Kayaking is a popular pastime for outdoor lovers. Those who enjoy kayaking may agree that there’s nothing better than paddling through rivers, lakes or seas, surrounded by water and wildlife. To some people, kayaking is an opportunity to bond with loved ones and create lasting memories in new locations.
Although paddling through the water can be a fun way to relieve stress no matter where you are in the world, some places make extraordinary kayaking destinations. Imagine drifting through lush rainforests as you listen to monkeys call out to each other or gliding freely across a mirror-like lake past steep, mist-covered mountains. Kayaking allows you to explore remote areas that are otherwise inaccessible and catch a glimpse of the wildlife and plants that live there.
Table of contents
- 15 Best Kayaking Destinations
- 1. Alaska
- 2. Costa Rica
- 3. Canada
- 4. Croatia
- 5. Greenland
- 6. France
- 7. Italy
- 8. Fiji
- 9. New Zealand
- 10. Caribbean Islands
- 11. Mexico
- 12. Vietnam
- 13. Norway
- 14. Ecuador
- 15. Greece
- Where Are the Best Places to Kayak Near You?
- Start Your Adventure With Windstar Cruises
The world has an abundance of worthwhile places for kayaking, so it can be challenging to choose your next kayaking adventure. In this post, we’ll show you some of the best kayaking destinations in the world to inspire an unforgettable journey.
15 Best Kayaking Destinations
When you envision your perfect kayaking excursion, what does it look like? Are you paddling next to sea turtles with the warm sun on your back? Or are you navigating glacier waters in a distant location, savoring the solitude? While your kayaking dream may look different from the next adventurers’ ideal, you may find some similarities. The following destinations all offer magnificent scenery and will make you forget your worries the moment your paddle hits the water:
Alaska is a paradise for nature lovers and adventurous spirits. With massive glaciers, towering peaks, never-ending forests and roaring rivers, Alaska is one of the most scenic places on the planet — and it’s at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. A kayak trip in Alaska allows you to lose yourself in the majestic wilderness surrounding you and closely observe wildlife of all types.
Although Alaska’s dominating beauty can seem intimidating, with the right approach, beginning paddlers and experts alike can access this surreal world. For example, travelers can take a guided kayak tour through Alaska’s Misty Fjords National Monument to view colossal, glacier-carved cliffs adorned with cascading waterfalls. During your adventure, keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles soaring through the sky overhead or humpback whales gliding through the water next to you. You might catch sight of a brown bear or Sitka black-tailed deer peeking curiously at you from the shore. Bring binoculars if you want to search the rocky cliffs for mountain goats.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is another one of Alaska’s top sea kayaking destinations and the ideal way to relish the tranquility of nature. At Glacier Bay, kayakers can paddle around icebergs or watch calving glaciers from a distance. You might even see the heads of Steller sea lions or harbor seals bobbing in the ice-blue water next to you.
2. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known for its wildlife biodiversity, national parks and unspoiled beaches. Travelers can privately and peacefully explore Costa Rica’s thriving jungles, dense mangrove forests and warm coastal waters by kayak.
One of the best spots for kayaking in Costa Rica is Damas Island, located near Manuel Antonio National Park. Here, you can navigate the narrow waterways through a maze of mangroves, scanning the forest for capuchin monkeys, iguanas and sloths.
Beginners and experienced paddlers alike might want to visit Lake Arenal, where they can paddle on calm water beneath Arenal Volcano. Visitors may also want to hike through Arenal Volcano National Park and search for monkeys, parrots, snakes or tropical plants such as bromeliads and orchids.
If you’re heading to the province of Puntarenas, consider kayaking in Golfo Dulce, or “sweet gulf.” Golfo Dulce is a secluded, fjord-like estuary surrounded by dense, tropical forest. Paddle through the mangroves and listen to scarlet macaws squawking in the trees. Glide slowly along the coast and observe bottlenose dolphins as they journey to the Pacific. Stop at a beach along the way and go for a swim, feeling paradise embrace you.
For some travelers, paddling alongside killer whales is a dream come true. If this sounds like you, consider taking a kayak trip from Vancouver Island. Canada’s Vancouver Island in British Columbia is one of the best destinations in the world for whale-watching. Travelers journey to the island to spot Pacific gray whales, humpback whales and orcas — all while soaking in the rugged mountainous scenery.
Canada is excellent for sea kayaking, especially if you want to spend hours exploring secret islands and wild beaches. You might paddle through Broughton Archipelago Provincial Park – British Columbia’s largest marine park and home to dozens of pristine islands and islets. Kayakers from all over the world head to Broughton Archipelago Park to get close to various marine mammals like harbor seals, sea lions, orcas, sea otters and harbor porpoises. You might also catch black bears searching for food on the shore.
