knife, fork ,teaspoon, soupspoon / 2 large bowls / coffee percolater / skillet / large pot / small pot / spatula & large spoon / cheese grater / cutting board / small sharp knife / large sharp knife / hot pads / pot lifters / sponge & dish soap / mesh carry bag$18$3
Additional dishes, utensils for 2$4$2
Additional dishes, utensils for 4$8$4
Soft insulated cooler 13.5"x9.5"x9" (19 qt.) (no ice)$6$2
The PETT Porta-Potti seat for WAG bags$12$3
The PETT as above with tent enclosure$24$5

Cleaning/breakage & damage deposit: A credit card or cash deposit will be retained pending gear check-in after trip. Replacements and repairs will be taken out of deposit. Replacement costs for lost or broken utensils $2 each item. Repair costs for torn coolers, tents $15 per item. Damaged stoves or lanten parts replaced at cost plus shipping. CLEANING CHARGE for stoves, cook kits etc. returned in unclean condition: $20 stove, $1 each other item. CLEANING CHARGE for PETT (seat for use with WAG bags): $50


Catalina Island gets all of it’s freight delivered by barge. Contact Avalon Freight Services 310-221-6290 to double check on the following information, make sure it is current.

The Freight Line is open weekdays only, with some Saturdays during summer. You must make a reservation for your kayak, or it may not ship in time for you to receive it on the island. It is important to get some kind of guarantee that they will ship it on time. Freight must be dropped off by 2 pm on the day it is to ship. Check with the Freight Line for prices.

Barges run 5 days a week during summer, 4 days a week in winter, and sometimes not at all if the weather kicks up (but then, you won’t be paddling anyway). Call them for their current barge schedule. The island freight yard is also open on weekdays with some Saturday mornings, but check on this also). The island yard is a short paddle away from Avalon, about a mile.

Avalon Freight Services is located on the mainland at Berth 95, 305 E. Swinford St, San Pedro 90731. Phone 310-221-6290.  Hours of operation in San Pedro are M-F 7:30am til 4pm, and Saturdays 10am – 2pm.

SOME SAMPLE ITINERARIES FOR KAYAK CAMPING ON YOUR OWN – a few ideas, your plans should center around the entire groups’ skill level and potential for grumpy weather…

Exploring the gentler, Lee (or Channel) side of Catalina Island.

2 days, 1 night (or longer): To see the most of Catalina Island, take the Catalina Express to Two Harbors. This way you can depart from Two Harbors and enjoy 13 miles of coastline as you make your way back to Avalon. Make reservations to spend the night at one of the Primitive Boat-in Campsites along the way. (Truck delivery fee applies).

3 days, 2 nights (or longer): Start at Two Harbors again, but paddle west to Parson’s Landing Campground (make reservations as early as possible) for your first night. Then double back past Two Harbors and spend your second night at one of the Primitive Boat-in campsites, and end in Avalon. OR Spend the 1st night at Two Harbors Campground and enjoy dining out at the Harbor Reef Restaurant, running water in camp, fire rings, latrines (a luxury compared to primitive boat-in campsites). Then head out for your second night to a Primitive Boat-In Campsite and end in Avalon.  OR paddling from Two Harbors (with truck delivery) or Avalon to a mid point Boat-In site such as Goat Harbor or Cabrillo and spend both of your nights there, enjoy a full day with no camp to strike, pack, and set up… explore the coastline, snorkel, hike etc. before your last day paddle back to Avalon.

We’ll make arrangements to deliver kayaks, dry bags, camping equipment, etc. rented from us to Two Harbors via truck for $100 (up to 4 kayaks) plus $5 each additional kayak up to eight total. (Limit of 4 double boats for any truckload).  A fuel surcharge will be added as our gas is $6 plus per gallon.

If you plan to start in Avalon, with a group of six or less, our custom kayak-charter boat “Ama” is available to drop you, your gear and kayaks anywhere on the island.  (Complete information at bottom of this page)

4 days, 3 nights: Leave from Avalon- in the early (7am) morning only- aboard “Ama” heading for Parson’s Landing Campground. We’ll drop you off there and you can take your time getting back to Avalon. Some groups like to spend two nights at Parson’s – getting some good hiking in and also paddling around the West End to take a peek at the weather side of the island.
2 days, 1 night or even longer: You have a family with younger kids who aren’t going to be helping to paddle, or you feel like not working at all…get your gear & food together, rent kayaks, snorkel gear, boogie boards, etc. from us and charter “Ama” to drop you off, and pick you up at one of the Primitive Boat-in campsites for a relaxing retreat.

