Natalie Ringel, Author at Urban Outdoors
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Natalie Ringel

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snow covered lake perfect for some cold weather kayaking
It is never too cold for a paddle trip if you have the right gear! Photo Credit: Michelle Coleman (Flickr CC)

While most people may think of canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding as water sports you can only do in warm weather, these outdoor activities are brought to a new level in cold climates.

Instead of paddling beyond coral reefs or between sandy islands, cold environments offer an exciting glimpse into icy marine habitats, glacial islands and snow-capped mountain lakes. So, check out the guide below for a cold weather kayaking gear packing list and our recommendations for gear that will outlast brutally cold conditions.

Before you can begin your journey into these cool terrains, you should have the proper gear to keep you safe, dry and warm. Whether you are planning to explore sub-zero waters or want to pack a few extra layers, knowing what to look for in quality kayaking gear is extremely important. Below, we have created the ultimate guide for what to purchase and pack for cold weather kayaking.

The Best Cold Weather Kayaking Gear

The term “cold” can be quite subjective– I know that my definition of cold weather greatly differs from the rest of my fellow paddlers (what can I say, I run hot). But in paddle terms, cold climate kayaking is whenever the water temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Good news– most state or national parks will provide the water temperature for you so there is no need to purchase a paddle thermometer. Nowadays, most kayaks will even have a tiny thermometer on the side of the boat so you can easily gauge the water temperature too.

However, if you are planning to go backcountry paddling in a cold climate, you may have to do some research about the temperature of the water you will be experiencing. Also, keep in mind that air temperature and seasonality can also affect water temperatures. With these tips on how to define cold climate paddling conditions in mind, let’s get to the good stuff: cold weather kayaking gear.

How to Dress for Kayaking in Cold Conditions

cold weather kayaking between ice caps
Don’t let snow or ice get in the way of an epic water adventure. Photo Credit: Marsel van Oosten (Flickr CC)

Dress for Submersion, Not for Success

Although I have full confidence in your paddling capabilities, sometimes things happen and you end up spending more time in the water instead of on top of it. Therefore, it is crucial to be wearing the proper gear if your kayak capsizes or you need enter the water for any reason.

Luckily, there are a ton of great options to help keep you dry and warm, even if you end up submerged. The two best pieces of gear to purchase for cold weather kayaking are either a wet suit or a dry suit. While these pieces of gear sound similar, they actually are quite different and knowing the difference can aid in choosing which piece suits your cold climate needs.

Wet Suit vs. Dry Suit: What’s the Difference?

A wet suit is made out neoprene, a water-resistant material. Neoprene wet suits work by insulating your body heat to keep you dry and warm while paddling in cold climates. There are many styles of wet suits, but all styles should fit as snuggly as possible against your body (without cutting off your blood flow).

If you are purchasing a wet suit for kayaking in cold conditions, check the two-number code that categorizes wet suits. The first number tells you how thick the neoprene is around your torso and the second number details how thick it is over the arms and legs. While a thicker layer of neoprene will keep you warmer, it also makes your wet suit less flexible. So, if you plan on being super mobile while paddling in your cold climate, a shorter and thinner wet suit could work well for your trip.

A dry suit is a large, breathable suit made of waterproof material. This roomy design helps keep water away from your body. Gaskets at the wrists, ankles and neck ensure that cold water will stay far away from your body, keeping you nice and dry for your cold climate kayaking adventures.

Dry suits are essentially a giant windbreaker for your whole body– what’s not to like? Since dry suits are similar to wearing a waterproof overcoat, it is essential to wear some base layers underneath. We recommend these base layers and liners to go with your dry suit.

It’s All About the Layers

In cold weather kayaking conditions, layers are your new best friend. Layering is a technique often used in outdoor activities that allows you to put on or take off articles of clothing as you need them.

This can be little tricky when kayaking because you are also wearing a life jacket on top of your gear, so it is best to look into clothing with zippers or velcro that allow for an easy on-off transition if you get too hot or cold while out on the water.

If you need some inpisration on how to layer clothes for your top and bottom, try to imagine the coolest and warmest scenarios you may experience on your paddle trip. When you start off paddling, you will want to be wearing most of your layers. After you have been paddling for a bit, your body may adjust to the colder climate and you can feel free to take off a layer or two. For some awesome base layers and liners, check out these options featured below.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Since it is essential to keep your body warm, dry and comfortable while kayaking in cold weather, it is important to know where your body tends to release the most heat.

Most of the places where the body gives off a lot of heat are sneaky places that kayakers forget to buy gear for, such as the head, knees and toes. Purchasing proper headgear for cold weather kayaking is an absolute game-changer. Once I started paddling with a hat, it made the whole experience much more pleasant because I did not have to worry about my ears freezing off the whole time! Similarly, durable footwear is key for having a safe and fun kayaking trip in cold conditions.

These specific spots– the head and the feet– are easily forgotten when packing for a cold weather kayaking trip, but have a huge impact on how you feel when you are out on the water. Don’t believe me? Next time you are kayaking in cold climate conditions, bring along a hat and wool socks and you will feel the difference in how you engage with your time in nature.

a kayaker in the ocean
Get all suited-up for those cold climate kayaking adventures! Photo Credit: Thilo Lehnert (Pexels)

Packing List & Top Gear for Cold Weather Kayaking

No need to let the cold weather get in the way of your epic adventure! Cold weather kayaking just requires some thoughtful planning about which gear will hold up under these harsh conditions. Below, we have created the ultimate cold climate kayaking packing list so you can spend more time paddling and less time packing.

As always, price should never be a barrier to enjoying the great outdoors. For the sake of clarity, this pricing guide will be used for a quick look at some of the expenses that come with purchasing kayaking gear.

  • $ = $10-$49
  • $$ = $50-$150
  • $$$ = $150+

Wet Suit

  • Best Wet Suit for Cold Weather Kayaking: O’Neil Reactor II
  • Materials: Neoprene, nylon, spandex
  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Pros: Comes in short and long sleeve options, snug fit, seamless design, wind-resistant Smoothskin offers extra insulation against the cold
  • Cons: Can be challenging to take on and off, full-body wet suits can be pricy

From the cold waters of mountain lakes to the glacial conditions out at sea, a wet suit is a smart investment for avid kayakers and outdoor lovers. The form-fitting design of wet suits like the O’Neil Reactor II offer great protection from the cold and wind so you can enjoy all of the unique places kayaking may take you.

Avid paddlers especially love wearing the O’Neil Reactor II wet suit because it uses top of the line materials to make sure your body heat stays insulated for the whole duration of your paddle trip. Best of all, this wet suit uses a seamless design so there is no need to worry about chaffing or irritation of the arms or legs while kayaking.

Although wet suits and dry suits both serve the purpose of keeping you dry while paddling, the O’Neil Reactor II wet suit is our top pick for the best cold weather kayaking gear. The suit’s focus on insulation, comfort and mobility means that you can take control of your paddle trip and stay out on the water for hours without noticing the cold.

If you are interested in purchasing a wet suit like the O’Neil Reactor II, you may also want to think about the length of the wet suit and the thickness of the neoprene. Thicker neoprene will keep you warmer, but the suit loses some of its flexibility. So, if you are in a mild climate, a short-sleeve and thin wet suit is preferable to a thick, full-body suit needed for colder conditions.

CHECK REVIEWS AND PRICES FOR THE O’NEIL REACTOR II WET SUIT:

Dry Suit

  • Best Dry Suit for Cold Weather Kayaking: Kokatat Legacy Dry Suit
  • Materials: 3 layers of Gore-Tex Pro Shell, neoprene, latex
  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: Full-body coverage, comes in a variety of colors and styles, extreme weather and waterproofing ability
  • Cons: Expensive, known for weatherproofing instead of insulating

A dry suit is the ultimate piece of gear for any cold weather kayaking adventure. With full-body coverage, it’s safe to say that wearing a dry suit like this Kokatat Legacy Dry Suit will definitely enhance your paddling experience by keeping you nice and dry.

The roomy design of a dry suit acts like a windbreaker– but for your whole body. The intense Gore-Tex, neoprene and latex combination of the Kokatat Legacy Dry Suit offers protection from harsh and rugged outdoor elements.

Many paddlers especially enjoy wearing the Kokatat Legacy Dry Suit because its breathable design allows for massive layering underneath. If you take away anything from this packing guide, it is that layering for cold weather kayaking is an absolute must. By purchasing a dry suit like the Kokatat Legacy Dry Suit, you can count on having enough room for cozy layers underneath this protective outer shell.

CHECK REVIEWS AND PRICES FOR THE KOKATAT LEGACY DRY SUIT:

Base Layers and Liners

Never underestimate the power of a good base layer when kayaking in cold weather conditions! Seriously, having an extra layer of Merino wool underneath your other kayaking gear ensures that you will stay warm and dry throughout your paddle trip.

Most paddlers especially love Smartwool Base Layer Bottoms and Smartwool Base Layer Tops because they are made out of 100% Merino wool. This comfortable fabric is still extremely breathable, so you can still wear another jacket or two on top without feeling overheated or bogged-down with excess material.

Similar to base layer tops, Smartwool base layer bottoms are equally as comfortable and important to pack for cold climate kayaking. You can wear these liners underneath dry pants or dry suits (think of them like long underwear).

Smartwool’s base layers and liners are the perfect form-fitting addition for any cold weather kayaking trip. Best of all, you can wear these base layers and liners for all types of outdoor activites, on land and water. Since they are so warm and comfy, some paddlers even wear them just for lounging around too!

CHECK REVIEWS AND PRICES FOR SMARTWOOL BASE LAYERS AND LINERS:

Jacket

  • Best Jacket for Cold Weather Kayaking: NRS Hydroskin Jacket
  • Materials: Neoprene and nylon-spandex materials offer optimal stretch and reduced water retention
  • Price: $$
  • Pros: Paddler-specific cut with friction-free seams so you have a wide range of mobility, underarm rash guard
  • Cons: Expensive, small pockets

Cold weather kayaking requires a water-resistant, flexible and, most importantly, warm jacket so you can confidently take on the great outdoors. The reason that jackets like the NRS Hydroskin Jacket are a favorite among paddlers is because you can wear it comfortably underneath a life jacket or PFD and still retain maximum range of motion.

With neoprene, nylon and spandex materials, the NRS Hydroskin Jacket is full of fabrics designed to keep the heat in and the cold temperatures out. This flexible and versatile jacket is great on its own for mild climates and is also an awesome layering piece for more icy adventures.

Since this form-fitting jacket is specifically cut for the paddle motion, you cannot go wrong with adding it to your kayaking gear list. Although the men’s and women’s designs are slightly different, all of the jackets utilize waterproofing technology to make your trip as pleasant– and warm– as possible.

CHECK REVIEWS AND PRICES FOR THE NRS HYDROSKIN JACKET:

Dry Pants

  • Best Dry Pants for Cold Weather Kayaking: NRS Endurance Pants
  • Materials: HyproTex 2.5 water-resistant material, nylon
  • Price: $$
  • Pros: Zip-up pockets, comes in a few colors, works well with a dry suit
  • Cons: Not fully waterproof

Dry pants are the secret ingredient that can really change your cold weather kayaking experience! You can wear dry pants in cold and warm weather conditions, but the water-resistant technology is especially helpful for keeping your legs dry while kayaking.

The durable yet lightweight materials in the NRS Endurance Pants make them one of the best dry pants on the market for cold climate paddling. Besides keeping your legs warm and dry, these pants act as another protective barrier between you and the harsh elements. If you are backcountry kayaking or want to get down and dirty, these dry pants will keep your legs scratch-free.

If you decide to wear dry pants while kayaking, make sure to wear a base liner, swimsuit or wet suit underneath the pants. This way, you can take them off if you get too warm or do not need the extra weatherproofing.

CHECK REVIEWS AND PRICES FOR THE NRS ENDURANCE DRY PANTS:

Headwear

  • Best Headwear for Cold Weather Kayaking: Smartwool Hat
  • Materials: 100% Merino Wool
  • Price: $
  • Pros: Machine washable, unisex, many colors, great for layering
  • Cons: Only one layer of jersey-knit lining

While many kayakers are familiar with bringing along a baseball or bucket hat on paddle trips, a hat specifically designed for cold climates is necessary for creating a safe and enjoyable cold weather kayaking trip.