Johnstone Strait is another popular destination for kayaking and whale-watching. Johnstone Strait is a deep channel located between Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s mainland. Sea kayaking is a common sport here because the area is home to a pod of orcas. The best time to see orcas in Johnstone Strait is from May to September if you’re wondering when to book your kayak trip.
Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast offers crystal-clear water, hundreds of islands and ancient fortified villages. With calm, clear water and minimal boat traffic, Croatia’s coast is a delight to explore. Here you can leisurely paddle to uninhabited islands, take a break on a secluded beach or glide on your watercraft through secret caves. Consider kayaking around Sipan, one of the Elaphiti Islands, where you’ll find vineyards, olive trees and centuries-old villas. End your kayaking adventure with a seafood feast next to locals.
One of the best ways to experience Greenland is to kayak the Petermann Glacier’s Blue River. Every year when the weather warms up, the melting glacier forms blue watery ribbons that stretch across a vast icy landscape. These clear, turquoise waterways contrast against the pure white ice, creating otherworldly scenery and a kayaker’s heaven. It’s not every day that travelers can paddle on top of a glacier, so this is a truly unique experience.
You might also kayak among ice chunks, seals and whales during the summer at Sermilik Fjord, located in southeast Greenland. While you’re there, you may want to go hiking to get different views of icebergs rising from the fjord.
From mountain lakes to hidden seaside coves, France offers some of the best places to kayak in Europe. One of the most beloved kayaking spots in France is the Verdon Gorge. Situated in southeast France, the Verdon Gorge is a deep river canyon with massive limestone cliffs. The vivid green-blue water that passes through the canyon will hypnotize you as you paddle along. If you can lift your eyes from the mesmerizing water, look around to observe flora and fauna of the surrounding Verdon Regional Nature Park.
Although the Verdon Gorge is a must-see, know that it can get busy over the summer. If you want to avoid crowds, you may want to visit France’s “Grand Canyon” in the late spring or fall.
Another exciting area to explore by kayak is the island of Corsica. Corsica is a mountainous island in the Mediterranean southeast of France’s mainland. Nicknamed the “Island of Beauty,” Corsica has crystalline water allowing you to see seagrass and sandbanks without snorkeling gear. Take your kayak to a secluded cove along the island’s coast and relax in the warm Mediterranean sun. Bring your sneakers so you can wander through the aromatic scrubland of the Agriates Desert before hopping back in your kayak.
Italy is known around the world for its cuisine, history, culture and natural beauty. It has hundreds of islands and thousands of lakes, so you can enjoy the wonders of Italy by kayak and let its jaw-dropping scenery intoxicate you.
One place worth exploring by kayak is Lake Garda — Italy’s largest lake. Located in northern Italy, Lake Garda is surrounded by a diverse landscape, including impressive mountains, picturesque towns and emerald-green hills. Visitors can spend hours gliding around the lake, observing the local flora or paddling near historical sites such as castles, ancient ruins or fortresses.
If you’re touring Italy’s islands, consider sea kayaking in Sardinia to paddle around the rugged coastline in clear, teal water. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to find a small, secret cove to take a break and inhale the ocean air. If you’re traveling to Sicily, you might kayak around the volcanic Aeolian Islands and watch Stromboli’s volcano erupt, or treat your eyes to Lipari’s stunning coastline.
Fiji is known for its aquamarine lagoons, colorful coral reef and palm-lined beaches. Many envision Fiji as a remote, tropical paradise, and they’re right. Surrounded by warm, glass-like water, Fiji is an ideal location for watersports like kayaking.
One of the top areas for kayaking in Fiji is the Yasawas — a string of volcanic islands. You can easily spend hours paddling through electric blue water, peeking at sea life and discovering remote beaches. Kick back and rest in the South Pacific sun, and don’t think about anything at all.
9. New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most visually striking destinations on the planet, and it’s worthy of exploration by kayak. Sea kayakers can navigate the waterways of the Marlborough Sounds and look for seals, dolphins and penguins. For another unique experience, take a kayak trip to the caves of Lake McLaren and glide beneath glowworms.
To experience New Zealand’s remote side, hop on a helicopter or boat and head to Fiordland. Here you can kayak on deep, tranquil lakes surrounded by massive snow-capped peaks, and you won’t have to worry about anyone disturbing your meditative state.
10. Caribbean Islands
The Caribbean is a playground for kayakers. With its clear, warm water, you can enjoy laid-back kayaking adventures throughout the Caribbean. For example, you might rent a clear-bottom kayak to paddle around the Turks and Caicos Islands and get a close view of exotic marine life. Or glide through the shallow water of the Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve in Saint Thomas and feel as if you’re traveling in a giant aquarium with tropical fish.
