12 Stunning Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in San Diego
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With over 70 miles of pristine beaches, San Diego is an amazing place to spend time out on the water. From surfing to paddle boarding, San Diego is a stunning place to explore. With clear blue waters, canoeing and kayaking in San Diego is a popular activity all year-round. Paddling through diverse ecosystems, paddlers can spot schools of fish and other native flora.

Novices and pros alike will love to go kayaking in San Diego. From quiet lagoons to the open ocean, there are endless places to explore by boat. Best of all, San Diego’s temperate climate means that going canoeing and kayaking is always a great choice for getting outside. With palm trees, sandy beaches, geological masterpieces and more, paddle enthusiasts must put going kayaking in San Diego at the top of their list. Below, we have created a guide to the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking in San Diego.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Around San Diego

a panorama view of san diego with the water which is great for  kayaking in san diego
San Diego is a beautiful place to go canoeing and kayaking. Photo Credit: BinhDu (Pixabay)

Mission Bay Park

Outdoor enthusiasts of all types flock to Mission Bay Park every year for outstanding scenery and recreational activities. With 27 miles of coastline, Mission Bay Park is a wonderful spot to enjoy time out on the water or to lounge on sandy beaches.

With so much space, it can be a little overwhelming when you first get to Mission Bay Park. The west end of the park is best for going canoeing and kayaking in San Diego. There, paddlers can explore mini islands and channels of pristine blue waters. This area is accessible to all ability levels, but it is best for novices to stay in groups or with expereinced paddlers while enjoying these wide-open waters.

Whether you are looking to go paddling, windsurfing or swimming, Mission Bay Park is the ideal spot for outdoor activity. Since it is one of the most popular places to go kayaking in San Diego, there are tons of services and clubs to help you get started on your paddle journey. That being said, Mission Bay Park can get crowded when the weather is particularly nice, so if you are looking for a quiet place to paddle you may want to look at other spots on this list.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak right off the shores of Mission Bay Park. If you need to rent canoe, kayak or other paddle gear, Aqua Adventures Mission Bay Park has got you covered. Mission Bay Park’s crystal clear waters are ready for you to explore- grab some friends and get out on the water for an unforgettable experience kayaking in San Diego.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Mission Bay Park is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 N toward Los Angeles. Then, take Fiesta Island Rd. to the park.

La Jolla Cove

With towering sea cliffs and stunning rock caves, La Jolla Cove is a beautiful place to go exploring San Diego’s natural landscapes. Paddlers can enjoy sea kayaking, paddle boarding and surfing all right off the shores of La Jolla Cove.

La Jolla Cove is an excellent place to paddle among California’s wildlife. Visitors can paddle through the La Jolla Marine Reserve where you can spot leopard sharks, sea lions and more. Besides kayaking alongside these awesome creatures, paddlers can explore La Jolla’s gorgeous Seven Rock Caves. Paddling through these caves can be a bit challenging, so it is recommended to go with an experienced paddler or book a guided tour to navigate these landmarks safely.

After a long day on the water, many paddlers also enjoy hiking or biking around Mt. Soledad and Windansea Beach, both beautiful sites on coastal trails. No matter how you choose to spend your time at La Jolla Cove, it will be a total immersion in nature.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak right off of the shores of La Jolla Cove. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book tours through Everyday California. La Jolla Cove’s coastal trails and magnificent caves are amazing places for all paddlers to go kayaking in San Diego.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to La Jolla Cove is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 N toward Los Angeles. Then, take exit 26A for W La Jolla Pkwy.

rocky cliffs and blue waters of la jolla shores make it a great place for kayaking in san diego
La Jolla Cove’s stunning scenery is great for canoeing and kayaking in San Diego. Photo Credit: Tony Baldasaro (Flickr CC)

Lower Otay Lake

Originally formed in 1918, Lower Otay Lake is a staple for canoeing and kayaking in San Diego. Surrounded by Otay County Open Space Preserve and Chula Vista, Lower Otay Lake has over 25 miles of shoreline for visitors to enjoy.

Lower Otay Lake’s calm waters are perfect for novice paddlers to try kayaking in San Diego. The park’s serene setting creates the perfect environment for all types of water activity; the United States Olympic Rowing Team even trains here!

