Kayaking in and Around Los Angeles: 10 of the Best Places to Paddle and Canoe Nearby

The bustling city of Los Angeles is known for celebrities, shopping, and the sunny California weather. However, you may not know that the City of Angels also has plenty of places to spend time outdoors. From famous parks to fantastic kayaking locations, you won’t regret hopping in a kayak to explore this city and the surrounding areas. 

When it comes to kayaking, Los Angeles has it all. You can find calm bodies of water perfect for beginners and those fond of the open ocean and even some rapids for the more adventurous paddlers. If you’re planning your trip to LA, you won’t want to miss these ten excellent kayaking spots. 

For more destination ideas check out our post on the best places to kayak in California here.

1. Huntington Harbor, CA

Roughly 35 miles south of Los Angeles is the famous Huntington Beach. Since this location is right on the ocean, there is the opportunity for kayaking from the shoreline, but the specific area we want to touch on is Huntington Harbor. 

Huntington Harbor is the perfect spot for new kayakers who haven’t had much practice on the water or have never experienced the activity before.  While there is a small current, it’s relatively weak, and the waters in the harbor are generally very calm. 

There are boats in the harbor, but they are required to remain at low speed, keeping the waters relatively still. Even though Huntington Harbor is an ideal environment for novices, there are several canals and little waterways perfect for all skill levels to explore.

These extra waterways and canals make it exciting for even the most experienced paddler. In addition, you can rent single or double kayaks from OEX for a reasonable price if you need or want to. 

2. Pyramid Lake, CA

If you’re looking to paddle on water that doesn’t lead to the ocean, you can head an hour north of the city to Pyramid Lake. You’ll take the I-5 and head towards the Angeles National Forest. Once you’ve reached your destination, you’ll find a peaceful retreat ideal for paddling and fishing. 

Pyramid Lake is another great spot for beginners, thanks to its gentle waters. In saying that, the wind can pick up, and this may make it a little more challenging. If you want to avoid potentially windy conditions, it’s best to stick to the east side of the lake. 

On the eastern side of the lake, there are a few coves to check out and an easy entrance and exit point by the Tin Cup picnic area. 

You can also launch your kayak from the boat launch, but it may be easier at Tin Cup. Unfortunately, they don’t offer rentals here, so you’ll need to bring your own or use a company in the city. 

3. The Los Angeles River, CA

The LA River runs for just over 45 miles, but the section we’re looking at here is the Elysian Valley, also known as the Glendale Narrows. This two miles section of the river gives kayakers the chance to experience urban Los Angeles and a bit of rapids too. 

LA River Expeditions organizes tours of this section of the river so that everyone can have a fun and safe experience. The rapids you’ll encounter are Class I, so not that difficult for an experienced paddler, but still fun and exciting. Beginners are encouraged to tackle this part of the river since the rapids aren’t that strong, and you’ll have plenty of people with you. 

If you choose to conquer this section of the river, be ready to paddle a lot, stand, and carry your kayak over rocks. LA River Expeditions will provide all the protective gear and will help guide you through the rapids. 

4. Marina Del Rey Harbor, CA

Located close to Los Angeles International Airport is a famous beach and kayaking location, Marina Del Rey. You can access the water right from the beach’s shoreline or various access points in the harbor. 

Marina Del Rey Harbor has eight canals that help keep you safe and away from fast boat traffic for those wanting to paddle in calm waters. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can paddle into the open waters of the Pacific. 

Many people enjoy paddling the coast, looking at the quaint shops of Fisherman’s Village. You may even get to experience some wildlife! Leopard Sharks are very common in these waters but don’t worry. They’re generally not aggressive towards humans. 

5. Catalina Island, CA

You’ll need to take a ferry to Catalina Island, but the good news is that it only takes about an hour. Catalina Island has beautiful coves and wildlife that make it a picturesque spot for kayakers. You may be able to see a variety of fish, dolphins, and Leopard Sharks.

