A Family Adventure: Channel Islands Kayaking with Kids - No Back Home (2023)

Last summer I was offered an opportunity to visit one of the few national parks in California I had yet to visit, the Channel Islands. Upon looking at the itinerary I noticed that an entire day was dedicated to kayaking around the island of Santa Cruz..in the sea! I was terrified to be honest. I had never kayaked, much less in the sea.

The water in California is not warm even in the height of summer and I was super nervous about the possibility of flipping my kayak. Now, add in that I would be doing this with my equally scaredy-cat 6 year old who prefers hot tubbing to actually swimming! And there you have it, the scene is set for our adventure at the Channel Islands kayaking with kids.

Before our adventure could even begin we grabbed our breakfast to go and hopped on board the Island Packers boat for our hour long ride to Santa Cruz, one of several Channel Islands off the coast of California. The morning was a bit chilly with choppy seas welcoming us.

The kids on the boat had a blast standing on the front deck holding on for dear life as they were splashed like they were on a Disneyland roller coaster. I sat inside, attempting to thwart the little bouts of nausea creeping in.

As we arrived to the island, my nerves began to set in. One of our fellow passengers decided she wasn’t cut out for the kayaking adventure. That didn’t give me a whole lot of confidence to do it myself, but as always when I have my son who is looking at my lead I knew I had to power through the fear and go for it.

My normally nervous-nelly 6 year old was dancing around in his wetsuit, rain jacket and water shoes excited as could be. I was in a calm panic trying to put my wetsuit on properly while also attempting to pay attention to the tour leader on what the day’s plan would be.

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Before going into the water, the guide gave us a few instructions and also showed us how to paddle. You don’t need weeks long training for this excursion, but I would recommend listening closely to the instructions, which I did not do!

Hitting the Water

A few single kayaks were already out in the water as I slowly dragged our double kayak down the rocky beach. I began to feel very nervous that I had no idea what I was doing, but I just keep on moving.

A fellow member of the group helped us load into our boat and we were off.


The waves were already stronger than I was and I had no control over our kayak. The waves kept moving us our even as I frantically paddled this way and that. We were soon out much further than we needed to be and we hadn’t even started the tour.

Only in the water for a few minutes our tour leader heard our screams of “Help!” and paddled his way out to us.

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Well this wasn’t going so well. I was a nervous wreck. My arms were already tired and my son had lost all confidence in me. The guide said that if we needed help he could tow our boat, but we would still have to paddle.

My son jumped at the chance. “Yes, please tow us!” he begged the instructor, terrified to be left on the open sea with only his mother.

And there we were, only minutes into our first kayaking experience being towed. I felt like a total failure.

After the initial panic and total embarrassment of being towed subsided, I started to get the hang of it a bit more. Still totally petrified that we were going to flip in the choppy seas, I continually looked around for rocks that I could use to pull my son to safety if needed! Panicked and paranoid much?

In reality, most of the tour was actually very slow paddling or sitting in one place learning about the wildlife in the area, the mountains and the sea. I was so impressed by all the knowledge that our guide had about area. It was really fascinating. If only I could calm myself down enough to enjoy it more.

As we rocked with the waves inside a large cave, listening to our guide tell us about sea kelp and it’s uses, I finally began to loosen my death grip on my paddles and enjoy the movement. Meanwhile my son must have also relaxed as he was pulling up small bits of baby sea kelp and sampling it as the guide suggested.

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Finally relaxed, it was time to continue our quest to circle the island. However, being much later in the day than normal tours, the seas started to get quite rough. Even our fellow tour members were exhausted padding against the current and weren’t interested to keep going around the island.


I was getting more nervous as the waves began beating against the rocky cliffs and the afternoon winds crept up. Even though I was so relieved to be heading back to shore, it was also a bit sad that our adventure was ending.

Here I was surrounded by nature, actually submersed in it, but not taking the time to fully absorb all its peaceful energy. Instead I was stuck within my own head full of fear.

I won’t lie, the experience left me deflated, but determined to get back into a kayak to try again. I felt like a failure for being pulled around by the tour leader, but I at the same time, I also recognized my own weakness and paddling against the strong current was definitely one of them. I am so thankful the guide offered to tow us and did tow us! We couldn’t have done it without him.

Fast forward almost a year later where we found ourselves with another opportunity to kayak. This time, however, it was my 7 year old who was super nervous and panicky. Our second kayaking experience was set for a placid lake at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. It felt like the perfect opportunity to get back out there for a redo. And guess what? We rocked it. Now the child is OBSESSED! And trusts his mother again.

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I am so thankful for Visit Ventura County Coast for putting this on my itinerary and opening up a new world to both me and my son as well as giving us something exciting to try on our travels.