We especially love hats like the Smartwool Hat because it is lightweight, versatile and great for layering. If you are planning a kayaking trip that has whitewater rapids, you may want to wear a helmet too. A Smartwool Hat is the perfect layering piece to add an extra warm lining and make it more comfortable to wear a helmet for a long period of time.

Besides keeping you head warm during cold climate kayaking, wearing a wool hat is a great practice for multiple outdoor activities. From hiking to sailing, wearing a well-fitted and warm hat keeps the cold and wind at bay so you can fully enjoy your outdoor adventures.

CHECK REVIEWS AND PRICES FOR SMARTWOOL HATS:

Gloves

  • Best Gloves for Cold Weather Kayaking: NRS Boater’s Gloves
  • Materials: ThermalPlush and GripCote padding and lining, DWR-coating
  • Price: $
  • Pros: 4-way stretch, comes in half-finger and full-finger options
  • Cons: Limited warranty, can get expensive depending on materials

Although gloves may not be the first thing that comes to mind for paddle gear, they are an essential item for cold weather kayaking. Out on the water, freezing fingers can really impede your control of the paddle and boat, so wearing a pair of weatherproof gloves is a real game- changer.

We recommend purchasing a pair of kayaking gloves like NRS Boater’s Gloves. These gloves come in a wide array of colors and are offered in half-finger and full-finger options (full-finger pictured here). Best of all, you can wear these gloves for a whole host of water sports besides kayaking. Whether you are sailing or ice-climbing, a pair of gloves like NRS Boater’s Gloves are versatile and helpful for conquering cold weather conditions.

By wearing NRS Boater’s Gloves, your hands can remain warm and toasty as you paddle through the coldest of climates. The 4-way stretch material allows for full paddle control so you can confidently cruise through some epic waves. With the fear of frostbite, hypothermia and blisters out of the way, just imagine the amazing potential of your cold weather kayaking trips.

CHECK REVIEWS AND PRICES FOR THE NRS BOATER’S GLOVES:

Footwear

  • Best Footwear for Cold Weather Kayaking: NRS Paddle Wet Shoe or Kokatat Nomad Paddle Shoe
  • Materials: Neoprene with a heat-reflecting titanium layer to keep the feet warm in cool climates
  • Price: $$
  • Pros: Easy on-off zipper access, good foot and ankle support, fair price for a well-made product
  • Cons: Fleece lining decreases breathability, not too much arch support

Like I mentioned before, a lot of heat can escape from your feet so having the proper footwear for cold weather kayaking is a must! When looking for kayaking shoes that will support your feet in cold conditions, it is best to buy shoes that cover the entire foot and ankle region.

Many cold climate paddlers love the NRS Paddle Wet Shoe or Kokatat Nomad Paddle Shoe. Both of these shoes are made with proper waterproof materials to help keep your feet dry. Best of all, the snug fit allows for a wide range of motion and mobility so your feet won’t feel trapped. The added support and rubber soles ensure stability as you transition from land to water, and also offer great traction if you need to get out of your boat.

The NRS Paddle Wet Shoe and Kokatat Nomad Paddle Shoe are the best cold climate kayaking shoes because these thin heat-insulating shoes easily fit in any type of canoe or kayak. These lightweight, portable and insulating shoes will become your best friend out on the cold water.

CHECK REVIEWS AND PRICES FOR PADDLE WET SHOES:

Hopefully, this gear and packing guide helps you see what items are essential to purchase and pack for kayaking in cold climates. Now that you have this information, get paddling! Don’t know where to start? Check out our kayaking destinations page to see all of the awesome places you could explore by boat.

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Cold Weather

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to What to Wear Kayaking in Cold Weather



here is a guide to the best dry bags for kayaking so you will be ready for any seaside adventure.
Here’s a guide to the best dry bags for kayaking so you will be ready for any seaside adventure. Photo Credit: Rok Romih

Whether your outdoor travel plans are taking you to glacial seawaters or rocky coastlines, a kayaking dry bag is an essential item to have on your gear list. If you decide to go on a paddle trip, it is important to be prepared with the proper clothing, food and equipment. On these paddle trips, it is common for paddlers to use a dry bag or dry sack to store these essential items.

From a simple paddle around the lake to a multi-day backcountry adventure, kayaking dry bags are a convenient (and colorful) way to stay organized. Below, we have created a guide to help you find the best kayaking dry bag to fit your paddling needs.

But first, why is it helpful to use dry bags for kayaking and paddling trips?

Dry bags are specifically designed to keep your essential gear dry and organized throughout your paddle journey. From stovetops to an extra pair of dry socks (essential for any trip) dry bags are the key to effectively packing your gear for a safe kayaking trip.

Besides acting as a main storage unit for your kayaking gear, dry bags usually have easily accessible compartments for packing snacks, a map, sunscreen, bug spray etc. While you are paddling, it is convenient to have these important items in an accessible place instead of rolling around the bottom of your boat.

What to Look For When Purchasing a Dry Bag

Materials

Since the purpose of using a dry bag is to keep your gear organized and dry while paddling, it is important to note some specific materials that can provide the durability and flexibility needed to make a good dry bag.

The two most popular materials for dry bags are nylon and vinyl. If you are planning a multi-day kayaking trip in backcountry or rugged terrain, then you should look for dry bags made with vinyl. Vinyl is the sturdiest dry bag material, and will keep your gear dry even if the bag gets submerged. Along with its waterproofing abilities, dry bags made with vinyl are best used for heavier objects (like stoves, first-aid kits and shoes) because vinyl is one of the most durable materials used for camping.

While vinyl is one great material to look for when purchasing a dry bag, nylon dry bags are another awesome alternative. If you are planning a day-trip in a moderate terrain, nylon dry bags are a better fit for your needs than a vinyl dry bag. Nylon is a much lighter and more flexible material than vinyl. Therefore, it more easily fits in a kayak or compartment and is not as heavy to carry.

When choosing the best dry bag for your outdoor needs, remember to think about what type of gear your trip requires. If you plan on bringing heavier objects, a sturdy vinyl dry bag is a great choice for your trip. However, if you just want to go on a quick paddle that is not very intense, dry bags made out of nylon or synthetic materials will do the trick.

Materials to look for when purchasing a dry bag for kayaking:

  • Nylon
  • Vinyl
  • PVC/ Synthetic materials

Security

Since dry bags are the vessel holding most of your kayaking gear, it is important for your dry bag to stay securely closed so none of your essentials get wet, torn or disorganized. From straps to clips, there are many different ways companies go about creating that firm seal at the top of your kayaking bag.

The best dry bags for kayaking usually allow you to roll down the top of the dry bag before securing it with a clip, velcro strap or zipper. While rolling down the top of your dry bag after packing it with gear seems like a minor step in the packing process, it is a total game-changer. By rolling down the top of your dry bag after filling it with gear, you are able to make it more compact (get that extra air out!) and add an extra layer of waterproofing to ensure nothing gets damaged.

Pro tip: if you are packing a rain jacket, place it at the top of your dry bag or on top of your clothes to act as another protective layer before rolling down the top of your bag!

Some bags will have one strap stitched into the pack so you can wear it across your shoulders or arm hands-free. Otherwise, it is very common for dry bags to have two straps stitched into the back so it can be worn like a backpack. Having a kayaking dry bag with one or two straps is a great option if you plan on hiking or portaging during your trip. This hands-free technology is also great when using a dry bag for fishing or other outdoor activities that require some mobility.

Security features to look for in a dry bag for kayaking:

  • Clips, velcro straps, zippers or adjustable cinches
  • Room to roll down the top of your dry bag after packing for extra weatherproofing and security
  • Back or arm straps to make carrying or portaging the pack easier

Size

Dry bags for kayaking come in a range of sizes and are usually measured in liters. If you are planning a quick paddle trip where you may only need your phone, wallet, keys etc., then a dry bag that is about 10 liters should be large enough.

If you are planning to go on a longer paddle trip and need to bring clothes, shoes or food, then you should look for a kayaking dry bag that is closer to 30 or 40 liters in size. Although there is a range of sizes of dry bags, this should not affect their durability; the materials for each bag will be similar just in a different proportion.

One of the best reasons to bring a dry bag for kayaking or canoe trips is that they can hold all of your gear and still fit in the duff of a canoe or compartment in a kayak. Of course, the more gear you pack the heavier and larger the dry bag will become, but all of the dry bags listed below have the best designs to keep your gear compact and manageable.

Here’s a quick guide to help you choose which dry bag size fits your needs:

  • Dry bags 10 liters or under: Best for short paddle trips where you only need to bring a few pieces of gear like a map, wallet or flashlight.
  • Dry bags 15-30 liters: Best for a day-long paddle or a weekend trip where you want to bring a change of clothes and a few essentials. Dry bags in this range are the most popular for routine kayaking.
  • Dry bags 30 liters and above: Best for a multi-day paddle trip where you bring your own food, clothing and other essentials for the near future. Dry bags in this range are best for backcountry or rugged paddling trips.

Color

Although the color of your dry bag may be an afterthought, choosing a brightly colored dry bag actually has many benefits. Besides being a colorful addition to your gear, a brightly colored dry bag for kayaking can help your materials be easily located in an emergency or times of need.

Price

The price of dry bags will vary depending upon the size of the bag and the quality of the materials. In the guide below, we have selected the best quality dry bags for kayaking in a range of prices.

While it is nice to have fancy things, price should not be an obstacle for getting outside! For the sake of convenience and clarity, the dollar sign symbols below will indicate the price of the dry bag in this guide. Below, you will find a range of dry bags for kayaking, canoeing, and paddling that we have determined as the best buys in 2021.

  • $= $10 – $29
  • $$= $30 – $59
  • $$$= $60+

Best Dry Bags to Take Kayaking, Paddle Boarding and Canoeing

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Bag

Best Overall Dry Bag for Kayaking

  • Price: $
  • Notable Features: Made with 70D nylon coated in PVC, roll top closure with buckle,
  • Pros: Specially designed bottom reduces rolling and breakage, lightweight, inexpensive, highly versatile
  • Cons: Seams are taped rather than welded

Novice and avid paddlers alike all love the lightweight yet durable material that makes up the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Bag. Since this dry bag is made with nylon and PVC it is guaranteed to keep all of your gear nice and dry while you are out on the water.

The Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Bag is especially great for day-trips. The compression-like material means that this dry bag can slip into any compartment- even a slim kayak. This flexibility does not compromise the bag’s durability; the specially designed oval bottom will keep your gear from rolling around the bottom of your boat (an annoyance and safety hazard) and dry.

The bottom line? The Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Bag is the best of both worlds. It comes in a range of sizes and colors so you will be prepared for any type of paddle trip. At a price that won’t break your bank, you can even purchase a few of these kayaking dry bags so your time outdoors is hassle free.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SEA TO SUMMIT LIGHTWEIGHT DRY BAG:

Osprey UltraLight 12 Dry Bag

Best Lightweight Grab-and-Go Bag

  • Price: $
  • Notable Features: Made with 40D rip-stop nylon, roll top closure, specifically built to help with organization and easy access to materials
  • Pros: Extremely durable yet lightweight, buckle clips help secure bag nicely
  • Cons: Sizing tends to run big

If your planning a paddle trip with hiking or portaging, it is ideal to have a dry bag that is both durable and portable. The Osprey UltraLight 12 Dry Bag is the perfect bag for this situation, especially because of its sturdy handle.

Like most kayaking dry bags, the Osprey UltraLight 12 Dry Bag has a roll top closure and a buckle. However, the buckle on this dry bag is specially designed to handle your wild explorations.

The design of this kayaking dry bag also makes it a great option for young paddlers; the sturdy construction means you don’t have to be too careful when handling your gear. Best of all, you can carry this dry bag without putting it inside a larger bag- this is key for young campers. All in all, this small yet mighty dry sack will make your kayaking trip exponentially more organized and carefree.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE OSPREY ULTRALIGHT 12 DRY BAG:

Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag

Best for Handling the Big Waves

  • Price: $
  • Notable Features: Made with 500 Denier PVC, roll top closure with straps and buckles
  • Pros: Comes in a range of sizes and colors, includes a waterproof phone case, larger bags include an extra shoulder strap
  • Cons: Designed to float but not very waterproof

For all of you sea kayakers out there, the Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag is the best dry bag for kayaking that will actually keep your gear dry. When you are out on the water, the last thing you want to be worrying about is having your dry clothes get destroyed by a big wave! Instead, try packing your gear in the Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag so you can enjoy your paddle worry-free.