Surrounded by rolling hills and mountains, Lower Otay Lake is a great place for an afternoon picnic. There are tons of campsites lining the lake which make Lower Otay Lake a wonderful place for a weekend getaway. Whether you or looking for a quiet retreat or are kayaking with young children, Lower Otay Lake is a great escape from the busy city.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak right off of the shores of Lower Otay Lake. Or, you can rent rowboats, motorboats and kayaks from Rocky Mountain Recreation Company. Kayaking around San Diego’s stunning scenery will surely help you reconnect with nature.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Lower Otay Lake is to drive. If you are driving, take CA-94 E toward Chula Vista. Then, take exit 7 for Otay Lakes Rd. and continue to the lake.

San Onofre State Beach

A legendary surfing and kayaking spot, San Onofre State Beach is an awesome place to get out on the water. Known as Nixon’s “Western White House”, San Onofre State Beach is the ideal place for avid paddlers to surf the waves.

It is important to note that only part of San Onofre State Beach is open to kayakers and surfers. Most paddlers enjoy kayaking around Old Man’s Beach, as it is called by the locals. The beach’s sandy shores and crashing waves make it an epic spot for outdoor enthusiasts.

Besides pristine shorelines, San Onofre State Beach has a low-key and laid-back culture. If you are looking for a simple place to enjoy the sun and the water, San Onofre State Beach is worth the drive. Only an hour from metro San Diego, San Onofre State Beach’s campsites are a breathtaking place to relax and recharge.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak right off of the shores of San Onofre State Beach. Or, you can rent kayaks from Kayak Rentals San Clemente. Whether you go kayaking in San Diego as a way to relax or socialize, San Onofre State Beach’s laid-back vibe is perfect for paddling any time of the year.

How to Get There: The best way to get to San Onofre State Beach is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 N toward Los Angeles. Then, take exit 71 toward San Onofre and continue on Beach Club Rd. to the park.

kayaking in san diego provides great views of the city skyline
Urban kayaking has great city skyline views. Photo Credit: Marie Humphrey (Flickr CC)

Torrey Pines State Reserve

People travel from all over the world to experience the rugged beauty of Torrey Pines State Reserve. One of the most celebrated stretches of land and water in California, Torrey Pines’ natural beauty is an amazing place to explore untouched nature.

Lying closer to the equator than the North Pole, Torrey Pines’ semi-tropical waters create a unique environment for plants and animals. Torrey Pines’ flat rocks, bluffs and lagoons are full of flora and fauna for visitors to see. On the water, paddlers can explore California’s beautiful coastline. Although sea kayaking is relatively calm near the shoreline, it is recommended to go with an experienced paddler if it is your first time going sea kayaking.

Besides cruising along Torrey Pines’ gorgeous coastline, visitors enjoy hiking and biking Torrey Pines’ trails. Some popular trails are Guy Flemming, Razor Point and Beach Trail. Whether you come to Torrey Pines to explore dense forests, jagged cliffs or pristine ocean beaches, there is no shortage of outdoor activities to try.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your own kayak in Torrey Pines State Reserve. Or, you can rent boats, kayaks and book guided tours through Everyday California. With so much to explore in this national treasure, you can spend a whole day at Torrey Pines immersed in nature.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Torrey Pines State Reserve is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 N toward Los Angeles. Then, take exit 29 for Genesee Ave. and continue on N Torrey Pines Rd. to the park.

San Elijo Lagoon

The saltwater tides of San Elijo Lagoon create a unique setting for canoeing and kayaking in San Diego. With a LEED-Platinum certified ecological center, San Elijo Lagoon is a wonderful place to learn about California’s diverse ecosystems and wildlife.

If you are looking for a low-key retreat, San Elijo Lagoon should be at the top of your list. With almost 1,000 acres of wetlands to explore, you can paddle all day around this beautiful landscape. Besides the wetlands, visitors also enjoy seeing the saltwater mud flats that become exposed during low tide.

One of San Diego’s largest wetlands, San Elijo Lagoon is known for its interconnected network of marshes and channels. Many visitors enjoy fishing from their boats and kayaks while cruising along these smooth waters. A quiet spot, San Elijo Lagoon is a great place for paddlers to explore an environment different from the ocean.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak at San Elijo Lagoon. Or, you can rent paddle boards and kayaks from San Diego Surf Rental. From sea kayaking to quiet marshes, there is so much to explore through canoeing and kayaking in San Diego.

