Explore our gorgeous waterways from Sausalito down to Santa Cruz by paddling along in a kayak. It’s easy for kids to get the hang of kayaking and it’s really the perfect family activity. Frolic with friendly sea lions, watch the sea birds swim by and see the Bay Area like you never have before. These spots will get you geared up for a day on the water. Paddle on!
photo: CityKayak via flickr
This cool kayaking company operates right off of South Beach Harbor and Pier 40, making it super easy to access for city families. They offer rentals and kayaking classes for all levels, as well as guided tours and fireworks tours. They let any and all ages ride and have life jackets for infants, but they recommend kids be at least 11 to paddle out solo. You can even bring the family dog along for the ride!
San Francisco, CA
Hours: Open through the whole year, check website for times
Cost: Full day for a sit-on-top double kayak is $148, or $68/hour.
San Francisco Kayak and Adventures
This outlet offers varied routes and special hours to accommodate their popular sunset and moonlight paddles. You can’t just rent your own and paddle out here—it’s all guided tours, so be sure to check the site and sign up in advance. SF Kayaks is located just south of AT&T Park, so with baseball season gearing up, there could be a chance to hit up the famous McCovey Cove and even try to catch a home run or two. The boats are traditional closed-deck kayaks, which keep the paddlers warm and dry—perfect for San Francisco’s not-so-hot summer days. FYI: Kids must be at least 8 to ride in a double kayak with mom or dad.
San Francisco, CA
Hours: Times vary
Cost: Group tours at $80/person
photo: Lake Chabot
This beautiful reservoir offers kayak and life jacket rentals as well as guided kayak tours for both adults and kids six and older. Grab a boxed lunch from Stan’s Cafe so that you can spend as long as you’d like out on the water. Explore the eight miles of shoreline in this East Bay gem.
Lake Chabot Rd.
Castro Valley, CA
Cost: $5/vehicle for parking, $23/hour for double kayak
Stacked Adventures offers a kayak concierge experience. Tell them what you want and they will deliver and pick up the gear at your desired destination! Amazing. This service even includes trip planning, which allows families to make the most of anything mother nature might throw their way (currents, weather, terrain, etc.). Private tours can be set up for groups of three or more and designed with the group’s experience and interests in mind. They also offer a variety of kayaking experiences from nature tours, skill-focused workshops and what they like to call destination specific options: Kayak & Dine, Birder’s Tour, Full-Moon Paddle to name a few. Stacked Adventures offers most tours for all levels of ability and experience (recommend in double or triple kayaks.
photo: Venture Quest Kayaking
Venture Quest Kayaking
See the boardwalk and beaches of Santa Cruz from the water with Venture Quest Kayaks! Kayak rentals and tours are offered right from the Santa Cruz wharf, making it an easy activity for residents and visitors alike. You’ll be able to check out the seals and otters near the Lighthouse Point on a safe and easy paddle thru the Wharf Nature Tour (offered from April – October). They also offer a year-round tour of Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing, where you can do some bird watching and see seals in a calm estuary. Tours are recommended for children five years and up.
#2 Santa Cruz Wharf
Santa Cruz, CA
Cost: $35/single per hour, $60/double per hour
Half Moon Bay Kayaking Company
These sea-worthy folks offer not only rentals but a kid-friendly three-hour jaunt that starts off with a launch among harbor seals and birds. A paddle across the protected harbor will end up at Pillar Point and everyone will get the chance to explore the tidepools before heading back to the starting point. Call for the latest schedule. Life jackets are available for infants and up.
2 Johnson Pier
Half Moon Bay, CA
Cost: Single: $25/hour, Double: $50/hour
Foster City Lagaoon
Conveniently located right at the waters edge just south of the Foster City Parks and Recreation Center in Leo J. Ryan Park. The venue features safe inland waters and mild on-shore winds making it a great place for the entire family to enjoy the water. This cash-only facility offers kayak rentals as well as lessons. Park for free at the Parks and Rec lot and walk to the water’s edge near the bocce ball court and then head south to the boathouse.
650 Shell Blvd.
Foster City, CA
Cost: Single: $10/half hour, Double: $20/half hour
Head out to this beautiful spot to book some kayak time with the family. You can reserve your rig online before you go with single and double kayaks available (as well as pedalboats, rowboats and more). After you’ve worked up an appetite, dine at the American Bistro and take in the sights.
3160 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA
This spot is perfect for kayaking even for beginners as the waters are calm and you’ll get the opportunity to view tons of wildlife. Kayak Connection will take you out on a family adventure tour where paddlers as young as 3 can get some water time. Or, book your rental to explore on your own.
Santa Cruz Harbor and Elkhorn Slough
photo: Point Reyes Outdoors
Point Reyes Outdoors
Get out on the protected water of Tomales Bay with Point Reyes Outdoors. Set your beginner up with kayak classes where they learn the essential skills of kayaking. Take a tour Giacomini Wetlands to check out the waterfowl or to Drakes Estero to see if you can spot bay rays, harbor seals and more. Tours are for ages eight and up. There’s even a night time bioluminescence tour for ages 12 and up where you can spot the amazing bioluminescent dinoflagellates.
Miller Park Boat Launch (next to Nick’s Cove Restaurant)
Cost: Four-hour rental: $65/single, $100/double
Sea Trek Ocean Kayaking
Whether you want to chart your own course or take a guided tour, this company has it all. We especially love their family tours through Sausalito, out to Angel Island or around Tomales Bay. They even offer triple kayaks, so the more kids the merrier! There is no age requirement and life vests come in all sizes. Kids as young as nine can enroll in their kayaking summer camp. For the super adventurous you can even book a kayak/camping combo trip to Angel Island.
Cost: $25-40/hour, tours are $60 and up
photo: Blue Waters Kayaking
Blue Waters Kayaking
Head for the beauty of Tomales for a day on the Bay. It’s a journey to get out to where the launches are located, but with over 400 species of birds to find, and friendly folks ready to show everyone the ropes, this could be a fantastic weekend adventure the kiddos won’t stop raving about on Monday. Rentals are available for DIY adventures and they also offer youth camps, guided tours, classes and even overnight camping trips for the whole family.
Tomales Bay Resort
12944 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Cost: Rentals start at $85 for double kayaks
101 Surf Sports
This super duper awesome sports store is also central Marin’s easy access to the bay. The launch is on the canal directly behind the shop, so you can literally rent your gear or sign up for a class and be on the water within the hour. The owners are real pros and ardent lovers of water sports, so the know-how is there for the taking. They offer rentals for the weekend, classes and even a family paddler package.
115 Third St.
San Rafael, CA
Cost: Rentals for a double kayak start at $35 for 1 hour
photo: River’s Edge Kayak Trips
River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips
Kayaking or canoeing in the Russian River is of the the most fun activities around but probably best for older kids (and their parents!). You can rent kayaks, canoes and SUP or go on guided trips of the gorgeous upper Russian River.
Tip: No children under four years old are allowed. Check the shuttle times as you will park your car five miles from where you’ll start to descended the river.
Cost: $70/single, $140/double
photo: California Parks Company
The Sierra foothills are home to this lake that is a water sport paradise. They have four single and six double “sit on” kayaks that are available for rent by the hour or by the day. Take them out to explore the beauty along the 54 miles of shoreline. Stay the weekend by reserving a camping spot or glamping it up at one of the cottages and vacation rentals at the lake.
North Shore: 2000 Camanche Road, Ione, CA
South Shore: 11700 Wade Lane, Valley Springs, CA
Cost: double kakak $20/hour or $60/8-hour period
—Kate Loweth & Jennifer Yco
Featured photo: City Kayak via flickr