Calif. or Baja?

Heading to Monterey for an event in late May, figure I may as well make 7-10 days of it and go paddling.

I’m very open as to what I do. I’m an experienced sea/rec kayaker but I wouldn’t mind some whitewater instruction if I can find a good outfitter during the week.

If not, I’m looking for a relaxing, scenic expedition. I’ll drive pretty much anywhere in Calif. for it and would consider Baja if it’s that much better than what Calif. has to offer. But I’ve checked some of the links on this site and it seems like a lot of the outfitters stop running in Baja in late May.

Anyhow, any ideas?

no Baja

– Last Updated: Mar-30-08 12:31 PM EST –

In my mind, Baja would be out. March-April is about the best temps. May would be a bit warm down there. Plus it would be a long drive from Monterey (6 to 8 hours just to CA border, and another 10+ if you wanted Sea of Cortez).

On coastal paddling in CA, there is some chance of heavy winds or fog in May. We have the spring winds now, which is great for the windsurfers and kite sailors, but not so good for kayakers. May-June is when they normally end, often replaced with fog.

Some ideas:
- Going south - the drive south from Monterey on Highway 1 along Big Sur is beautiful. First real paddling opportunity south would be Morro Bay. Channel Islands could be good at that time.
- Going north - past SF on 1 is also beautiful, especially up near Mendocino. Some good paddling (rock gardening type stuff) up there.
- there are a lot of good day paddles all around Monterey and within a few hours. Elkhorn Slough, Tomales Bay, paddling out from Monterey Beach past the Aquarium (make sure you take a non-paddling day to visit the Aquarium also), in SF Bay going around Angel Island, etc.

Sierra flat water (Lake Tahoe, etc.) would likely still be too cold. But we have had decent snow, so the rivers should be running quite well for white water.

You may get lucky - last year in May, there was a trio of humpbacks feeding just off of Moss Landing for about 3 weeks straight. I got out once to paddle with them, and am hoping they return again this year. Some pics from that trip at

I agree with Peter. There’s fabulous
kayaking in both places, but to get to really good paddling in Baja you’d spend as much time driving as you would paddling. Monterey is great, the SF Bay area is great. I’d spend the whole time exploring those places and take on Baja when you can fly into Loreto or have more time.

My two cents…
Monterey area is very nice and worth a couple of days of boating there. Elkhorn Slough is a popular paddle but other then the wildlife you’re likely to see (seals, sea otters, many different type of birds) I don’t find it scenic at all.

IMO (in terms of beauty and interesting things to see) nothing in California comes close to the sea kayaking in the Mendocino area. Please do youself a favor and check it out! See photo’s:

For whitewater instruction in the Sacramento area see:

Bob (and no, not a member of the Mendocino Chamber of commerce)

If you have your own car and boat
No reason not to go to Baja. Yeah it is a little hotter, but once you get past Ensenada, it is a really nice drive. Trouble is, you can not take a rental car into Mexico. As mentioned, lots of nice paddling within a day of Monterey. I would not recommend Tahoe during Memorial Day weekend. Too crowded and expensive. Lake lice and thunder boats are extremely noisy and detract from Tahoe’s beauty. They tend to avoid the lake if it cold. My favorite time on Tahoe is winter, especially in a wind driven snowstorm. Get decent surfing waves and the place to yourself. If you want a little taste of Baja’s topography, go up to Pyramid Lake, about 35 miles NE of Reno. I can give you a pretty thorough run down on the outfitters, camp spots etc on Tahoe if you want.

Elkhorn Slough
As a visitor to CA and not a kayaker at that time, I planned a trip on the Elkhorn Slough. A previous poster said it was lackluster in his opinion. I guess I didn’t know of other places to kayak and didn’t own a kayak, so I went where there was obvious paddling, on the Elkhorn Slough.

For me, it was a magical trip, kayaking past seals w/their babies along w/having an otter stay beside my kayak for the trip as it went under the water to grab shells to crack open on the rock on his belly as he floated on his back.

There was a rocky kind of pier nearby that provided good kayaking, passing by huge sealions that were shelved so to speak on these platforms along w/many seals swimming about and sunning themselves on a big platform in the water that must have been placed there for them to rest on.

I think the trip is worth it, especially if you are there already. There is a kayak rental place in Monterey if you wanted to stop in and get info on the area’s paddling.


Thanks everybody
I’ll probably stay in California and save Baja for another time, although Lareto does look pretty nice. Now I just have to narrow down where in California…

Tomales Bay
Tomales Bay is a great area to paddle and camp on the beach. I canoe camp there with my 5 and 2 year kids quite a bit. However, this time of year has the Spring winds and is the windiest. I was there yesterday all setup to go camping and fishing boats wouldn’t even go on the water. A guy who works at the restaurant in Marshall said they had 50 knot winds a week or two ago and a tugboat and the attached mooring was dragged a mile down the coast.

Never been paddling in the Baja but you can’t beat Monterey. Even if you don’t go in the water. Check out Big Sur also.

Tomales Bay
I forgot to mention that Tomales Bay is about 2 hours North of Monterey. Don’t know about the winds in Monterey this time of year so don’t let my previous post discourage you.