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16 Best Places

to Kayak in San Diego, CA

Published May 14, 2022

With clear blue waters and sandy beaches, San Diego is one of the most stunning places for kayakers of all skill levels. Whether you have a challenging expedition or leisurely coastal tour in mind, you can make that happen in this beautiful Southern Californian county. Both professional kayakers and novices flock to this county year-long, especially during the warmer months.

If you are planning to go kayaking in San Diego, keep reading. The goal of this post is to help you find the best places to kayak in San Diego. Below are our top picks. Learn about these places, choose one or more, and then set out.

Best Places to Kayak in San Diego: Summary

1. La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove

With stunning rock caves and picturesque sea cliffs, La Jolla Cove is among the most Instagram-worthy places in San Diego. Here you can enjoy paddle boarding, sea kayaking, and surfing. If you are interested in California’s wildlife, you will find La Jolla Cove an amazing place to explore.

As you go kayaking in the La Jolla Marine Reserve, you will spot sea lions, leopard sharks and other aquatic animals. Here you may also consider exploring the Seven Rock Caves. While a novice paddler is likely to find it challenging to paddle through these caves, a tour guide can make things easier.

On the coastal trails there are some beautiful sites such as Windansea Beach and Mt. Soledad—ideal for biking or hiking. You can book tours and rent kayak gears through Everyday California. Ja Jolla Cove, for a host of reasons, is one of the best places to kayak in San Diego. But even if you are not into kayaking, you will fall in love with this place.

2. Bahia Point

Bahia Point

Bahia Point is a calm, picturesque place in Mission Bay can be an amazing undertaking for a novice kayaker. Many experienced kayakers return to this place and report that it’s just amazing. This place has something that pulls you again and again. In addition to kayaking, this spot is ideal for stand-up paddleboards, flatwater workouts, and surf-skiing.

Amenities such as fire pits, restrooms, and picnic tables are easily available here. On weekends, parking fills up quickly. Therefore, unless you show up early, securing a spot here can be a hassle. However, things will get a lot easier if you plan ahead.

3. Mission Bay Park

Mission Bay Park

With its outstanding natural beauty and amenities for various recreational activities, Mission Bay Park is one of the best places to kayak in San Diego. The park attracts outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. Its 27-mile coastline may be a bit overwhelming for first-time visitors, but the experience is totally worth it.

The west end of Mission Bay Park is a paradise for kayakers. Here you can explore channels of pristine waters and picturesque mini islands. These wide open waters may not be ideal for novice kayakers, but perfectly accessible and safe.

Whether you are planning to go swimming, windsurfing or padding, you will find Mission Bay Park delightful. As a popular place for kayaking the park has plenty of clubs and services to help you get started. Aqua Adventures Mission Bay Park can provide you with everything you need for an adventure.

4. San Onofre State Beach

San Onofre State Beach

With its outstanding natural beauty and amenities for various recreational activities, Mission Bay Park is one of the best places to kayak in San Diego. The park attracts outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. Its 27-mile coastline may be a bit overwhelming for first-time visitors, but the experience is totally worth it.

The west end of Mission Bay Park is a paradise for kayakers. Here you can explore channels of pristine waters and picturesque mini islands. These wide open waters may not be ideal for novice kayakers, but perfectly accessible and safe.

Whether you are planning to go swimming, windsurfing or padding, you will find Mission Bay Park delightful. As a popular place for kayaking the park has plenty of clubs and services to help you get started. Aqua Adventures Mission Bay Park can provide you with everything you need for an adventure.

5. Lower Otay Lake

Lower Otay Lake

Widely known as a staple for kayaking and canoeing in San Diego, Lower Otay Lake is surrounded by Chula Vista and Otay County Open Space Preserve. The lake is not an old one. In fact, it was formed in 1918.

Novice paddlers find the calm waters of Lower Otay Lake very convenient. Thanks to the serene setting of the park, it’s great for all types of water activities. Here, you can even receive training from the United States Olympic Rowing Team.

The surrounding mountains and hills make Lower Otay Lake an amazing place for a picnic. There are plenty of campsites with great amenities. If you are looking for a serene place where you can reconnect with nature, Lower Otay Lake is a great place to visit.

