A West Coast Guide to Kayaking

A West Coast Guide to Kayaking

Whether you like to take your RV across the country looking for kayaking spots or go on shorter kayaking trips closer to home, kayaking is one of the best ways to explore the oceans and lakes of the world. Plus, it’s an excellent way to stay in shape while you travel and get lots of fresh air. 

This guide walks you through the best places to kayak through California, Oregon, Washington, and more, plus some tips on how to make your kayaking trip the best adventure yet.

Your ultimate west coast kayaking guide.

La Jolla Sea Cove

The La Jolla Sea Cove is found right outside the beaches of San Diego, California. The caves themselves are small, deep bay areas with beautiful caves to kayak through and explore. There are seven cliffs to explore and kayak through. These are naturally occurring and are a beautiful way to enjoy kayaking through the West Coast. If you enjoy snorkeling, these caves are also rich in marine life like leopard sharks and a great way to explore what's under the surface of the ocean. 

As long as the weather conditions are safe, you can grab a kayak and head down to the caves and explore. You can even rent a kayak while you’re there and look for Avenida de la Playa for where you can launch. 

Fun history fact about La Jolla caves in San Diego: Records show that La Jolla caves were popular places for pirates and other smugglers to hide contraband, alcohol, and more in the early 20th century. 

Orcas Island

Head up to Washington and British Columbia to find Orcas Island. The largest of the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island offers a small-town feel with tons of tourist attractions like restaurants and mainland activities, as well as professionally held kayaking tours. Join a tour or kayak on your own through the porpoises, whales, and marine life. 

Telegraph Cove

If your favorite part of kayaking is sightseeing and animal life, head to Telegraph Cove, which is on the eastern side of Vancouver Island and enjoy kayaking through Johnstone Strait, where you’ll meet some of the largest pods of orcas in the world.

Approximately 200 orca whales come to Telegraph Cove to give birth to their babies and raise them. Plus, you can do a bit of learning while you’re in town and pay the Whale Interpretive Centre and North Island Discovery Center a visit. Here you’ll be able to learn all about the whales and wildlife you encounter. 

Channel Islands

Stretching from Santa Barbara to Huntington Beach, Channel Islands are an excellent archipelago kayak spot. You’ll get to witness tons of marine life and amazing natural wonders. Be sure to take a professionally guided tour if you’re not as experienced with kayaking alone, or be prepared for the challenging trip if you’re kayaking by yourself. 

Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay is an inlet upwards of San Francisco. It is home to large groups of wildlife like elk, stingrays, and gentle leopard sharks, and the bioluminescent dinoflagellates, or plankton, that can be seen when the sun goes down. This phenomenon alone is worth the trip as you’ll enjoy what feels like the night sky underneath your kayak.

There are campgrounds near Tomales Bay to stay at while you travel and enjoy the scenery for a few days, or where you can simply spend one night. 

Morro Bay

If you prefer a quieter place to kayak alone while enjoying the birds and the open water, Morro Bay has everything you’re looking for. In the middle of the water, you’ll find a 581-foot rock known as Morro Rock. This rock is a volcanic formation and acts as a plug. There are tons of wildlife that find refuge in its crevices.

There’s also a lot to do on the mainland, like restaurants, shops, museums, and more. If you’re a runner looking for relaxing trails, prefer smoother kayaking waters, or just like exploring the mainland, Morro Bay is a great place to start.

Deschutes River

Also located in Oregon, Deschutes River is one of the best places to kayak on the West Coast. You’ll find relatively calm waters, with some more adventurous rapids for the daredevils out there, and lots of places to visit nearby if you’re camping or staying in town. Plus, you can get kayaking lessons on the water to perfect your rapid paddling routine. 

Whidbey Island

Located in Washington, Whidbey Island is a great kayaking destination. With miles of open water and mountains on either side, you’ll enjoy the wildlife and a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. You can sign up for whale watching tours, paddleboard your way across the water, kayak, or enjoy a boat. 

What You Need To Bring With You

When you’re planning a kayak trip, it’s important to know what to bring with you. Here are the basics of what kind of kayak, gear, and clothing you’ll need to make the most out of your trip.

A Kayak, Obviously

First things first, you’ll need a kayak. However, there are many different kayak types. The kind of kayak you need depends on where you’re going kayaking.

For instance, if you’re kayaking on flat waters, you can use a recreational, touring, inflatable, pedaling, or a sit-on-top style kayak. If you’re kayaking on white waters, your kayaking may get more intense, so you’ll need to have a playboat, river runner, creek boat, old school kayak, or an inflatable kayak. 

The Right Gear

Here’s a list of gear you’ll need to bring with you on your kayaking trip:

Bring a water bottle that holds 22 ounces of water or more so you’ll stay hydrated on your trip. 

In a backpack, bring gear like your camera, insect repellent, flashlight, pocket knife, small first aid kit, sunglasses, and an extra towel.

You can also bring a fishing license if you want to fish, an adjustable cap, sunscreen, and any other gear you’d like to bring on your trip.

    What Should You Wear?

    Just because you’re out in nature doesn’t mean you have to compromise your aesthetic.

    Here are a few basic clothing items to bring on your kayaking trip out west:

    You’re likely going to be getting wet, so you’ll need to stay as dry and warm as possible. Aim for fabrics that are water repellent or moisture wicking for the most comfort while you’re kayaking. This will help keep your clothing dry in the rain, water and help repel sweat. Plus, these clothing items remain comfortable no matter what the weather is like, so you’ll be able to keep kayaking. 

    The Compass Pant offers the adventure pants you’re looking for with the style that can get you around town on the same trip. Similarly, the Traverse Pant is heavy-duty and made for all outdoor adventures. With UPF 50+ sun protection and water repellent properties, this pant can take you on even the wildest of kayaking trips. 

    Explore the Coast in Your Very Own Kayak

    No matter what part of the west coast you choose to explore, do so prepared. With the best styles in athletic and adventure wear and the most comfortable, weather-proof options around, you can’t go wrong. Check out Olivers for your next kayaking trip or whatever adventure life takes you on. 


    Telegraph Cove | Vancouver Island 

    Guide to La Jolla Beaches | San Diego 

    Different Types Of Kayaks | American Kayak 

    Deschutes River, Oregon | Rivers.gov 

    Paddler's Safety Checklist | American Canoe Association 

    Previous Article Next Article