We especially love the Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag because it includes a separate translucent pouch to store your phone, credit cards, ID etc. By having a separate- and waterproof- pouch for these types of items, you can spend less time rummaging through your kayaking dry bag and more time enjoying the sights and scenes around you.

Along with the extra phone pouch, the Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag is a very versatile dry bag because it includes a removable shoulder strap. Some like having this shoulder strap so you can carry a dry bag hands-free, but the bag itself is lightweight and has a nice handle too.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE EARTH PAK WATERPROOF DRY BAG:

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack

Best for the Tight Squeeze (Slim Compartments)

  • Price: $-$$
  • Notable Features: Made with 70D nylon, roll top closure
  • Pros: Extremely lightweight, compression stuff sack
  • Cons: Not super durable, best used as an additional dry sack for less essential materials

No matter the type of boat you are in, having extra space, especially extra leg room, is a luxury. Therefore, packing your kayaking gear in the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack is advantageous for creating extra space (and a real winner if you have long legs).

The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack is made with extremely lightweight nylon which allows the bag to be easily compressed. Not only does this allow you to pack more gear in your kayaking dry bag, but it also makes the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack a great dry bag to fit inside a larger gear pack if you plan on hiking or doing a multi-day trip.

Similar to sleeping bags, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack has adjustable straps along the sides of the dry bag which keeps your gear snug in place when tightened. While this feature is not necessary, it further helps to keep your bag closed and compressed.

Overall, if you are planning a paddle trip and are tight on space, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack is a lightweight and affordable option to make your travels easier.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SEA TO SUMMIT ULTRA-SIL COMPRESSION DRY SACK:

Sea to Summit Big River

Best for Backcountry Trips

  • Price: $$
  • Notable Features: Made with 420S nylon, roll top closure
  • Pros: Lightweight yet durable, white interior makes it easy to locate materials inside, best for heavy-duty trips or gear
  • Cons: Waterproof for brief submersions only, seams taped rather than stitched

The name of this bag says it all; the Sea to Summit Big River is an essential dry bag for kayaking if you plan on paddling down rivers or waterways with some current (not static water like lakes or ponds).

Since the Sea to Summit Big River is made with such thick material, you can take on rushing waters with confidence knowing that your gear is not going be getting wet or lost. However, durability can be a double-edged sword, and this dry bag can get heavy quickly. Therefore, we recommend the Sea to Summit Big River for intense river kayaking trips with little portaging.

That being said, this dry bag will last you for many paddle trips- you may never need to buy another dry bag again! The Sea to Summit brand knows how to make quality dry bags for kayaking, and the Sea to Summit Big River is the perfect dry bag for avid paddlers ready to take on rapids, currents, and waterfalls.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SEA TO SUMMIT BIG RIVER:

Granite Gear Dry Sack

Best for Easy Paddles and Newcomers

  • Price: $
  • Notable Features: Made with 500D PVC and synthetic materials, roll top closure with buckle, reinforced handle for easy grab-and-go access
  • Pros: Light colored interior helps to easily locate materials inside, compressible yet durable with the special E-Vent bottom
  • Cons: Difficult to roll down fully, comes in limited sizes and styles

If you are new to canoeing and kayaking and do not want to invest too much money in your gear right away, then the Granite Gear Dry Sack is a great option. With easy roll top closure and quality material, it is an all-around awesome dry bag for kayaking.

Unique to this dry bag, the Granite Gear Dry Sack features an E-Vent bottom which helps remove air bubbles that can get trapped between clothes while packing. By letting out that air, the Granite Gear Dry Sack allows you to pack more gear in just one bag yet remains small and lightweight.

Although this bag comes in a limited amount of sizes and colors, it holds its own thanks to its durability and ability to be compressed, two key elements for a good dry bag to take kayaking. So, if you are a novice paddler or want to keep costs low, the Granite Gear Dry Sack will fulfill your needs as a paddler.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE GRANITE GEAR DRY SACK:

NRS Bill’s Bag Dry Bag

Best for Heavy-Duty Gear

  • Price: $$$
  • Notable Features: Made with 21oz TobaTex material, roll top closure and metal clips
  • Pros: Extremely durable, removable backpack harness
  • Cons: Can get easily heavy due to large size

The NRS Bill’s Bag Dry Bag is the Holy Grail for intense canoeing, kayaking and hiking trips. In terms of size and durability, there is nothing that tops this dry bag for kayaking. Best of all, the NRS Bill’s Bag Dry Bag’s harness and straps are all removable so you can customize the bag to suit your differentiated needs on land and water.

Because the NRS Bill’s Bag Dry Bag is a heavy-duty dry bag for kayaking, it is best-suited for teenagers and older. Once you start packing this bag, it can be a bit overwhelming for a child to carry by themselves. That being said, this roomy dry bag has enough space to easily accommodate gear for weekend and multi-day trips.

Instead of having to lug around multiple dry bags for kayaking trips, the NRS Bill’s Bag Dry Bag makes packing your gear an easy, one-stop process. If the all-in-one approach to packing appeals to you, then the NRS Bill’s Bag Dry Bag is an awesome choice for your paddle trip. However, keep in mind that this bag is quite large and may not fit in the crevices of a kayak.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE NRS BILL’S BAG DRY BAG:

SealLine Seal Pack

Best for Canoe Trips

  • Price: $-$$
  • Notable Features: Made with 1,000D scrim-reinforced vinyl, roll top closure with buckle
  • Pros: Durable, all-purpose materials, reinforced vinyl bottom
  • Cons: Not a slim or compressible design, dark interior can make it hard to locate materials inside

The SealLine Seal Pack is a fan-favorite among paddlers, especially if you enjoy canoeing. Made with some of the most durable materials on the market, this dry bag is built to keep your gear as fresh as possible throughout your journey.

Because the SealLine Seal Pack is made with such durable materials, it loses some of its flexibility. Therefore, it is best-suited to sit in the duff of a canoe (that’s where I usually keep mine) where it can stay nice and secure.

Besides the SealLine Seal Pack’s standout durability, it is one of the best dry bags for canoeing that is usable for camping too. Everyone knows that camping overnight makes canoe trips even more fun, and traveling with the SealLine Seal Pack allows you to keep all of your gear organized in one place. If you are looking for a reliable dry bag for canoeing and kayaking, you cannot go wrong with choosing the SealLine Seal Pack.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SEAL LINE SEAL PACK:

Seattle Sports Explorer Dry Bag

Best for Rugged Terrain and Choppy Waters

  • Price: $-$$
  • Notable Features: Made with vinyl coated in nylon, roll top closure with buckle
  • Pros: Extremely durable, comes in a range of colors, best for rugged outdoor adventures
  • Cons: Not easily compressible

If a dry bag is made from nylon-coated vinyl, then you know it means business. Therefore, the Seattle Sports Explorer Dry Bag is one of the best dry bags for kayaking in backcountry or rugged terrain.

Available in a range of colors, the Seattle Sports Explorer Dry Bag is an epic dry bag that can help you stay organized throughout intense paddle trips. Best of all, this dry bag has enough volume to pack a few day’s worth of gear but does not get too clunky or overwhelming to carry. If you are planning a moderate paddle trip, the Seattle Sports Explorer Dry Bag hits the sweet spot for the type of dry bag you should be purchasing.

With a reinforced vinyl bottom, the Seattle Sports Explorer Dry Bag can stand alone as a dry bag for kayaking, but you can also fit it inside a larger pack too. So, if you are looking for a durable yet versatile dry bag for paddling, there’s no better option than the Seattle Sports Explorer Dry Bag. With this bag in tow, you can take on those choppy waters and portages with confidence knowing your gear is safe.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SEATTLE SPORTS EXPLORER DRY BAG:

Forbidden Road Waterproof Dry Bag

Best for Style and Substance

  • Price: $
  • Notable Features: Made with 500D PVC, welded seams, roll top closure with buckle
  • Pros: Comes in a range of sizes, colors and patterns, inexpensive, has a reinforced handle to grab when hiking or packing
  • Cons: Not very durable, moisture can collect in the bag

Oftentimes when shopping for outdoors gear, you have to choose between style and substance. Although we do not always admit it, it can be frustrating when quality gear lacks aesthetic appeal. So if you are looking for a dry bag for kayaking that packs a punch visually, you should check out the Forbidden Road Waterproof Dry Bag.

Not only does this dry bag come in a variety of colors and patterns, but it actually keeps gear dry and secure while traveling as well. Since the Forbidden Road Waterproof Dry Bag has shoulder straps, it is able to be carried like a backpack (and welded seams means you can rely on those straps to stay strong).

With so many unique features, the Forbidden Road Waterproof Dry Bag really satisfies the need for both style and substance in a kayaking dry bag. However, it is not the most durable bag on this list and should not be used in any backcountry paddle trips. If you are planning an easy paddle or hike, the Forbidden Road Waterproof Dry Bag is an excellent choice for packing.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE FORBIDDEN ROAD WATERPROOF DRY BAG:

SealLine Black Canyon Boundary

Best for Combined Hiking-Paddling Trips

  • Price: $$$
  • Notable Features: Made with nylon and vinyl, suspension-pack design helps to keep your load feeling lightweight
  • Pros: Welded seams, light colored interior helps locate materials easily, detachable harness
  • Cons: Expensive, not easily compressible

With so many beautiful places to go exploring, why limit yourself to just being on land OR water? By packing your gear in the SealLine Black Canyon Boundary, you can easily go from water to land to keep your adventures going.

By having a secure suspension design, this dry bag will not break your back when hiking or portaging. Best of all, when you are done carrying the dry bag on your back, the harness detaches for an easy transition back into the boat.

Clearly, the SealLine Black Canyon Boundary is one of the most versatile dry bag for kayaking in this guide. Balancing durable materials like vinyl and nylon with a suspension design allows you take this bag into some tough terrain without feeling the weight.

Time and time again, avid explorers come back to the SealLine Black Canyon Boundary because it is all-around one of the best dry bags for adventure-seekers who want to bring along a good amount of gear without creating a bulky bag.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SEAL LINE BLACK CANYON BOUNDARY:

Seattle Sports Glacier Dry Bag

Best for Visibility and Organization

  • Price: $-$$
  • Notable Features: Made with clear vinyl, abrasion resistant bottom and side paneling, roll top closure
  • Pros: Clear vinyl design helps locate materials easily, welded seams, includes D rings
  • Cons: Not a slim or compressible dry bag

When you are kayaking and camping in the outdoors, it is crucial to be able to locate your gear quickly. The Seattle Sports Glacier Dry Bag understands the importance of visibility and organization, and puts it into action with a clear, durable dry bag for kayaking.

There are so many unknowns that can occur when going on a kayaking trip- why add the stress and anxiety of not knowing where to find your gear? The clear construction of this dry bag truly sets it apart from other dry bags for kayaking on this list. This feature is especially nice if you are traveling with kids and need to be able to find supplies (usually food and dry clothing) quickly.

Beyond the clear vinyl material, this dry bag is virtually rip-proof. Even though this tough outer shell makes the Seattle Sports Glacier Dry Bag less flexible than other dry bags, its durability is second to none and will last you for many paddle trips in the future.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SEATTLE SPORTS GLACIER DRY BAG:

Outdoor Research Dry Sack

Best for Extra Volume

  • Price: $-$$
  • Notable Features: Made with 100% nylon, roll top closure with buckle
  • Pros: Many colors and designs, lightweight, easily compressible
  • Cons: Must hand wash, not the most durable dry bag

If you are looking for a dry bag with some personality, then you should definitely look into purchasing the Outdoor Research Dry Sack. With a wide range of colors and patterns, it may not seem like this is a quality dry bag for kayaking; on the contrary, this 100% nylon dry bag will suit your paddle need with ease.

Since this dry bag is made fully from nylon, it retains a lot of flexibility, a feature lacking in some other kayaking dry bags. Easily compressible, the Outdoor Research Dry Sack allows you to pack a significant amount of gear without it getting too heavy. Best of all, the roll top closure creates a nice seal for keeping clothes dry and also acts as a makeshift handle for carrying your bag.

In essence, the Outdoor Research Dry Sack is a great option for day-trips or leisurely paddling around the lake. While this bag is durable, it is best used in addition to a larger pack or for carrying gear that is not essential.

Even if the Outdoor Research Dry Sack is not your main dry bag, it can be very useful as additional storage. Because these bags are not too expensive, you can even purchase a few to have on hand and accessorize with the different pattern options!