Catalina Island has 52 miles of coastline that you can explore solo or with a tour group. Kayaking along the shoreline is great for people of all skill levels, but as you venture further into the open water, the currents may be stronger and unsuitable for beginners.  

Rentals are available throughout Catalina Island. That way, you don’t need to bring your own on the ferry with you. 

6. Castaic Lake, CA

Castaic Lake is less than an hour from the city and has 29 miles of shoreline for you to explore and two bodies of water. The Lower Lake is the perfect spot for kayaking, but you can still paddle in the upper reservoir too. 

The most popular thing to do at Castaic Lake when you’re on the water is to paddle to the Castaic Dam. This structure stands over 400 feet tall and is a must-see. The waters are perfect for all skill levels. Keep in mind that the closer you paddle to the Dam, the stronger the currents will be. 

To get there, simply take the 405 N, transition to the I-5 N, and then take exit 176A, towards Ridge Rte Rd. You’ll see signs leading you directly to the Castaic Lake Recreation area.

7. The Upper Newport Bay, CA

Just inland from Newport beach you can paddle the largest estuary in Southern California at the Upper Newport Bay. This estuary offers kayakers views of multi-million dollar homes and small islands. This salt marsh is home to a variety of wildlife, including endangered birds and other marine life. 

When you’re here, paddling through Arch Rock is a unique experience. Arch Rock is a rock bridge that forms naturally and comes right out of the water. 

The wind does pick up the closer you are to the cliffs, but it is still manageable by beginners and should be easy for experienced kayakers.  

8. China Cove, CA

You’ll find China Cove near Newport Beach. This small beach is a great option for beginners and advanced kayakers alike. As you paddle the waters, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful homes and even some yachts. 

Getting to this tiny beach is a little complicated, but once you arrive, it’s worth it. First, you’ll need to park near Fernleaf Avenue and head towards Gibson Beach. You’ll climb the stairs there and navigate some rocks before arriving at China Cove. 

From here, you can kayak into Newport Bay or stay on the coastline and paddle along the beautiful beaches of Southern California. The waters are generally calm the closer you stay towards the shore. But as always, the further out you go, the waters can become rougher. 

Since this tiny beach is more secluded and not as well known, you won’t be able to rent kayaks on China Cove. There are plenty of beaches nearby that offer rentals if needed. 

9. Alamitos Bay, CA

Alamitos Bay, CA by YoTuT (CC BY 2.0)

Alamitos Bay is the perfect family-friendly kayaking spot. Still waters protect Alamitos bay, making it a great place to spend a day on the water with your family. Since the waters are so calm, it’s a great place to bring children.

The Los Cerritos Wetlands are in the Northern part of the bay. Here you can see various birds and other wildlife. You can paddle through the inlet and circle around Naples Island. There’s a small beach on Naples Island called Mother’s beach. 

Mother’s Island is the perfect spot to launch your kayak or take a break to soak up the sun from land. Alamitos Park is another excellent launch spot situated at the end of the bay, right before the open ocean. 

10. Colorado Lagoon, CA

If you don’t want to paddle in saltwater, Colorado Lagoon is a recreational lake surrounded by golf courses, parks, and neighborhoods. It’s commonly used for swimming when water conditions are good, but you can kayak as well. 

This small inland lake used to be connected to Alamitos Bay but now is a stand-alone lake. It’s popular for families since the water doesn’t lead directly to the ocean. 

There are two shorelines that offer sandy beaches for you to launch your kayaks from or sit back and relax after hours of paddling. The best places to launch are from Alamitos Heights Park or on the other side of the lake on Nieto Avenue. 

Fortunately, for anyone who needs to rent a kayak, you can do so at Kayaks on the Water.

Summing up the Best Places to Kayak in Los Angeles

The large city of Los Angeles has some of the best kayaking an urban setting has to offer. From the sandy California beaches, harbors, lakes, and the urban river, you’re sure to enjoy your day on the water. 

Most of the kayaking spots in and around Los Angeles are great for beginners, but kayaking further into the Pacific is sure to provide a challenge for more adventurous paddlers.