The world’s kayaking repertoire is growing. Small independent groups and expeditions are discovering places that have never been explored, so this list is always changing. North America, with its wide range of trips and tours in both tropical and temperate locations is a leader, as are the remote paradisiacal waters of Latin America. Elsewhere New Zealand is hot for paddlers, as are exotic destinations like Indonesia and Iceland. As more and more independent paddlers make their way to these off beat destinations, more and more key tour operators will begin leading these types of tours.
- San Blas Islands, Panama
The shallow, clear, coral filled Caribbean waters of the San Blas archipelago are always listed in every kayak magazine or National Geographic list of top adventures. Paddle to and from the 365 tiny islets while staying on deserted islands and with the Kuna Yala Indians.
- San Juan Islands, Washington
Paddling is how these Orca filled waters on the Washington/B.C. border were meant to be explored. Paddle from island to island, staying at cozy campgrounds or five star lodges, or just spend the afternoon the quaint harbors.
- Kenai Fjords, Alaska
Explore this 650,000-acre park on the Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska, home of the 300-square-mile Harding Icefield, and try to spot whales, otters, sea lions, and bald eagles.
- Chiloé, Chile
They consider fairy tales as facts on the misty, windswept islands of the Chiloé archipelago. Paddle Chiloé National Park on the eastern shore of the main island for Humboldt penguin and sea lion colonies or hop from island to island to spot the hundreds of UNESCO world heritage wooden churches. Combine it with a trip to nearby Parque Pumalin On the mainland and you’ll have one hell of an adventure.
- Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Two thousand miles of wild, rugged coastline only a short drive from the US makes the Gulf of California a top kayaking destination. Steer through coves, around boulders, into caves, to empty beaches, or watch whales on some of the many kayaking routes offered here.
- Hornstrandir, Iceland
Iceland’s northwest fjords are as stunning as they are hard to pronounce. This is the most rugged part of the country and is home to whales, seals, and birds of prey that nest on the dramatic cliffsides. For the experienced kayaker only.
- Komodo Islands, Indonesia
Komodo, Loh Liang, Gunung Ara, Pulau Rinca, and Pulau Padar are home to the much feared Komodo dragon, a huge, dinosaur like lizard. These volcanic islands, lined with mangrove forests and coral reefs, are also idyllic kayaking waters.
The far southwestern corner of Micronesia is home to sea caves, small islets, mangrove swamps, turtles, and sharks.
- Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
New Zealand’s Golden Bay is one of the premier kayaking destinations in the Pacific. There’s not only year-round tropical weather, but small coves, caves, secluded beaches, orchards. It’s an ideal setting for the beginner and intermediate paddler.
- Kauai, Hawaii
The Na Pali coast is the premier kayaking spot in the Hawaiian Isles. Beginners and intermediate paddlers will find dramatic green cliffs, untouched white sand beaches, caves, ruins, and great snorkeling access. Begin at Ha’ena county beach park for the 15 mile trip to Polihale state park.