Kayaking and Paddleboarding in Avila Beach

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Nothing compares to experiencing California’s Central Coast from the ocean. Whether it’s on a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard, the views of green rolling hills and the quaint seaside town always wow. Bring your own board or kayak, or rent from one of Avila Beach’s trusted outfitters. Even better? Sign up for a guided tour, and experience the hidden spots only locals usually get to see.

Where to kayak and paddle board in Avila

Avila Beach sits on a protected cove that boasts slightly warmer temperatures and calmer conditions, both on land and sea. More often than not, launching out in Avila Beach means sunshine, glassy waters, and a clear view from Point Sal to Point San Luis. Enjoy a morning or afternoon paddle in either of these Avila Beach hot spots.

Kayaking the three piers 

The three piers of Avila Beach offer a variety of views and wildlife to take in. 

To kayak around the Harford Pier (Port San Luis Harbor), take Avila Beach Drive West from the freeway, about 3.25 miles, to find the Old Port Beach Launching Access. See sea lions, sea otters, and seabirds as you float and paddle around this historic pier.

To experience the Cal Poly Pier from the ocean, launch from Olde Port Beach (which has vehicle access for loading and unloading) and paddle east. This pier is over twice as long as the others, so paddling is the only way for the public to see the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences at its end.

The Avila Beach Pier is the easiest of the three to paddle around, just by launching from the beach. For loading and unloading, vehicles can take Avila Beach Drive 2.25 miles to Front Street, and follow it straight to the beach. Around this pier, enjoy whale watching and views of neighboring cliffs ilke Fossil Point, one quarter-mile east of the pier.

Kayaking Pirate’s Cove (Mallagh Landing)

This hidden and secluded inlet boasts crystaline waters and rugged cliffs. To reach the beach here, launch from Avila Beach or Olde Port Beach, and paddle just past Fossil Point. Watch the shore for a beautiful tucked-away beach, but take care: clothing is optional on this stretch of shoreline!

Kayak & Paddleboard Rentals & Guided Tours

Looking for an expert local to get you set up with gear and out on the water? Check out any of the outfitters and guides that serve the area in and around Avila Beach.

Adventure Tours (Avila Paddle Sports)

Get in on the fun of an Adventure Tour with Avila Paddle Sports. This local company provides guided tours that include instruction, equipment, snacks, water, and photos for guests. Witness wildlife, coastal scenery ― even visit the historic Point San Luis Lighthouse. This tour works well for beginners, but experienced kayakers enjoy it, too. Suitable for ages 13 and older, expect this tour to last 3 to 4 hours.

Family Tour (Avila Paddle Sports)

Do you want your child to experience the wonder and empowerment of ocean kayaking? Try the Little Explorers Family Kayak Tour with Avila Paddle Sports. This guided trip is designed for beginners and includes plenty of wildlife and a walk up to the historic Point San Luis Lighthouse. This tour is perfect for ages 7 and older, with an average duration of 2.5 to 3 hours. It also includes gear, instruction, water, snacks, and photos.

Cave Tours (Central Coast Kayaks)

This special tour takes both new and seasoned kayakers through the hidden architecture of the Avila Beach coastline. Paddle through caves and arches, kelp forests and grottoes, exploring their treasures which are visible only by kayak. Tours include an expert guide, kayaking instruction, wetsuits, booties and kayaks, water, snacks and photos. This three-hour tour is an adventure, but guides provide options for widely varying levels of ability. The minimum age for this tour is 12 years old, and all participants must be able to swim.

“Back in Time” Lighthouse Tour (Central Coast Kayaks)

A very special excursion, this kayaking tour up to the Point San Luis Lighthouse combines history and heritage with paddling fun. On the way to Coastguard Beach, witness sea lions, sea otters and harbor seals at play. Then touch land and walk up to the Point San Luis Lighthouse, a fascinating 19th century building that is open to the public. Enjoy a tour of the interior before heading back to port. Children 12 and older can participate, and all guests must be able to swim.

San Simeon kayaking
Setting out for a kayak adventure
Paddleboarding in Avila Beach
Kayaking tour of Avila Beach

Other Watersports Nearby

Can’t get enough sea time? Try these other activities to see Avila Beach at its coastal best.

Whale Watching

Avila Beach is a hot spot for witnessing whales migrating up and down the West Coast. In fact, the Whale Trail Organization has identified Avila Beach as one of the best whale-watching sites on the West Coast. Find the Whale Trail’s interpretive sign at the Avila Beach Pier, not far from the Central Coast Aquarium. Or, from your kayak, watch for gray whales and humpback whales along the coast, especially between December and April each year.

Otter Spotting

Adorable sea otters are also easy to find in Avila Beach. These cute and endearing sea creatures can be found just north and south of Harford Pier at Port San Luis. Even better? Kayak beyond the pier for the best chance of seeing these funny, fuzzy marine mammals.

Kayak Fishing (Central Coast Kayaks)

For those interested in catching their dinner, Avila Beach is an ideal spot for kayak fishing. Take a guided class and tour, or rent a kayak fully outfitted for fishing these calm and clean waters. Find several types of fish along the Avila Beach coastline, including rockfish, lingcod, perch and cabezon. For certain parts of the season, you may even find halibut, white seabass, and salmon. The kayak fishing season runs approximately April through December, and Central Coast Kayaks provides everything you need to get you and your line out on the water.

Breaching Whale on Highway 1
Whale watching in Avila Beach
A sea otter on his back
Sea otter spotting


Stewardship Travel For Good

Kayak Back in Time to Historic Lighthouse

One of the best ways to preserve the rich heritage of the Central Coast is by bringing its history to life. Enjoying a specialty kayaking tour to the Point San Luis Lighthouse does just that. Meet the people who care for this 19th-century landmark and walk through the rooms that once housed the lighthouse keeper’s family. By engaging with the past in this fun and unique way, visitors get a deeper experience than mere tourism can provide. For more experiences like these, visit the Stewardship Travel For Good Activities page.


Avila Beach, CA 93424


  • Equipment Rental Available
  • Kid Friendly
  • Outdoor Activities & State Parks
  • Stewardship Travel Activities