Best places to kayak in California
In California, there are numerous places where you may go kayaking. In fact, the best kayaking sites in California can be located all across the state, and the best way to find them is to look at what others have discovered to be the best. Some of these places are well-known, while others are little-known but offer some of California’s best kayaking.
The seas of Northern California can be scary to a rookie paddler. However, once you’ve mastered it, you could find yourself yearning for the sensation of skimming atop the San Francisco Bay on a hot summer day. Below is a list of beginner-friendly kayaking places in Northern and Southern California, as well as some advice on how to make the most of your trip. Also, the best lakes in California for kayaking and canoeing include Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake, and Lower Scotts Flat Lake.
In fact, if you’re seeking amazing places to kayak in California, go no further than our list of the best places to kayak in northern and southern California.
NOTE: We’ve included the video of the best places to kayak in both Northern and Southern California in the number 10 list, you can check it out if you prefer the video to text…
Best places to kayak in California
Best places to kayak in northern California
1. Englebright Reservoir
Englebright Reservoir, located about 20 miles east of Yuba City at an elevation of 527 feet, is a great place to go canoeing and kayaking. There are one hundred boat-in campsites at seventeen campground sections along the nine-mile-long lake at this Reservoir. Water skiing is prohibited in the area above Upper Boston, making it an ideal spot for camping and paddling. The fact that this place is accessible all year, twenty-four hours a day, with running lights at night, is what really sets it apart. For an unforgettable experience, I recommend boat-in camping and canoeing under the night at Englebright Lake.
2. The Lake of Gold
Gold Lake, located nine miles southwest of Graeagle, California, at an elevation of 6400 feet, is another great kayaking spot with plenty of amenities. Over 20 tiny lakes can be found in the vicinity, with hiking routes linking the majority of them, all of which are dog-friendly. Because of the magnificent environment and warm waters, now is the greatest and busiest time to travel if you plan ongoing. You can unwind at one of the 37 campsites at the Gold Lake Campground after a lovely day of kayaking on this gorgeous lake.
3. Emerald Bay.
Look no further than Emerald Bay for one of California’s premier boat-in camping spots. It was located on the southern shore of Lake Tahoe and offered a spectacular view of the lake’s turquoise water, sandy beaches, and towering evergreens. I recommend making a reservation for one of the 22 boat-in campgrounds on the north side of Emerald Bay, as it has become a favorite spot for kayakers and boaters alike.
4. Almanor Lake
Lake Almanor, a hidden gem with a 52-mile shoreline and over 300 campsites, is a very large lake with a 52-mile length and over 300 campgrounds for relaxing. Lake Almanor has made such an impression on visitors that it has been dubbed “New Lake Tahoe” by some. Mount Lassen, visible from the water as you kayak, is one of the most striking aspects of Lake Almanor. While you’re here, you can make use of a variety of services, including pet sitting, free day usage, food stores, and more.
5. Clementine Lake
Lake Clementine is a great place to go if you like warm water and sandy beaches. The water here is safe and warm because it is part of the North Fork of the American River, making it ideal for a swim while kayaking. Lake Clementine has campers located along the shore, making it an excellent choice for those who prefer waking up to the sight of a beautiful lake. Dogs, glass containers, and alcohol are not permitted on the water, although pet sitting is available to keep your doggie safe while you paddle this magnificent lake.
Best places to kayak in Southern California
6. Islands of the Channel
Kayak lovers should not miss Channel Islands National Park and its neighboring National Marine Sanctuary, which has the world’s largest density of sea caves and abundant marine life. Because the location only receives about 100,000 visitors each year, your paddling experience will be free of crowds and noise. However, curious harbor seals, bright orange garibaldi, beautiful sea stars, extensive kelp forests, and a vast variety of seabirds are all likely to be seen. It’s even possible to witness blue whales and dolphins.
While there are five islands in the park, Santa Cruz is the most popular for kayaking. A 90-minute ferry voyage from the mainland to the island is required and should be arranged in advance through Island Packers Cruises. If you wish to paddle on your own, you can rent a kayak from Channel Islands Kayak Center ahead of time. Make a reservation with Channel Islands Adventure Company if you prefer a guided trip. They provide trips that last anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours.
