If you're looking for an experience where you can leave the guide behind and explore completely on your own terms, a self-guided kayaking trip just might be what you've been searching for. 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 adventure and bring out your inner explorer.
Here are some of our favorites to help get you started.
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'll have 144 islands and bays right at the edge of your paddles. You'll get the opportunity to kayak through archways and caves, while spotting dolphins, mangroves, and little blue penguins.
To get started, rent your kayak at Coastal Kayakers. From there, 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 options and find a trip that's right for you.
They'll even have tips on where to camp on multi-day outings for those looking for overnight adventures. Be sure to get out of your kayak at Bay of Islands and go snorkeling in the pristine waters found there. It's a good spot to gather your own seafood or cast a line in the water too.
Andes to Ocean, Chile
Chile offers a multitude of guided options for kayakers, from whitewater trips to glacier excursions to ocean outings. 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 coastline of this spectacular country. 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 just might be the paddling excursion 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 stretching all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park, Minnesota/Ontario, Canada
Right along the border of the United States and Canada, these two wilderness areas combine to offer more than 1,600 lakes for travelers to explore. Whether it's an adults-only trip, a family excursion, a multi-week journey, or just 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 online to help out with that process. You can rent a kayak from Sawtooth Outfitters, which is conveniently 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 on the Rhone River. The entrance to the gorge is at the 192-foot Pont D'Arc, which is the largest natural bridge in Europe. Drop by Oceanide Canoe, to rent a kayak for a half day, full day, or overnight trip. With a range of time options to choose from, the company will drop you off and pick you up, as well as transport you to your campsite if you choose an overnight itinerary. 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 overhead and you have the option of booking additional guided gorge activities, like climbing, caving, and canyoning too. 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 and it is a fitting end to any paddling adventure.
With a kayak trip to Greenland, you can explore the cold water and glaciers of the Arctic from the seat of your boat. Plan your own route in south Greenland, and let Tasermiut South Greenland Expeditions assist you with materials and logistical services for your expedition. 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 as well. It's a bit like soaking in a natural hot tub and a great way to relax.
Kayaking Trips & Vacations
As you can probably tell, 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 calls your name. Whether that's paddling the warm, tranquil waters of the Mediterranean or blasting down the rapids of the Grand Canyon, the options are vast and all encompassing. As with most adventure travel, discovering the possibilities is a big part of the fun.