10 Best Places to Kayak in Southern California

Best Places To Kayak In Southern California

The year-round balmy weather and the Pacific Ocean make California a great place to go on kayaking adventures.

You1ll find islands, caves, and even National Parks on the water.

Here are some of the best places to go kayaking in S. California.

L.A. River

La River Kayaking Southern California

If you’re looking for sun-filled recreation, the L.A. River, once closed to the public, now opens throughout the summer for intrepid urbanists. You can ride the 2.5-mile water trail in Elysian Valley and enjoy some wildlife sighting, fishing, and bird watching. This stretch of the river is known for peaceful flowing waters that even newbies can kayak. You just need to apply for a permit if you plan on kayaking as an organized group. But if you plan on kayaking on your own, no permit is required.

Just put your kayak in the water, South of Fletcher Drive bridge, and follow the river till you exit at Oso Park. Another great kayaking spot on the river is the Sepulveda Basin. It’s a shorter and more peaceful stretch for those looking to leisurely glide down turquoise waters. Thanks to Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, there’s plenty to see and hear. You can listen to the symphony of owls, pelicans, geese, herons, red tail hawk, and many others. Come for fishing too. Bring out your fishing gear because the river is teeming with largemouth bass, bluegill, tilapia, bullhead, and catfish.

More info on kayaking in the L.A. River

Alamitos Bay – Long Beach

Alamitos Bay Naples Canal Paddling

If you are looking for a secluded getaway, head over to Alamito Bay on Long Beach. It’s a great kayaking spot, especially for beginners, as you won’t have to worry about boat traffic. 

Get ready for wildlife viewing; you can catch a glimpse of dolphins, sea lions, and moon jellies in their natural habitat. Moon Jellies are live Jellyfish that don’t sting, so you can see or touch if you like.

Most importantly, don’t forget to take on the charming waterway in Naples canals. They are great recreational waterways that flow through the island’s center in a complete circle and are lined with spectacular waterfront homes. Getting around the canals in Belmont shores on your kayak is fun. Spend an hour or stay as long as you want. You can even make a quick stop at restaurants for a cocktail. You can also kayak to Starbucks or pack at one of the calm beaches for a picnic.

All along, expect peaceful, calm waters, fun, and great exercise, and you can bring your dog too. Don’t forget to save some energy for the return journey, as you’ll likely be going against the wind.

More info on Alamitos Bay

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Kayaking California

At Santa Barbara, you can choose to leisurely float on crystal clear waters and rejuvenate or explore the beautiful coastline. Kayakers get the opportunity to catch glimpses of sunbathing sea lions, watch yachts and motorboat activities in the vast open sea or visit L. A’s longest deep-water pier, the Stearns Wharf.

Indeed, the Stearns Wharf is the number one attraction in the area. Come for the fun and best foods. It provides opportunities to mingle with marine life such as sharks, sea urchins, sea anemones, and sea stars at the Sea Center. At Stearns Wharf Bait & Tackle, you can cast your lure and try your luck at some fun catch. Later, visit local restaurants for the best seafood and fine wine.

Guided tours are also available, where you will learn the area’s history and catch a glimpse of diverse wildlife. If you plan on visiting Santa Barbara, pair the trip with a visit to the famous Chanel Islands.

More info on Santa Barbara

Channel Islands

Channel Islands Kayaking Southern California

Kayaking is an exciting way to get around the islands along the Ventura-Santa Barbara coastline. 

There are 8 islands in this stretch of the pacific coast, all being UNESCO biosphere reserves. 

The Santa Barbara and Anacapa islands are designated national monuments. 

Get ready for crystal clear waters that are very user-friendly, even for beginners. Spend about 3 hours exploring the vast Sea caves in Santa Cruz; this place has some of the world’s most gorgeous sea caves. 

You can also check out the lighthouse and clifftop Inspiration Point at the end of the Anacapa Island trail or ride past quiet Torrey pines on Santa Rosa Island. 

At San Miguel, you can catch a glimpse of seals as they gather at Pint Benet. 

If you are a bird enthusiast, Santa Barbara is known for American kestrel, owls, horned larks, and the California brown pelican.

More info on the Channel Islands

Huntington Harbor

Huntington Harbor Kayaking

Huntington Beach is a trendy seaside town known for the best surfing activity in the U.S. Still, you can also paddle the waters at the harbor, especially if you are a beginner or just looking for easy-to-paddle waters. 

There are five artificial islands along the harbor, bordered by beautiful waterfront homes.