Depending on the winds and currents, kayaking around the Channel Islands might be difficult. Newcomers are always welcome, but they must be in reasonable physical condition.
7. The city of Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is an excellent place to kayak, whether you want to relax and enjoy the tranquil waters of the harbor or explore the gorgeous coastline. You may watch sunbathing sea lions, motorboats, and yachts float out to sea or visit the neighboring Stearns Wharf from the harbor. After that, refuel at one of the many seafood restaurants in the area. The Santa Barbara Sailing Center and the Paddle Sports Center both provide rentals.
The Santa Barbara Adventure Company provides a 2-hour harbor fun paddle, a 3-hour coastline kayak trip, and a 2-hour sunset adventure if you want a guided tour of the area. These are all excellent methods to learn about the area’s history and get assistance locating wildlife. More than 1,500 types of plants and animals can be found along this stretch of the coast.
Combining a trip to Santa Barbara with a trip to the Channel Islands is a great idea. Santa Barbara lies roughly 40 to 50 minutes north of the harbors of Oxnard and Ventura, from which the ferries to the islands depart. Spend the night in Santa Barbara after a day of touring Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary, and then spend the next day exploring this coastal city.
8. La Jolla Cove is number.
La Jolla, located just north of San Diego, has long been a prominent beach resort town with upscale hotels, restaurants, and shopping. The La Jolla Ecological Reserve, which preserves seven sea caves, kelp forests, and marine life, is also located here. Kayakers may even come across leopard sharks, garibaldi, and sea lions. Gray whales can be seen on their annual migration from Alaska to Mexico if you visit in the winter.
Kayakers enter the ocean at La Jolla Shores Beach to explore the reserve. Several shops nearby, including La Jolla Kayak and La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks, rent kayaks. Both organizations also provide 90-minute tours that include a kayak into one of the caverns. Consider arranging a kayak and snorkel tour to get a deeper look into the reserve. From December 1 to March 1, Everyday California offers a whale-watching kayak cruise.
Kayaking at La Jolla, like kayaking in the Channel Islands, can be tough depending on the winds and currents. Paddlers should be relatively fit, but no prior experience is required.
The beach in La Jolla Shores is quite popular, and it may get fairly crowded. If you’ve scheduled a tour, give yourself plenty of time to find a parking spot.
9. The Mission Bay area
Mission Bay, in San Diego, is a fantastic place to learn to kayak since its protected waters are usually always calm. In reality, it resembles a lake rather than the sea. However, if you want a greater challenge, you can go on into open ocean waters.
Mission Bay is known for its picturesque views, easy access to white-sand beaches, and abundance of marine life. Take a break on one of the beaches if you become tired of kayaking. It’s also not a problem if you want to kayak with your dog; Aqua Adventures enables canines to participate and even provides the necessary life vests.
Mission Bay is a popular tourist site for both locals and visitors, so don’t expect it to be quiet. A variety of watercraft will join you on the water. Arrive early to rent your boat if you like fewer people. See Bottom Kayak Rentals also offers a nocturnal experience. Their two-person kayaks with neon lights are a fun way to explore the bay after dark.
10. Catalina Island.
There’s no need to travel all the way to Hawaii if you’re seeking an island paradise. Instead, take a ferry from Los Angeles or Orange County to Catalina Island and arrive in 90 minutes or less. Kayaking is one of the most popular water activities on the island, as it is on most others.
Explore the sheltered waters surrounding Catalina Island with a kayak rental from Descanso Beach Ocean Sports. Keep a watch out for garibaldi, sea lions, and dolphins as you paddle through the dense kelp forest. A large variety of birds, including California brown pelicans, cormorants, and eagles, can be seen flying overhead. From the sea, you’ll have a fantastic view of the famous Catalina Casino and Green Pier. Take advantage of a naturalist’s knowledge by booking a 2-hour guided kayak tour that highlights the area’s marine life, including leopard sharks, dolphins, and sea lions.
