California offers a rich variety of kayaking experiences. There is a long coastline, large harbors, numerous inland waterways and a range of riverine habitats to explore. The scenery is equally varied - from beaches to forests, to city lights. Spectacular wildlife such as migrating gray whales, huge gatherings of leopard sharks and urbanized seals share the waters. Kayaking trips take place at any time of day or night, in all seasons. They can last a couple of hours or a couple of weeks. On land, associated adventure sports include hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing. Across the state there are passionate kayaking professionals helping to make memories.
1.LA River Kayak Safari
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LARKS operates in the Elysian Valley of the Los Angeles River. Channeling of the river, industrial pollution and street runoff have all had a profoundly negative effect on the riverine ecosystem. It is now protected by the clean waters act. The bend in the river in the Elysian Valley has had a mitigating effect on the damage and the surrounding area is a relative haven for plants, fish and birds. LARKS offers paddling and bike tours in the area, as guides explain the link between river lore and urban culture. The rapids are small and beginners are welcome. Tours last between 2-3 hours and leave at midday and sunset.
2825 Benedict St, 90039 Los Angeles, Phone: 213-447-6731
2.Adventures By The Sea
This adventure company is based on the Monterey peninsula. They offer land and sea discovery tours and have been in operation for more than 30 years. They have bases in six locations which offer different services. The kayaking tour that departs from Cannery Row features kelp forests and a raft of otters. Breakwater, where sea lions, harbor seals and otters can be seen, is the better option for beginners. Lovers Point is a departure point for both kayaking and biking. The company hires out bikes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, four-wheelers, and electric bikes.
299 Cannery Row, 93940 Monterey, Phone: 831-648-7235
3.Bike and Kayak Tours, Inc.
This company is based in San Diego and offers biking, kayaking and snorkeling tours around the La Jolla shore, and hires equipment for self-guided excursions. The expert guides focus on fun and safety and are knowledgeable about the local terrain and wildlife. One kayaking tour explores 7 caves and the area surrounding them. The Leopard Shark Encounter entails kayaking and snorkeling with these gentle creatures. Stingrays, dolphins, sea lions and garibaldi also inhabit the area. The services of a professional photographer are on hand to record the experience. Digital and Go Pro cameras can be hired.
2158 Avenida De La Playa, San Diego, CA 92037, Phone: 858-454-1010
4.Wild Blue Adventures
This company operates out of Oxnand, north west of Los Angeles and offers excursions to the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary. Whale sightings are guaranteed between December and April, when the California Grey Whales and their calves migrate. The kayaking tour includes transport by boat to Frenchies Cove on the Anacapa Island with a pick up on the other side of the arch, 4.5 miles away. A 53 foot Sunfish vessel transports passengers to the islands. Sunset cruises can accommodate up to 49 people. Catering can be arranged but passengers need to bring their own beverages.
Wild Blue Adventures, Channel Islands Harbor, Phone: 805-585-5060
5.Cal Coast Adventures
Cal Coast offers kayaking and biking tours, lessons in surfing and stand up paddle boarding, and rental of beach related equipment. They operate in the Santa Barbara area and promise a different view of the city. They stock beach cruiser, electric, mountain and hybrid bikes. Road biking tours start from the locations chosen by customers. The Bike and Beverage Tour is led by a guide who is knowledgeable in the beer and wine market. It includes tastings and behind the scenes tours at two local breweries and two wineries. Group bookings are welcome. Bubble Soccer is another activity offered by the company.
736 Carpinteria Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, Phone: 805-628-2444
6.Central Coast Kayaks
This company was founded in 1993 and operates on the coast, mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. They offer tours, rentals, fishing expeditions and introductory lessons on kayaking and stand up boarding. The Avila kayaking tour includes a visit to the bay and the 19th century lighthouse. The naturalist tour is a more moderate 2.5 hour kayaking exercise to see seals, otters and dolphins. The cave excursion focuses on the grottos, arches, rock gardens and kelp forests in the area. Kayak fishing trips are offered between April and December. Salmon, halibut and sea bass are likely to be caught in summer and fall.
