Ocean Kayaking in Southern California Coast

Surprise Your Valentine with Ocean Kayaking in Los Angeles: Southern California Beauty

Hey, fellow kayakers! 

My name's Nicky. Like many of you, I'm always looking for new places to paddle - hidden coves to explore, sunsets to watch, and thrilling adventures. I'm here to share my top 5 favorite ocean kayaking spots in LA. Last Valentine's Day, I experienced the magic of kayaking at Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu, and it left me wanting more.

I'm still pretty new to ocean kayaking. But let me tell you about these 5 awesome spots I've found that have become my go-to places. Whether you're a seasoned paddler or just starting out like me, I think you'll love exploring these spots and taking in the beautiful views from a kayak.

The first place on my list is…

1. Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu

I just love this spot where the rugged Malibu cliffs meet the vast Pacific Ocean. Named after the actor and preservationist Leo Carrillo, it became a state beach in 1953. Launch your kayak from the sandy shores you can explore hidden sea caves and often encounter playful dolphins along the way! Spring and fall are perfect times to visit with their mild weather. And oh, let's not forget about Zuma Beach, which is great for watching those breathtaking sunsets over the water - super romantic! To reach Leo Carrillo, I usually take the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, a beautiful 30-mile drive west of downtown LA. It's a beautiful drive along the coast. The area's accommodation can range from $300-$700 per night.

Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu
  • Location: Leo Carrillo State Park, 35000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265, USA.
  • Public Toilets: Leo Carrillo State Beach has restroom facilities available.
  • Parking Facilities: There are parking lots available at Leo Carrillo State Beach for a fee.
2.Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier is my second top pick, and let me tell you, There's just something special about paddling out near the iconic Ferris wheel and taking in the sights of this lively pier against the backdrop of the sparkling blue Pacific. The pier has been around since 1909, so it's got a cool historic vibe too. Launching your kayak right from the beach next to the pier is the way to go. Once you're out there, get ready for a show – dolphins gracefully swimming around, seals sunbathing on buoys, and all kinds of seabirds diving for fish. I should mention, though, that the pier can get quite crowded, especially on weekends. So just take care to give yourself enough space from other boats and swimmers while paddling. But it's absolutely worth heading over to Santa Monica for the one-of-a-kind views and vibes.

Santa Monica Ferry Wheel
  • Location: Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA.
  • Public Toilets: Restroom facilities are available on the Santa Monica Pier.
  • Parking Facilities: Parking is available near the Santa Monica Pier, and there are several parking lots and structures in the vicinity.
  • Nearby Launch Access: Kayaking is not typically done directly from the Santa Monica Pier, but you can find kayak rental services in the area.
3. Channel Islands National Park

The third spot on my list, Channel Islands National Park, is a remote and pristine paradise that's been high on my kayaking bucket list with my wife. The way of access is by boat from Ventura or Santa Barbara, and the journey itself becomes part of the experience! While Spring is ideal for weather and wildlife viewing, we made plans to go in February for a Valentine's Day trip, so we'll likely catch the late winter season. Since there are no accommodations on the islands, staying in nearby cities like Ventura or Oxnard is the way to go. Rooms range from $200 to $500 per night – a bit pricey but absolutely worth it for this special getaway. Just be cautious of strong currents around the islands.

Channel Island National Park
  • Location: The Channel Islands are located off the coast of Southern California. The park includes five islands: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara.
  • Public Toilets: Restroom facilities are available at the visitor centers and on some of the islands.
  • Parking Facilities: Parking is available at the mainland ferry departure points.
4. Marina del Rey

Next up on my list is Marina del Rey. This spot takes me back to the laidback vibes of the 1960s, with its mix of modern amenities and old-school coastal charm. It has the largest man-made small craft harbor in the world, tucked between Venice Beach and Playa del Rey. You can paddle through the maze of luxury yachts and along the scenic Ballona Wetlands. The best part is watching the sunset over the water as the city lights come on. Marina del Rey really comes alive in the summer, making it a great spot for kayaking day trips or overnight stays. You can find upscale accommodations ranging from $300 to $600 per night for a touch of sophistication. 

Marina del Rey
  • Location: Marina del Rey, CA 90292, USA.
  • Public Toilets: Public restrooms are available in the area.
  • Parking Facilities: Marina del Rey has parking lots and street parking available.
5. Newport Beach

The last spot on my list so far is Newport Beach. With its calm harbors and proximity to Balboa Island's iconic ferry, it's been a great place to paddle around and take in the sights.  Accessible from major highways, I usually begin near the Fun Zone area, where there's a launch spot right by the beach. From there, paddle around the harbor, taking in all the luxury yachts and waterfront homes. For a unique experience, head over to Balboa Island and explore the shops and restaurants by kayak. Hotel rates range from $200 to $600 per night, allowing you to turn your exploration into a weekend getaway. Plan your visit in spring or fall to avoid the summer crowds!

Newport Beach
  • Location: Newport Beach, CA 92660, USA.
  • Public Toilets: Public restrooms are available in the area.
  • Parking Facilities: There are parking lots and street parking available in Newport Beach.

Of all the excellent kayaking destinations, Malibu's Leo Carrillo State Beach stands out as an idyllic setting for a romantic Valentine's Day celebration. With its peaceful atmosphere, stunning scenery, and sandy shores along the Pacific, it makes for an idyllic setting to spend the day with your sweetheart. Last year, my partner and I celebrated Valentine's Day there and it was magical.  For couples looking to celebrate Valentine's Day romantically and memorably, Leo Carrillo State Beach is an ideal spot.


Before you head out on your ocean kayaking trip, be sure to pack the essentials such as a life jacket, waterproof gear, snacks, and more.  Based on my research and hands-on experience, I recommend the following top models for ocean kayaking. 

  • Hobie Mirage Outback 
  • Ocean Kayak Malibu Two (I personally use this and find it great!)
  • Perception Pescador Pro 12
  • Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 

Feel free to choose based on your preferences and needs. These models have proven to be reliable and well-suited for ocean kayaking adventures.


Regulation and Jurisdiction:

Before fishing from your kayak, be sure to check local regulations. Contact the fisheries department or wildlife agency for rules specific to where you'll be paddling. Bait shops in the area are also a good source of up-to-date fishing info.

For regulations in coastal California parks, refer to these websites.

Let me know if you check any of these spots out! I'd love to hear your thoughts. Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on the best kayaking spots and more. 

Be safe, Happy paddling, ¡Feliz Día de San Valentín!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.