Canoeing And Kayaking In San Francisco That Are Just Breathtaking

Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in San Francisco

Abigail ScottByAbigail Scott
Updated on 8/13/2022

There are affiliate links included in some of our content. The Urban Outdoors may get a commission if you purchase after clicking on one of these links, but this won't affect the price you pay for the item. As usual, we never suggest anything that we don't personally use ourselves, including goods and services.

For people looking to build a house in San Francisco, it's become one of the hottest spots in the country. Because of its proximity to the water and its many hip new businesses, San Francisco is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the best locations to live in all of California. Even though many things to do around the Bay Area may be pretty expensive, kayaking in San Francisco is an activity you can undertake at a meager cost, or sometimes even for free. Additionally, it is a fantastic way to get to know the city!

It doesn't matter whether you want to kayak beneath the Golden Gate Bridge or paddle with sea lions in the ocean; kayaking in San Francisco is a fantastic water activity for novices and seasoned paddlers. Canoeing and kayaking are two of the most popular watersports in San Francisco, and here you'll find a comprehensive guide to the city's most stunning locations for these activities. San Francisco's diverse landscape offers plenty for paddlers of all skill levels.

A word about transportation: as people who live in cities, we know that it is often challenging to reach nearby natural places without using a vehicle. Although we do our best to provide directions for using public transit, it's conceivable that you'll need to hire a car to reach some of these destinations. You may read reviews and compare rental vehicle costs in your city by clicking here. Still, we generally use and suggest Enterprise since they offer the most extensive range of automobiles at the most excellent pricing. If you prefer, however, you can go here instead.

Canoeing And Kayaking At Their Finest At San Francisco's Finest Locations

Sausalito

Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Sausalito

Place: Marin County

Rentals Available: Yes, the hourly rate for Sea Trek is $30.

When kayaking in Sausalito, there are hundreds of different sites to explore, with everything from vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge to the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean. One-of-a-kind perspective of one of San Francisco's most famous monuments may be had by kayaking beneath the Golden Gate Bridge; the channel's calm waters are an excellent location for novice kayakers.

Other areas in Sausalito, such as the Sausalito Houseboats Area and Angel Island, are more appropriate for experienced kayakers than the rest of the city. As you paddle farther away from the beach of Sausalito, the water will get much more turbulent, making paddling more difficult.

The natural splendor of California is brought to an urban environment such as San Francisco by the beachfront of Sausalito. As a result of its proximity to the city center, going kayaking may turn out to be the finest spur-of-the-moment choice you've ever made.

A well-kept secret in Sausalito, Horseshoe Cove near Fort Baker is a beautiful cove that also serves as an excellent launching location for kayakers who bring their boats. The gear you need for the trip can be rented from Sea Trek for $30 per hour if you don't have your own.

To get there by car, begin on the US-101 and take exit 444 for Rodeo Avenue to Bridgeway. From there, follow the directions above. If you don't want to drive, many trains leave from Mission Street and Fifth Avenue throughout the day that will take you to Bridgeway (Golden Gate Bridge Transit).

The Bay of Monterey

Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in The Bay of Monterey

Location: Monterey/Santa Cruz

Rentals Available: Yes- at Monterey Bay Kayaks, $45/per usage

Kayaking in San Francisco is famous for the natural beauty of the area and the wide variety of species that can be seen there. The place that most fits this description is Monterey Bay, where tourists may kayak right up next to lovable sea lions, otters, loons, and even leopard sharks!

The Monterey Bay area is known for its abundant and varied animal life, serving as a haven for many different species. The best way to watch these creatures in a safe environment is from a kayak in Monterey Bay or the neighboring wetland Elkhorn Slough (additional information may be found below).

Because of its protected location and peaceful seas, Monetary Bay is an excellent place for novices. The Monterey Bay area is a prominent location for a wide variety of water sports due to the abundance of exciting activities that tourists can enjoy. These activities include scuba diving, sailing, surfing, and many more. Due to the reasons mentioned earlier, if you intend to kayak on the Bay, it is recommended that you begin your expedition as early as possible.