1879 Shell Beach Road, Pismo Beach, CA 93449, Phone: 805-931-6348
7.Channel Islands Kayak Center
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This kayak center is situated northwest of Los Angeles. It offers guided island tours with a family friendly approach. The tours include an orientation session, and information on the history of the harbor market. A visit to the island caves, through crystal clear waters will bring seal lions, seals and marine birds into view. The company also rents out kayaks and related equipment and has sales of their old inventories from time to time.
3600 S. Harbor Blvd. Suite 2-108, Channel Islands Harbor, Phone: 805-984-5995
8.La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks
Owner, Jen Kleck, has a level 5 certification in kayak instruction and guiding, the highest possible in California. The kayaking tours operate within a marine ecological reserve with five distinct ecosystems within an area of two square miles. There are sandy beaches, rocky shallows, steep cliffs, kelp forests and deep water canyons, each with its own varieties of fauna and flora species. The sea cave tour takes 1½ hours but it is not always safe to enter the caves. The kayaks are stable but paddlers will more than likely get wet so a change of clothes is advised.
2164 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037, Phone: 858-454-0111
9.La Vida Laguna
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This company operates from Laguna Beach, south of Los Angeles, and focuses on the corporate market, offering team building, retreats and various off-site activities. Programs range from single-day excursions to multi-day adventures as well as ongoing personal and leadership development courses. They also offer day tours, lessons and equipment rentals to the public. The paddle boarding, electric bike, surfing and kayaking tours typically last two hours. Biking tours follow the back streets, parks and gardens of LA. Sea faring tours go to cliffs, hidden beaches, kelp forests and the fisheries. The guides are well versed in local history and biodiversity.
1121 Glenneyre Street, Laguna Beach, Ca 92651, Phone: 949-275-7544
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10.Santa Barbara Adventure Company
This company offers a range of services, including guiding, tours, lessons and team building. Kayaking tours, surfing and paddle boarding lessons and other beach activities are offered at the mainland coast. Longer kayaking trips to the Channel Islands National Park and Scorpion Anchorage, require a return trip on the ferry. On land, the company leads bike tours, wine country tours and rock climbing excursions. There are overnight and multi-sport packages for corporate, family and youth groups. For schools, tours can be customized according to the curriculum.
32 E Haley St, Santa Barbara, California 93101, Phone: 805-884-WAVE
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This is the largest white-water rafting company in California. It was founded by Californian, Bill McGinnis who started training as a river guide at the age of 16. He has mentored guides and written a book on the subject. The company has been awarded a rafting permit, by the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, to operate in the area under their jurisdiction. This includes major rivers in North, Central and Southern California. The tours offer adventure for all ages and skill levels. Rapids range from Class I to V.
11252 Kernville Road, Kernville, CA 93238, Phone: 800-400-7238
12.Central Coast Outdoors
Some of the wildest shores and unspoilt open spaces can be found along the central California coastline. This company offers kayaking trips in the Morro Bay national estuary. Excursions are of varying length and start at different times, including sunset. Biking tours explore the California coast, the Pacific Coast Highway and the nearby winelands. Hiking trips are undertaken along the Big Sur coast and SLO county. Small and large groups are welcome. Trips can last from a few hours to several days. The company also assists those who embark on self-guided tours.
10 State Park Rd, Morro Bay, CA 93442, Phone: 805-528-1080
13.Everyday California Adventures
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This adventure company operates in the La Jolla, San Diego area. They offer kayaking and snorkeling tours, lessons in surfing and paddle boarding, and equipment rentals. Customers can choose from a number of kayaking tours and whether or not to include snorkeling. The kayaking options include whale watching two miles off shore, the ecological reserve where there is a high concentration of sea life, and the Seven Seas Cave. In summer, the area sees the largest gathering of leopard sharks and in winter, whales migrate.
2261 Avenida de la Playa La Jolla, CA 92037, Phone: 858-454-6195
Trinidad Bay is in Humbodlt County, on the northern coast of California. Kakak Trinidad is a paddle sport instruction and guiding center. They operate near the rugged redwood coast of the California Coastal National Monument. They offer lessons in kayaking and paddle boarding, tours, coastal orientation and equipment rental. Kayaking tours venture out to sea in Trinidad Bay, where fishing is optional, or inland in Big Lagoon and Stone Lagoon, where the birdlife is abundant. Tours can be customized for small groups. The company sells branded merchandise online.
