Great Places to Kayak in Monterey Bay, California

Canoes and Kayaks

For a truly unforgettable time on the water, kayaking in Monterey Bay is the way to go.

Monterey Bay offers a stunning setting for kayaking enthusiasts. The bay itself is a picturesque and serene haven teeming with diverse wildlife, such as whales, otters, and seals.

Situated conveniently between Santa Cruz and Monterey, this location caters to everyone’s preferences. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely paddle around Fisherman’s Wharf or a full-day adventure exploring Moss Landing, there’s something here for everyone. So, if you have a passion for paddling, don’t miss out on the incredible experience of kayaking in Monterey Bay!

A Bit About Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay is a famous bay in California encompassing about 38 miles of coastline with an abundance of marine life. The bay stretches from Monterey in the south to Santa Cruz in the north.  In between you’ll find Elkhorn Slough, one of California’s largest wetland areas and home to hundreds of species of wildlife.

Kayaking is a popular sport here. It is common for visitors to spend their days exploring the bay and its surrounds by kayak. There are many stunning locations to visit here especially by sea kayak.  Lets have a look at some of these great spots.

Kayaking in Moss Landing

kayak moss landing

Can I kayak in Moss Landing is a popular question.  The answer is yes, absolutely!  

Moss Landing is a small coastal community that sits on the central California coast. It can be an ideal destination for a summer getaway.

The warm weather and moderate temperatures of Moss Landing are enticing for beachgoers, perfect for those searching for a respite from the winter. The region’s natural beauty makes it appealing to those who enjoy hiking and kayaking, topped off with nature’s stunning scenery. 

Moss Landing is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including numerous bird species. It also houses a great number of beaches, mangroves, and coves. One of the best parts about visiting this part of Monterey Bay is kayaking in Moss Landing.

Here are some reasons why you should visit Moss Landing for kayaking:

  • The clear blue waters of Moss Landing are serene to kayak in;
  • You will get to see all types of marine life in the water;
  • The water temperature here is perfect for year-round kayaking.

Kayaking with whales is an experience of a lifetime.  If your interested in kayaking with humpback whales from Moss Landing you can jump onto a tour with Blue Water Adventures. Their tours cost $100 pp for 4-5 people.  Spotting whales is fantastic but keep in mind that this is a bit of a hit and miss experience.  No whales guaranteed.

Kayaking at Elkhorn Slough

kayak elkhorn slough

Why you should visit Elkhorn Slough

Elkhorn Slough is a 7 mile tidal estuary with its mouth at Moss Landing.  It’s California’s second largest estuary and the United States’ first estuarine sanctuary. Popular with nature lovers, it’s an area where many people come to kayak.

Kayaking at Elkhorn Slough offers visitors an opportunity to traverse through the marshlands, which can provide both peaceful moments and thrilling experiences. 

Elkhorn Slough is also a spot for migratory birds, fishes, marine mammals, and endangered California Southern Sea Otter. – so it’s both; a treat for your eyes and your adventurous side. The water is calm and very soothing, so even if you are not a seasoned paddler, you will have no problem staying afloat here.

Kayaking Skills and Knowledge Required

You don’t need to be an expert to kayak at Elkhorn Slough but it is important to know the time and direction of tidal currents before you paddle out. It is much better to get a free ride back to your launch site than be stranded on mud flats or even find yourself washed out to sea.

The main section of the slough is deep enough at any tide level however, many of the feeder smaller creeks require at least two feet of water for kayaking. 

If you’re travelling on one of these smaller creeks with an outgoing tide, you’ll need to be mindful of your positioning.  A few minutes either way could mean the difference between kayaking out or getting your kayak stuck in the mud.

When paddling Elkorn Slough it is important to know that the only legal landing sites are at Kirby Park so you must stay in you kayak at all times.


Where can I launch my kayak in Moss Landing?

Kayaks can be launched at the Moss Landing Harbor District Launch Ramp at the North Harbor (beside the Elkhorn Yacht Club) or at Kirby Park along Elkhorn Road, north of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. See map below.

Kayak Rental and Tours for Elkhorn Slough

There are a number great spots to hop on a tour of Elkhorn Slough including the following. 

Kayak Connection
2370 Highway 1 Moss Landing,
Phone: 831-724-5692

Kayak Connection have many various tours on offer from wildlife tours, family tours, sunset and moonlight paddling.  Want to take some photos of wildlife while someone else paddles? No problem there’s a tour for that. They even have a bioluminescent kayak tour where you get to see Slough’s calm waters magically glow at night!  Tours range in price from $60 to $150 per person. Age limit is from 3+ on the family tour.

Monterey Bay Kayaks
2390 Highway 1, Moss Landing,
Phone: 831-373-5357

Monterey Bay Kayaks also have a good range of tours starting at $55 pp for a 1.5 hrs guided to up to $75 pp for their 2.5 hour bioluminescent kayak tour.

Monterey Bay Kayaks offer kayak and stand up board rental for 4 hours for $45 pp for a single kayak or $35 pp for a double sit-on-top kayak.

Kayaking Point Lobos

kayak in Monterey bay

Why you should visit Kayaking Point Lobos

Just a little south of Monterey Bay, in Carmel Bay lies Point Lobos.

Kayaking Point Lobos has a lot to offer for the keen paddler. It is rich in biodiversity and is renowned for having the most diverse marine life globally.

It offers kayak tours that will take you through pristine coastal areas perfect for snorkelling, swimming, scuba diving, etc.

In addition the scenery offered by Kayaking Point Lobos in California is some of the best wildlife viewing in the world.

Point Lobos has amazing views of large granite rock formations, an abundance of protected wildlife and the Monterey Cypress forests.  It’s great mixture of sea, sand, and forest attracts birdwatchers and photographers worldwide. 

Kayaking Skills Required

Kayaking at Point Lobos at a bare minimum is for advanced beginner to intermediate skilled kayakers.

Some tours from here require open sea kayak experience, the ability to rescue yourself and or a buddy and require the wearing of a wetsuit or dry suit.


Kayak Tours in Monterey Bay

Kayak Connection offer a full day seat kayaking trip where you will get to explore the whole Point Lobos coastal area for $180. This tour will bring you face to face with much of the areas wildlife including sea otters, seals, sea lions, and hopefully whales or dolphins.

Monterey bay kayaks

What are the life jacket laws in California?

The life jacket law of California says that every child under the age of 13 must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when on a moving recreational vessel. The jacket must be in a serviceable condition, and the type plus size must be appropriate for the individual wearing it, for the kind of activity, and the condition.  For your safety all adults should also wear adults when kayaking.

So if you are going for a kayak in Monterey Bay, make sure you are all caught up on this law. 

In Conclusion

Kayaking in Monterey Bay offers an exceptional opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and create lasting memories on the water. With its breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife, including whales, otters, and seals, the bay provides a tranquil and awe-inspiring experience for paddling enthusiasts. 

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, Monterey Bay offers a range of options, from leisurely trips around Fisherman’s Wharf to adventurous explorations of Moss Landing. 

So, if you’re seeking an unforgettable adventure on the water, don’t miss the chance to kayak in Monterey Bay and discover the wonders it has to offer.

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