Launching your boat from any of the beaches in Monterey Bay is simple and completely free. Monterey Bay Kayaks, on the other hand, has kayaks available for hire at the cost of $45 per user and also provides tours of the surrounding region so that you won't miss a thing.

Getting there by car requires you to head south on US-101 toward San Jose, exit 336 onto CA-156 West toward Monterey Peninsula, and continue on that road until you reach Del Monte Boulevard. If you don't feel like driving, you may take the bus departing from Salesforce Plaza in San Francisco and head to Monterey Bay.

Tomales Bay

places to go canoeing and kayaking in Tomales Bay

Place: Marin County

At Blue Waters Kayaking, we offer rentals, so come on down!

Tomales Bay is a fantastic location for camping and kayaking throughout the year, and it's just an hour away from the center of San Francisco. Paddling about the Bay will almost certainly reward you with sightings of some remarkable animals since it is home to more than a thousand different flora and fauna.

This natural Bay is protected from the weather by the grassy hills surrounding it, making it an ideal location for novice paddlers to practice their skills. In addition to its breathtaking scenery, Tomales Bay is responsible for collecting forty percent of California's oyster population; thus, if there is any location in the world to enjoy oysters, it is here.

Elk may be found at the Tomales Bay Elk Reserve, a component of the broader Point Reyes National Seashore (further information on this can be found further down). Because it is one of the more secluded areas of Point Reyes, Tomales Bay is an excellent choice for beginners, families, and young children.

Because it is easy to get to, kayaking in Tomales Bay is popular among tourists. There are four locations where kayakers who bring their boats may launch their vessels: the Miller Boat Launch at Marin County Parks, Tomales Bay State Park, Tomales Bay Resort, and Lawson's Landing. You may rent your gear from Blue Waters Kayaking if you don't have your own.

If you are using a car to get to the site, begin your journey on US-101 and exit 456 toward Lucas Valley Road to reach CA-1 North. Tomales Bay may be achieved most quickly and easily by car. If you need automobile rental services, Avis has got you covered.

Alameda

places to go canoeing and kayaking in Alameda

The county of Alameda is the location.

The tours offered by Stacked Adventures do provide rentals.

Fishing and canoe/kayaking is an incredible pair, but how about crabbing and kayaking? I had no idea that kayaking and collecting crabs was a possibility until I went to Alameda, which is widely regarded as the best place in the world to conduct both activities.

Crab fishing in Alameda is world-famous, but tourists may also enjoy exploring the ocean's many uninhabited islands, which are home to a diverse array of animals and fascinating historical sites, or they can take a leisurely paddle along with the city's waterfront eateries. The Oakland Estuary is a great place for families who want to go kayaking together since the waters are often quiet, making navigating and discovering new things simple. Kayaking in Alameda County, part of San Francisco, offers various opportunities for exciting water adventures.

Stacked Adventures' Trips not only provides kayak rentals, but they also provide spectacular tours that explore several regions of Alameda (including a crabbing tour that also includes kayaking)! I believe launching your boat off the coast of Alameda should not be an issue for you if you are considering blazing your trail.

Directions: If you are traveling by car, go on I-880 South and take exit 42 toward Alameda. From there, follow CA-61 South to Webster Street. If you don't like driving, you can get to Alameda by the San Francisco Bay Ferry.

The McCovey Cove Area (China Basin)

McCovey Cove (China Basin)

Oracle Park is the location.

At City Kayak, we do offer rentals, so come check us out!

Regardless of the season, McCovey Cove in San Francisco Bay is always crowded with kayaks of people making their way to AT&T Park, whether they are on their way to see the Giants play or attend one of the many concerts that are held there.

Although kayaking into this inlet may not provide the most breathtaking vistas of San Francisco, it is an adventure that tourists passing through the Bay Area should attempt at least once. To listen to concerts and sports, all you need is a radio, and some players may even bring "splash hits" back home with them — home run balls that reach McCovey Cove!