Trinidad, CA 95570, Phone: 707-329-0085
15.Liquid Fusion Kayaking (LFK)
Jeff and Cate, who own LFK, are qualified to give instruction in surf kayaking, sea kayaking and white-water rafting. They live and work on the Mendocino coast, offering instruction and guiding tours. Their outings are rated from 'dry and mild' to 'wet and wild'. Kayaking in the Noyo River Estuary is considered 'dry and mild' and is suitable for all ages and skills. The Noyo sea kayaking takes paddlers through the Noyo Harbor and out into the Pacific Ocean. The White Water of the Sea is a 'wet and wild' tour and involves three hours of paddling in areas only accessible by kayak.
32399 Basin Street #46a, Fort Bragg, Ca 95437, Phone: 707-962-1623
16.Point Reyes Outdoors
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This company operates in Tomales Bay, north of San Francisco. It specializes in nighttime adventures such as full moon paddling and bioluminescent kayaking and camping. Tomales Bay, with its limited light pollution, is the ideal place to see plankton light up the water at the slightest disturbance. There is a three-hour non-stop tour option, a four-hour outing with a stop on the beach, and an overnight camping expedition. The bioluminescent tours take place on moonless nights, in the darkest part of the Bay. These tours are popular and need to be booked well in advance. The company also offers hiking and combined hiking / paddling packages.
11401 State Route 1, 94956 Point Reyes Station, Phone: 415-663-8192
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17.River's Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips
This company is based in Healdsburg, near the Russian River, north of San Francisco. The area is wine country and the river is clear with unspoilt surrounds. The company offers a self-guided 'RIO' tour. Paddlers hire kayaks and other essentials and are transported 5 miles upstream of Healdsburg. There they are given basic instruction and directions. The paddle back to base takes between 3 and 5 hours, depending on stops, and is suitable for beginners. The average depth of the river is 10 feet with Class I rapids. There is plenty of wildlife to be seen.
1 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA 95448, Phone: 707-433-7247
18.Sea Trek Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board Center
Sea Trek is a family run company located in Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco. It was established in 1982 and was the first commercial sea kayaking business in California. They offer rentals, trips, and summer camps from their home base. Local kayaking trips include full moon outings, paddling plus dinner, ventures out under the Golden Gate bridge and trips to Angel Island. Summer camps for scholars are day-long or overnight excursions, including lessons on stand up paddle boards. Sea Trek also organizes trips through third parties to Baja, the Sea of Cortez, and the Amalfi coast in Italy.
2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965, Phone: 415-332-8494
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19.Southwind Kayak Center Rental Base
Southwind has a retail store in Irvine and a rental facility in Newport Harbor, Orange County, south of Los Angeles. Their facilities are close to the best paddling and fishing spots on the west coast. They sell paddles, paddling apparel, safety gear and hundreds of accessories. They also sell fishing gear. They offer in-store financing at no interest. They can arrange demonstrations of one or more boards in the Newport Harbor, near the rental facility. They periodically have sales of used and closeout kayaks and paddle boards. The rental outlet is open from 9 am to 4 pm, 7 days a week.
100 N Bayside Dr, Newport Beach CA 92660, Phone: 949-261-0200
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20.Big Bear Paddling
Big Bear Lake is a small city, inland of San Bernadino. The lake is a popular destination for fishing, watersports, skiing, hiking and biking. Big Bear Paddling has two locations on the lake and specializes in the hiring of kayaking, paddle boards, bikes and related equipment. Single and tandem kayaks can also carry a small pet. They hire cruiser and mountain bikes, and bikes and trailers for children. Safety gear is included in the rental. Equipment can be rented for 2,4 and 8 hours. Those hiring for the full day are permitted to keep the equipment overnight.
39166 & 40905 Big Bear Blvd. Big Bear Lake, CA 92315, Phone: 909-878-3155
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21.Balboa Kayaks and Paddleboards
This company is based in Newport Beach and focuses on short-term hiring of kayaks and cruising boats. There are single and double kayaks and two types of inflatable harbor cruisers with outboard motors. The 11 foot boat has space for four people and the 13 foot boat seats six. All equipment is rented out for 1 or 2 hours. Balboa is a year-round business and is open 7 days a week.
