The coastline around Santa Barbara is beautiful, especially when viewed from the Pacific Ocean on a kayaking tour. Here are some great options.
Lofty palm trees, rolling hills dotted with white buildings, marinas full of yachts and plenty of marine life make Santa Barbara a particularly special stretch of Californian coastline. The laid-back atmosphere is perfectly conducive to a peaceful paddle out onto the Pacific Ocean in a canoe or kayak. Luckily there are a number of tour companies that have realized that and offer a variety of excellent trips, many of which are guided. These five are among the best, based on multiple factors, including value for money, duration, and the health and safety precautions taken.
Santa Barbara Kayak or SUP Rental
For a simple kayak rental without the guided tour element, there’s a place right on the beach in Santa Barbara, beside the pier. Head out to the buoys where the sea lions like to congregate. Rental fees are for an hour and the options are limited to a tandem kayak for two people or single kayaks for a group of four. A minimum of two people is therefore required to rent here, partly for safety reasons. Each person needs to be able to swim, as the chances of ending up in the water are high and part of the fun. From $30 per group.
Santa Barbara Guided Kayak Tour
The best kayaking options in Santa Barbara involve following a knowledgeable guide in order to have the highest chance of interacting with marine life and getting the best views back to shore. This two-hour kayaking tour follows a two-mile route along the California coastline, with exceptional views of the beaches, hills and palm trees back on shore. You’ll paddle back through Santa Barbara Harbor and under the pier. Keep an eye out for marine life and birds, such as pelicans and sea lions. From $55 per person.
Harbor Wildlife and History Kayak Tour
If you want to get a closer glimpse of the remarkable marine life that calls the Pacific Ocean in these parts home, without disrupting their daily business, this two-hour kayak tour is a wonderful and unobtrusive way to do so. Look out for herons and pelicans in the skies, and sea lions and dolphins in the water. During the right migration seasons, you may even spot a gray whale or two. As with all tours on this list, departures are available on almost every day of the year, aside from some major holidays. From $60 per person.
Santa Barbara Sunset Kayak Tour
As if the natural beauty of Santa Barbara and the bounteous marine life all around wasn’t enough, a chance to paddle out onto the Pacific during the golden hour is a memorable experience. The kayaking tour follows a similar route to the tours listed above, a few miles through the harbor and historic wharf, past boats, under the pier and out along the beachline. The difference being that the sun will be setting over the ocean as you do so. As with all kayaking excursions on this list, participants are given a life jacket and the paddle and boat hire are included in the fee. From $89 per person.
Refugio Beach State Kayaking Trip
A few miles west of Santa Barbara is a gorgeous, even more idyllic stretch of coastline known as Refugio State Beach. This is a great tour for those who want a more immersive (not literally) kayaking experience. You’ll paddle for three miles (4.5km), looking out for dolphins, exploring kelp beds and learning all about ecology from your guide. Lunch on a secluded beach is included in the price, plus the chance to go for a swim before paddling back. From $122 per person.