These are the best family-friendly places to get your kids in a kayak in San Francisco and the Bay Area

Does it get any better than wind blowing in your hair, out on the water while getting some exercise? Not when you’re out on a kayak with your kid! From Sausalito to Santa Cruz, catch some Vitamin C while enjoying sea life and a view of the Bay from the water. Truly, kayaking can be a perfect way to enjoy the outdoors, all while also sneaking in an excellent low-impact workout and keeping our kids active. Ready for some family-friendly fun on the water? Find your next kayaking spot now! 

Related: Kid-Friendly Fishing Spots

San Francisco

This cool kayaking company operates right off of South Beach Harbor and Pier 40, making it super easy to access for city families. They offer rentals and kayaking classes for all levels, as well as guided tours and fireworks tours. They let any and all ages ride and have life jackets for infants, but they recommend kids be at least 11 to paddle out solo. You can even bring the family dog along for the ride!

Pier 40
San Francisco, CA
Hours: Open through the whole year, check website for times

San Francisco Kayak and Adventures
This outlet offers varied routes and special hours to accommodate their popular sunset and moonlight paddles. You can’t just rent your own and paddle out here—it’s all guided tours, so be sure to check the site and sign up in advance. SF Kayaks is located just south of AT&T Park, so with baseball season gearing up, there could be a chance to hit up the famous McCovey Cove and even try to catch a home run or two. The boats are traditional closed-deck kayaks, which keep the paddlers warm and dry—perfect for San Francisco’s not-so-hot summer days. FYI: Kids must be at least 8 to ride in a double kayak with a parent.

Pier 52
San Francisco, CA
Hours: Times vary

East Bay

Lake Chabot
This beautiful reservoir offers kayak and life jacket rentals as well as guided kayak tours for both adults and kids six and older. Grab a boxed lunch from Stan's Cafe so that you can spend as long as you'd like out on the water. Explore the eight miles of shoreline in this East Bay gem.

Lake Chabot Rd.
Castro Valley, CA

Stacked Adventures
Stacked Adventures offers a kayak concierge experience. Tell them what you want and they will deliver and pick up the gear at your desired destination! Amazing. This service even includes trip planning, which allows families to make the most of anything mother nature might throw their way (currents, weather, terrain, etc.). Private tours can be set up for groups of three or more and designed with the group's experience and interests in mind. They also offer a variety of kayaking experiences from nature tours, skill-focused workshops and what they like to call destination specific options: Kayak & Dine, Birder's Tour, Full-Moon Paddle to name a few. Stacked Adventures offers most tours for all levels of ability and experience.

Serving Alameda and surrounding area

Related: The Best Swimming Beaches for Kids

Peninsula/South Bay

Venture Quest Kayaking
See the boardwalk and beaches of Santa Cruz from the water with Venture Quest Kayaks! Kayak rentals and tours are offered right from the Santa Cruz wharf, making it an easy activity for residents and visitors alike. You’ll be able to check out the seals and otters near the Lighthouse Point on a safe and easy paddle thru the Wharf Nature Tour (offered from April - October). They also offer a year-round tour of Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing, where you can do some bird watching and see seals in a calm estuary. Tours are recommended for children five years and up.

#2 Santa Cruz Wharf
Santa Cruz, CA

Half Moon Bay Kayaking Company
These sea-worthy folks offer not only rentals but a kid-friendly three-hour jaunt that starts off with a launch among harbor seals and birds. A paddle across the protected harbor will end up at Pillar Point and everyone will get the chance to explore the tidepools before heading back to the starting point. Call for the latest schedule. Life jackets are available for infants and up.

2 Johnson Pier
Half Moon Bay, CA

Foster City Lagoon
Conveniently located right at the waters edge just south of the Foster City Parks and Recreation Center in Leo J. Ryan Park. The venue features safe inland waters and mild on-shore winds making it a great place for the entire family to enjoy the water. This cash-only facility offers kayak rentals as well as lessons. Park for free at the Parks and Rec lot and walk to the water's edge near the bocce ball court and then head south to the boathouse.

650 Shell Blvd.
Foster City, CA

Shoreline Lake
Head out to this beautiful spot to book some kayak time with the family. You can reserve your rig online before you go with single and double kayaks available (as well as pedalboats, rowboats and more). After you've worked up an appetite, dine at the American Bistro and take in the sights.

3160 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA

Elkhorn Slough
This spot is perfect for kayaking even for beginners as the waters are calm and you'll get the opportunity to view tons of wildlife. Kayak Connection will take you out on a family adventure tour where paddlers as young as 3 can get some water time. Or, book your rental to explore on your own.

Kayak Connection
Santa Cruz Harbor and Elkhorn Slough


Blue Waters Kayaking
Head for the beauty of Tomales for a day on the Bay. It’s a journey to get out to where the launches are located, but with over 400 species of birds to find, and friendly folks ready to show everyone the ropes, this could be a fantastic weekend adventure the kiddos won’t stop raving about on Monday. Rentals are available for DIY adventures and they also offer youth camps, guided tours, classes and even overnight camping trips for the whole family.

Point Reyes Station

Sea Trek Ocean Kayaking
Whether you want to chart your own course or take a guided tour, this company has it all. We especially love their family tours through Sausalito, out to Angel Island or around Tomales Bay. They even offer triple kayaks, so the more kids the merrier! There is no age requirement and life vests come in all sizes. Kids as young as nine can enroll in their kayaking summer camp. For the super adventurous you can even book a kayak/camping combo trip to Angel Island.

Schoomaker Point
Sausalito, CA

Kate Loweth

Russian River Adventures
Looking for the perfect family activity in Healdsburg? Paddle down the Russian River and enjoy all the peaceful tranquility that the river provides. Opt for the half-day paddle if you have little ones or the full-day for older kids (full-day is 9 miles and takes you about 5-6 hours). You walk from the office in Healdsburg to the launch location and Russian River Adventures drops your car off at the final destination so you can jet when you are done. The summer of 2021 provided water levels that were totally fine for paddling with just a few short distances where you needed to push your canoe over shallow spots. Russian River Adventures does a great job of marking areas to avoid on the river. 

Insider tips: Pack more food and drinks than you think you'll need and reapply sunscreen at regular intervals so nobody gets fried.

20 Healdsburg Ave.
Healdsburg, CA

101 Surf Sports
This super duper awesome sports store is also central Marin’s easy access to the bay. The launch is on the canal directly behind the shop, so you can literally rent your gear or sign up for a class and be on the water within the hour. The owners are real pros and ardent lovers of water sports, so the know-how is there for the taking. They offer rentals for the weekend, classes and even a family paddler package.

115 Third St.
San Rafael, CA

River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips
Kayaking or canoeing in the Russian River is of the the most fun activities around but probably best for older kids (and their parents!). You can rent kayaks, canoes and SUP or go on guided trips of the gorgeous upper Russian River.

Tip: No children under four years old are allowed. Check the shuttle times as you will park your car five miles from where you’ll start to descended the river.

Healdsburg Ave.
Healdsburg, CA

Related: Luxurious Camping Close to the Bay Area

Farther Afield

Kate Loweth

Lake Camanche
The Sierra foothills are home to this lake that is a water sport paradise. They have four single and six double "sit on" kayaks that are available for rent by the hour or by the day. Take them out to explore the beauty along the 54 miles of shoreline. Stay the weekend by reserving a camping spot or glamping it up at one of the cottages and vacation rentals at the lake.

North Shore: 2000 Camanche Road, Ione, CA
South Shore: 11700 Wade Lane, Valley Springs, CA

Additional reporting by Jennifer Yco

featured photo by Filip Mroz via Unsplash




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