Spend the rest of the day at the Descanso Beach Club after kayaking. Soak up the sun on the sand or stop by the restaurant for a bite to eat.
11. Alamitos Bay (California)
For some truly unusual kayaking in Alamitos Bay, head to Long Beach, a beachside hamlet south of Los Angeles. Begin your journey by visiting the Naples Island Canals, an early 1900s Italian-inspired village. You can relax while kayaking and viewing the waterfront mansions. You are welcome to stop and dine at any of the eateries or cafés along the way. Then make your way to a cove teeming with moon jellies. Because these jellyfish do not sting, don’t be afraid to touch them. KayakRentals is a company that rents out boats.
Expect Alamitos Bay to be crowded because it is a popular place for a variety of water sports. Get out on the water early in the day for a more peaceful experience.
12. Huntington Harbor.
Surf City, USA has long been a nickname for Huntington Beach. This unique seaside hamlet is about an hour south of Los Angeles in Orange County. The adjacent Huntington Harbor is an excellent place to go kayaking, especially if you want to learn how to paddle.
Huntington Harbor, which runs between Huntington Beach and Seal Beach, was developed in the 1960s and includes five man-made islands, a system of waterways, and five public beaches. There are approximately 500 residences on the water’s edge, the majority of which have private docks. This isn’t the place to go if you want to see wildlife, but it is a nice site to look at some beautiful waterfront residences.
Both conventional kayaks and Hobie pedal kayaks are available for rent at OEX Sunset Beach. Reserve an evening guided kayak tour in December to see the holiday lights on the nearby homes and boats for something truly unique.
Because of the tranquil seas and low boat traffic, this is an excellent site for beginners. In reality, every boat that exceeds 5 miles per hour is subject to a local speed limit. Take a break at one of the beaches when you need a break.
Southern California has a plethora of wonderful kayaking places thanks to its position on the Pacific Ocean. And whether you’re a novice or a seasoned traveler, there are destinations to meet your needs. Simply pick a site, make your reservations, and get ready for a relaxing day on the water.
Frequently Asked Question
Do great white sharks attack kayakers?
Great white shark attacks on kayakers, particularly those who are kayak fishing, frequently make the news. These events, however, are the exception rather than the rule, given the hundreds of thousands of people that kayak off the coast of California every year; the last kayaker fatality by shark occurred in 1989.
When should you go kayaking in California?
California has fantastic kayaking conditions all year. If you want to see a certain species of marine life, such as humpback whales, check with tour operators to learn when they’ll be in the region.
Similarly, bioluminescence is best evident near the new moon on the darkest evenings.
Finally, take in mind that certain operators, particularly in the interior of California, may only operate during the summer.
What to Wear before Kayaking
Even though the weather in California is gorgeous (with slightly rainy winters and dry summers), you’ll want to stick to the best practices for what to wear kayaking. Layer up, stay away from cotton garments, wear sunscreen (including polarized sunglasses to view all the fish, sharks, and other underwater life), and dress for the water temperature rather than the air temperature.
- Which rivers are the most beautiful? Your particular preferences will determine which rivers are the best in California. The Eel, Klamath, Trinity, and Sacramento Rivers, on the other hand, are fantastic places to kayak if you want to be outside and get a workout. In a boat, how many people can fit? If you want to kayak on a vast body of water, you’ll need at least six, but preferably four people. A tandem kayak, which allows you to paddle with a partner, may hold up to six people.
- Is there enough space to transport all of your belongings? Traveling with a little extra food and gear is a good idea.
- Also, make sure you have enough water in case of an emergency and that your kayak fits you and the stuff you’ll be carrying. The kayak should be between 6’6′′ and 7′ height as a general guideline. 4.
Best places to kayak in northern and southern California
The top places to kayak in California include everything from beaches and harbors to rivers and lakes. Whether you’re scooping up a paddle for the first time or looking for the best kayaking spots in California, you’re bound to find your match.