Kayaking in San Diego at La Jolla Cove
I have one major regret about my time living in San Diego: Not taking advantage of all the adventures this city has to offer. There is so much fun stuff to do, no matter what your interests are. So when I recently returned to San Diego for a visit, I had a bucket list of things I wanted to do. Ocean Kayaking in San Diego at La Jolla Cove was at the top of that list and I am so excited to share my little paddling outing with you.
The husband and I had never been kayaking before, so it was all new and exciting to us and a fun date idea. Of course, we had seen the kayaks from the shore many times, but heading out ourselves was a whole nother story. We signed up for the 7 Caves Tour with Bike and Kayak in La Jolla. We got there about half an hour early and after signing in, received our swim vests, helmets (boy, did that helmet come in handy, I tell you!), dropped everything but our GoPro in the locker and walked over to the beach.
I wanted to take pictures in the soft late-afternoon light, so we booked our tour for 5 PM and it seemed like a pretty popular time. Kayaking in San Diego, especially in La Jolla, is pretty popular and we were lucky, as our group was pretty small. Our group consisted of a couple from Russia and their pre-teen boys, a man from the East Coast, also on vacation in San Diego and our tour guide Alex. Some of the other kayaking tour groups we saw had 20 or more people. Not really my cup of tea. But back to our kayaking adventure.
Learning how to Kayak
Alex gave us a quick lesson on how to paddle, how to get back in the kayak if we fall out and how to not drown in general. To avoid the dreaded “man over board” screams, he told us, we just had to direct the nose of our kayak straight into the wave. Easy? Right!
After his little spiel, I would have bet a million bucks that I will go swimming involuntarily and had horror visions of viral Youtube videos of my inelegant and whale like efforts to heave my butt back in the kayak. Alas, thanks to a highly coordinated husband and very mild waves that day, we actually made it out past the surf without the expected tumble and roll.
La Jolla Ecological Preserve
After following Alex parallel to the coastline for a few minutes, we came together in a little kayak pod and he started telling us about the La Jolla Underwater Park that we were floating over. Just like the visible coastline in front of us, the ocean floor in this area consisted of canyons and valleys, drop offs and cliffs. Home to a thriving kelp forest, this area is home to an incredible array of wildlife.
Just as we listened to Alex, and he was trying to scare us with his story about the California Salt Water Crocodile, we saw a dolphin swim by about 25 yards from us. Very cool, don’t you think?
We paddled on and on our next little lesson stop, Alex pulled out a huge piece of elk kelp, which, you guessed right, looks exactly like the antlers of an elk. Supposedly, you can eat it raw and straight out of the ocean and it is full of nutrients. Alex saw the lack of enthusiasm to chow down on the sea greens in our group and threw the elk kelp back in the water.
Exploring the La Jolla Caves
We paddled some more and finally made it to the infamous La Jolla caves. This is where the husband and I had watched the kayakers numerous times before, saying this would be so much fun. Now we were finally here. Did you know that they used these caves during the prohibition to smuggle and store alcohol from Mexico? Pretty cool, hm?
There is only one cave that is accessible to the kayaking tours in La Jolla and it also depends on the tide and weather conditions, if your tour will actually take you in. Luckily, the odds were in our favor and we were able to go in. There were about 50 kayaks waiting to go in, as only 4 kayaks were allowed to go in at the same time. This is when I really appreciated the small group. The larger groups with 15 or more kayaks were waiting forever for everybody to go into the cave.
Alex parked his own kayak and steered us and one more kayak from our group into the cave, bypassing a bunch of kayaks from the larger groups. He got us in and out in no time, and we just had to wait for him to take the other two kayaks into the cave.
A Once in a Lifetime Photo Opp
When we were done, we stayed close to the cliffs and Alex pointed out a lobster that was crawling on one of the rocks just out of the water. Alex told us how rare it was to see a lobster and he had never seen one during his 5 daily tours in the past 2 years.I was fumbling with my GoPro to take a picture of the rare and elusive lobster. But before I could get my snap, a sea lion jumped up and grabbed it for a delicious surf and turf dinner. WHAT? Yes, this really happened. And I have no picture. Argh!!!
It was still fascinating to see a hunting sea lion live and in action, not on TV. I mean, this is something you usually see on the Discovery channel, right?
What to wear – Kayaking in San Diego
If you get sunburned easily like me, I would suggest wearing a thin long sleeve shirt or t-shirt. You will have put on a life vest and a helmet. If you have a bikini that tends to shift easily, I would not recommend wearing it. You’ll wear your life jacket and move your arms quite vigorously, so a bikini or swimsuit that stays where it is supposed to stay is highly advantageous. I wore my bikini, and a light weight, fast drying long sleeved blouse on top to prevent sunburn. The husband wore his swim trunks and a work-out t-shirt.
In the winter time, you can also rent a wetsuit (full or shorty) for an extra fee. The life vest and helmet are required and are provided free of charge.
Who would enjoy this tour?
Kayaking in San Diego at La Jolla Caves is a lot of fun and a fun activity for most people. If you like to be outdoors, experience new things and have some fun, then this is for you!
- Families with kids
- Solo travelers
- Everyone with a sense of adventure
- If you love the ocean and enjoy water sports
- Wildlife lovers
- Sports fans
So this tour is for pretty much anyone, who likes water, animals and a little bit of adventure.
Bike and Kayak at La Jolla Cove – my 2 Cents
This tour was AWESOME! The husband and I had a really great time kayaking in San Diego with Bike and Kayak Tours. Alex, our tour guide was top. He made the tour really fun and his dry sense of humor was something else 🙂 I also love that they don’t hire just some college kids for the tours. No, they are all really well trained and have completed CPR, first aid and AED training as well as the British Canoe Two Start training.
