Kayaking Bay Area

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What is it like going kayaking in the Bay Area?

Is this a popular location for paddlers?

When it comes to kayaking Bay Area locations, which ones are the best to check out?

The Bay Area is a very popular place for kayakers. Californians and tourists alike enjoy the experience of kayaking through the various bodies of water in and around this part of the state.

In this article, you’ll learn about nine of the best locations to go kayaking in the Bay Area and nearby. Check out these suggestions to help you plan your next trip!

Option #1. Elkhorn Slough

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $$
Location: Moss Landing
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Bring the whole family along for wildlife viewing and more when you kayak in Elkhorn Slough. This body of water makes it easy to see seals and otters, and there are plenty of birdwatching chances here, too.

Pros

  • Kayakers can book sunset or moonlight guided tours on this body of water.
  • At some times of the year, bioluminescence tours are also available.

Cons

  • Tours may be canceled at some times of the year due to weather issues.
  • Dogs are not allowed on board kayaks at Elkhorn Slough.

Option #2. Half Moon Bay

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $$$
Location: City of Half Moon Bay
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Rent a kayak and explore the Bay on your own time, or take a guided tour and see some unique and beautiful marine settings without having to stray too far from the city. You can find all this and more when you kayak in Half Moon Bay.

Pros

  • This choice is a State Beach, so it’s well-kept and maintained year-round.
  • There are other activities, such as horseback riding and camping, available here as well.

Cons

  • At some times of the year, some parts of the area may be closed due to weather.
  • There are fewer guided tours here than elsewhere in the Bay Area.

Option #3. McCovey Cove

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $$
Location: San Francisco
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

McCovey Cove gives kayakers the chance to view a Giants game from the comfort of their own kayaks. Kayakers are welcome to paddle into the cove during the games at no additional cost (aside from the cost of kayak rentals) and can easily hear the game from the water’s surface.

Pros

  • This option is a fun, unique, and truly California experience that locals and tourists alike both enjoy.
  • Sometimes, “splash hits” from the game land in the Cove, and kayakers may catch them.

Cons

  • The water is extremely crowded during games, so prepare for large groups.
  • At some times of the year, it can be very cold to watch the game from a kayak.

Option #4. Monterey Bay

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $$$
Location:
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

Monterey Bay is a sanctuary for a lot of marine animals, so it makes a great opportunity for paddlers to see ocean creatures up close and personal. Tours are available all year round, even in the winter, so tourists and locals alike can enjoy paddling when it’s convenient.

Pros

  • Most tours include wetsuits during the winter months.
  • Kids as young as three years old are welcome on many of these shorter tours.

Cons

  • There aren’t a lot of overnight trips available on Monterey Bay.
  • The water can be crowded during some times of the year.

Option #5. Oakland

Difficulty: Intermediate
Cost: $$
Location: Oakland
Recommended Duration:

Oakland is a great location for finding lessons when you want to hone your kayaking skill beyond just the basics. There are also plenty of ways to rent kayaks and other paddle-based watercraft in this area, and then haul these rental kayaks to any body of water in the Bay Area that you might want to explore.

Pros

  • Oakland offers hourly and overnight kayak rentals.
  • Many stores in this area also sell kayaks for those who are interested in buying.

Cons

  • Transportation may be required to reach bodies of water from Oakland.
  • Kayaking in this area may be more city-based than elsewhere.

Option #6. Point Reyes

Difficulty: Advanced
Cost: $$$
Location: Marin County
Recommended Duration: Full-Day

Point Reyes National Seashore provides many different locations to paddle and explore. Ocean kayaking is the most popular way to enjoy this experience, so kayakers who are experienced on the sea will find something to participate in when they visit this part of the Bay Area.

Pros

  • There are other locations in the Point Reyes area that are not as difficult as the sea kayaking on the shoreline.
  • Many rental options are available in this area.

Cons

  • Portions of Point Reyes may be closed throughout the year due to wildlife, weather, and more.
  • Some parking areas may not allow overnight parking for Point Reyes trips.

Option #7. San Francisco Bay

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Location: San Francisco
Recommended Duration: Half-Day

If you’ve ever wanted to check out San Francisco Bay and all its landmarks from the water itself, then a kayak tour is the way to go. These tours may include fireworks viewing, sightseeing, South Beach exploration and a lot more.

Pros

  • Kayakers can easily take classes and learn how to kayak on the waters of the Bay.
  • It is easy to include a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge as part of a San Francisco Bay trip.

Cons

  • These are popular trips that may be difficult to book last-minute.
  • Trips may not allow walk-ins at all.

Option #8. Sausalito

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Location: Sausalito
Recommended Duration: Half-Day or Full-Day

Sausalito is a popular place to take shorter kayak trips, and it’s also a great starting point for longer duration excursions in the area. Houseboats are often visible on this trip and can provide a unique look at some of the local residents and their way of life.

Pros

  • Longer trips from Sausalito may travel into the San Francisco Bay area and include overnight camping options.
  • Moonlight tours are also available, and some include dinner options.

Cons

  • These tours may be pricey and can fill up fast at some times of the year.
  • There may be a lot of boat traffic in some parts of this area.

Option #9. Tomales Bay

Difficulty: Intermediate
Cost: $$$$
Location: Point Reyes
Recommended Duration: Half-Day or Full-Day

Tomales Bay offers plenty of opportunities to explore the shoreline as well as some more open waters. This offer may be possible to spot seals and even, sometimes, whales while enjoying this kayaking adventure, although this is dependent on many conditions.

Pros

  • There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy lunch while exploring Tomales Bay.
  • Overnight camping and bioluminescent tours are often available on this bay as well.

Cons

  • It can be pricey to find tours of this Bay, especially bioluminescent and overnight tours.
  • Tours in this area may become crowded at certain times of the year.

Conclusion

What is the best time of year to visit the Bay Area for kayaking? In general, spring and fall are good times to visit this area for kayaking. The weather is cooler, but not too cold, and the crowds should be a bit thinner as well.

But what happens if you come during the off-season? You may be able to experience much lower crowd levels during the off-season, but the tradeoff is more unpredictable weather and potentially colder waters. Depending on your preferences, any time of year may work for you.

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