Even though I was a total nervous nelly during our experience, I have to give big props to SB Adventure Company, the only company authorized to provide the Channel Islands kayak tours at Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz island. They offer various tours ranging from half day adventure tours to short discovery cave tours as well as tours focused on bird watching. Their guides are amazingly patient with scaredy cat kayakers like me as well as super informed about the island, making them a winner in my book. I would not hesitate to go out with them again now that I have a little less fear going on.

Prices begin around $100 and do not include your ferry ride over to the island. However, it does include all of your equipment including wet suits, rain jackets and of course the kayaks. They can also provide snorkel masks if you want to spend some time on the island snorkeling.

If you are an experienced kayaker and have your own inflatable kayak, you can easily bring your boats (inflatable or regular kayak) over to the islands on the boat over.

If you are heading over, I would highly recommend grabbing a lunch box from Channel Island Provisioners. They can bring you a hot breakfast before you board the boat as well if you really want to go all out. The food was absolutely delicious and really was one less thing to worry about for the day.

If you plan on a short kayak experience, but have all day on the island, you can also explore Santa Cruz by snorkeling or by hiking. For more information, read our guide to exploring the Channel Islands.

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What do you think about sea kayaking? Is it hard for a beginner or am I just a total scaredy cat? Don’t answer that.. I already know the answer 🙂

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This trip was hosted by Visit Ventura County Coast. However all opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own with no influence by the host.


Which Channel Island is best for kids? ›

Ventura and the Channel Islands National Park are a great getaway for families with kids of all ages from tots to teens.

Can you kayak with a 5 year old? ›

Kids as young as 4 years old can handle a paddle in the bow position of a tandem kayak. With a paddle their size, this is a great way to introduce them to paddling without them having to control the kayak. A child as young as 5 or 6 can start paddling their own kayak, depending on the child and the kayak.

Can you kayak to Channel Islands National Park? ›

Due to the many hazards of crossing the channel from or to the mainland to the park islands the National Park Service does not recommend this be attempted by sea kayakers.

Are the Channel Islands good for kids? ›

The Channel Islands have a beach to suit every family, from wild secluded coves to sandy stretches with cafés, restaurants and child-friendly facilities. Guernsey's beaches are renowned for their cleanliness, with Vazon and Grandes Rocques Bays both winning awards.

Can I put my kid on my kayak with me? ›

Never take a child on the water unless you are well experienced—or you have an experienced paddler with you. Plan on 1 adult for every child until all paddlers' levels are determined and you know and trust all members of the group. If you have enough adults, then your child can invite a friend or two.

At what age can kids kayak alone? ›

While any age child can participate in a tandem boat with a qualified partner, kids from seven to ten years old are at an ideal age to learn to kayak in their own boat.

Can I take my kid in my kayak? ›

While single kayaks can certainly be used to kayak with toddlers, you'll mostly have to keep your toddler in your lap throughout the duration of your paddle. This can limit your paddle motion and also put your child at risk of getting hit if you have to make an unexpected, quick maneuver.

Which Channel Island is most beautiful? ›

Santa Barbara Island offers some of the most spectacular vistas of the Channel Islands, and you can experience them while hiking the miles of trails that are available. Visit during wildflower season for incredible displays. Santa Barbara Island is also ideal for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and diving.

Which Channel Island is the nicest? ›

1. Jersey. With everything from golden sandy beaches to fascinating medieval castles, it's no surprise that Jersey is already a firm favourite with British holidaymakers. Just off the coast of Normandy, France, and with a flight time of approximately one hour from the UK, the island can be ideal for a long weekend.

Do you need a reservation for Channel Islands? ›

No reservations or permits are required to land on the islands administered by the National Park Service. However, a landing permit is required to land on The Nature Conservancy (TNC) property on Santa Cruz Island (western 76% of island).

What is the best month to go to Santa Cruz? ›

The best time to visit Santa Cruz is from September through November when the summer tourists have returned home, leaving a bit more room on the beaches, walking paths and other attractions.

Is Santa Cruz cheaper than San Francisco? ›

The cost of living in San Francisco, CA is 25.8% higher than in Santa Cruz, CA.

What is the secret of the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz? ›

The Mystery Spot is a gravity hill, tilt-induced visual illusion. The illusion experienced by visitors results from the oddly tilted environment as well as standing on a tilted floor. Inside the tilted room of the Mystery Spot, misperceptions of the height and orientation of objects occur.

Is it better to set your channel for kids or not for kids? ›

If you are an artist or label who makes music for a general audience, you should set your channel as Not Made For Kids. Individual video designation can be utilized by labels or artists who make a mix of children's and all-audiences content, or if you need to change the designation on a specific video.