Another thing that I love about Bike and Kayak is that they also offer GoPros and Underwater cameras for rent! You can use their camera and the fee includes an SD card that you can take home with you afterward. Great!
Like I mentioned before, I really enjoyed the small group size. I am not sure if we were just lucky or if it is always like this, but it was so much better than the huge groups I saw with other tour companies.
If kayaking in San Diego isn’t your thing, check out their other activities. They also offer snorkeling tours, bike tours around the city and equipment rentals (kayaks, bikes, paddle boards, etc).
The husband and I were invited on a complimentary tour with Bite and Kayak La Jolla. But my opinion, the good, the bad and the ugly is still mine ?
For cheap flights to San Diego, check out Skyscanner! I’ve saved so much on airfare since I use this site as my go to flight search engine!
Have you been kayaking in San Diego before? How did you like it?
Pin for later – Kayaking in San Diego
I love adventure, caves and kayaking- this is for me!! I didn’t know sea lions ate lobster- what a gourmet meal he had:)
I thought the same thing, Cathy! The sea lion eats better than me, haha 🙂
I am still mastering kayaking after many attempt. Right now Adam does all the kayaking and I just lean back and take the pictures!
That sounds like a fair trade 😉 I have to admit that without the husband, I am not sure I would have made it out past the surf.
I love kayaking, but the number of people in La Jolla on the water is really discouraging. Perhaps it’s not so crazy in the off season… but then San Diego is always in season. 🙂
Yes, it was quite a lot. Luckily, our group was really small and you have to remember that we were there right smack in the middle of the busiest time in San Diego. I bet if you go in May or June, you’ll have the cove almost to yourself.
This looks fantastic. I love kayaking as such a nice way to see things.
I agree, Anne. I will definitely try to do more kayaking in the future. So much fun 🙂
My family loves to kayak, and I’m dying to visit San Diego! Those caves sound amazing.
It was amazing. And San Diego has so much to offer, no matter what you like. From Breweries to amazing restaurants, the Zoo, Sea World and Balboa park and all its museums. There is so much to discover and explore!
What a unique tour! Alex sounds like a blast…so did anyone else try the kelp? I’ve only kayaked in lakes and reservoirs and have yet to tip, now I know what to do if I were to ever go overboard. Thanks for sharing!
Alex was awesome 🙂 I want to go kayaking in a lake too as soon as it gets a bit cooler here in Texas!
I have never been kayaking. I’m not a strong swimmer and shy away from water stuff. BUT, enter kids!! Mine love all things water so perhaps it is in my future! This is a pretty spot for it.
Maybe you could try kayaking on a lake first? But actually, you don’t have to worry, as you have a life vest on and that will protect you in the unlikely case that you do fall over board.
Love La Jolla. My hubby went to UCSD & spent a lot of time at the shores. I’ve kayaked though. Looks fun.
My mother-in-law worked for UCSD 🙂 I love La Jolla too. the coast is gorgeous there!
Tandem Kayaking can be a test of any relationship. My husband and I kayak individually but in St. Kitts we did a tour in a tandem. We did fine once we got in a groove but one of the other couples ended up practically beating one another. Seeing a place from the water always offers a different perspective.
Haha, Susan, you are right! The husband hit me on the head quite a few times and I was glad to have worn a helmet. Next time, we want to switch, so we can see the difficulties of the other position and I think that will help us coordinate better together.
I have not spent any time in San Diego and this looks like my kind of way to spend my time there. I had no idea that you could kayak near a cave here.. thanks for the tip!
San Diego is an amazing city. There is so much to do there! Highly recommend putting it on your Bucket list 🙂
Looks like an awesome trip! I never knew how people manage to get through the waves when kayaking and on SUPs but sounds like you guys did a great job.
I have to thank the husband for that. He did an amazing job and I have to admit I was a bit nervous, but it all worked out!
Used to go down to San Diego for a staycation. Always wanted to kayak around this area. Did you see any seals while you were there?
I like kayaking. My favorite spot for kayaking is Chicago’s various lake areas. In the lake, there is no high waves risk, so I feel comfortable kayaking out there.
Elk kelp? we don’t have that on the east coast. Next time try paddle boarding… it’s way more fun in my opinion.
Looks like a great place for kayaking, I may try it soon
Thanks for sharing your experience, all the best!!
I went to La Jolla Cove a few months ago. I loved it! Saw the seals but didn’t kayak there. Kinda wish I did now.
Really awesome pictures , i really like it , iv been there with my wife last summers , really great place to kayak , thank you for sharing with as your adventure.
Hi Maria, thank you for sharing with us this fabulous kayaking adventure, I plan to visit San Diego this summer with my wife and of course, we will go Kayaking at La Jolla Cove. thank you for sharing with us your experience. outstanding pictures by the way.
I remember that in my trip to Canada I decided to do kayaking, it was the best and worst decision of my life (leally), when we arrived it was so full of energy that I remember rowing a lot to get to some rocks, the problem was to return, the water and the current were not a problem because it was a river of calm waters, however I had rowed so fast that to return cost me too much work and I was on the point of a collapse between throwing me for two hours and continue or reach my friends who had already finished the tour while I suffered a strong muscular pain. the problem was to return, the water and the current were not a problem because it was a river of calm waters, however I had rowed so fast that to return cost me too much work and I was on the verge of a collapse between throwing me for two hours and continue or reach my friends who had already finished the tour while I was suffering a strong muscular pain… a very fatherly experience, but take your precautions, if you are not accustomed to return the strength of your arms will not be the same regardless of the current.