If you're looking for an experience where you can leave the guide behind and explore on your own terms, try a self-guided kayaking trip. It doesn't matter if you're a novice paddler or an expert, or if you're looking for a trip on rivers, lakes, or oceans. In almost every region of the world, you can find a paddling excursion that will ignite your sense of being an independent adventurer.
Wailua River, Kauai, Hawaii
Home of the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, Kauai makes a great destination for kayakers. This popular river is on the island's East Side, about 15 minutes north of Lihue. Start your jungle river journey at Wailua Bay after renting your kayak at Wailua Kayak and Canoe. On this two-mile trip, you'll get views of the wettest spot on Earth, Mount Waialeale, as well as views of Mount Nounou, which looks a bit like a human lying on its back. Although the whole trip can take up to four- and-a-half hours, it's not all paddling: You'll get a chance to stretch your legs on a short - less than a mile - hike to the Uluwehi Waterfall too.
Bay of Islands, New Zealand
At the Bay of Islands, three hours north of Auckland, you will have 144 islands and bays right at the edges of your paddles. You can kayak through archways and caves, while spotting dolphins, mangroves, and little blue penguins. To get started, rent your kayak at Coastal Kayakers.
Then you can choose from a range of adventure options: a leisurely paddle on the inner harbor, a more strenuous outer-island excursion, or a multi-day trip with beach camping. When you rent your kayak, Coastal Kayakers can help you sort through the many trip options and find one that's right for you, including tips on where to camp on multi-day outings.
Make sure you get out of your kayak at Bay of Islands and go snorkeling to collect your own seafood, or relax while casting a line in the water, or visit the area's historic sites.
Andes to Ocean, Chile
Chile offers a multitude of guided options for kayakers, from whitewater trips to glacier excursions. For a challenging, eight-day, unguided trip, truly skilled and experienced paddlers can attempt the Andes to Ocean Sea Kayak Expedition offered by Expediciones Chile, which will take you through the rivers, lakes, and coast of Chile. Due to the challenges of the trip not all groups finish, but if you're okay with an itinerary that is focused more on the journey instead of just the destination, then this may be the trip for you. If you're interested, plan ahead because the company has limited space every year for this expedition. The journey starts in the town of Futaleufu and ends at the beach in Chaiten, with paddlers covering about 60 miles across the Andes to the Pacific Coast. Along the way, you'll be rewarded with views of glacier-rimmed mountains and active volcanoes.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park, Minnesota/Ontario, Canada
Right on the border of the United States and Canada, these two wilderness areas combined offer more than 1,600 lakes for you to explore.
Whether it's an adults-only trip, a family excursion, a multi-week trip, or a short loop, there's something for everyone here. With so many options, a visit to this area will require a fair amount of planning, but there are plenty of resources to help you out. You can rent a kayak from Sawtooth Outfitters, which is located near multiple entry points to the water and also offers shuttle pick-ups if needed. Canoeing is recommended for any trips with portages, but kayaks are a great option on trips without portages or on nearby Lake Superior. In the summertime, paddlers can spot black bear and moose in the area, and spend time outside their boat picking gobs of blueberries. If you plan an autumn trip, you'll have a quieter and less buggy experience.
Ardeche Gorge, France
Sometimes referred to as the "Grand Canyon of Europe," the Ardeche Gorge offers kayakers long, flat sections as well as 26 rapids along the Rhone River.
The entrance to the gorge is at the 192-foot Pont D'Arc, which is the largest natural bridge in Europe. With Oceanide Canoe, you can rent a kayak for a half day, full day, or overnight trip. With a range of time options to choose from, the company with drop you off and pick you up, as well as transport you to your campsite if you choose an overnight trip. With this minimal amount of support, you'll still be able to paddle at your own pace. No matter the length of your trip, you'll get to experience the limestone walls of the gorge, sometimes as high as 1,000 feet above you, and you have the option of booking additional guided gorge activities, like climbing, caving, and canyoning. When you get off the river, be sure to relax with a glass of wine from one of the many vineyards in this southern region of France as well. You won't be disappointed.
With a kayak trip to Greenland, you can explore the cold water and glaciers of the Arctic. Plan your own route in south Greenland, and let Tasermiut South Greenland Expeditions assist you with materials and logistical services for your trip. These trips can range from one day to 15 days, with provided transportation for gear, as well as food and fuel drops along the way. If your arms and shoulders need a break from paddling, take a trip to three hot springs pools on an uninhabited island in south Greenland.
Kayaking Trips & Vacations
Kayaking around some of the Scottish Isles you can also visit whiskey distilleries. Several adventure companies offer multi-sport trips that include kayaking. BikeHike will take you from countries as far apart as Costa Rica and Vietnam on multi-sport trips that often include kayaking. How about Inn to Inn sea kayaking in Crete? You can also go on an Inn to Inn sea kayak excursion in colder regions with Northwest Passage. Kayaking in the waters around the Galapagos Islands, you are liable to see some of these creatures.
As you can see, there are numerous options to choose from when it comes to embarking on a paddling adventure. The trick is to find the one that is right for you, but with so many trips and destinations to choose from, you're almost certainly going to find one that appeals to you.