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE OUTDOOR RESEARCH DRY SACK:

Other Uses for Dry Bags (Beyond Kayaking and Paddling)

After reading this guide, hopefully you see the many benefits of using a dry bag for your kayaking trips. But beyond canoeing and kayaking trips, what else can you use your dry bag for?

1. Laundry Bag

No matter whether you are hanging around a campsite or at your apartment, dry bags are surprisingly good laundry bags! Kayaking dry bags are made out of materials that are sturdy enough to hold a whole load of laundry without stretching or tearing.

So, next time you are running around to clean up your space, try throwing those dirty clothes in a dry bag instead of a traditional laundry bag. This reusable, sturdy and lightweight sack is a great way to transport those whites and colors to the washing machine.

2. Pillow

When you are on a camping trip, a pillow may seem like a luxury item you have to live without. However, if you use a kayaking dry bag to store your clothing and materials, you actually have a built in pillow too.

When it is time for bed, stuff some extra clothes (I opt for a sweatshirt and socks) into your kayaking dry bag and use it as your pillow- paddle trip style. When you are sleeping on the ground, this makeshift pillow is a lifesaver.

3. Gym, Workout or Hiking Bag

During a kayaking trip, a dry bag is great for keeping your essentials dry and organized. Good news- the same materials that make your dry bags waterproof also make them sweat and odor proof too.

So, next time you are headed to the gym, pack your gear in a kayaking dry bag. Not only does using a dry bag make all of your gear accessible and convenient, but it also helps keep those gym odors from stinking up the rest of your house.

4. Electronic or Cable Bag

When traveling, it is nice to have all of your electrical cables and chargers organized in one place. Although my charging cables always seem to get tangled, keeping them in a dry bag helps them to stay organized.

Best of all, dry bags are meant to be waterproof or water resistant. This is especially important for electrical cables which can get destroyed from water damage. For the sake of safety and organization, try keeping those wires coiled in a kayaking dry bag during your next trip.

5. Fishing or Hunting Catch Bag

Hunting and fishing are epic outdoor activities, but they can get messy when it comes time to deal with your catches. A kayaking dry bag can help solve some of these rather messy interactions.

If you are handling game or catches, try storing them in a dry bag. These durable bags can handle the messiest of catches and are reusable. Best of all, kayaking dry bags can be washed by hand or machine, so you can go hunting or fishing sustainably and mess-free.

6. Collecting Firewood

Every camper knows that collecting firewood is an important first step when setting up your campsite. Most importantly, that firewood needs to stay dry! Therefore, collecting firewood in your dry bag is key for successful fire building.

As you go about searching for wood, collect your pieces in your kayaking dry bag. Carrying the firewood in this bag makes it much easier to lug around a heavy load, and the waterproof material will help keep your wood dry overnight. Easy to carry and keeps your firewood dry? Collecting firewood in a dry bag is a definite win-win in the camping world.

Additional Resources

What to Pack in Dry Bags for Your Next Paddle Trip

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.

Now that you have seen some great choices for kayaking dry bags, you are one step closer to having an awesome outdoor adventure. Not sure where to go? Check out our kayaking destinations page to see where your boat can take you.

Related Links to Best Dry Bags for Kayaking 2021


kayaker paddling through mountains
Paddling with water shoes allows you to embrace the great outdoors. Photo Credit: Andre Furtedo

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Top Canoeing & Kayaking Shoes for Every Budget and Style

One of my favorite parts of going canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding is that you do not need to bring too much gear for your trip. However, this means that what you do bring matters, and a good pair of kayaking shoes acts as the foundation for every successful paddle trip.

Inside of a kayak or canoe, you are likely to stay relatively dry. However, we all know that paddle trips can end up involving unplanned portaging, swimming or heavy lifting. For these rather spontaneous moments in the water, having the right pair of water shoes is crucial. In this guide, we have researched multiple different materials, fits and styles to help you decide which kayaking shoes fit your needs as a paddler.

But first, why wear water shoes for kayaking at all?

Many outdoors people often question whether you need to wear shoes while paddle boarding and kayaking. Doesn’t barefoot paddling create a closer connection to nature? What can a pair of water shoes offer that my other athletic shoes can’t?

While these musings have good intentions, the consequences of wearing ill-fitting water shoes while paddling can be quite drastic. Wearing water shoes protects your feet from all of the types of terrain you may encounter on your trip (such as sharp rocks and roots). On both land and water, proper-fitting water shoes offer support, stability and traction needed to embrace the great outdoors.

That being said, take a look below to see the multiple styles of water shoes and how finding the right kayaking shoes doesn’t have to break your bank.

3 Types of Water Shoes for Kayaking & Paddling

Water Shoes

Water shoes will look like your typical athletic shoe, but are made out of waterproof and breathable material. Since they are built with more support, water shoes are an ideal choice if your trip includes hiking between paddling sites or includes diverse terrain.

If you are planning a backcountry paddle trip, have to portage, or want to explore trails while camping, water shoes offer the proper coverage and durability required for rugged adventures.

Water Booties

Water Booties are an excellent choice if you are paddling in a slim or compact kayak. They are usually made out of neoprene, a wetsuit-like material, that makes the booties a slim and lightweight option for outdoor adventuring.

While water booties are an awesome choice for paddling in small vessels and colder climates, they do not provide as much protection for your feet as water shoes and water sandals. So, if you are paddling in a rocky area or want to hike between paddle trips, water booties may not be the best option.

Water Sandals

Water Sandals are similar to water shoes, but usually have less material covering the foot. However, less material does not mean less support and structure. This type of shoe has open and closed-toe options which makes it ideal for any type of paddle trip.

Water Sandals are well-suited for all types of paddle trips, especially those in warm or mild climates. If you are new to kayaking or like to have your feet free, water sandals provide the perfect balance between breathability and durability.

What to Look for in Canoeing & Kayaking Shoes for Paddling

a women stretches to reach her shoes
The right pair of kayaking shoes makes all of the difference when paddling. Photo Credit: Ketut Subiyanto

Durability

Wearing durable water shoes becomes increasingly important as your paddle trips become more challenging. When canoeing or kayaking, simply wearing flip flops or crocs will not give you the proper support for activities both inside and outside the boat.

When purchasing water shoes for kayaking, it is best to look for a design that supports the entire foot and ankle. This can come in the form of an ankle or toe strap, a thick rubber sole and possible shoelaces or velcro. By having these components, your feet can move freely yet have enough structure to avoid injury.

  • Rubber Sole
  • Grip Texture
  • Textile and Synthetic Fabrics

Flexibility

Flexibility in water shoes compliments the need for durability described above. While sound structure is important, water shoes are meant to allow your feet to move freely. When you are out on the water, things can change pretty rapidly. You have to be able to easily adapt to changing tides, currents and water levels.

The best water shoes for kayaking understand the need for this versatility and use materials that allow your feet to stay grounded and moving. Materials such as neoprene and mesh are commonly used in water shoes because they are quick-drying and lightweight. As a result, you don’t have to worry about waterlogged kayaking shoes slowing you down.

  • Neoprene
  • Mesh
  • Textile and Synthetic Materials

Materials

Although water shoes may look similar to regular sandals, they are specifically designed to handle water and other natural elements. Whether you are a novice paddler or an expert, purchasing water shoes with proper weather-resistant materials is a must. Otherwise, your shoes will easily deteriorate, which can be even more dangerous than wearing no shoes at all.

Some kayaking shoes use rubber and leather to achieve a waterproof sandal. These types of water shoes are great for multi-day trips in moderate climates. If you are paddling in colder temperatures and want added insulation, look for water shoes made out of neoprene, a wetsuit-like material.

  • Rubber
  • Neoprene
  • Leather

Comfort, Fit and Style

Who says water shoes can’t be fashionable! In this market, there is a wide variety of fits and styles of water shoes. While looking through the various colors and patterns of water shoes is thrilling, it is important to look at the construction of the shoe to see if it fits your needs as a paddler.

Some water shoes cover your toes while others leave them exposed; both choices are fine, but take into consideration the type of terrain you may encounter on your trip. For backcountry paddling or trips with portages, having shoes that cover your toes may be a better option. Whereas kayakers exploring warm or tropical climates may want a lighter and more open shoe design.

Along with the open versus closed-toe design, kayaking shoes can have traditional shoelaces, bungee lacing or slip on and off. For quick and easy access, slip-on water shoes check all of the boxes and are usually made out of neoprene (an added bonus)! However, if your trip may involve portaging, hiking or climbing, it is best to choose a pair of water shoes with some type of laces or ankle strap.

  • Mesh or Synthetic Fabric
  • Velcro, Slip-On or Shoelaces
  • Open-Toe or Closed-Toe Options

Price

A good pair of water shoes does not have to be overly expensive. Most of the time, the difference in price comes from the type of materials used in shoe construction. For example, water shoes made with vegan leather tend to be pricer than shoes made from synthetic fabrics and textiles.

If you are an avid paddler, purchasing water shoes should be seen as an investment for all of your future trips. Once you decide on your desired style and fit, water shoes will last you a long period of time (and are usually the only shoes I bring on my own paddle trips).

However, if you are new to kayaking or don’t frequently go paddling, water shoes do not have to be a major investment. There are plenty of inexpensive options below to get you started on the right foot.

Pricing Guide

For the sake of convenience and clarity, the dollar sign symbols below will indicate the price of the kayaking shoes in this guide. Price should never be an obstacle for getting outside! Below, you will find a range of water shoes best for canoeing, kayaking and paddling that we have determined as the best buys in 2021.

  • $= $20.00-$49.00
  • $$= $50.00-$79.00
  • $$$=$80.00+

Our main goal with this guide is to help you make an informed decision on the best water shoes for your own activities, budget, and style. Here are our top picks:

Best Kayaking Shoes for Every Budget & Style

kayakers go paddling in the deep blue shoes
Canoeing and kayaking are great ways to enjoy spending time outside. Photo Credit: Benedikt Geyer

Chaco Z2 Classic Sport

Best Overall Water Shoe for Kayaking

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Materials: Vegan-friendly leather construction
  • Notable Features: Rubber sole, adjustable ankle strap with polyester jacquard webbing for a customized fit
  • Pros: Lightweight, completely weatherproof and easily adjustable, great for a variety of paddle trips
  • Cons: Expensive, not much toe protection

If you are looking for a versatile water shoe, there is nothing that can beat the Chaco Z2 Classic Sport. Whether you are an avid paddler or are looking for the perfect beach-day shoe, Chacos are an excellent option.

These water shoes have a thick rubber sole which protects the bottom of your feet from rocks, sticks and anything else you may encounter on your trip. Besides this protection, these shoes have an open and airy top so your feet can move freely. The ankle and toe straps are easily adjustable (and give an awesome tan line if your’re under the sun).

The bottom line? The Chaco Z2 Classic Sport is the best water shoe for an all-around day on the water. Chacos has mastered the balance between stability and flexibility so your feet feel supported yet free throughout your entire outdoor adventure.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE CHACO ZX2 CLASSIC SPORT:

Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport

Best for Backcountry Trips

  • Price: $$$
  • Materials: Mesh, 100% fabric with a synthetic sole
  • Notable Features: Mesh lining with odor-preventing technology, cushioned with a protective UniFly midsole
  • Pros: Breathable mesh sides, high durability
  • Cons: Takes longer to dry, expensive

When you are up to your knees in mud portaging a canoe, you want a water shoe that can support your feet and help you maintain control. The Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport is an awesome water shoe designed to help you on the most rugged of paddle trips.

The best part of the Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport is the combination of mesh paneling and a synthetic sole. These elements allow for air and water to move through the shoe while still allowing for great traction on wet surfaces.

So if you have a backcountry adventure ahead of you, you may want to test out the Merrill All Out Blaze Aero Sport. From hiking along the shoreline to far-out paddling, these shoes offer the durability needed to enjoy some intense paddle trips.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE MERRILL ALL OUT BLAZE:

Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe

Best for Cold Climate Paddling

  • Price: $
  • Materials: 100% neoprene
  • Notable Features: No-slip grip, maximum breathability and quick-drying
  • Pros: Inexpensive, easy on-off design
  • Cons: Secure fit relies on neoprene (no laces or straps)

If you are new to paddling and do not want to spend too much money on a pair of water shoes, you need to look no further than the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe. With easy on-off access, these neoprene water shoes will fit you like a glove.

