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The Most Popular On-Water Activities for San Diegans

Summer is still here and it’s not too late to get in some final kicks and thrills to make this year a little less isolating. For San Diego residents, one of the many great perks of our city is the incredible array and diversity of waterways, shores, and harbors on which people can partake of the many on-water activities that are locally offered. There are few cities in the world with as many beautiful access points to sun-bathed bodies of water.

Another huge advantage of San Diego is that because of the nearly year-long temperate warm weather, summer extends well into the autumn and sometimes even winter.

The following is a list of the top on-water activities for San Diegans:

Jet Skiing

Jet skiing is one of the most commercially successful on-water activities and is one of the premiere summer-time activities in beautiful cities like San Diego. While first-timers are urged to take lessons in how to keep a jet ski straight, control throttling, and re-board after falling (yes, you will fall into the water a few times!), jet skiing is an absolutely exhilarating water sport that is relatively safe if proper precautions are followed.

SD Adventures jet ski rentals include 15 minutes free on each hour, offering memorable 2020 Yamaha WaveRunner rides on some of the most beautiful shorelines in the country. This San Diego vendor also offers rentals for boating, kayaking, and standup paddle boarding with access to one of the best natural harbors on the West Coast.

Standup Paddle Boarding

Speaking of standup paddle boarding (SUP), this is one of the fastest growing on-water activities in the country, exploding in popularity in the last decade. While standup paddle boarding actually dates back thousands of years, in the last few decades it has experienced new life as an adaptation of surfing. In 2014, almost 3 million Americans participated in standup paddle boarding and the number just keeps going up.

All along the West Coast, from Portland, Oregon to San Diego, California, people (particularly teenagers and young people) flock to waterways to try everything from yoga paddleboarding to co-navigating a river with their dogs along for the ride.

The most popular locations in San Diego are: the shores of Coronado Island, which are sand bar breaks that are free from rocks and reef; the Bahia Hotel Santa Barbara Cove on Mission Bay, which has great scenery and relaxed waters for flatwater paddling and SUP yoga; the La Jolla Cove Marine Sanctuary, which features incredible marine life; the Del Mar dog beach (if you’re bringing your furry friend); and the Coronado Island Tidelands Park, which is ideal for group paddling and features a breathtaking view of the downtown SD skyline.

Especially in our current atmosphere of COVID-19 restrictions, standup paddle boarding is an ideal socially distanceable summer activity that is safe, inexpensive, and fun.


Kayaking and rafting are also very popular on-water activities. One of the things people love about kayaking is how diverse it is. You can do it as a family with children involved or it can be a solo activity. Kayaking ranges from an ocean activity to whitewater, long distance touring, fishing, and river play.

San Diego offers 70 miles of coastline for kayaking. La Jolla Shores beach is the most popular location because it is more shielded from summer swells. From this launch point, you can cruise alongside sea lion colonies, sea caves and even explore kelp beds. 

Kayakers are encouraged to bring a personal floatation device (PFD), or life vest. Any kayaker planning to journey further offshore should bring a signaling device and drinking water.


Boating is one of the most common on-water activities and this includes sailing. In San Diego, some of the best boating experiences are harborside spots like Mission Bay, Oceanside, Point Loma Peninsula, Coronado, Downtown Waterfront and Chula Vista. Most of these locations feature marina access and assistance.

Additional boating activities include tour boats and the Coronado Ferry, which offer incredible marine life sightings. You can also sojourn further out into the ocean (fishing boats go as far as 100 miles).

Sailing fans often recommend Catalina Island.

If you run out of ideas, don’t forget about snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing.