The Best Places to Kayak in California

The Best Places to Kayak in California

California is home to several great kayaking spots for all skill levels. Learn more about our top picks for the best places to kayak in California

La Jolla

Coined the “Jewel of San Diego,” La Jolla has shallow, sandy flats fit for youngsters and soaring sea cliffs for the more adventurous kayaker. 

Carlsbad Lagoon

Carlsbad Lagoon is a lagoon town sprawling with marine life. It’s rife with picnic reservation spots for beautiful views to enjoy the outdoors. 

Channel Islands National Park

Located in Ventura, CA, the Channel Islands National Park comprises five islands off the California coast teeming with kayaking and snorkeling excursions for all skill levels. 

Elkhorn Slough & Monterey Bay

The Elkhorn Slough is California’s second-largest estuary, featuring a 7-mile long tidal slough with tributaries that lead into marshes teeming with flora and fauna. Monterey Bay is especially famous for its whale-watching. 

June Lake

June Lake is a natural lake at the foot of the Eastern Sierra Nevada range, perfect for casual kayaking beneath the stunning scenery of snow-capped mountain peaks. 

Russian River

Dotted with regional parks like Steelhead Beach, the Russian River flows through Sonoma County straight to Jenner, CA — a quaint coastal town great for hiking and tide-pooling. 

Pismo Beach

Explore Pismo Beach’s coastal archways, caves and caverns brimming with birds and marine life with popular kayaking tour companies like Central Coast Kayaks.

Los Angeles River

Paddle through the Los Angeles River on the leisurely Sepulveda Basin route, or try the more challenging and bustling Elysian Valley expedition, depending on your skill level.

Venice Canals

Paddle through the Venice Canals for unforgettable LA sight-seeing, including the architecture, people and street art. 

Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is one of the largest inland seas in the world at 35 miles long and 20 miles wide. The canals boast unique volcanic features created by magma chambers beneath. 

Morro Bay

Morro Bay is home to the Morro Rock, formed from extinct volcanos. Morro Bay’s flatwater kayaking tours are known for their sunset excursions — when the wildlife and birds come out after most tourists are gone. 

Big Bear Lake

Situated in the San Bernadino National Forest, Big Bear Lake is California’s biggest and deepest lake. It’s bordered with beautiful green shorelines and inlets great for family kayaking.


Located on the Redwood Coast, the Trinidad coastline offers the best of reefy lagoons — including Big Lagoon and Stone Lagoon — and moody forestry. 

American River in Sacramento

Lined with cottonwoods and willows, the American River discreetly flows through the bustling Sacramento city center. Canoeing, kayaking and rafting are all possible on the American River. 

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a freshwater lake situated in the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains, known for its bustling beaches, winding trails and kayaking tours in the Emerald Bay State Park.

Kern River

Kern River is scenic and unruly, known for its whitewater rafting — making it great for seasoned kayakers. And if you enjoy fishing, it’s home to golden and Kern River rainbow trouts.

Huntington Harbor

Hunting Harbor sits between Huntington Beach and Seal Beach. It’s lined with beautiful waterfront homes that beginner kayakers can admire while practicing their paddling. 

Santa Barbara

Coastal kayaking in Santa Barbara is an experience that draws thousands of tourists each year. The seaside views and steady waters are perfect for beginner kayakers and families. 

Newport Harbor

Newport Harbor is a classic California vacation destination, as it’s one of the biggest recreational harbors in the U.S. It’s excellent for many different water sports, including windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking and more.

Alamitos Bay

Alamitos Bay is a sandy inlet between Long Beach and Seal Beach, known for its beautiful marina and close location to the Naples Island Canals.

Tomales Bay

Known for its nighttime kayaking tours, you can watch plankton light up the calm Tomales Bay waters, which are great for all kayaking skill levels. 


The waterfront community of Sausalito is another popular California kayaking destination known for its kayaking in Richardson Bay and Angel Island.

Englebright Reservoir

Located in Yua City, the Englebright Reservoir is another great spot for water sports — including paddling and canoeing — with its calm, crystal clear waters and beautiful locale. 

Take a Kayaking Trip in California

Take a Kayaking Trip in California

Kayaking in southern California is an unforgettable pastime for families and adventure-seekers alike. Learn more about what to bring on a kayak trip or check out some of our EZ Launch® products for kayakers.