Being made out of neoprene, you can expect great insulation from cold temperatures and a quick drying time once out of the water. With kayaking shoes like the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe, you really get the best of both worlds. The tight-fitting neoprene provides a secure yet lightweight skin for your feet that allows for a full range of motion.

For easy paddle trips, especially in colder climates, the Speedo Surfwalker 3.0 Water Shoe is a great option. Although the sole of this shoe is not as robust as others on this guide, it is one of the best water shoes for kayaking, especially for kids.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SPEEDO SURFWALKER 3.0 WATER SHOE:

Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe

Best for Paddle Boarding

  • Price: $
  • Materials: Quick-dry materials
  • Notable Features: Three toe design, ultra-grip outsole provides maximum traction, slip-on
  • Pros: Inexpensive, quick-drying
  • Cons: Is not the best fit for flat fleet, few color choices

Although you can wear the Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe for any outdoor occasion, these shoes really shine in the areas of paddle boarding, wake boarding and windsurfing. Since the Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe has awesome traction and individual toe grips, it is great for any water activity that involves a board.

This quick-drying water shoe is perfect for the adventurous outdoors person. The Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe is durable enough to handle some harsh conditions yet hugs the ankle in a comfortable way.

What does having secure support mean in a water shoe? It means that you have the freedom to own the ocean (or any waterway of your choice). The Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max Water Shoe is definitely the right choice for an adventurous spirit looking for an inexpensive pair of water shoes for kayaking and paddling.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE BODY GLOVE 3T BAREFOOT MAX:

NRS Freestyle Westshoe

Best for Stability

  • Price: $$
  • Materials: Neoprene
  • Notable Features: High-traction rubber sole for support and traction, zipper on the back for easy on-off
  • Pros: Inexpensive, highly protective, great traction
  • Cons: High-rise fit restricts foot motion

While this neoprene masterpiece may look intimidating, it is one of the best water shoes for kayaking and other water sports. The NRS Freestyle Westshoe offers support in a stylish way so you can show off those killer paddle board moves while staying safe.

The NRS Freestyle Westshoe is a great choice for avid paddlers, especially if you are paddling in a colder climate. The dual action of neoprene and synthetic materials makes these kayaking shoes completely weatherproof while still having some give.

Reaching the mid-calf, these shoes could be difficult to take on and off. However, the NRS Freestyle Westshoe has a secret zipper in the back that creates easy on-off access. You can go from water play to relaxing on the beach in no time!

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE NRS FREESTYLE WETSHOE:

Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Water Booties

Best for Easy On-Off Access

  • Price: $-$$
  • Materials: Neoprene
  • Notable Features: Stiffened sole for added protection and walking, velcro strap for easy on-off and fit
  • Pros: Inexpensive, flexible fit, many color choices
  • Cons: Not super supportive

Although this guide features many types of water shoes and water sandals, water booties are also a great option to wear kayaking and paddling. These Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Water Booties are super easy to throw on so you can spend as much time as possible on the water.

Offered in multiple colors, the Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Water Booties are great for customizing your look. Since paddling does not require too much gear, it is fun to get creative with your kayaking shoes! These water booties have an adjustable strap and are extremely flexible. Out on the water, you will have total control.

Whether you are in a boat or on the shore, the Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Water Booties are an awesome inexpensive choice for keeping your feet safe while exploring.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SEA TO SUMMIT ULTRA FLEX WATER BOOTIES:

Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe

Best for Warm Weather Adventures

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Materials: ChacoGrip rubber and fabric
  • Notable Features: Double-strapped polyester jacquard webbing for a customized fit, antimicrobial application for odor control
  • Pros: Stable rubber sole and shock absorbing heel
  • Cons: Expensive, little toe protection

Chacos kayaking shoes have nearly perfected the art of stylish activewear. The Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe is another great option for avid paddlers and novices alike. With an adjustable ankle and toe strap, the Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe is one of the most comfortable water shoes on the market.

This versatile water shoe is best for canoeing and kayaking, but can work in a multitude of terrains. Durable yet flexible, the Chaco ZX2 Classic Athletic Water Shoe has all of the right elements for an epic pair of water shoes. Best of all, the two-toned straps come in a variety of colors and designs. Who says water shoes can’t be fashionable?

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE CHACO ZX2 CLASSIC ATHLETIC WATER SHOE:

NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot

Best for Rocky Shores

  • Price: $
  • Materials: Neoprene
  • Notable Features: Hardened sole for puncture-resistant protection, easy on-off, non-marking traction sole
  • Pros: Inexpensive, quick drying
  • Cons: Tight wetsuit fit, few color choices

If you are looking for an inexpensive water shoe for kayaking with great traction, than the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot has got you covered. The shoe’s puncture-proof sole is great for more rugged trails.

Unlike other water shoes in this guide, the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot is an easy on-off shoe that comes above the ankle line. This offers extra security from possible water leaking in.

You really can’t go wrong with purchasing a pair of water shoes like the NeoSport Wetsuits Premium Neoprene 3mm Low Top Pull-On Boot. The company’s attention to design is simplistic yet well thought-out and will do the trick for ay type of paddle excursion.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE NEOSPORT WETSUIT PULL-ON BOOT:

ALEADER Mesh Slip-On

Best for Paddling Trips with Portaging

  • Price: $
  • Materials: Mesh
  • Notable Features: Lightweight midsole with optimum cushioning, open mesh for breathability
  • Pros: Durable yet flexible fit, lace up
  • Cons: Does not dry very quickly

Lace up those shoes! The ALEADER Mesh Slip-On is a wonderful inexpensive option for paddlers who also want to explore other terrain. One of our favorite parts of kayaking is the possibility of discovering new environments and terrains. So, when you happen upon a hidden island you want to explore, the ALEADER Mesh Slip-On will help you stay safe and in control.

The mesh paneling on these kayaking shoes makes them breathable and light weight. This makes ALEADER Mesh Slip-On a great choice for longer paddle trips where your feet need to breathe. The added sock liner also helps create a cool and dry environment for you toes.

If you are looking for a water shoe that resembles an athletic shoe, the ALEADER Mesh Slip-On is defiantly one to check out. It has more structure and durability than water sandals and water booties, which makes it great for the unplanned- yet most memorable- paddle stops.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE ALEADER MESH SLIP=ON:

KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal

Best for Foot Support & Security

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Materials: Rubber and fabric
  • Notable Features: Puncture-resistant rubber sole, adjustable fit tightening strap, easy slip-on
  • Pros: Great support, hard sole and breathable sides
  • Cons: Expensive, wearing wet can cause irritation

No need to worry about stubbing your toes in these trusty water shoes. The KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal is one of the best kayaking shoes for intermediate kayakers who are ready to make an investment in kayak gear.

The KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal has a great balance between durability and breathability. With open paneling along the sides, your feet have room to move and breathe, but the closed-toe protection is key for more challenging paddling.

With some mesh and the open paneling, the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal won’t get waterlogged and has a moderate drying time.

It is an all-around good water sandal for kayakers and excels in the areas of support and security. If you have flat feet or weak foot muscles, the KEEN Evofit One Water Sandal has additional cushioning to keep your feet happy all journey long.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE KEEN EVOFIT ONE WATER SANDAL:

Teva Omnium Closed Toe Water Water Shoe

Best Closed-Toe Kayaking Shoe

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Materials: Mesh and rubber
  • Notable Features: Closed-toe sandal with multiple drainage ports and quick-dry mesh lining, shock-absorbing heel
  • Pros: Bungee lacing, great toe protection, breathable sides
  • Cons: Expensive, little room water flow

Besides Chacos, Teva is one of the top companies to make water shoes for kayaking and paddling. While we love open-toe options, the Teva Omnium Closed Toe Water Shoe is another great choice for any type of paddle trip.

The Teva Omnium Closed-Toe Water Shoe’s bungee lacing creates easy on-off access and is adjustable. Secure around the ankle, these kayaking shoes will not come off in the water or on land. With open panels on the side, these shoes will not get weighed down with water and are extremely breathable.

With extra cushioning and special attention to a shock absorbing heel, these shoes are ready to be taken to the rugged outdoors. If you are interested in hiking or walking in addition to kayaking, the Teva Omnium Closed Toe Water Water Shoe is a great pair of shoes to through in your day pack!

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE TEVA OMNIUM CLOSED-TOE WATER SHOE:

Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe

Best for Beach Days

  • Price: $
  • Materials: Textile and neoprene
  • Notable Features: Features Speedo’s S-TRAC TPR outsole which streams water away from the shoe for incredible slip resistance, enhanced airflow
  • Pros: Lightweight, breathable mesh, inexpensive
  • Cons: Not too much support, best for a beach day

Light weight and inexpensive, the Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe is a new type of water shoe that has as much style as it does substance. Made of breathable mesh, there is nothing rigid about this pair of kayaking shoes. Since they are so comfy, the Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe doesn’t offer as much support as other shoes on this list, but still deserves a special shoutout.

For a low-key beach day or a walk by the water, the Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe checks all of the boxes. With easy bungee lacing and a rubber sole, these water shoes are made to be worn on the water.

The Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe is best for easy paddling or taking a spin in motorized boats. For more challenging paddling that involves portaging, we do not recommend these shoes. However, if you are in a pinch and are looking for a cheap solution, the Speedo Seaside Lace 5 Athletic Water Shoe comes in a variety of colors to complete your seaside look.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR THE SPEEDO SEASIDE LACE 5 ATHLETIC WATER SHOE:

white water kayaking
No matter where your paddling adventures take you, make sure to bring a pair of water shoes! Photo Credit: Hendrick Morkel

Best Water Shoes to Wear for Kayaking and Paddling

If there is one thing you take away from this guide, it is that wearing the right water shoes for your body is one of the best ways to have a safe and rewarding paddle trip. Our feet come in all different shapes and sizes, so it is important to find a pair that fits your individual needs.

Hopefully, the guide above provided some clarity on what to look for when purchasing kayaking shoes, and makes you excited to get out on the water.

FAQ’s for Wearing Water Shoes While Kayaking

Will wearing wet water shoes cause chaffing and irritation?

Water shoes are designed to get wet and dry quickly. Because of this, your feet should not stay wet for very long after being submerged in water (yay!). If your kayaking shoes fit your feet correctly, chaffing and irritation should not be an issue. You can fit your water shoes correctly by adjusting the straps around your ankles, heel and toes to make sure they are snug and supportive.

Can I wash my water shoes?

Absolutely! While washing your water shoes between trips is not necessary, rinsing them with warm water will help get rid of unwanted smells, dirt and grime that you may have picked up along your epic journey.

Will my water shoes float if they come off in the water?

While different types of kayaking shoes are made up of different materials, most shoes are designed to float if they come loose in the water. Water booties and water shoes may fill up with water if they come loose from your feet, but there is plenty of time to snatch them from the water before they start sink.

How often should I replace my water shoes?

Like most shoes, water shoes do need to be replaced after being worn for long periods of time. One way to tell if it is time to get a new pair of kayaking shoes is if the tread on the bottom of the shoe is worn down so you can no longer see the pattern designed for gripping wet surfaces. If you are able to easily bend your water shoes in half, that is also a sign that it is time for a new pair of shoes (water booties are an exception here).

Are water shoes unisex?

No, most companies have separate water shoes to fit the proportions of men and women’s feet. Within men and women’s options, factors such as arch support, flexibility and comfort should be things that you are looking for when purchasing any type of water shoe.

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking and Paddling

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.

Now that you have the right pair of kayaking shoes, the possibilities for your outdoor adventures are limitless. Don’t know where to start? Check out our kayaking destinations page to explore some awesome paddling options.

Related Links to the Best Water Shoes for Kayaking & Paddling


Brimming with history and culture, it is no wonder why San Antonio is the most visited city in Texas. Along with visiting the Alamo and eating some delicious Tex-Mex, San Antonio is a wonderful place to explore the outdoors. From lazy rivers to whitewater streams, there are countless scenic places to go canoeing and kayaking in San Antonio.

Both visitors and locals enjoy paddling around San Antonio because it offers a unique look at San Antonio’s historical landmarks and urban centers. However, if you are going canoeing and kayaking in San Antonio to get away from the busy city, there are plenty of lush green spaces with excellent waterways. Best of all, most of the places to go paddling near San Antonio are calm enough for all ability levels to enjoy. With so many amazing options, it can be overwhelming to choose where to paddle. Below, we have created a complete guide to the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking in San Antonio to help you get started on you epic outdoor adventure.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in & Around San Antonio

kayaks line the riverwalk in San Antonio, a wonderful place to go canoeing and kayaking in Texas
The San Antonio Riverwalk is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors. Photo Credit: Steve Lange (Flickr CC)

San Marcos River

One of the longest spring-fed rivers in the nation, San Marcos River is a wonderful place to go kayaking in San Antonio and escape the Texas heat. Since the San Marcos River headwaters are at Spring Lake (which is one of the oldest landmarks in the United States) you will have sparkling water throughout your whole trip.