6. Lake Hodges Reservoir

Lake Hodges Reservoir

Located in Escondido, Lake Hodges Reservoir is among the best places to kayak in San Diego. The place is popular for its picturesque rocky cliffs and tree-lined islands surrounded by turquoise waters. If you are planning to spend a day on the water, visiting this reservoir will be worth your time.

This lake has a remarkably long shoreline and three separate forks. The east fork is the most popular among paddlers. Both experienced and novice kayakers enjoy kayaking on smooth waters that run through mangrove forests. For a novice paddler, it’s an ideal setting.

The northern shoreline is characterized by clear, smooth waters—ideal for kayaking. The mountains in the background make this shoreline one of the most beautiful places in San Diego. In Southern California, the most accessible boat ramps are available here at Lake Hodges Reservoir.

7. Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines State Reserve

The mesmerizing natural beauty of Torrey Pines has always appealed to nature lovers. Travelers come here to explore rugged, untouched nature characterized by long stretches of land and water. The semi-tropical waters of Torrey Pines nourish the unique animals and plants in this region.

Torrey Pines State Reserve has one of California’s most beautiful coastlines, which kayakers can easily explore. Near the shoreline, sea kayaking is pretty safe and easy. However, if you are doing it for the first time, consider going with an experienced paddler.

Bikers and hikers love the amazing trails in this region, such as Razor Point, Guy Flemming, and Beach Trail. The place offers opportunities for plenty of other outdoor activities such as exploring jagged cliffs, dense forests, and pristine ocean beaches.

8. Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach

An amazing place to go kayaking and canoeing, Coronado Beach is among the most popular beach destinations in San Diego. Coronado’s open waters will add thrills to your water adventure. If you are an experienced kayaker, you will be able to explore the beach on your own. If not, you can get the help of a tour guide.

Coronado Beach is one of the best places for kayaking in San Diego, and you can spot leopard sharks, sea lions and other wildlife while on the water. At times, the bay can get misty. So, bringing a rain jacket is a good idea. You can also consider exploring Coronado island, a great historical landmark, which is a bit far from the shore.

There are eye-soothing palm trees on the sandy coastlines, and some great restaurants and shops in the beach town. Over 2 million people visit Coronado Beach and Coronado Island every year.

9. Lake Miramar

Lake Miramar

While Lake Miramar is not far from the town, this small, beautiful lake feels like a place in another world. If you are planning to explore San Diego’s beauty, this wonderful lake will not disappoint you.

Lake Miramar is surrounded by ravines and grassy fields used for camping and picnic sites. Along the lake, there is a 5-mile long paved hiking trail. So, whether you are a hiker, biker or paddler, you are going to fall in love with this place.

Motorized boats are prohibited here, and that’s good news for avid kayakers. You can enjoy your stay without having to deal with any distractions. The lake is not just known for its natural landscapes; from here, you can also see the city skyline.

At 66 hectares, this is a small lake, even by San Diego standards. But the place has something that makes travelers return again and again.

10. Cabrillo National Park

Cabrillo National Park

Cabrillo National park is among the best places to kayak in San Diego, in part because the park features sea caves, national monuments and tide pools. Paddlers find this park’s sea caves just fascinating. As you paddle through the sea caves, the natural landscape will mesmerize you.

You may also want to kayak to the Cabrillo National Monument, which is an integral part of the history of California. The Point Loma peninsula is surrounded by calm waters, and anyone can go kayaking here, regardless of their skill levels.

At Cabrillo National Park, just the act of looking at the sandy shorelines and stunning cliffs is equivalent to reconnecting with nature. With its appeal of natural beauty and historical significance, Cabrillo National Park is one of San Diego’s most remarkable places to explore by boat.

11. Point Loma

Point Loma

Cabrillo National park is among the best places to kayak in San Diego, in part because the park features sea caves, national monuments and tide pools. Paddlers find this park’s sea caves just fascinating. As you paddle through the sea caves, the natural landscape will mesmerize you.

You may also want to kayak to the Cabrillo National Monument, which is an integral part of the history of California. The Point Loma peninsula is surrounded by calm waters, and anyone can go kayaking here, regardless of their skill levels.

At Cabrillo National Park, just the act of looking at the sandy shorelines and stunning cliffs is equivalent to reconnecting with nature. With its appeal of natural beauty and historical significance, Cabrillo National Park is one of San Diego’s most remarkable places to explore by boat.