This area is accessible to paddlers of all skill levels and provides a really one-of-a-kind experience for spectators attending sporting events in San Francisco. McCovey Cove in San Francisco, formally known as China Basin, is a great place to go kayaking since it's a high-energy experience that won't disappoint you!

If you want to explore McCovey Cove and the San Francisco Bay as a whole, City Kayak offers walk-up kayak rentals, and they also have an exclusive McCovey Cove package that leaves right before game time to get prime-time water seats. Please contact City Kayak today if you are interested in any of these options.

To get there by car, travel from 10th Street to Townsend Street, then turn right onto Channel Street. You may also travel by bus if you do not have access to a vehicle. Numerous SFMTA bus routes take off from Montgomery Street throughout the day and drop you off near McCovey Cove.

Slough Of The Elkhorn

Slough Of The Elkhorn

Monterey is the location.

Rentals Available: Yes- at Monterey Bay Kayaks, $30/use

The Elkhorn Slough, with its six miles of navigable canals, is widely regarded as one of the top 10 places in the United States to go wildlife watching. These waterways make it possible to get an up-close look at the city of San Francisco's many different ecosystems.

Elkhorn Slough is the most significant tidal saltwater marsh in California, making it an excellent destination for kayakers interested in seeing various wildlife, including sea otters, migrating birds, and more. The San Francisco Bay is the second largest tidal saltwater marsh in the state. This marsh has simple water to paddle across and navigate, making it an excellent destination for first-timers, younger paddlers, and whole families.

Paddling the Elkhorn Slough in the early spring or throughout the summer is the ideal time of year for anyone who wishes to see young sea otters. Kayaking in this area during the fall is recommended for anyone interested in birding.

To explore the Elkhorn Slough region, you may hire kayaks from Monterey Bay Kayaks. They also provide guided excursions that cost $30 per usage to assist you in correctly navigating the canals and seeing the local fauna. To get there by car, go on US-101 South headed toward San Jose, then get on CA-1 South heading toward Watsonville. If you would rather not drive, you may take the Amtrak train that departs at the Caltrain Station and travels to Elkhorn Slough.

Tiburon

Tiburon

Place: Marin County

Rentals Available: Yes- at Sea Trek Kayak and Stand Up Paddling Center $30/hour

Although it's just 15 minutes north of San Francisco, this bustling and the busy seaside city seem like it's on the other side of the planet. When you kayak around Tiburon, you'll get great views of the cityscape of San Francisco and Alcatraz, and Angel Island.

Those with some kayaking experience searching for a challenge and are interested in adventuring should go to Tiburon. The area to the left of the shore is home to an abundance of flora and fauna, as well as more challenging terrain, such as the Raccoon Straits, which ultimately leads to Angel Island State Park in California. A full circle of Tiburon, which is more than five miles long, is a terrific aim for more experienced paddlers since it provides stunning panoramic views of the San Francisco cityscape.

The town of Tiburon is rich in history from the time of the American Civil War and has lovely shops and restaurants. Most guests will find that they may spend an entire day or two touring Tiburon's coastlines, and they will observe that the Peninsula is particularly picturesque.

The Sea Trek Kayak and Stand Up Paddling Center is where you can hire kayaks and get guided tours of the surrounding region for $30 per hour. If that isn't an option for you, Tiburon boasts miles of shoreline where you may launch your boat without any restrictions. When you go kayaking in San Francisco, particularly in Tiburon, you'll feel like you've stepped out of the city and into the wild.

If you are traveling by car, begin on the US-101 and take exit 447 toward Tiburon Boulevard. The destination will be on your right. If you don't want to drive alone, you may use the Blue and Gold Fleet or Marin Transit Route 219 to get to Tiburon.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay

The County of San Mateo is the location.

Rentals Available: Yes- at Half Moon Bay Kayak Co.

