San Francisco

Kayaking in the city by the bay
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Kayaking San Francisco
POP FLY: Kayaking near AT&T Park, San Francisco (courtesy, City Kayak)

Typical of the City by the Bay, where diversity in culture, cuisine, and architecture is the norm, kayaking San Francisco provides distinctive urban vistas. After a brief training session and safety talk, City Kayak leads family tours from AT&T Park—home of the San Francisco Giants—along McCovey Cove to Mission Creek, a quiet route protected by seawalls and beaches. "Mission Creek is a houseboat community that kids get a kick out of seeing," says Ted Choi, City Kayak's owner. If the Giants are playing, look for a home run ball to sail into the water, though with Barry Bonds' departure, not as many make it out of the park, says Choi.

Families with older kids, especially teens, are treated to a longer tour, passing under a working drawbridge while getting a marine mammal's-eye view of working navy ships and tugboats—from a safe distance, of course. "When you're in a small kayak, everything else looks and feels big, which is great fun for older kids to see," says Choi. "Also, about half of our customers meet a seal or sea lion that pops up and stares at them," he adds. "They're not aggressive to kayakers; they're usually just curious and look at you for a while."

Choi loves the unique immediacy of urban kayaking: "In nature paddling, unless you're in a canyon, mountains are usually a distance away," he says. But passing between buildings, under drawbridges, and next to ships offers unparalleled views most visitors never experience. "Pedestrians can see us paddling, and kayaks are colorful and unique, so people often take pictures of the paddlers." In fact, City Kayak's website has a gallery of more than 20,000 photos taken by guides and guests.

Access and Resources
City Kayak
Address: South Beach Harbor, Embarcadero at Townsend, near AT&T Park
Phone: 415.357.1010
Cost: Rentals: $15 to 28; about $40 for guided tour of McCovey Cove
Age Limit: While there's no age limit, they only offer life jackets for kids weighing 30 pounds and over; if your kid is smaller, bring your own personal floatation device
Hours: Rentals: 11 to 5 daily; tour schedule available on website
Where Guides Go for Grub: Crossroads Cafe (cheap, delicious eats)

Published: 15 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 24 Jan 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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