12. Kaweah River

Kaweah River

For a thrilling water adventure, look no further than the Kaweah River, a steep drainage ideal for kayaking. It is to be noted here that the Kaweah River is great for experienced paddlers, not novices. However, with enough safety gear, novice paddlers can also give it a shot.

Surrounded by Alta and Morro—two remarkable peaks of Sequoia National Park—the Kaweah River is one of the best places to kayak in San Diego. Along the Kaweah River, most of the land is privately owned, and therefore finding take-out spots may not be easy when you are in the middle of the trail.

A great thing about the Kaweah River is that it remains awesome all year-round. In colder months, the place has a scenic alpine background formed by snow-capped mountains. In the springtime, when wildflowers bloom along the banks, the region wears a beautiful look.

As long as you take proper safety precautions, the place is safe, no matter what time of year it is. While it is a pretty challenging place for kayaking, the experience will be highly rewarding.

13. Spanish Landing Park

San Onofre State Beach

With a vibrant culture and rich history, Spanish Landing Park is among the best places to kayak in San Diego. This pristine beach is the place where Father Junípero Serra met Gaspar DePortola in 1769. Today, avid kayakers flock to this beach and reconnect with nature.

For people interested in outdoor activities, Spanish Landing Park has a lot to offer. Whether you are planning for kayaking or paddle boarding, rest assured that this place will not disappoint you. The park is not far from Harbor Island, where there are some great restaurants and shops. After a day on the water, you may consider visiting these restaurants and shops.

This is an urban beach where all modern amenities are abundantly available. If you own a boat, the process of launching your kayak is pretty straightforward. If you don’t, consider renting kayaks from a local provider.

14. Carlsbad Lagoon

Carlsbad Lagoon

Carlsbad Lagoon is another popular hub of watersports activities such as kayaking, wakeboarding, jet skiing and paddle boarding. Located east of the freeway, the place is also known as Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

With sandy beaches, Carlsbad Lagoon is one of the best places to kayak in San Diego. Here you can view wildlife and paddle into the creek. Kayak rentals are abundantly available here. Boat storage spaces are also offered by private service providers. This passive recreation area is open to the public. Many private firms come to the lagoon for their events.

To reduce pollution, some regulations have been enacted, and visitors must follow them. Alcohol is prohibited here, and visitors are advised to avoid leaving cans and bottles. Motorized surfboards, cabin cruisers, hovercraft and parasailing are also prohibited here.

15. Shelter Island

Shelter Island

Located on the north side of San Diego Bay, this man-made island is another great destination for kayakers of all skill levels. The outer side of the island features a mix of sandy beaches and rock jetties. The center of this island is dominated by a large boat ramp.

It should be noted here that Shelter Island is not a very serene or peaceful paddle. The reason is that the island is located at the entrance to San Diego Bay. Still, the experience can be fascinating. So many vessels make the place vibrant.

Just be a little bit careful when you paddle, and your efforts will be highly rewarded. Don’t assume that other boaters are noticing you, and you will be safe. The key is to be careful while you navigate among other water vessels.

16. Redondo Beach

Redondo Beach

Redondo Beach is known for its vibrant harbor, history, amazing seafood restaurants, unbeatable sunsets, miles of sand, and horseshoe-shaped pier. This beach is also one of the best places to kayak in San Diego. As you kayak here, you experience a diverse marine life: sea lions, seagulls, dolphins and pelicans.

The place also offers opportunities for other outdoor activities such as sport fishing, biking, surfing, diving, sailing, and whale watching. No matter what kind of outdoor adventure you are planning, this place will make you happy.

Final Thoughts

These are the best places to kayak in San Diego, hopefully you have already chosen a place. But this list is by no means comprehensive. There are some other locations that are worth-exploring. 

Kayaking is an amazing way to interact with nature, and the rushing streams and crystal clear lakes of San Diego are ideal for this purpose. Whether you are an experienced kayaker or new to the sport, San Diego will welcome you with wide open arms!

Jay Schwarz author of Kayak Guidance

About the Author - Jay Schwartz:

Hey there kayak lovers! I’m Jay Schwartz, the author here at Kayak Guidance! You know water sports – you know me! My life is all about it. Kayaking, Paddleboarding, Fishing, Snorkeling and so much more. I love to share my passion and knowledge with all of you. 

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