Sea kayaking is a fantastic experience that should not be missed while in San Francisco, particularly in Half Moon Bay. This vast shoreline is next to the sandy sands of several beaches around the coast, and it is close to many of San Francisco's most famous landmarks.

The beaches of Half Moon Bay and Half Moon Bay Beach are part of a long chain of related beaches and make up the coast of Northern California. Because of the potential for the water to produce waves that are challenging to paddle through, it is recommended that visitors have previous experience kayaking before visiting Half Moon Bay. An essential piece of advice: if you own a wet suit, now is the time to put it to use! The waves of the ocean might be chilly!

Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. organizes a wide variety of one-of-a-kind sea kayaking excursions, such as journeys to local destinations such as Pillar Point Harbor and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. These locations and others provide a one-of-a-kind perspective on San Francisco's extensive marine life. They provide guided trips that are excellent for those new to kayaking or for groups and hire out individual kayaks.

Directions: If you are traveling by car, go on US-101 South and take exit 34 to get on CA-35 West toward Half Moon Bay. If you don't feel like driving, there is a train that will drop you off close to Half Moon Bay that departs at the Caltrain Station.

The National Park Service's Point Reyes Seashore

The National Park Service's Point Reyes Seashore

Place: Marin County

At Blue Waters Kayaking, we offer rentals, so come on down!

This National Park has been devoted to the service of nature since it was established to preserve the marine species that make Point Reyes National Seashore their home. Due to the presence of seal pups in the region, kayaking is prohibited except between the dates of July 1 and February 28, and this is done to enable the appropriate space for the sealed pups.

This short window of opportunity is an even stronger incentive to visit Point Reyes and take in its breathtaking scenery. Tomales Bay, Drakes Estero, and Limantour Estero are three of the most popular locations for paddleboarding in the area. In Tomales Bay, you may even see seals! This beach is ideal for paddlers interested in seeing the natural beauty hidden away in California since it is the state's most significant natural coastal embayment.

The locations discussed before are highly recommended for paddlers of every ability level. In addition to kayaking on the water, it is possible to kayak in the ocean. However, keeping closer to the shore is safer, where you will be protected from the strong currents and winds. There are six distinct launch places inside the park, so launching your boats into the lake shouldn't be a problem.

Point Reyes has everything to offer, whether you're searching for a relaxing paddle on a Sunday or an exciting overnight excursion. Imagine coming to work on Monday and telling your coworkers that a seal swam close to your kayak over the weekend; it would be an incredible experience to blow their minds! Blue Waters Kayaking offers a variety of rental options.

To get there by car, begin on US-101 and take exit 450B toward San Anselmo. From there, continue on CA-1 until you reach Bear Valley Road. You can take the bus to the hotel if you do not have a vehicle from Mission Street or Fifth Street. Three kilometers away from the water's edge (Golden Gate Bridge Transit). Or, you may hire a car from Avis.

The Chabot Lake

The Chabot Lake

Location: Oakland and Alameda, California

At the Lake Chabot Marina, there are rentals available, so yes. $28/hour

Cost: $5

In the 1960s, when Lake Chabot was opened for recreational use to the public for the first time, it became one of the most cherished and historically significant pieces of property in San Francisco. Lake Chabot is a popular destination for anglers since it is stocked with various fish, including catfish, bass, and other species.

This 315-acre lake, formerly used as a water supply for East Bay, is an excellent location for paddlers of all skill levels and is particularly appealing to those who have an interest in the past. Visitors can take historical tours of Lake Chabot, take picturesque walks around the 280-acre Fairmont Ridge, or work out in an interactive garden during their stay here.

The lake, however, is undoubtedly the most attractive feature of this park. A visit to Lake Chabot will certainly give you a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the city. The lake's azure waters and verdant shorelines provide a picturesque setting for various water activities.

At the Lake Chabot Marina, you may get rentals for $28 per hour. You can launch your craft, but there is a cost of $2 per craft and a fee of $5 per vehicle.

