Kayaking along the Central Coast

Let go of stress aboard a kayak

Sure, taking in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean while driving along Hwy 1 or up the 101 is pretty nice, but enjoying the ocean blue aboard a kayak is, well, pretty spectacular.

On any given day of the week, locals and visitors alike can be seen gliding up and down the Central Coast aboard single and double kayaks. With its mild weather, scenic sights and the likelihood of numerous sea life sightings, kayaking in one of numerous beach locales offers an ideal opportunity for an up-close look at nature – not to mention a darn good alternative to an indoor gym workout for fitness enthusiasts.   

According to the health calculator app on the website self.com, a 145-pound woman will burn about 334 calories per 60 minutes of kayaking; a 200-pound man, 476. Not bad. Add that to the fact that kayaking, whether off the shores of San Simeon, in the waters of Morro Bay or off of Avila Beach, provides a chance to get a closer look at sea otters, harbor seals, hundreds of species of birds and maybe even paddle through a sea cave or two. With so much to see, most kayakers will stay out for a few hours or longer – that can mean burning 1,000 calories or more.

Another advantage of kayaking – the ability to let go of stress – how can anyone think about troubles while relaxing on the water and taking in the beauty of the surrounding sea life? Stress is the human body’s reaction to the demands of the world; let go of that stress for a bit and take in the smells, sounds and soothing waters of the local ocean waters.

Need to tone some muscles? Paddling a kayak uses most of the upper body muscles and several lower body muscles as well. Naturally, one’s arms, shoulders and upper torso are active when paddling, but keeping proper posture while sitting upright helps strengthens core and leg muscles as well. As with other activities, get in the practice of doing some light stretching before and after kayaking.

As for the heart, kayaking provides a great aerobic workout and, when couples share a tandem kayak, the opportunity for some much-needed together-time as well.

Just as with any outdoor sport, be sure to apply sunscreen, even in cloudy conditions; wearing sunglasses, a visor or hat can also be beneficial. Bring along extra sunscreen, some bottles of water and a snack or two – the appeal of the ocean keeps many kayakers on the water for hours at a time. 

In general, the waters of the Central Coast tend to be surrounded by a bit of early morning fog and at times it may be a bit choppy. For a smooth ride, call ahead to a local kayak tour company to ensure the best time of day before setting out on an adventure. As with most water sports, kayaking may mean getting wet at times. It’s a good idea to wear footwear that can get wet, shorts or lightweight long pants and bring along a windbreaker or waterproof jacket.

Coast Guard regulations require that all kayaks have a lifejacket on board; wear a lifejacket at all times. When paddling in a new area, it’s a good idea to check with local experts regarding currents, shoreline conditions and weather patterns. Before setting out for a kayak adventure, let someone know your paddle plan – where, with how many people and for how long you will be away. 

An ideal sport for beginners and seasoned paddlers alike, kayaking is an outdoor activity that is fun for all ages and can be enjoyed year-round along the Central Coast. Dust off that old kayak sitting in the garage, or rent a kayak at one of many locations in San Luis Obispo County and go on a guided tour company or just explore the waters on your own – there’s no time like the present to enjoy our local ocean waters aboard a kayak.

Meagan Friberg - Central Coast Active Magazine


Kayak rentals & tours

Need to rent a kayak? There are plenty of places to do so along the Central Coast. Here are a few favorites.

Avila Beach PaddleSports, 3915 Avila Beach Drive, Avila. (805) 704-6902. Main rental office in Port San Luis Harbor, kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals available year round, lessons, eco-friendly adventure tours, explore the pristine waters, sea caves, and secret beaches of Avila Beach, the hidden gem of SLO County.

Central Coast Kayaks, 1879 Shell Beach Rd, Shell Beach. (805) 773-3500. Guided kayak tours, kayak lessons and rentals for exploring of the coves, caves and sea life around Pismo Beach, Shell Beach and Avila Beach. 

Central Coast Outdoors, Los Osos. (805) 528-1080. Guided half-day, sunset, and moonlight tours of the Morro Bay National Estuary.

Kayak Horizons, 551 Embarcadero, Morro Bay. (805) 772-6444. Large rental fleet of sit-in kayaks and canoes; easy access from dock, view abundance of nature in Morro Bay.

Kayak Shack, 10 State Park Rd, Morro Bay. (805) 772-8796.  Located across from state campground; kayak and canoe rentals, guided kayak tours. Heron preserve, back bay estuary and sand dunes within easy reach of kayak docks. Hours vary seasonally; call ahead for hours and pre-paid reservations. 

Rock Kayak Co LLC, 845 Embarcadero, Morro Bay. (805) 772-2906. Single and double kayaks, stand up paddle boards available for rent by the hour or half-day. Free lesson with first-time rentals, all personnel are CPR certified and capable of explaining local history of area; kayaks also available for purchase. Wheelchair accessible.

SLO Coast Kayaks, 3915 Avila Beach Dr, Avila Beach. (805) 704-6902. Guided kayak tours of Fossil Point or Port San Luis, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for rent, plus beer and wine tasting after your paddle in the Port Harford Chandlery & Pub, housed in the same building.

Sub Sea Tours & Kayaks, 699 Embarcadero, Morro Bay. (805) 772-9463. Kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards for exploring the bay, estuary and sand spit near Morro Rock.