How to Get There: The best way to get to San Elijo Lagoon is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 N toward Los Angeles. Then, take exit 39 toward Manchester Ave. and continue to the park.

coastal shorelines of torrey park are a beautiful way to see san diego
Torrey Pines State Reserve has miles of shoreline for you to explore. Photo Credit: Jim Frazee (Flickr CC)

Lake Hodges Reservoir

Turquoise waters surround tree-lined islands and rocky cliffs at Lake Hodges Reservoir. A beautiful place to go kayaking in San Diego, Lake Hodges Reservoir has everything you need for a fun day on the water.

With three separate forks, Lake Hodges has miles of shoreline to explore. Most paddlers enjoy the east fork of Lake Hodges. There, you can kayak on smooth waters through lush mangrove forests and even some shallow marshes. This area is especially scenic and well-suited for novice paddlers.

Paddling along the northern shoreline, kayakers can enjoy smooth, clear waters with mountains in the background. Known as one of the most scenic places to go canoeing and kayaking in San Diego, Lake Hodges is a great place for a relaxing paddle surrounded by beautiful landscapes.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak at any of the boat launches near Lake Hodges Reservoir. Lake Hodges is specifically known for having the most accessible boat ramps in Southern California. Or, you can rent kayaks from Rocky Mountain Recreation Area. Nestled between mountains, Lake Hodges is a stunning place to enjoy the outdoors.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Lake Hodges Reservoir is to drive. If you are driving, take I-15 N and then take exit 27 for Via Rancho Pkwy. Continue to Lake Rd.

Lake Miramar

Although it is close to metro San Diego when you go kayaking on Lake Miramar it feels like you are worlds away. A smaller, peaceful lake, Lake Miramar is a wonderful place for families and children to enjoy San Diego’s beauty.

Grassy fields and ravines surround Lake Miramar which provide lovely picnic and camping sites. Besides kayaking on the lake’s calm waters, many visitors enjoy the paved hiking trail that goes all along the lake (about 5 miles). Avid paddlers, hikers and bikers will love the relaxed culture of Lake Miramar. Best of all, most of the water prohibits motorized boats so you can freely enjoy Lake Miramar without any distractions.

While kayaking on Lake Miramar, you can enjoy both San Diego’s natural landscapes and see parts of the city skyline. This destination truly brings the urban outdoors and is accessible for all ability levels.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak right off of the shores of Lake Miramar. Or, you can rent kayaks from Rocky Mountain Recreation Company. This hidden gem is a wonderful way to get outside.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Lake Miramar is to drive. If you are driving, take I-15 N and then take exit 15 for Carroll Canyon Rd. Continue on Scripps Ranch Rd. to the lake.

dark blue waters are next to tree-lined shores of san diego
Kayaking in San Diego is a wonderful way to explore the outdoors. Photo Credit: Steffen Gerd Oeser (Flickr CC)

Coronado Beach

A popular beach destination, Coronado Beach is an awesome place to go canoeing and kayaking in San Diego. The wide-open waters of Coronado Bay make for a thrilling water adventure. There are many places that can give you a guided tour of the bay, or experienced kayakers can explore Coronado Beach on their own.

Launching right off of the shores of the beach, kayaking is the perfect activity for any beach day. While on the water, paddlers often spot sea lions, leopard sharks and other wildlife. Coronado Bay can get misty at times, so make sure to bring a rain jacket before getting out on the water! If you are willing to paddle out far from the shore, you can paddle around Coronado Island, a famous historical landmark.

With palm trees and sandy coastlines, kayaking around Coronado Beach is a wonderful way to get outside while still staying close to San Diego. This beach town is also full of cute shops and restaurants to go to after a day spent in the sun.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak off of the shores of Coronado Beach. Or, you rent kayaks from Bike and Kayak Tours. For a fun activity in a beach town, kayaking at Coronado Beach is a must-try for any outdoor lover.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Coronado Beach is to drive. If you are driving, take CA-75 toward Coronado. Then, continue on G Ave. to the beach.

Point Loma

Canoeing and kayaking at San Diego’s Point Loma offers a wide variety of activities and views which are accessible for all ability levels. Starting in San Diego’s Sun Harbor Marina, kayaking at Point Loma is a great way to enjoy the water with city views.

After paddling out of the marina, visitors can kayak to America’s Cup Cove and explore the calm waters of San Diego Bay. This rugged peninsula is also a well-known spot for watching the sunset at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. From sunset paddles around the bay to spotting wildlife in clear waters, Point Loma is a unique way to see San Diego.