To get there by car, go on US-101 South and exit 32 for Fairmont Drive; continue on Fairmont Drive until you reach Lake Chabot Road. The closest bus stop to the lake is only a mile away from Montgomery Street, so if you do not have a vehicle, you may take a bus that departs from Montgomery Street and drops you off one mile from the lake (Bay Area Rapid Transit).

Lake With A Shoreline

Shoreline Lake

Mountain View is the location.

At the Shoreline Lake Marina, there are rentals available. Yes.

Building Shoreline Lake Regional Park on what was once more than 600 acres of junkyards and wastelands wholly transformed this area by capitalizing on the potential attractiveness of the surrounding landscape. Currently, it is considered one of San Francisco's most popular parks for kayaking, consistently ranked as one of the top ten.

Shoreline Lake is a saltwater lake that stretches over fifty miles and is connected to San Francisco Bay both upstream and downstream. The expansive waters of Shoreline Lake are an excellent choice for paddlers of all skill levels who are interested in exploring San Francisco. As the wind comes up later in the day, novices are advised to go to the water in the mornings rather than later, as this location is perfect for learning how to sail. As a bonus, the water here is much warmer than in the Bay due to its proximity to the ocean.

The next time you are near Shoreline Lake, don't forget to make your way to the Shoreline Amphitheater, the Valley's most prestigious performance venue if you are nearby. I think a vacation that includes kayaking throughout the day and then seeing a concert that evening would be fantastic.

At the Shoreline Lake Marina, you may rent canoes, kayaks, and a variety of other watercraft. Consider participating in a non-profit paddle day if you are traveling with a large group. A portion of the day's flat fee will be donated to a worthy cause.

If you travel by car, get on US-101 South and exit 399 toward Shoreline Boulevard. The destination will be on your right. If you don't want to drive, you can take a train that leaves from Caltrain Station; once you get to Shoreline Amphitheater Station, you may switch to a shuttle that will take you the rest of the way.

Please note that the Shoreline Amphiteather Shuttle will not operate for the 2021 season. Please visit their website if you are interested in receiving updates on when or if they will resume their services.

The beach at Johnson's

Johnson’s Beach

Location: Guerneville

Yes, rentals are available at the boathouse, which is located on the beach.

This sleepy hamlet in the Russian River Valley is just 90 minutes north of San Francisco and is one of the area's most popular summer vacation spots. Located in the Valley is the sleepy hamlet of Guerneville. A visit to Johnson's Beach is well worth the effort since it is close to several of Sonoma's best-known wineries and small-town stores.

Johnson's beach has the feel of a secluded vacation spot thanks to the surrounding redwood forests, and there are activities that the whole family can enjoy here. Younger children can take advantage of the designated swimming areas on the beach, and intermediate kayakers can take advantage of the pull of the Russian River's current as it flows downstream.

Johnson's beach has the atmosphere of an all-inclusive resort; hence, it is probably not the best location to paddle if you are searching for a genuinely isolated area. On the other hand, because the lodgings are suitable for families, Johnson's Beach is an excellent location on the Russian River for groups and families to spend time together.

At the boathouse on the shore, guests may hire canoes, kayaks, and several other types of water equipment. The beach itself does not charge an entry fee, so visitors are free to bring their boats and launch them. However, parking will cost you $7.

You can reach the venue by road: If you are traveling by car, begin by taking US-101 exit 494 toward Guerneville. After crossing First Street, you will be at the venue. If you do not have access to a vehicle, you will be able to access Johnson's Beach through the Golden Gate Bridge Transit, which departs at the intersection of Mission Street and Fifth Street.

Spring Lake Regional Park

Spring Lake Regional Park

Location: Santa Rosa

Rentals Available:

You may park for $12 an hour if you enter through Violetti Road.

Spring Lake Regional Park, located in the center of Sonoma Wine Country, is a fantastic location for kayaking in San Francisco for paddlers at the intermediate level. It is in your best interest to be close to the water's edge while on the lake since it is shared by motorized boats.