Along PCH Shoreline, Newport Beach, Phone: 949-466-3721
22.Descanso Beach Ocean Sports (DBOS)
DBOS is located in Avalon, on Catalina Island. It is the southernmost city in LA County. The company offers rentals of kayak, paddle boards and related equipment for periods ranging from one hour to several days. They also offer daily ecotours that are suitable for beginners and family groups. There is a discount for children under 11. The Leopards and Lions tour refers to the Leopard Sharks and Sea Lions in the area. Frog Rock and Fox Canyon are coastal tours, stopping at otherwise inaccessible beaches. DBOS also advises on primitive camping on the island.
Descanso Beach, 90704 Avalon, California, Phone: 310-510-1226
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This family-owned enterprise is based at the Santa Margarita Ranch, one of the oldest working ranches in the district and a cornerstone of agritourism in the Central Coast region. They offer a range of activities. There are 6 ziplines over treetops, vineyards, mountains and valleys. One of the ziplines is a 2800 foot, tandem ride. The kayak tours are three miles long and take place on Santa Margarita Lake. Bald eagles can be spotted on the nature walks and Humvee rides. Customized tours, team building programs and catered picnics are some of the many services the company offers.
22719 El Camino Real, 93453 Santa Margarita, Phone: 805-220-9758
Eagle Rafting is based in Kernville, on the Kern River, close to the Sequoia National Forest. The area's attractions include hiking and fly-fishing. The company offers half- and full-day trips on the Kern River. Lunch is included. The company has been in operation for two decades and has acquired 50 watercraft, including inflatable kayaks, and several tour buses. They have the capacity to host 300 people per day. Eagle Rafting operates in the spring and summer months, from April to August.
13226 Sierra Way,Kernville, CA 93238, Phone: 800-375-7395
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25.OEX Sunset Beach
OEX is based near the water's edge of Huntington Harbor, south of Los Angeles. They sell kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and accessories and provide a 'try before you buy' service. They offer advice and rentals for multi-day excursions to Catalina Island, for divers and for camping in Baja. They also give lessons in kayak fishing and paddle boarding. OEX charters kayak fishing trips to offshore islands and hosts kayak fishing tournaments.
16910 Pacific Coast Hwy, 92649 Sunset Beach, Phone: 562-592-0800
25 Best Kayaking Spots in California
- LA River Kayak Safari, Photo: MIRACLE MOMENTS/stock.adobe.com
- Adventures By The Sea, Photo: yossarian6/stock.adobe.com
- Bike and Kayak Tours, Inc., Photo: Kzenon/stock.adobe.com
- Wild Blue Adventures, Photo: digidreamgrafix/stock.adobe.com
- Cal Coast Adventures, Photo: ftlaudgirl/stock.adobe.com
- Central Coast Kayaks, Photo: auremar/stock.adobe.com
- Channel Islands Kayak Center, Photo: Drobot Dean/stock.adobe.com
- La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks, Photo: gaborsieto/stock.adobe.com
- La Vida Laguna, Photo: Erica Smit/stock.adobe.com
- Santa Barbara Adventure Company, Photo: StockphotoVideo/stock.adobe.com
- Whitewater Voyages, Photo: Mike Eikenberry/stock.adobe.com
- Central Coast Outdoors, Photo: Photo-maxx/stock.adobe.com
- Everyday California Adventures, Photo: Viacheslav Iakobchuk/stock.adobe.com
- Kayak Trinidad, Photo: serguastock/stock.adobe.com
- Liquid Fusion Kayaking (LFK), Photo: ftlaudgirl/stock.adobe.com
- Point Reyes Outdoors, Photo: MIRACLE MOMENTS/stock.adobe.com
- River's Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips, Photo: vit/stock.adobe.com
- Sea Trek Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board Center, Photo: serguastock/stock.adobe.com
- Southwind Kayak Center Rental Base, Photo: micromonkey/stock.adobe.com
- Big Bear Paddling, Photo: romaneau/stock.adobe.com
- Balboa Kayaks and Paddleboards, Photo: 6okean/stock.adobe.com
- Descanso Beach Ocean Sports (DBOS), Photo: vit/stock.adobe.com
- Margarita Adventures, Photo: auremar/stock.adobe.com
- Eagle Rafting, Photo: Ammit/stock.adobe.com
- OEX Sunset Beach, Photo: serguastock/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: MelissaMN/stock.adobe.com