Exploring an area by kayak is an unusual and scenic way to see a new destination. From lakes to oceans, you can kayak almost anywhere with water.
Not a pro? No worries -- kayaking is pretty easy for beginners to learn quickly. However, inexperienced kayakers might prefer to start in calm waters. More adventurous kayakers will love the adrenaline of navigating any waves the open water may have. If you're in the right place at the right time, Orca whales or seals might end up being your companions as you paddle your way through the water. Kayaking is also great as both a guided activity and a self-guided one, if you're more experienced and comfortable on the water.
Whether you're in Seattle or Phuket, take the plunge (but stay in your kayak!) with a kayaking trip or tour to help you explore.
Where to Go
There are so many places in the world to kayak, so choosing can be the hardest part. You can kayak anywhere from the beautiful Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Costa Rica.
The Pacific Ocean is one of the most scenic places to kayak in North America. Resident Orca whales call the waters home in addition to great blue herons, seals, bald eagles, among many others. The waters are often very calm with the exception of ferries or boats going by, making it a great place for people of all skill levels to go. Plan your trip between May and September.
The Atlantic is hard to beat as well. Maine boasts beautiful beaches with calm water - perfect for taking the kayak out for the day. The sunsets in the area are incredible, especially if you're on the water.
White sand beaches line the shores of Costa Rica, and crystal clear waters make it a kayaker’s dream to see underneath the water as they glide by. In addition, they have one of the most well-developed conservation programs in the world, with over 25% of the country being protected. With green turtles swimming alongside you and colorful Quetzals soaring above you, there’ll be no shortage of viewing the wildlife in Belize either. Head down south December through April.
Glide through limestone passages and water-filled caves in beautiful Southeast Asia. Have lunch on a white sanded beach, then hop to another island for more exploring. From Vietnam to Cambodia, this region of the world is full of calm waters perfect for first-time kayakers and sea life, like leopard sharks, morays, mantas, and whale sharks. November through April will offer the best weather.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look For In a Kayaking Trip
When you're first looking for a kayaking tour, see what the skill level required is. If you're not comfortable with windy, wavy conditions in the ocean, stick to kayaking trips on calmer bodies of water like lakes, harbors, and bays.
Also decide how long you want to be on the trip for. If you're not big into camping, a kayaking trip over a week in duration isn't going to be the best choice for you. It’s also important to pay close attention to what gear is provided. Providing your own will cost more. Also see if the kayaking tour has a limit on participants, and what ages the trip caters towards. You’ll want to be sure you’re choosing the best experience for your needs.
Average Kayaking Tour Cost & Length
You can take a kayak out for either just the day or for an extended period of time. Lake kayaking trips are typically a week or less depending on the size of the trip. For sea kayaking trips, they can be a few weeks at a time depending on how big the area is that you're exploring. The cost varies by provider, but expect to pay between $2,000-5,000 a week.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Check with the kayaking tour company to see what gear they'll provide. At the minimum, you'll need a kayak, skirt to go around it if you're going in the ocean, and a paddle. If you'll be camping, invest in waterproof bags to pack your tent, camping gear, clean clothes, toiletries, and food for the trip. Wear clothes that aren't cotton so they'll dry quickly when you get wet, and shoes that can also dry fast for when you get into and out of the water.
While there aren’t any qualifications required to participate in a kayaking tour, you’ll be sore if you’re not used to the muscles required. Spend time in the weeks leading up to your trip to build extra arm strength.
Reading about your destination beforehand will help you identify the flora and fauna that will accompany you on your journey, plus provide extra context about the region.
Qualifications & Training
You don't need special training to use a kayak, but speak up if you need a review on how to use it or any questions you may have about how to kayak or use the gear properly. Your kayaking tour guide will likely give a demo and brief instruction anyway, regardless of level.
Kayaking is a relatively low-risk activity, but there are a few factors to keep in mind. First, wear appropriate clothing for the climate. This will save you from either hypothermia or heat exhaustion. Be careful when paddling through hanging branches to avoid cuts or hurting someone behind you. There is also risk of tipping over due to undercuts. As long as you come prepared and listen closely to your kayaking tour guide’s instructions, you’ll be in good shape.
It's important to know what to do should your kayak roll over, and how to get back in it. Always wear a life jacket, even if you're going in a calm lake. Emergencies can happen and life jackets are the easiest way to stay afloat in that situation.
Always wear sunscreen and use a hat to protect against the sun, even in cooler temperatures. Avoid wearing anything around your neck, such as a necklace or lanyard, as it could get caught.