This calm, lazy river is a great place for novice paddlers to try canoeing and kayaking in San Antonio. Along with canoeing and kayaking, San Marcos River is a hotspot for tubing. The river’s crystal clear waters make up gorgeous scenery and also sustain many endangered species.

Many paddlers enjoy kayaking the Zedler Mill Paddling Trail at San Marcos River. This 6 mile-long route is a wonderful pathway for all ability levels to experience the beauty of San Antonio. While paddling, visitors can navigate through clear pools of water, lush forests and even ride some Class I rapids.

San Marcos River is an amazing way to spend an afternoon cooling off in San Antonio. Whether you go tubing or paddling, this pristine waterway offers some of the best scenery in all of Texas. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak near the Old Zedler Mill. Otherwise, you can rent canoe and kayak gear from TG Canoe & Kayak.

How to Get There: The best way to get to San Marcos River is to drive. If you are driving, start on US-90 E toward Houston. Then, continue on TX-80 N to Scenic Rd. until you reach the water.

Brazos River

If you are looking for a rugged outdoor adventure, you need to look no further than kayaking down the Brazos River. Stretching all across Texas, the Brazos River has earned its title of being an amazing backcountry paddle destination.

Although Brazos River is isolated enough to have that backcountry vibe, it is still easy enough for all ability levels to explore. The river’s flat waters are calm enough for novices and young children who want to experience kayaking near San Antonio.

Flowing through the beautiful bluffs of Possum Kingdom Lake, paddlers can enjoy this breathtaking scenery without distractions. Along the sandy shores, paddlers can spot tons of wildlife and even explore mini islands along the way. This winding river has miles of authentic nature that is best explored by boat.

Since the Brazos River remains a stretch of untouched beauty, it is best to plan your route before getting on the water. Most visitors enjoy planning a multi-day camping trip while paddling down the Brazos River. Whether you paddle for a few peaceful miles or decide to make a multi-day trip, the Brazos River is a great introduction to the outdoors for all ages.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak at any of the put-ins along the river. The put-ins along Possum Kingdom Lake and Lake Granbury are the most popular starting points for kayaking the Brazos River. Or, you can rent kayaks and book trips through Rochelle’s Canoe Rental.

How to Get There: The best way to reach the Brazos River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-35 N toward Austin. Then, continue on Cameron Park Dr. until you reach the water.

Canoeing and Kayakin in San Antonio's San Marcos River is nice and shady with these trees.
Kayaking down the San Marcos River. Photo Credit: CorkySandpiper (Flickr CC)

Saspamco Paddling Trail

Within minutes of downtown San Antonio is the wild and scenic Saspamco Paddle Trail. Stretching over 29 miles of Bexar and Wilson Counties, this waterway is an excellent way for urban life to engage with the beautiful outdoors.

The Saspamco Paddling Trail is one of San Antonio’s greatest joys. This waterway receives its unique name from San Antonio Sewer Pipe Manufacturing Company, the largest employer and prominent part of the San Antonio community. To honor this company, locals and visitors can now explore San Antonio’s natural beauty on a serene paddling trail.

While kayaking along the Saspamco Paddling Trail, visitors can stay cool under the shade of the famous cottonwood, pecan and cypress trees that stretch across the width of the waterway. In total, the waterway is about 12 miles long, but most paddlers opt to take out there boats at Helton San Antonio River Nature Park which is halfway down the river.

Surrounded by these lush forests, Saspamco Paddling Trail transforms urban San Antonio into a peaceful retreat from city life. If you have your own boat, you can launch you kayak at the Loop 1604 River Access Site. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Texas Paddle Sports.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Saspamco Paddling Trail is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-37 Frontage Rd. Then, continue on TX-1604 Loop E to the access site.

Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island State Park has everything you need for an epic weekend getaway. Although it is outside city limits, going to Galveston Island State Park is worth the drive. From hiking to geocaching to paddling, there is no shortage of outdoor activities at this state park.

On the North side of the park, there are 3 paddle trails that are great choices for going canoeing and kayaking near San Antonio. The Dana Cove and Jenkins Bayou trails are about 2.5 miles long and meander through beds of seagrass and marshes. There, paddlers can cruise through unique marine environments and spot tons of wildlife.

The third trail, Oak Bayou Trail, is another wonderful option for intermediate paddlers. While paddling, visitors can kayak along the park’s main coastline, navigate through high marshlands and explore the restoration area. All of the paths loop around which makes navigation effortless, but the Oak Bayou Trail is double the length of the other trails.

Along with these stunning waterways, visitors can also enjoy hiking and biking paths that cover the entire island. After a long day of paddling, Galveston Island’s lovely beaches offer a nice resting place. To add on, geocaching and bird watching are also popular activities for those visiting Galveston Island State Park.

If you are looking to go kayaking near San Antonio, Galveston Island State Park truly has it all. From wide-open waters to marshy inlets, visitors can see diverse landscapes all around the island. You can launch your boat at the park or rent kayak gear from Galveston Kayak Outfitters.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Galveston Island State Park is to drive. If you are driving, take I-45 S toward Galveston. Then, continue on Seawall Blvd. to the park.

kayaking near San Antonio is a great way to explore the city
You can experience the urban outdoors by kayaking near San Antonio. Photo Credit: rwelborn (Flickr CC)

Blanco River

The green-blue waters of the Blanco River are perfect for beginners looking to go canoeing and kayaking in San Antonio. This spring-fed stream is a bright and fresh place to explore Texas’ natural beauty.

If you have some experience paddling, then the Blanco River will be an easy and relaxing place to enjoy the outdoors. The best part of kayaking down the Blanco River is that Blanco State Park offers kayaking lessons to beginners! No matter your ability level, all visitors can enjoy the river’s stunning views and vibrant fish population.

If you want to explore more of Blanco River outside of the state park, many paddlers enjoy kayaking around the town of Wimberley which also sits on the river. With put-ins all along the river, kayaking down the Blanco River is a customizable experience and is accessible to all ability levels.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak anywhere along the river. Or, you can rent kayak gear and take lessons at Blanco State Park. Visitors also love spending the weekend at 7A Ranch which has access to the Blanco River and many other wonderful outdoor spaces and activities.

How to Get There: The best way to reach Blanco River is to drive. If you are driving, take US-281 N toward Johnson City. Then, follow signs for Stonewall and continue to the river.

Devil’s River State Natural Area

For adventurous spirits looking for a challenge, Devil’s River State Natural Area is an awesome place to fully immerse yourself in nature. This backcountry paddling is best for experienced outdoorsmen and women looking to go canoeing and kayaking in San Antonio.

Before beginning your journey, paddlers must purchase the $10 permit to access Devil’s River and its camping grounds. Spanning over 40 miles, this expansive waterway is ideal for multi-day camping trips and long excursions (most paddlers can kayak the river in 4 days).

Along the way, paddlers can spot wildlife on the riverside banks, kayak past limestone cliffs and see towering bluffs up to 500 feet high. This intensely majestic scenery makes Devil’s River one of the most rewarding outdoor experiences. However, if you do not want to paddle the full 47 miles, there is also a beautiful place to go kayaking at the river’s headwaters.

If you are up to the challenge, going kayaking at San Antonio’s Devil’s River will surely be an adventure. Prepare for some rapids around the hills of Val Verde, another exceptional landscape on the river route. If you have your own boat, you can launch you kayak at Baker’s Crossing. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Armistad Expeditions.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Devil’s River State Natural Area is to drive. If you are driving, start on TX-41 toward Rocksprings. Then, continue on Dolan Creek Rd. until you reach the park.

kayaking in San Antonio is a great way to see these limestone bluffs
Devil’s River is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors. Photo Credit: Devil’s River (Flickr CC)

Mission Reach Paddling Trail

  • Location: Downtown San Antonio
  • Rentals Available: Yes, at Mission Kayaks

Located near downtown San Antonio, all outdoor lovers can appreciate the convenience and beauty of the Mission Reach Paddling Trail. Spanning 400 acres of the Mission Reach region, history buffs and nature enthusiasts will enjoy going canoeing and kayaking in San Antonio’s Mission district.

Roosevelt Park acts as the main put-in for the Mission Reach Paddling Trail. This quaint park is a wonderful place to get started on your urban paddle adventure. Eventually, paddlers can choose to take -out their boats at Mission Espada. The Espada Dam is one of the only places to go stand up paddle boarding in San Antonio, so you can give it a try there too!

Most paddlers enjoy the easy 8 mile-long loop around the Mission Reach district in San Antonio. Along with beautiful scenery, kayakers can also explore the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Seeing this significant part of San Antonio’s history from the water offers a unique perspective of the city’s vibrant culture and connection to the past.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak at Roosevelt Park. Or, you can rent canoe and kayak gear from Mission Kayaks. With stunning views of urban San Antonio’s history and natural landscapes, the Mission Reach Paddling Trail is a family-friendly place for all to go kayaking in San Antonio.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Mission Reach Paddling Trail is to drive. If you are driving, take Roosevelt Ave. to Park Rd. to reach the trail.

Rio Vista Park

  • Location: San Marcos
  • Rentals Available: Yes, at Paddle SMTX

The all-inclusive whitewater playground in Rio Vista Park is an epic paddle destination for canoe and kayak lovers. Open all year-round, paddling at Rio Vista Park offers tons of different opportunities to explore whitewater kayaking in San Antonio.

While rebuilding the Rio Vista Dam, 3 man-made whitewater kayaking areas were also added to this amazing outdoor recreational area. The rapids range from Class I-IV so all ability levels can get a taste of a wild river. After tackling these challenging paddle routes, visitors can relax at the picnic area, grill some dinner and enjoy a night spent under the stars.

Most visitors spend an afternoon or whole day at Rio Vista Park. The whitewater playground will keep visitors entertained for hours! The best part of Rio Vista Park is that Olympic paddler Ben Kvanli frequents the park and teaches kayaking lessons year-round. After a day at the park, you can also adventure into the charming town of San Marcos for shopping and dining.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak in the park. Or, you can rent canoe and kayak gear from Paddle SMTX. If you are looking for a whitewater thrill, going kayaking in San Antonio’s Rio Vista Park will not disappoint.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Rio Vista Park is to drive. If you are driving, take I-35 N toward Austin. Then, continue on Guadalupe St. until you reach the park.

river kayaking in San Antonio is a fun outdoor activity
River kayaking in San Antonio is a fun outdoor activity! Photo Credit: opus pro (F;ickr CC)

Canyon Lake

Called “the Jewel of Texas Hill Country”, Canyon Lake is an expansive waterway perfect for all ability levels to enjoy San Antonio’s natural beauty. Nestled next to the Guadalupe River, Canyon Lake offers a mellow space to go canoeing and kayaking in San Antonio.

Since Canyon Lake is a large lake, most visitors stay near the northern end of the lake. This well-protected area is best suited for novice paddlers since the coastline acts as a shield from the elements. However, advanced paddlers will also love the northern end of Canyon Lake for its easy paddling and gorgeous greenery on shore.

Besides having excellent conditions for canoeing and kayaking near San Antonio, the town of Canyon Lake is a charming destination for visitors. There is tons of shopping, dining, golfing and even log cabins that can be rented for an overnight trip.

If you are interested in going kayaking at Canyon Lake, we recommend starting at the Canyon Lake Marina. Not only does the marina have boats for rent, but they can also guide you in the best direction for paddling that day. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak at Jacobs Creek near Cranes Mill. For an all-inclusive resort feel, going kayaking at Canyon Lake is the best place for a weekend spent in San Antonio.

How to Get There: The best way to reach Canyon Lake is to drive. If you are driving, start on US-281 N toward Johnson City. Then, continue on Canyon Lake Dr. and follow signs for Canyon Lake Park.

Frio River

For a refreshing place to go canoeing and kayaking in San Antonio, the Frio River’s crystal clear waters are one of the purest sources of water in Texas. Receiving its fresh, cool waters from underground springs, the Frio River is an amazing place for intermediate paddlers to get out on the water.