What age is best for Islands of Adventure? ›

Children should be a fairly mature 8 years old to appreciate USF, and a bit older to tackle the thrill rides in IOA, as this reader recommended: Wait to visit until your children are tall enough, brave enough, and/ or interested enough to ride at least most of the rides.

Which is better for families Jersey or Guernsey? ›

Jersey arguably has more attractions while Guernsey has more diverse landscapes. Luckily, they're so close (an hour's ferry apart), you can visit both, then carry on island hopping to Herm, Sark and Alderney nearby.

Is island of Adventure good for a 5 year old? ›

The theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort are filled with thrills and fun for the adventure-seeker! This is especially the case at Islands of Adventure. However, this park is also great for families with kids of all ages. Even the youngest visitors will find some adventures!

Can you add a child seat to a kayak? ›

Make paddling more enjoyable for the whole family by bringing along the Harmony Kid's Seat. Simply place the seat in the bottom of your favorite canoe or tandem recreational kayak and go. No clipping or fastening required.

Is it safe to have toddler on kayak? ›

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, ages 2-5 are good ages to let children start kayaking, but should share a kayak with a parent or adult. The general rules for bringing a toddler out in a kayak are: They must be able to sit still. They should be able to float by themselves on the water.

Can 3 people get in a kayak? ›

Take your family on their next water adventure in the Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak. The heavy-duty PVC construction and rugged tarpaulin bottom makes it ready for anything from a calm lake to easy whitewater.

Is kayaking hard for kids? ›

Compared to other sports, kayaking is relatively low intensity, and even young children can manage short trips in solo or tandem kayaks. And, because it's possible to paddle on various waterways, they're less likely to get bored. Of course, kayaking with kids is not like kayaking with an adult.

Can you take your phone on a kayak? ›

Still, it's always necessary to keep your phone in a waterproof case on rafting or kayaking trips. Another piece of technology that's even better suited to adventures like rafting is the GoPro. This hi-res, completely waterproof unit attaches to the top of your helmet and is ready for all kinds of adventures.

Which is the warmest Channel Island? ›

A heated row has broken out in the Channel Islands over Jersey's claim to be the sunniest place in Britain. Officials regularly boast that the island is the 'warmest, sunniest' spot in Britain and use the accolade to attract tourists.

What is the happiest island? ›

If you had to guess where the world's happiest island was, one the many paradise nations in the Caribbean would probably spring to mind.

What is the number 1 island in the world? ›

1. Maldives. A chain of 26 atolls and more than 1,000 islands in the Indian Ocean, the Republic of Maldives is one of the most sought-after tropical destinations in the world.

What is the best time of year to visit the Channel Islands? ›

Many consider the fall as the best time of year for snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and swimming. Ocean temperatures may reach 70° (F) in early fall and visibility may reach 100 feet. Blue and humpback whale watching comes to an end in early fall. Fall bird migration is underway.

Which is hotter Jersey or Guernsey? ›

'Guernsey people are definitely much warmer and we've got sunnier personalities. ' Guernsey also performed better than Jersey in the rainfall charts, with significantly less total rainfall recorded. Nearly 900mm was recorded in Guernsey, compared with 1062mm in Jersey.

Which is cheaper Jersey or Guernsey? ›

Jersey is 17.1% more expensive than Guernsey.

How much does it cost to enter Channel Islands? ›

There is no entrance fee. To visit one of the five islands, you'll have to take a boat or plane. There are no services on the islands.

What is the best way to see the Channel Islands? ›

Exploring the Channel Islands by kayak is the best way to see the islands' wealth of sea caves and kelp forests up close. Book a kayaking trip with Santa Barbara Adventure Company—the main outfitter for activities on the Channel Islands—which includes your ferry ride from Ventura, kayaking gear, and a guide.

Does it cost money to go to Channel Islands? ›

There is no entrance fee to visit the Channel Islands National Park. Enjoy your visit.

Is it better to stay in Monterey or Santa Cruz? ›

Both are good choices. Santa Cruz is more of a classic CA beach town with a surf culture and an eclectic downtown. Its kind of a funky sort of place, a bit off-beat. You also have the Boardwalk, which is a seaside amusement park - rides, including an historic wooden roller coaster, games, waffle cones.

What is the coldest month in Santa Cruz? ›

Average Temperature in Santa Cruz

The cool season lasts for 2.6 months, from November 30 to February 16, with an average daily high temperature below 61°F. The coldest month of the year in Santa Cruz is December, with an average low of 45°F and high of 59°F.

Is Santa Cruz worth stopping in? ›

Santa Cruz is worth visiting for its fun beach boardwalk, spectacular oceanfront walks, and expansive beaches, but also take the time to explore hiking and biking trails in the many state parks to discover local flora and fauna, and enjoy the topnotch dining options and wine tasting.

