kayak tour returning

Kayak Explorations

Are you looking for something new to do in Santa Barbara? One excellent way to see Santa Barbara from a new perspective is by taking a Kayak tour. Kayaks allow you to see Santa Barbara from an angle that most people don’t get to experience. This unique experience is truly one of a kind.

Why Santa Barbara?

There are numerous other harbors and marinas that offer kayak tours. Unfortunately, many of those locations are in very busy harbors with not a lot of room to escape the crowds. The Santa Barbara harbor is different, and our kayak tour will show you why.

Santa Barbara’s building codes limit the height of buildings, which allows our town to not obstruct the natural beauty of the central coast. You will feel like you are still in a small town when you’re here. I love that there are so many people to meet and things to do, but it keeps that hometown feeling. As you look back towards downtown from the water you will struggle to find any buildings over 3 stories high.

During your tour, your guide will provide you insights into the local landscape, topography, wildlife, historical landmarks, and more. Their extensive local knowledge will help answer any questions you may have about Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas. Our guided Group Kayak Tour at West Beach is suitable for all skill levels, including first-time kayakers! This is the easiest spot to kayak with the most to see in town and when finished you’re right downtown for food and shopping.

Do I Need Kayak Experience Before Taking A Tour?

Experienced paddlers will be more comfortable initially, however, having experience in a kayak or any other paddle sport is not required for our kayak tours. We do however ask that all guests on the tour know how to swim. Life jackets are provided on every kayak tour. We encourage life jackets to be worn, however, they only need to be present on the boat. If you are under 18, the life jacket must be worn at all times. 

Trust the guides at Cal Coast Adventures when on the tour. We will not send a tour out in hazardous weather, nor will we go beyond your comfort zone. If you feel unsafe, let us know so we can help you feel more comfortable! We want you to have as much fun as possible, learn about the Santa Barbara area, and feel safe while on the kayak tour.

How Does Kayaking Work?

Totally a valid question! Kayaking is the act of propelling yourself with a double-sided paddle while sitting down on a hollow boat.

With our kayaks, you will alternate the left and right sides of the boat with the paddle to move forward. This motion includes a push on the high side of the paddle and a pull on the low side in the water, moving the paddle from front to back. This technique if done correctly will keep you moving forward in a semi-straight line. 

Describing how to kayak on a blog is somewhat difficult without being able to practice. We will provide some instruction on land before getting into the water. We will go over how to hold the paddle wider than shoulder length. Then we will go over the correct push/pull paddling technique while smoothly paddling on alternating sides. We will provide more in-depth instruction as needed to proceed safely in the water. Safety First!

How Do I Turn?

There are two different ways to turn a kayak. But first, ask yourself if you are in a single or tandem kayak. In a single kayak, you are responsible for both power and steering. In a two-person tandem kayak, the front person is mainly responsible for power. The person in the rear will also be providing power, but they are also the primary source of turning the boat. The more experienced paddler or strongest person should always be in the back of the boat.

The first way to turn a kayak is used to make a relaxed arcing turn while not under any pressure to move out of the way. If you want to turn left, then the rear paddler should not alternate sides, and instead, just paddle on the right side. The front paddler can continue paddling as normal, although they can also join in the one-sided paddle.

The second way to turn a kayak is more typically used in an emergency or when you need to turn abruptly. This is done by moving the paddle in the opposite direction as usual. This will act as a brake for the boat, as well as a pivot point to turn. Digging the paddle into the water like this is called a “dig.” In the case of a dig, you put your paddle into the water of the direction you need to turn. If you need to turn right, dig your paddle into the right side of your boat and move the paddle forwards.

How Does The Kayak Tour Begin?

After we go over the necessary water safety information and instruction on the beach, it’s time to get in the water! We will assist you in boarding and launching your boat past the breaking waves where you can wait for us to join you. Your Kayak tour will have officially begun!

On a clear day, you will be able to view the Channel Islands to your south, and the Santa Ynez Mountains to your north. The Santa Barbara Coastline is abundant with wildlife due to the cold California current bringing a northern influence and the warm Davidson Countercurrent providing a tropical element. The key to the incredible biodiversity of the area is the upwelling created by the unique undersea topography (bathymetry) and the prevailing winds, which drive a rich food chain. 

My personal favorite tour included a mother dolphin and her newborn playing in the harbor within 10 feet of our boats. Once we saw them in the harbor we stopped paddling and they came up to check us out. Dolphins are very curious creatures and we must have sat there for 20 minutes with a baby dolphin and it’s mother circling us and learning to swim.

Where Will Our Kayak Tour Take Us?

Inside The Harbor

Kayak Tour
Paddling Around Stearns Wharf

Our Kayak tour begins in the harbor of Santa Barbara with a leisurely paddling to go boat watching. The harbor will lend your eyes to magnificent vessels and Santa Barbara’s world-renowned fishermen fleet who call the harbor home. The Channel Cat is always a favorite among clients, but I prefer smaller, more practical sailboats. After weaving our way through some slips, we will come out near the sandspit and land here for a bit. The kayak tour is filled with local knowledge, but don’t take my word for it, let’s see what Cathy V. thought about her tour;

  • My husband and I used this company for a kayak tour around the day.  Elias, our guide was not only a wealth of information but was extremely patient to see that we were safe and felt comfortable in our kayaks.  Elias definitely made our tour an awesome experience. We highly recommend this company.   We will for sure be using this company on our next visit to Santa Barbara !”

After hanging on Sandspit for a few minutes, we will head out towards the quarter-mile buoy. Once we leave the protection of the breakwater at sandspit, there is often more swell in the water. Paddling perpendicular to the swell is the safest way to prevent capsizing. In the dozens of lessons I’ve given, I have never had a client flip a kayak during a tour.

Outside The Harbor

When we arrive at the quarter-mile buoy, we will be greeted by many nude sunbathers; sea lions! The buoy provides them a safe place out of the water where they can take a mid-afternoon snooze. My favorite few of Santa Barbara are from right here. You can see why they call Santa Barbara the American Riviera. This spot offers a view from Leadbetter point all the way past Montecito towards Carpinteria and has stunning views of the Santa Lucia Mountains, a part of the Los Padres National Forest

Your guide will bring you within feet of Northern Fur Seals, Pacific Harbor Seals, California Sea Lions, and California Brown Pelicans. Next, you’ll explore the far side of Stearns Wharf and Fools Anchorage. This area has free moorings that provide little protection from wind and currents. The boats in “Fools Anchorage” can be ripped from their moorings and washed ashore. Then we will paddle closer to shore and then underneath Stearn’s Wharf back towards our beach stand. 

Final Thoughts

Visiting Santa Barbara is sometimes a once in a lifetime opportunity. Seeing the city from a new perspective on one of our kayak tours is a must. We will provide everything you need for a leisurely paddle, as well as a knowledgeable guide to tell you about the area. Come on down and let us show you what Santa Barbara has to offer!

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