Flowing through miles of Texas Hill Country, the Frio River is an amazing resource for outdoor recreational activities. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful float trip down the river, or choose to go kayaking down some of the river’s Class I rapids.

No matter if you choose to go tubing or kayaking, visitors will be in awe of Frio River’s stunning landscape. Bordering a desert, Frio River is the water source that supports vast cypress forests surrounded by massive limestone bluffs.

While paddling down the Frio River, kayakers can spot bald eagles, foxes, deer and other wildlife on the coastline’s forests. The river also meanders through Garner St. Park, a wonderful place for paddlers to take a rest and explore more of San Antonio’s outdoor spaces.

Locals and visitors alike all rave about paddle trips down the Frio River because of the clear waters, beautiful scenery, and accessibility to all. There is limited access to public launch sites for the Frio River. Therefore, most paddlers opt to rent kayak gear and book tours through Frio River Outfitters. If you are looking to spend a few days in the area, the Frio County Resort is another great option for spending time outdoors with access to the river.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Frio River is to drive. If you are driving, take US-281 S toward 3 Rivers. Then, continue on Co Rd. 422 to the river.

kayaking in San Antonio is a great escape from the busy city.
Kayaking in San Antonio is a wonderful escape from the busy city. Photo Credit: Jonathon Cutrer (Flickr CC)

Neches River

The wild and scenic Neches River is a wonderful place for all ability levels to go canoeing and kayaking near San Antonio. With dense wooded forests all around, kayaking down the Neches River is a private and secluded way to immerse yourself in nature.

Spanning across East Texas, the Neches River is considered one of the “3 great rivers” in Texas. This slow-moving, meandering channel is home to many vibrant ecosystems. If you are interested in spotting wildlife, the shores of Neches River are one of the best places to explore near San Antonio.

For novice paddlers, the Upper Neches River is the best place to start your water adventure. Here, calm waters will carry you down the river with minimal obstructions. If you have some experience paddling, many visitors enjoy the Neches-Davy Crockett Paddling Trail. This 9 mile-long trail flows through the Davy Crockett National Forest which highlights some of the most beautiful greenery in Texas.

Brimming with adventure, the Neches River is a natural waterway known for its untouched beauty and commitment to protecting crucial ecosystems. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak at Anderson’s Crossing or Chandler River Park. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Eastex Canoe Trips.

How to Get There: The best way to reach the Neches River is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-10 E toward Houston. Then, continue on TX-73 E to Port Aurthur to reach the river.

Comal River

If your busy schedule does not allow much outdoor time, visiting the Comal River is the perfect place for you to go canoeing and kayaking in San Antonio. Rated as the shortest navigable river in Texas, the Comal River may be short but it is packed with adventure.

Sitting next to the Guadalupe River, Comal River’s rushing waters are an awesome place to test out your whitewater kayaking skills. The whole river takes about an hour to paddle, so there is plenty of time to enjoy the area’s surrounding beauty.

In the Summertime, Comal River is a very popular spot for tubing and floating. However, the Spring and Fall is really the best time to experience the Class II rapids and drops of Comal River. Although Comal River is short in length, it is absolutely overflowing with the opportunity to have a wild paddle journey.

These sparkling blue waters are an excellent place to spend a day outdoors. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak at Prince Solms Park or Hinman Island Park. Or, you can rent tubing and kayaking gear from Outlaw River Rentals. For a quick and easy trip, Comal River is an epic place to experience whitewater paddling near San Antonio.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Comal River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-35 N toward Austin. Then, continue on Hinman Island Dr. until you reach the water.

whitewater kayaking in San Antonio
Whitewater kayaking is an epic outdoor experience. Photo Credit: WH (Flickr CC)

Hippie Hollow Park

Hippie Hollow Park may be one of the most unique places to go canoeing and kayaking near San Antonio. It is important to know that Hippie Hollow Park is only open to visitors who are 18 years old and above because it is the only clothing-optional park in Texas.

Within this unique setting, paddlers can experience two great places for swimming, canoeing and kayaking. The park itself lies in the basin of Lake Travis. This portion of the park is great for beginner paddlers because the water is calmer near the shoreline. Once there, you will see why Hippie Hollow Park is known for its steep and rocky cliffs that line the coastline. Not only are these bluffs beautiful to look at, but they also provide shelter from the elements which creates a safe place to go kayaking near San Antonio.

If you have some experience paddling, many visitors also enjoy kayaking around Lake Travis. These wide-open waters provide a beautiful landscape for exploring San Antonio’s natural environment.

Traveling to Hippie Hollow Park is definitely a special way to engage with San Antonio’s natural beauty. While this setting is not for everyone, it is still a stunning environment that and an excellent place to go kayaking for all ability levels. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak in the park. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Lone Star Kayak Rental.

How to Get There: The best way to reach Hippie Hollow Park is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-35 N toward Austin. Then, continue on TX-360 Loop N to Comanche Trail to reach the park.

sunset paddles are the best when kayaking in San Antonio
Sunset paddles are magical in San Antonio. Photo Credit: Peter Woo (Flickr CC)

From crystal clear lakes to rushing streams, kayaking is a wonderful way to interact with the environment. Now that you are in the mood to kayak, check out our destinations page to see where else your boat can take you! Need some more inspiration before heading outdoors? Check out these motivational outdoors quotes. Happy paddling!

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in San Antonio

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in San Antonio


The white sand beaches and crystal blue waters of Tampa make it one of the most stunning places to go canoeing and kayaking in Florida. From paddle boarding to kayaking, there are tons of outdoor recreational activities for you to enjoy on the water. Both visitors and locals will love exploring the diverse ecosystems and waterways of the Tampa Bay Area.

Whether you are looking for an epic outdoor adventure or a relaxing paddle trip, going canoeing and kayaking in Tampa is a wonderful way to explore the city’s natural beauty. While paddling, kayakers can explore coastlines and sea caves (and even paddle among dolphins)! With so many amazing places to go paddling, it can be bit overwhelming to know where to start. Below, we have created a complete guide to the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking in Tampa.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Tampa

beautiful coastline in Tampa- a wonderful setting to go kayaking in Tampa
Canoeing and kayaking are great ways to explore Tampa’s natural beauty. Photo Credit: Todd Wise (Flickr CC)

Fort DeSoto Park

Originally built as a fort to defend Tampa Bay during the Spanish-American War, Fort DeSoto Park is now one of the most popular places to go canoeing and kayaking in Tampa. With 7 miles of pristine shoreline, Fort DeSoto is the perfect destination for novice and expert paddlers to enjoy the outdoors.

Spanning over 1,100 acres, Fort DeSoto has a wide range of paddle routes so all ability levels can get in on the action. If you are a novice paddler, we recommend the 2.25 mile-long marked water trail that goes around Mullet Key Bayou. This easy paddle follows scenic mangrove-lined shores and eventually opens to a lagoon. Sheltered from the wind, beginners will love testing out their skills on this water route.

If you are a more experienced paddler, Fort DeSoto offers tons of different areas to try out. For a challenge, we recommend paddling around Egmont Key or paddling the full 10 miles around Mullet Key Bayou. Both of these routes are less sheltered from the wind and tide, so take proper precautions before getting out on the water.

Along with exploring 5 different keys, mangrove forests and tide pools, visitors also enjoy Fort DeSoto’s bike paths and nationally ranked beaches. While walking around the park, visitors can even see remnants of the old fort.

This beautiful water trail is an amazing place for all types of paddlers to go canoeing and kayaking in Tampa. From historic landmarks to white sand beaches, visitors can spend up to a whole day exploring the wonders of Fort DeSoto Park. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak in the park. Or, you can rent kayak gear inside Fort DeSoto Park.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Fort DeSoto Park is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-275 S. Then, continue on State Hwy 679 toward Pinellas Bayway to reach the park.

Weedon Island Preserve

One of the many treasures of Tampa Bay, Weedon Island Preserve is a haven for outdoor recreational activities. From nature hikes to canoeing, Weedon Island Preserve is a wonderful place to go kayaking in Tampa and learn more about Florida’s cultural history.

With over 3,000 acres of coastal land, Weedon Island Preserve is dedicated to educating the public about Tampa Bay’s diverse ecosystems and history. One of the best ways to experience all the preserve has to offer is by paddling the South Paddling Trail. This 4 mile-long paddle trail meanders through mangrove forests, seagrass flats and around many small islands. While paddling, visitors can spot birds wading through the waters and other marine animals.

Weedon Island Preserve’s waterways are accessible to all ability levels, especially young children and families. This flat water experience offers stunning views of Tampa’s natural scenery without having to leave the metro Tampa area. Best of all, the preserve’s archeology center recently discovered a prehistoric canoe buried beneath the island’s shoreline! The canoe, which is estimated to be 1,100 years old, is now on display with other cool artifacts at the preserve’s education center.

Whether you are looking for a relaxing paddle through beautiful mangrove forests or want to expand your knowledge on Tampa Bay’s history, Weedon Island Preserve is a great place to start exploring on the water. If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat on the island near the fishing center. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book guided tours through Sweetwater Kayaks.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Weedon Island Preserve is to drive. If you are driving, start on Tampa St. and head toward St. Petersburg. Then, continue on US-92 W to Weedon Dr. NE to get to the preserve.

mini islands are a cool feature to explore while canoeing and kayaking in Tampa Bay
Weedon Island Preserve’s islands are fun to explore by boat! Photo Credit: Russ (Flickr CC)

Caladesi Island

Skip the ferry ride and try kayaking to Caladesi Island! Only a mile from Clearwater Beach, Caladesi Island is a hidden gem for going canoeing and kayaking in Tampa Bay.

Whether you decide to drive or kayak to Caladesi Island, once you are there you will not want to leave. If you are a novice paddler or want to kayak alongside dolphins, we recommend paddling around the northern tip of the island. There, shallow pools of turquoise water reveal tons of marine wildlife, sea shells and gorgeous panoramic views.

If you are looking for a more challenging paddle, there is a 3 mile-long water trail that flows through Caladesi Island’s mangrove forests. This water trail is not too difficult either, and is a great route for exploring in and around the island. Along with this trail, visitors also enjoy kayaking around St. Joseph’s Sound and nearby Honeymoon Island.

Loved by locals and visitors, Caladesi Island is great place to experience the beauty of untouched nature. With miles of turquoise waters, mangrove forests and beaches, it is no wonder why famous homesteader Myrtle Scharrer Betz refers to Caladesi Island as “paradise.” If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak off of the island or from Clearwater Beach. Otherwise, you can rent kayak gear from Sail Honeymoon Inc.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Caladesi Island is to drive. If you are driving, start on FL-60 W toward Clearwater. Then, continue on Mandalay Ave to the island.

Fred Howard Park

If you are looking for a a low-key place to go canoeing and kayaking in Tampa, Fred Howard Park is the perfect place to explore Florida’s natural beauty. Although small in size, Fred Howard Park has all of the amenities of a top-notch beach.

Known for its beautiful water trails and biking paths, Fred Howard Park is home to some of the most stunning views of Tampa Bay. White sand beaches and the playground welcome families from all over to come enjoy a day on the water.

At the park, there are two main water routes. The first route is a mile-long paddle through breathtaking mangrove forests. This serene paddle route is accessible to all ability levels and is full of rugged beauty. The other water route is a 2 mile-long paddle around Lake Avoca. Since Fred Howard Park is not as well known as other destinations on this list, both water routes have the much-needed peace and quiet for your outdoor adventures.

Fred Howard Park is especially loved by locals with families. With a small beach, playground and and stunning lake views, it is the perfect place to spend an afternoon in nature. Best of all, it is close to the village of Tarpon Springs which has tons shops and restaurants to explore after a day at the beach.

This small park has tons of potential to become your new go-to spot for canoeing and kayaking in Tampa Bay. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak in the park. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Wheel Fun Rentals.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Fred Howard Park is to drive. If you are driving, start on FL-60 W toward Clearwater. Then, continue on Tampa Rd. to Sunset Dr. to reach the park.

beautiful blue waters of fred howard park, a popular place to go kayaking in Tampa
Fred Howard Park’s sandy beaches are a perfect launch spot for kayaking. Photo Credit: Fred Howard Park Beach (Flickr CC)

Hillsborough River

The Hillsborough River is one of the most thrilling places to go canoeing and kayaking in Tampa. With Class II rapids and flat water stretches, all ability levels will love this wild river.

