12 places to kayak on a USA vacation.
Kayaking is one of the easiest ways to get out on the water, and the USA has some of the best places to try it.
Kayaking also offers the opportunity to see famous destinations from a different perspective. No matter the experience level, travelers can find a kayaking excursion in the USA that fits them. Choose a guided tour or kayak rental, and paddle around protected waters or venture out sea kayaking on open water. Here are just 12 of the countless amazing places to kayak in the USA – from California to Florida, Colorado to Washington, D.C.
Desert Lake in Arizona
Sign up for a guided kayak tour to explore Lake Powell in northern Arizona and meander through deep slot canyons, including flooded portions of famous Antelope Canyon. Marvel at towering sandstone cliffs, and camp under the stars on an overnight kayaking trip.
A kayak parked on the shore of Lake Powell with sandstone cliffs in the background
Spring-Fed River in Florida
Ninety minutes north of Tampa, Florida, in Rainbow Springs State Park, kayak on the Rainbow River, which is fed by a first-magnitude spring. Float past shores lined with towering cypress trees, sunning turtles and showy shorebirds. The water – a refreshing 22 degrees Celsius year-round – is so clear, you’ll feel like you’re suspended in midair.
A group of kayakers seen through the lush foliage surrounding Rainbow Springs
Mountain Lake in Colorado
Paddle on Lake Estes in the town of Estes Park, Colorado, adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park. See spectacular views of snow-capped mountains reflected in the lake’s pristine blue water. Pull your kayak up on shore to enjoy a picnic and snap some photos.
Blue skies and Rocky Mountain peaks reflecting in Lake Estes
Iconic Pacific Coastline in California
Kayak in Monterey Bay, south of San Francisco, to enjoy views of Cannery Row, made famous by author John Steinbeck. Watch for abundant wildlife – sea lions, seals and otters entertain, and humpbacks and other whales may swim past offshore.
Kayakers paddling among sailboats in Monterey Bay
Urban River in Washington, D.C.
See the nation’s capital from the water – kayak down the Potomac River around Theodore Roosevelt Island and past the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. See the Georgetown waterfront, D.C. skyline and cityscape of Arlington, Virginia.
Overlooking the Arlington, Virginia, skyline and the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.
Bioluminescent Bays in Puerto Rico
Paddle under a new moon through seemingly magical bioluminescence in Laguna Grande in Fajardo, near the east end of the island. The calm water glows when microorganisms are stirred up by kayaks or paddles. You can also kayak on two other bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico, including Mosquito Bay on the nearby island of Vieques and La Parguera in Lajas on the island’s southwest coast.
Gliding over the glowing waters of Laguna Grande
Harbor Islands in Massachusetts
Go sea kayaking among the history-filled Boston Harbor Islands, which are near the city but feel remote. In the inner harbor, find more historical sites and calmer waters; the outer islands offer privacy and untouched landscapes. Tour lighthouses and ruins of forts, and spend the night in a yurt.
Aerial view of Georges Island, a Boston Harbor Island that is home to a historic fort
Remote Glacial Lakes in Minnesota
Join a guided tour in Ely, Minnesota, and go kayaking in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Deer, moose, otters, bald eagles and loons live in the dense pine forests and network of glacial lakes and streams that make up this huge wilderness area.
Taking a break from paddling to enjoy the tranquility of Kekekabic Lake in the Boundary Waters
Tropical Bay in Hawaii
Paddle in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, a sheltered bay and one of Hawaii’s calmer places to kayak. Spot parrotfish and mahi-mahi on the two barrier reefs, wander the sandbar that’s exposed at low tide and pull the kayak up on the white-sand beach with views of Pyramid Rock.
Couple wading in the serene, crystal-clear waters of Kaneohe Bay
Pacific Northwest Islands in Washington
Go sea kayaking around rocky outcroppings in the San Juan Islands and into open water in search of orcas. Sightings of this largest member of the dolphin family peak in July and August. Take the family kayaking in protected waters to check out the tide pools and watch for bald eagles and harbor seals.
A beautiful day for exploring and wildlife watching in the San Juan Islands
Sapphire Waters in Southern Idaho
Adventurers visiting Idaho can find plenty of exciting excursions in the Hagerman Valley, nestled against the Snake River. Check out Blue Heart Springs, whose striking blue waters and heart shaped basin make for a truly special lagoon outing. This area is only accessible by boat, making the trip feel like a magical escape into a hidden oasis.
Stunning vistas at Blue Heart Springs in Twin Falls, Idaho
Lake Leisure in West Virginia
Just outside the charming Southern town of Summersville, West Virginia, you’ll find the scenic Summersville Lake. Beginner paddlers will enjoy the ease of flatwater paddling, while even the most seasoned kayakers will be charmed by stunning views of sheer cliffs and West Virginia’s only lighthouse.
Two kayakers enjoy cliff views at sunset in Summersville, West Virginia