You can launch your kayak at Sea Bridge Park, Trinidad Island, or Davenport Beach Park and take on the waters to admire the surrounding boats and homes, especially during the holiday season when they are bathing in magnificent lights. Expect calm waters and little boat traffic.

Just remember not to paddle into the open ocean as it’s part of the Naval Weapons Center.

More info on paddling in Huntington Harbor

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove California Kayaking

Ready for a date with a picturesque stretch down the San Juan Diego Pacific Coast stretch? From the historic Seven Seas Caves to the famous Dr. Seuss Tree and rocky cliffs that go back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth, La Jolla has plenty to offer.

Paddle through the Submarine Canyon, a rocky reef, and massive kelp forests all form a reserve for Sea Turtles, migrating whales, and Sea Dolphins. You can even swim with sharks and play in the water with sea lions. Don’t worry; the Leopard Sharks don’t bite!

You can also spot the garibaldi damselfish swimming about in bright orange shoals that stand out against the seaweed and green algae. Did you know they are named after an Italian General who fancied red shirts and wore them into battle; yes, he helped create the Italian Kingdom!

Explore the Seven Sea Caves; they have a rich layer of history. Back in the days, Pirates used to hide here. They offer a picturesque view of the sea’s forceful waves and high tides. The caves are named Clam, Sunny Jim, Arch, Sea Surprize, Shopping Cart, Little Sister, and White Lady cave from west to east.

More info on La Jolla Cove

Catalina Island

Catalina Island Kayaking Southern California 1

If you crave some fun in an island paradise, take the 90-minute ferry from L.A. to Catalina Island for thrilling water activities, including kayaking. You can bring your own watercraft or rent one from any local outfitter.

Catalina Island’s waterway leads through lush green kelp forests, habitat for dolphins, garibaldi, and sea lions. 

Keep an eye overhead, too, because the area is known for an iconic, diverse array of birds such as the California brown pelican, eagles, and cormorants.

You will also pass the historic Catalina Casino, the largest building here. Explore the Green Pier for comfort foods and enjoy the meal as you watch vibrant marine life activity.

Later, head over to one of the beaches for a soak in the sun!

More info on kayaking at Catalina Island

Marina del Rey

Marina Del Ray Kayaking

For a kayaking spot near Venice Beach, head over to Marina del Rey. 

It’s one of the leading ports in the world and therefore teaming with activity.

You’ll find people floating leisurely, yacht-watching in the backdrop of live music and fabulous restaurants during the summer. You can join the crowd or take on the waters to Mother’s Beach for more adventure, including picnicking, swimming, barbecues, and beach ball games.

More info on Marina del Rey

Mission Bay

Mission Bay Kayaking California

If you are ever in the San Diego Mission Area, Mission Bay’s protected waters are ever so gentle. Indeed, it feels like a lake and not an ocean at all.

But if you desire a challenge, paddle right ahead into the open ocean.

There’s a lot to do on your kayak in Mission Bay. It provides easy access to quarzitic sand beaches and incredible marine life such as sea lions, anchovies, bat rays, crabs, and herrings. And what’s more, you can bring your dog along the fun ride.

Mission Bay is a popular destination, so expect significant activity and a big crowd. You can opt for an early morning or nighttime ride in neon-lit kayaks.

More info on kayaking in Mission Bay

Point Loma

Point Loma Kayaking S California

Point Loma is not as scenic as Mission Bay or La Jolla Coves, but it stands its ground among the best kayaking spot in Southern California. You can take on the waters and catch the Humphreys Concerts on your kayak. How cool!

Humphreys Concerts by the Bay is an enduring tradition in San Diego. They take place from April to October. Catch live performances of Jazz, blues, and comedy by Sand Diego’s top entertainers. Sometimes, international speakers grace the event too. You could enjoy it all for free on your kayak if you missed out on the ticket because the show sold out or the prices went through the roof.

There’s also significant fishing activity at Point Loma kelp beds. There are guided fish trips, but you can also do it by yourself. Common types of fish include barracuda and tuna. And if you want to catch the iconic California sunset, paddle all the way to Shelter Island!

More info on Point Loma

If you know of any other awesome places to kayak in Southern California, please let us know in the comments below.

And also, if you have a kayaking related business in any of these locations and want to get featured on this page, get in touch!

Are you new to the world of inflatable boats? Then my Getting Started Guide is for you. You’ll find tips, tricks, and how-to articles to start off right.

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