Known to be one of the most green rivers in Florida, Hillsborough River is surrounded by lush greenery on all sides. In the flat water sections of the river, many paddlers stop to take photos of the river’s reflection because it looks more green than blue!

Whether you are looking for a relaxing paddle down a meandering stream or the wild nature of Class II rapids, Hillsborough River has it all. It is important to note that alligators tend to hang out near the banks, so make sure to keep an eye out while paddling. Besides alligators, Hillsborough River is home to tons of wildlife including wild turkeys and hogs. While paddling, you can explore this diverse landscape with stunning foliage as a backdrop.

If you are interested in kayaking down the Hillsborough River, we recommend that you rent gear or book a tour with Canoe Escape. Only 15 minutes from downtown Tampa, Canoe Escape is a great resource for people looking to go kayaking near Tampa Bay. They offer self-guided tours and other expeditions that will help you navigate through this stunning waterway.

From cypress swamps to tree-lined shores, Hillsborough River is a wonderful place for intermediate paddlers to explore Tampa’s rugged beauty. If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat at any of the ramps along the river. Otherwise, you can rent gear and book tours with Canoe Escape here.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Hillsborough River is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-275 N toward Temple Terrace. Then. continue on N Glen Arven Ave to reach the water.

Silver Springs State Park

If you are looking for a weekend getaway, Silver Springs State Park has gorgeous waterways, camping and exhibits for all visitors to enjoy. Silver River’s calm waters offer an excellent way to for visitors to explore the park’s attractions.

Inside the park, visitors can paddle down Silver River’s 5 miles of crystal clear waters. Eventually, the Silver River empties into the Ocklawaha River, both of which are beautifully maintained by Silver Springs State Park. While paddling, visitors can steer through dense mangrove forests and spot alligators, manatees and even wild monkeys on land. Silver Springs State Park is also the set for many Hollywood movies, including Tarzan.

Besides the beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife, Silver Springs State Park also has miles of hiking trails and is well-known for Cracker Village. This 19th century replica of a pioneer settlement showcases houses, a church and a schoolhouse for visitors to see what life during this time looked like. This attraction, along with the immense beauty of the park, makes Silver Springs State Park a common destination for outdoor lovers.

Paddling along Silver River’s clear and calm waters, visitors can reconnect with nature in one of the most beautiful settings for kayaking in Tampa. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak in the park. Or, you can rent kayaks from Silver Springs State Park and test out their new glass bottom kayaks.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Silver Springs State Park is to drive. If you are driving, start on FL-40 E toward Silver Springs Blvd. Then, continue on that road until you reach the park.

kayakers going through mangrove forests while paddling near tampa bay
The mangroves of Silver Springs are a scenic setting for paddling. Photo Credit: Carl Pearson (Flickr CC)

Myakka River

  • Location: Hardee-Manatee County
  • Rentals Available: Yes, at Myakka Outpost

As Florida’s first designated wild and scenic river, kayaking down Myakka River is a true backcountry adventure. Flowing through 58 miles of untouched land, those looking for a rugged outdoor adventure should add Myakka River to their list.

This tea-stained river boasts many diverse ecosystems and landscapes. Called the “birdwatcher’s paradise”, Myakka River is home to over 100 species of birds. While paddling, visitors can navigate through wetlands, pinelands and prairies while ospreys fly overhead. Winding through miles of backcountry land, this scenic route is the perfect place for an epic day trip on the water.

With smooth waters and a gentle current, Myakka River is accessible to all types of paddlers. However, it is important to note that some parts of Myakka River can have Class I and II rapids, so this river is best suited for paddlers with some experience.

If you are feeling adventurous, check out Adventure Kayak’s new alligator kayaking tour. You are guaranteed to be kayaking right alongside these impressive creatures and see how they live in the wild. Or if you would rather have a more relaxing paddle trip, you can rent kayak gear from Myakka Outpost which is located inside Myakka River State Park.

How to Get There: The best way to reach Myakka River is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-75 S. Then, continue on FL-72 E to Myakka River State Park Rd. to reach the park.

 Rainbow River

The tourist-friendly town of Dunnellon and Rainbow River are the perfect destinations for outdoor enthusiasts to see some of Florida’s history and nature come together as one. Developed around Rainbow River in the 1800s, the historic town of Dunnellon is a wonderful place to explore after a day on the river’s crystal-clear spring waters.

Rainbow River is a beautiful place to go tubing, paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking in Tampa. These slow-moving waters are great for novice paddlers and children to explore nature. While paddling, visitors can see Spanish Moss among Cypress Knees and even paddle through sandy sea caves.

This aquatic preserve is truly a work of art; Rainbow River’s crystal clear waters reflect the equally beautiful landscapes surrounding the water. After an afternoon spent paddling or swimming, many visitors enjoy walking around historic Dunnellon.

To maintain this natural beauty, Rainbow River prohibits the use of plastic bags, alcohol and coolers while in the park. Although this may be an inconvenience, preserving this stunning habitat is of the upmost importance. Once you are there, you will be in awe of Rainbow River’s scenery.

If you have your own kayak, paddle board or tube, you can launch your device at any of the ramps in the park. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Rainbow River Kayak. Although Rainbow River is not far from Tampa Bay, this unique paddle destination is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Rainbow River is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-75 N toward Dunnellon. Then, continue on SW Hwy 484 to reach the water.

white sand beaches and blue waters where kayakers are paddling in Tampa
Beach kayaking in Tampa is a wonderful way to get outside. Photo Credit: Asad Photo (Pexels)

Terra Ceia Preserve

An underrated place to go canoeing and kayaking in Tampa Bay, Terra Ceia Preserve offers miles of coastline for paddlers to explore. From wetlands to saltwater pools, Terra Ceia Preserve boasts stretches of untouched beauty and is home to many marine animals.

Paddling alongside dolphins and manatees, visitors can get an up-close look at marine wildlife in their natural habitat at Terra Ceia Preserve. With freshwater and saltwater areas, Terra Ceia Preserve is a beautiful mixture of different landscapes.

If you are interested in kayaking at Terra Ceia Preserve, we recommend that you paddle through the park’s mangrove forests. This section of the waterway is calm enough for all ability levels to enjoy the sights and scenes of the Tampa Bay area.

Spanning over 2,000 acres, there is no shortage of places to explore at Terra Ceia Preserve. Many paddlers enjoy Frog Creek. This small creek runs through Terra Ceia Preserve and is a beautiful place for novices to try kayaking in Tampa.

Staying true to its mission of restoration, most of Terra Ceia Preserve is backcountry nature. Therefore, it is best if you have some experience navigating waterways if you want to go kayaking here.

If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat at Bishop Harbor. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Frog Creek Kayaking. Whether you want to paddle through saltwater pools to spot marine life or go for a quick paddle down Frog Creek, Terra Ceia Preserve provides a wonderful setting for reconnecting with nature.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Terra Ceia Preserve is to drive. If you are driving, start on I-75 S toward Naples. Then, continue on Moccassin Wallow Rd. to reach Bishop Harbor.

Robinson Preserve

Robinson Preserve is a family-friendly place to go canoeing and kayaking in Tampa Bay. With a rich history and beautiful views, Robinson Preserve is a favorite among locals and visitors.

With over 600 acres of coastal shoreline, Robinson Preserve is a saltwater waterway where dolphins and manatees love to hang out. While paddling among this amazing wildlife, visitors can also navigate through mangrove and cypress forests.

Channels of interconnected waterway will take paddlers all throughout Robinson Preserve. This network of streams, lakes and lagoons is accessible to all ability levels. If you are looking for a more challenging paddle, the Robinson Preserve opens up into the Perico Bayou and Perico Preserve which contains wide-open waters.

After exploring this area on water, many visitors enjoy climbing the 53-foot tall tower which provides stunning panoramic views of Tampa Bay. This tower and the park’s visitor center are both historic landmarks and add a charming element to this otherwise grand preserve.

If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat in the park. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Kayak Jack’s Paddle Sports. Overall, Robinson Preserve is a wonderful place for friends and family to gather and seek out Florida’s natural beauty.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Robinson Preserve is to drive. If you are driving, start on US-19 S toward Palmetto. Then, continue on FL-64 W to reach the preserve.

shallow seas are a beautiful place to go kayaking near Tampa Bay
Explore Tampa’s natural beauty by boat! Photo Credit: snaphappyd (Flickr CC)

Lettuce Lake Park

Located just outside of Tampa Bay, Lettuce Lake Park is a quaint and peaceful place to go canoeing and kayaking in Tampa. Nestled in the northern tip of the Hillsborough River, Lettuce Lake Park offers a quiet place for paddlers to enjoy the river’s wildlife and scenery.

While paddling along the tree-lined shores, paddlers can spot alligators and turtles basking in the sun. Although it is not recommended to get too close to the alligators of Lettuce Lake Park, it is still amazing to observe these animals in their natural habitat.

A favorite among nature photographers, Lettuce Lake Park is a low-key spot for outdoor lovers to connect with nature. This swamp-like portion of the Hillsborough River gives visitors a look into Florida’s true landscape.

After spending the afternoon on the water, may visitors enjoy climbing the observation deck to see gorgeous panoramic views of Tampa Bay. Lettuce Lake Park is truly a hidden gem for sight seeing and kayaking in Tampa.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak at Lettuce Lake Park. Or, you can rent kayak gear from Lettuce Lake Park in Hillsborough County. At $2 per vehicle, visiting Lettuce Lake Park is one of the most affordable outdoor activities in Tampa Bay.

How to Get There: The best way to reach Lettuce Lake Park is to drive. If you are driving, take I-4 E toward Orlando. Then, continue on Lettuce Lake Pkwy to Osprey Dr. to get to the park.

Lido Key

Sitting right next to the beautiful Sarasota Bay, Lido Key is a wonderful water trail for novices and families to go canoeing and kayaking near Tampa. This protected waterway flows through scenic mangrove forests and saltwater lagoons.

Along the way, paddlers may get a visit from friendly dolphins or manatees in the area- they love meeting new paddlers! Known for its vast system of mangrove forests, Lido Key is a serene place to paddle beneath the treetops.

With sandy shorelines and sparkling waters, Lido Key is an amazing place for a relaxing beach day. Since it is so close to Lido Beach and and Ted Sperling Park, many visitors will paddle to Lido Key and then return to one of these parks to relax.

If you have your own kayak, you can launch your boat from Ted Sperling Park near the public Lido Beach. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book tours through Kayak Sarasota. Lido Key is a unique paddle destination that will not disappoint novice and expert paddlers.

How to Get There: The easiest way to reach Lido Key is to drive. If you are driving, take I-75 S toward Naples. Then, continue on FL-780 W to John Ringling Causeway to reach the park.

wide open waters are a beautiful wy to get in touch with nature
Paddle boarding is another awesome way to explore Tampa’s waterways. Photo Credit: Jess Vide (Pexels)

Tarpon Springs

The crystal clear waters of Tarpon Springs is one of the best places to spot wildlife while kayaking in Tampa. Home to a large manatee population, Tarpon Spring’s pristine waters are perfect for paddle sports and meeting manatees.

The Tarpon Springs Bayou is a wonderful resource for outdoor activities. From paddle boarding to kayaking, miles of open water provide a great setting for these activities. These waters are usually calm enough for all ability levels, but is is best to stay with a paddle-buddy while out on the water.

Visitors and locals love the open and friendly environment of Tarpon Springs. Whether you are looking to solo-paddle around the bayou or want a guided tour of the area, Tarpon Springs has got you covered. If you are interested in a tour, we recommend the clear kayak manatee tour.

Tarpon Springs offers many wonderful tours of the area. If you want to book a guided tour or need to rent kayak gear, you can do so through Tarpon Springs. Otherwise, you are free to launch your own boat into these pristine waters and cruise along the gentle waves.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Tarpon Springs is to drive. If you are driving, take FL-60 W toward Clearwater. Then, continue on Tampa Rd. to Pinellas Ave to reach the park.

From crystal clear lakes to rushing streams, kayaking is a wonderful way to interact with the environment. Now that you are in the mood to kayak, check out our destinations page to see where else your boat can take you! Need some more inspiration before heading outdoors? Check out these motivational outdoors quotes. Happy paddling!

colorful kayaks line the beach where people enjoy kayaking in Tampa
Bring your own boat or rent a kayak to enjoy Tampa’s waters. Photo Credit: Paul (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Tampa

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Tampa