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A Guide to Kayaking in Channel Islands National Park

Paddling in a kayak is unique in its own right, but the experience is even better when it’s done in a place as beautiful as the Channel Islands National Park. This California park offers sea caves, islands, incredible wildlife viewing and the possibility of camping. Together, these features allow for an unforgettable kayaking experience.

The National Park Service warns that Channel Islands kayaking can be dangerous and strenuous, and suggests taking tours with a guide instead of going on your own. Guided tours are a great way to find all of the hidden wonders of the park, they are set up according to difficulty level, and the guide is able to offer specific advice so that the dangers are minimized.

Here are the key elements you’ll need for an enjoyable kayaking trip in the Channel Islands:

Good physical condition

Paddling in the ocean can be hard work, and on a kayaking trip, you have to do all of this work yourself or with a partner. If you aren’t in good physical shape, start a basic conditioning program several months before your trip. Focus on the muscles used in paddling and controlling the kayak.

Safety equipment

Tour companies will provide this, but if you go on your own – you’ll need a life vest, helmet, wetsuit (depending on weather) and paddle jacket to keep you comfortable and safe. The guides will also carry first aid kits, marine radios and all other necessary rescue gear.

Appropriate kayak

While sit inside kayaks are popular on lakes and rivers, the best type of kayaks for touring the sea caves of the Channel Islands are sit on top ocean kayaks. These kayaks are extremely stable, comfortable and maneuverable and can withstand the bumps and scrapes of the rocks around the sea caves. Your kayak must also be in good condition and sturdy enough to withstand extreme weather, which can crop up at any time in the Channel Islands area.

Accurate Weather Forecast

The weather at the Channel Islands can change quickly. While it is typically calmest from May – November, the weather can be variable at any time of year. It is important to keep an eye on the weather at all times and know what to expect before you launch. Guides know the most protected spots to paddle in the wind. If you choose a guided tour, your guide will plan your route according to the forecast and maximize your options.

Taking guided tours eliminates many of the difficulties involved in a solo trip

You can rent the right type of kayak, and your guide will know the way to all of the best spots. Most importantly, guided tours are arranged according to difficulty level, so you don’t have to miss out if you’ve never done any strenuous kayaking before.

At the Santa Barbara Adventure Company, we recommend that beginners choose our Sea Cave Kayaking tours. It starts with a kayaking lesson so that you’re not left wondering what to do. We also provide safety gear like paddling jackets and wet suits. You also get to stop and snorkel (we provide the snorkeling gear), learn about natural history and marine ecology, and benefit from the experience of our well-trained guides.

If you already have kayaking experience, you’ll enjoy our intermediate-to-advanced tours to some of the most remote and largest sea caves on the islands. You could also stay longer in the National Park and try our Kayak and Camp trip. We still provide equipment for these tours, so there’s no need to make a big investment in kayaks, tents, and other materials.

For your next kayaking adventure, just give us a call or contact us online. We’ll show you a great time regardless of your skill level!

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