The Spring Lake Regional Park is home to campsites, hiking trails, lakes, and its 72 acres of stunning oak forests. It provides visitors with several possibilities to connect with the natural world. Because of the breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding vineyards, spending the day on Spring Lake is a favorite activity for tourists and residents (which is close enough to be toured on the same day).

At the entrance off of Violetti Road, next to the swimming lagoon, there is a place where you can rent kayaks for $12 an hour. If you want to launch your boat, the boat ramp that is located at the entrance on Newanga Avenue should be used.

When traveling by car, begin on US-101 and proceed to exit 488B towards Sonoma if you are traveling by car. From there, go toward Newanga Avenue. If you don't have a car, public transportation between Mission Street and Fifth Avenue or Montgomery Street will drop you off at Summerfield Road, which is one mile from the park. Or, you may hire a vehicle from Avis.

Lake Sonoma

Lake Sonoma

Sonoma County is the location.

At the Lake Sonoma Recreation Area Marina, there are rentals available to choose from. $30/hour

It doesn't get much better than paddling around Lake Sonoma for kayaking in San Francisco than doing so since the lake has more than 50 miles of shoreline and is flanked by stunning vineyards.

Since Lake Sonoma was one of the first locations in the United States to be restored following the passage of the federal preservation act in the 1960s, it is an excellent location for several water-based recreational activities. Beginner paddlers or anyone seeking a relaxed day trip will find this manufactured lake, bordered by green slopes, a perfect background for their excursion (campgrounds on site).

A whole weekend excursion is something many paddlers like to do when they go to Lake Sonoma. Paddlers of varying abilities can cover the distance of three miles between the boat launch and the Thumb campground. From that vantage point, the remaining 11 miles of the lake feature many coves waiting to be discovered and investigated.

Rentals of canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and jet skis are available at the Lake Sonoma Recreational Area Marina, which is located directly on the water and costs $30 per hour. There is also the possibility of launching your boat.

If you are traveling by car, begin your journey on US-101 and exit at Dry Creek Road, heading toward Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Road. The drive to Lake Sonoma in your vehicle is highly recommended. Visit the Avis website if you are interested in renting a car.

Additional Canoeing And Kayaking Resources Available In The San Francisco Area

What to Bring Kayaking in San Francisco and Surrounding Areas

Swimsuit: It is very necessary to wear a swimsuit if you are in or near the water. It is advisable to be prepared for getting wet if you are planning to go canoeing or kayaking since there is a good possibility you will! Click this link to compare the styles and costs of some of our best swimsuits for men and women.

Sunglasses: Spending time on the water is relaxing and enjoyable, but the water's surface may reflect a lot of light. You must remember to have a spare pair of sunglasses and croakies to secure them in place.

Wearing a hat can help keep you more relaxed by shielding your head from the sun's rays. Whether you choose a classic baseball cap or a stylish bucket hat, making sure you stay calm is the key to having a fantastic vacation.

Water Bottle: It's important to stay hydrated during the day! Paddling is a terrific way to get some exercise and unwind, but because of its physical demands, it cannot be considered a passive activity. Make sure that while you are on your trip, you keep yourself hydrated by using these stylish water bottles to keep yourself hydrated.

Put on sunscreen and bug spray since you don't want the elements to prevent you from enjoying a fantastic paddle. We highly recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray with you on the boat to protect you from sunburn and insect bites.

Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion, Broad Spectrum SPF 50, 6 Fl Oz
4.6/5
92%
For sensitive skin
92%
Easy to spread
72%
Scent
72%
Sun protection
54%
Value for money

Check out our ultimate kayaking packing list for a more comprehensive packing guide that will assist you in getting ready for any of your upcoming outdoor kayaking experiences. Your time spent canoeing and kayaking in San Francisco will be an experience you won't soon forget if you bring along these necessities.