Many paddlers especially love kayaking at Point Loma because of the great outdoor opportunities so close to the city. With the perfect balance of urban life and water activities, Point Loma is an ideal place for all types of paddlers to go kayaking in San Diego. Besides canoeing and kayaking, Point Loma’s clam waters are also great for stand up paddle boarding.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak right off of the shores of Point Loma at Sun Harbor Marina. Or, you can rent kayaks and book tours through OEX Point Loma. Kayaking around this peninsula is a wonderful way to see both San Diego’s skyline and the city’s natural beauty.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Point Loma is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 N toward Los Angeles. Then, continue on Cabrillo Memorial Dr. to the water.

kids play at coronado beach which is a great place to go kayaking in san diego
Coronado Beach is a popular place for outdoor activities. Photo Credit: nathanhill0070 (Pixabay)

Cabrillo National Park

  • Location: Point Loma Peninsula
  • Rentals Available: Yes, at OEX Point Loma

Located at the tip of Point Loma Peninsula, kayaking around Cabrillo National Park offers a unique way to see national monuments, sea caves and tide pools.

Most paddlers enjoy kayaking to Cabrillo National Park’s sea caves. Visitors can paddle in the sea caves and see how the natural landscape has evolved over time. Besides these cool rock formations, paddlers also enjoy kayaking to the Cabrillo National Monument. Commemorating Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo coming ashore in 1542, this monument is an integral part of California’s history. From land or water, it is definitely worth a visit.

The calm waters surrounding Point Loma Peninsula are great for all ability levels to try kayaking in San Diego. With stunning cliffs and sandy shorelines, there is no better place to reconnect with nature. From hiking coastal trails to relaxing on the beach, Cabrillo National Park’s historical significance and beauty make it an amazing place to explore by boat.

If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak off of the shores of Point Loma. Or, you can rent kayaks and book tours through OEX Point Loma. From paddle boarding to kayaking, Cabrillo National Park is a haven for all outdoor activities.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Cabrillo National Park is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 N toward Los Angeles. Then, continue on Cabrillo Memorial Dr. to the park.

Spanish Landing Park

Spanish Landing Park at the Port of San Diego is another amazing place to go kayaking in San Diego with a rich history and vibrant culture.

This park is of great historical importance to San Diego. It is the place of the 1769 meeting of the Gaspar DePortola and Father Junípero Serra expeditions. Now, avid kayakers gather at this pristine beach to enjoy the waters of the San Diego Bay.

With marina views, Spanish Landing Park has tons of opportunities for outdoor activities. From paddle boarding to kayaking, these smooth waters will not disappoint. Best of all, Spanish Landing Park is close to Harbor Island which has great shops and restaurants to go to after a long day of paddling.

This urban beach has everything you need to have an awesome day of kayaking in San Diego. If you have your own boat, you can launch your kayak right off of the shores of Spanish Landing Park. Or, you can rent kayaks from Eco Boat Rentals.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Spanish Landing Park is to drive. If you are driving, take N Harbor Dr. to the park.

beautiful jagged cliffs of point loma
Amazing views of Point Loma’s jagged cliffs and sandy shores. Photo Credit: andorra (Pexels)

Kaweah River

For paddlers looking for a thrilling water adventure, you need to look no further than kayaking down the Kaweah River. One of the steepest drainages in the nation, the Kaweah River is a whitewater adventure best suited for experienced paddlers.

Surrounded by Sequoia National Park’s Morro and Alta Peaks, Kaweah River is a stunning place to go rafting and kayaking near San Diego. The most popular route down the Kaweah River is 8 miles long with Class II-V rapids. It is important to note that most of the land along Kaweah River is privately owned, so it may be difficult to find take-out spots in the middle of the water trail.

This whitewater adventure is an awesome experience all year-round. In the winter, snow-capped mountains provide a scenic alpine background. Springtime may be the most beautiful, with wildflowers lining the banks. No matter when you go, make sure to take proper safety precautions since Kaweah River is one of the most challenging places to go kayaking near San Diego.

It is difficult to launch your own boat at Kaweah River, but you can launch your own kayak at the nearby Kaweah Lake. Or, you can rent kayaks and book guided tours through California Whitewater. For an unforgettable whitewater experience, Kaweah River is a great place to go kayaking in San Diego.

How to Get There: The easiest way to reach the Kaweah River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 N toward Sacramento. Then, take CA-99 N to the head of the river.

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 Canoeingand Kayaking in San Diego

  • 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 Diego


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