Is Santa Cruz CA wealthy? ›

The per capita income in Santa Cruz in 2018 was $41,594, which is upper middle income relative to California, and wealthy relative to the rest of the US. This equates to an annual income of $166,376 for a family of four.

What is a good salary in Santa Cruz? ›

Most salaries in Santa Cruz range between $41,623 (25th percentile) to $78,252 (75th percentile) annually. Of course, salaries will vary depending on your occupation, experience, and many other factors. Some of the top paying kinds of jobs in Santa Cruz are Neuroradiologist, Intensivist, and Dermatologist.

Is San Diego cheaper than Santa Cruz? ›

Cost of Living Comparison Between Santa Cruz, CA and San Diego, CA. You would need around 6,831.62$ in San Diego, CA to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with 8,100.00$ in Santa Cruz, CA (assuming you rent in both cities).

How long does it take to get through Mystery Spot? ›

About an hour but it is a guided tour which takes about 30-45 minutes so allow a little extra time if you have to wait for it to begin. Have fun. over a year ago.

How much does it cost to get into the house of mystery in Oregon? ›

5 and Under:Free
6 - 12:$16.00
13 - 61:$22.00
62 and Above:$18.50

What is the deal with the Mystery Spot? ›

The Mystery Spot is a gravitational anomaly located in the redwood forests just outside of Santa Cruz, California. It is a circular area of effect around 150 feet or 46 meters in diameter. Within the Mystery Spot you will be stunned as your perceptions of the laws of physics and gravity are questioned.

Are the Galapagos Islands kid friendly? ›

The Galapagos Islands are great for kids of all ages, and everyone will get something from this experience. If you want your children to have a good memory of their trip it is worth waiting until they are a little older.

Is Andaman good place for kids? ›

This island is a true delight for beach lovers and my kids loved their time here. After an enjoyable cruise to this island, we checked into our Havelock Haywizz Resort, one of the best resorts in Andaman for kids. We visited the Radhanagar Beach which is unlike any we have ever seen.

Which is warmer Jersey or Guernsey? ›

Officials regularly boast that the island is the 'warmest, sunniest' spot in Britain and use the accolade to attract tourists. But the title is being disputed by neighbour and arch-rival Guernsey, which insists that it is the UK's true top hotspot.

Why is Jersey Channel Islands so expensive? ›

Jersey has a high cost of living, due to transport costs and a lack of competition. In January 2021, Numbeo, an online cost-of-living index, reported that Jersey was the "world's 'most expensive place to live'."

How old should kids be to go to the Galapagos? ›

What's the Best Age to Visit the Galapagos With Kids? If you're looking to get the most out of a visit to the Galapagos with kids, the minimum age for young travelers is around six years old. You'll benefit most as a family if you can enjoy many activities together, such as hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking.

What should you avoid in the Galapagos Islands? ›

Don't forget Galapagos National Park (GNP) rules

Do not use flash photography. Do not leave the trail. Keep your distance – please keep at least two metres away from all animals and NEVER touch them no matter how tame they appear. Don't feed the animals.

What is the best time of year to visit the Galapagos Islands? ›

But that said, our experts generally agree that the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is from December to May. Why? These months coincide with the warm season and ocean conditions are clear, warm excellent for snorkeling and diving.

Can kids do sea walk in Andaman? ›

There is not any age restriction as such to do this water activity. In India, the Andaman Islands is the only place where one can try their hand at underwater sea walking. The best part is that anyone can do it with their family, partner, or even alone irrespective of their age.

When should you not go to Andaman? ›

The best time to visit Andaman & Nicobar Islands is considered between October and May as the weather is pleasant, just perfect for sightseeing, water sports, and beach excursion. Monsoons (July to September) are not always recommended because of the high tidal waves, incessant rains and strong winds.

Is Andaman better than Maldives? ›

While both Maldives and Andaman are equally good to visit but the Maldives has private islands for their tourists and Andamans is covered in every way with natural beauty. Is the Maldives good for couples? The Maldives is an ideal destination for all couples as it has private resorts, beaches for tourists.

Is Guernsey or Jersey better? ›

Which island should you choose to visit? Jersey is the bigger island, with a wider range of accommodation and attractions, however Guernsey's picturesque capital St Peter's Port is popular with tourists, with the added advantage of visiting nearby islands Sark & Herm.

Are the Channel Islands safe? ›

Due to the remote and primitive nature of the islands, a safe visit to the park depends on visitor assuming individual responsibility for planning their trips and visiting safely. For your safety, please remember: Emergency services are very limited due to the isolated island environment.


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