In the Bioluminescent Bay of Grand Cayman or the Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica, you can paddle after dark to see tiny plankton create sparkling blue trails in the water. You’ll have countless kayaking options in the Caribbean, whether you’re a beginning or master, making this one of the world’s best regions for watersports.
Mexico is a must-see destination for its delicious food, gorgeous beaches and fascinating culture. A trip to Mexico’s coast gives you opportunities to paddle through turquoise water and spot unique animals. The Sea of Cortez, in particular, has calm, clear water that’s ideal for kayaking and viewing sea life.
Called the “world’s aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau, the Sea of Cortez and its shore is home to sea lion colonies, hundreds of dolphins, nearly 900 species of fish and plentiful seabirds. The sea is also a feeding and breeding zone for whales. If you have a passion for wildlife viewing, kayaking in the Sea of Cortez belongs at the top of your bucket list.
If you kayak in Vietnam, you’ll get a chance to observe its magical seascapes of limestone pillars, arches and caves. You can also mingle with locals in coastal villages and satiate your craving for cultural immersion. Vietnam’s main kayaking destination is Ha Long Bay — a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ha Long Bay contains 1,600 islands and islets, and most of them are uninhabited.
If you want to experience river life in Vietnam, consider kayaking in the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta consists of winding rivers, rice paddies and floating markets packed with colorful fruits and flower assortments.
For a more tranquil and remote experience, you might paddle in Ba Be Lake, located in the Bac Kan province. As part of the Ba Be National Park, the lake is surrounded by limestone mountains, ancient caves, waterfalls and lush forests where you’ll find abundant flora and fauna, including rare plant species like the Kim Tuyen orchid.
Norway is famous for its deep fjords and picturesque fishing villages. One of the best ways to view Norway’s striking scenery is to paddle around its islands and fjords.
For example, you might visit the Lofoten Islands, a group of mountainous islands located within the Arctic Circle. Here, you’ll find jagged mountains meeting white sandy beaches and aquamarine water, creating a landscape of unmatched beauty. You could paddle for hours just gazing at the scenery or spend some of your day hiking to gain height and take in the sweeping views. While you’re in the water, you might encounter humpback whales. When you get to shore, look out for moose and sheep roaming the beach.
After your day of adventure, head to one of the charming fishing towns for fresh seafood. If the night is clear, set aside time to catch the aurora borealis dancing in the sky.
Ecuador has plenty to offer travelers, including beautiful beaches, the Amazon rainforest and mountainous landscapes. One of the country’s greatest treasures and ideal kayaking spots is the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Islands consist of 19 islands and a marine preserve situated in the Pacific off the coast of Ecuador. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to unusual animal species like the marine iguanas and giant tortoises. A kayaking trip in the Galapagos Islands gives you a rare chance to glimpse marine life up close and paddle to remote beaches where you’re bound to encounter various wildlife. You’ll also get to enjoy the sight of large rock formations and vivid blue water as you journey in this nature lover’s paradise.
Greece has over 2,000 islands, and only about 170 of them are inhabited. With so much to explore, Greece is one of the top sea kayaking destinations in the world. You can explore hidden beaches in Santorini, for example, or kayak through caves in Skopelos. On the island of Crete, you’ll find kayaking expeditions for both beginners and advanced paddlers and a chance to visit remote, sandy beaches.
When you’re not on the water, you can spend your time discovering ancient ruins or feasting on locally-sourced cuisine. In the evening, catch the sunset over the sea or join locals for a folk dance lesson to celebrate an unforgettable day.
Where Are the Best Places to Kayak Near You?
If you can’t catch the next flight to New Zealand, don’t panic — you can still have a memorable kayaking experience close to home. To find kayaking spots near you, first, consider whether you need to rent a kayak. You’ll often find kayak rental shops near popular waterways that let you rent by the hour, day or week.
Also, think about whether you want to go somewhere quiet and secluded or if you’re looking forward to checking out a popular spot. If you go to a well-known kayaking area, you may have to share the water with a crowd.
Here ways to find your ideal kayaking spot nearby:
- Search for kayak launches in nearby lakes.
- Look for local kayak tour companies to take a guided trip.
- Join a kayak group online to learn about new places.
- Check out your state’s park resources for recommendations.
- Ask for tips at your local outdoor gear store.
- Look at a map of your area to create your own kayak journey.
Start Your Adventure With Windstar Cruises
Windstar Cruises makes it easy to bring your kayak dreams to life. When you sail with Windstar, you’ll have a chance to visit some of the world’s most spectacular destinations, including remote islands and secluded coasts in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and beyond.
As a Windstar guest, you can take a shore excursion once you reach a port of call and paddle in your waterway of choice, or visit our Watersports Platform for complimentary access to kayaks, paddleboards, water trampolines, and water skis. When you’re taking a break from kayaking excursions, we’ll ensure you feel pampered aboard our small, uncrowded ship.