(point to point, coastwise distances will be longer)

From Descanso Beach to:
Willow Cove – 2.5 mi
Long Point – 4.25 mi
Goat Harbor – 6.25 mi
Ripper’s Cove – 8.5 mi
Blue Cavern Pt – 11.25 mi
Two Harbors -12.25 mi
From Two Harbors to:
Emerald Bay – 2.75 mi
Parson’s Landing – 4.25 mi
West End – 7.25 mi
From West End to:
Ribbon Rock – 3 mi
Cat Head – 6.75 mi
Little Harbor – 10 mi
From Little Harbor to:
Salta Verde Pt. – 7 mi
Silver Canyon Bch – 8.75 mi
Church Rock – 12.5 mi
Avalon – 16.75 mi
Descanso Beach – 17.25 mi

WEATHER ( generally) many exceptions- impossible to predict. Experience will be your best teacher.

Wind patterns: Prevailing wind is from NW, parallel to coast. (paddling in NW direction [Avalon to Two Harbors] is “uphill”, while paddling towards SE is “downhill”).
Strongest NW winds Mar. thru July (and following rain)
Strongest SE winds Nov. thru Mar. (can bring rain,watch for lowering, thickening “mare’s tails” -cirrus/cirrostratus clouds)
Santa Ana (fall) pattern NE off mainland brings warm, dry air & LA smog- anytime after 1st snow on mainland, with strong Hi/Lo pressure variable- can bring furious, onshore storm winds Santa Anas. . . wind bump will hit first-usually at nite. Generally winds die out around noon and afternoon is flat (may repeat again at nite). Summer pattern typically SE in am, switching to NW in afternoon, especially when clearing the a.m. “June gloom” away.

Currents: None to speak of, basically from NW during full and new moon phases only, 1- 3 knots. Watch for current patterns in water around offshore rocks, currents are strongest around jutting points such as Long Point and the West End.

Carry plenty of water:
Primitive boat-in sites do not have water. Bring plenty. Drink water while paddling, lots of it!  1 gallon size fits better in kayaks.

Paddle in the morning:
Cover your greatest distances
before the (generally NW) afternoon breezes blow.

Use Common Sense:
Know your limits, stop to rest before you become too fatigued.
Have an emergency plan & contact person. Carry cell phone, VHF radio, First Aid and emergency repairs kit.

Emergency Numbers -VHF Radio:
Avalon Baywatch ch. 16 or 12
Two Harbors Baywatch ch. 16 or 9

Emergency Cell Phone:
911 will relay to Avalon Sheriff’s station
Baywatch Avalon- 310-510-0856
Baywatch Isthmus- 310-510-0341
L.A. Co. Sheriff- 310-510-0174 Avalon


For Kayakers, Campers & Camp Gear

For kayak campers with time constraints, take advantage of our vessel, ‘Ama’ to provide quick transportation along with your kayaks and gear to your campsite. Enjoy a longer day and the ease of paddling back to Avalon at the end of your camp trip (with the prevailing weather behind you). It’s the perfect way for families with young children to enjoy Catalina Island camping. Or, rent your kayaks and have us drop you at Ripper’s Cove or Goat Harbor and kayak back to us at Descanso Beach for a good, long, one-way paddle (don’t forget your lunch!). We’re happy to help you make your plans, and share our knowledge of Catalina Island.

Ama Delivery Fees

All fees are for one-way delivery of two persons and gear
Additional campers (max 3 additional)$10 each
Avalon up to & including Goat Harbor $180
Cabrillo to Rippers $210
Two Harbors $250
Beyond Two Harbors (Including Parson’s Landing) $400
Hourly standby charges$75
Fuel Surcharge varies by destination

(Please inquire for prices for other drop-off locations)

How the delivery works:  It is important to be prepared for your delivery.  Getting from the “Ama” to shore will be by kayak.  You must be prepared to get wet during this transfer of persons and gear.  Wear appropriate clothing and footgear (bathing suits / shorts / sandals).  Pack personal gear in dry bags if possible. Have your plastic bags (for camp gear) accessible in order to quickly make your gear ready to load on the kayak.

Large Group and want to paddle light? Add to base rate, fees for delivery services of gear only (no riders) at $4 per camper with assistance of 1-2 group members, (1 small duffle and 1 sleeping bag per camper). Please add service charge of $50 each trip if no assistance from your group is provided for loading or unloading. Standby charges of $75 per hour apply for all delivery waiting time.

Kayak Office: Tuesday through Friday 310-510-1588