Share:

Santa Cruz Harbor

San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California

Start Exploring
Santa Cruz Harbor

Share:

Advertisement
  • Kayak Connection providing orientation before pushing off the dock in Santa Cruz Harbor.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Inside the breakwater of Santa Cruz water the paddling is easy but the surroundings are still a delight.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Paddling from Santa Cruz Harbor to the Santa Cruz Wharf.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Paddling from Santa Cruz Harbor to the Santa Cruz Wharf. The Pacific Ocean stretches into the distance.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Returning to Santa Cruz Harbor from the Santa Cruz Wharf.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Returning to Santa Cruz Harbor from the Santa Cruz Wharf.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Santa Cruz harbor sees active sailboat and powerboat traffic. Conscientious paddlers will have no trouble avoiding the boats, and they can be quite elegant to watch as they make their way to sea.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Kayak Connection in Santa Cruz offers friendly service, reasonable prices, convenient put-in, and a good selection of serviceable gear.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Kayak Connection in Santa Cruz offers friendly service, reasonable prices, convenient put-in, and a good selection of serviceable gear.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Kayak Connection in Santa Cruz harbor.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • The Kayak Connection shop at Santa Cruz harbor.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • A good inventory of gear is available at Kayak Connection in Santa Cruz harbor.- Santa Cruz Harbor
  • A good inventory of gear is available at Kayak Connection in Santa Cruz harbor.- Santa Cruz Harbor
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Convenient. Good for beginners. Wildlife.
Cons: 
A fun outing but not high adventure.
Advertisement
Region:
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, CA
Access: 
Vehicle
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Site characteristics: Water: 
Ocean
Motorized watercraft allowed: 
Yes
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Portage required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Put-in location (lat, long coordinates): 
36.9686, -122.0017
Shuttle required: 
No
Take-out location (lat, long coordinates): 
36.9686, -122.0017
Total Distance: 
5.00 mi (8.05 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Typically multi-day: 
No
Water difficulty: 
Easy / Class A
Water temperature: 
60.00 °F (15.56 °C)
Current Local Weather:
Advertisement
Paddle Description

Paddle Description

Contributor

Santa Cruz harbor is a great launching point for a day on the water. Convenient to get to and surrounded by the amenities of Santa Cruz, the harbor is friendly to families and beginners but also offers access to the many adventures to be had on Monterey Bay. The harbor itself is well protected behind a substantial breakwater, giving true first-timers a place to learn the basic strokes and get the feel of their vessels (though powerboat and sailboat traffic must be yielded to). Turn the corner past the break, however, and the Pacific Ocean opens up in front of you.

Most paddlers will head for the Santa Cruz Wharf, the kelp beds around reknowned surf spot Steamer Lane and Seal Rock to the west, and past Seabright State Beach and the famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk. A round trip from the harbor to the wharf is 4 to 5 miles and a few hours at a leisurely pace. Seals and sea lions congregating at these landmarks can be heard across the bay, and dolphins, whales, porpoises, otters, pelagic birds, and other marine life are frequently spotted along the way. The bay offers open-water ocean kayaking while retaining some of the comfort and safety of having fellow kayakers and boaters in the vicinity. Several local guide services are available to help beginners get started, and the bay is accessible to a wide range of abilities, though all paddlers should be prepared for ocean conditions including swells, wind, weather, tides, and tidal currents. Local rental outfits such as Kayak Connection make a day on the water a cinch.

Migrating whales can be seen passing through Monterey Bay essentially year round. Humpback and blue whale sightings typically peak in September or October, while gray whale sightings typically peak in the winter months from December through March. In high years, a kayaker may see dozens of humpback whales in one morning, a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle that is not to be missed. If you are not paddling with an experienced guide service, be sure you understand the habits of the creatures you are hoping to view and how to approach and enjoy them safely. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary offers tips and resources for hopeful wildlife enthusiasts.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

Download
Advertisement
Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(20 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(116 within a 30 mile radius)

Advertisement
Related Content

Related Content

Adventure Community

Adventure Community

Who Wants To Do It
4 Members
Who's Done It
6 Members
Submission by
Contributor
96 Adventures Explored
48 Adventures Published

Newsletter Signup

Join the Outdoor Project Community

Get access to essential planning materials and information for your next adventure. Take a few seconds to join the community. It’s FREE!

Free Field Guides + Maps

Post Updates, Tips + Comments

Organize + Track Your Adventures

Insider Detailed Info, News + Benefits

Custom Driving Directions

Recommended Campsites, Photos + Reservation Info