One of the easiest water sports to master is kayaking which is conveniently available at almost every commercialized lake or beach for a very reasonable price and it offers a great way to explore a new place while spending an afternoon outside and burning some calories! This is one of my favorite activities on a laid back weekend or vacation. From the Bahamas to Portugal, I always enjoy jumping in a kayak and paddling out to explore a new coastline. Here are my favorite experiences kayaking so far:
1) Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico
Bioluminescence is one of planet Earth’s best-kept secrets as these micro-organisms make the water sparkle and glow at night. Tiny plankton that have a chemical reaction to motion causing them to glow bright blue which is one of the most magical natural phenomenon that I have witnessed. While scientists are still uncertain as to the reason behind these organisms’reaction to movement in the water, the reaction of a bright sparkling effect rippling through the water is quite breathtaking. Going to see this was one of my main reasons for visiting Puerto Rico and I signed up for a day tour to hike through a rainforest followed by a small group kayak trip into one of the three protected bioluminescent bays.
At sunset I hopped in a glass bottomed kayak with the tour guide and off we paddled down a river into an open bay. As the sun finished setting over the horizon and the night sky grew darker, several of the guides covered groups of kayakers with large tarps to make it pitch black for us to see the water better. We were instructed to put our hands into the water and rapidly swish the water causing the plankton to glow. It looked like the something out of the movie Avatar as the water immediately reacted to the motion and came to life. This was truly a magical moment and I was in complete awe as the water moving between my fingers lit up and glittered brightly. This has by far my been my favorite kayaking experience!
2) Visiting the Benagil Caves
On Portugal's coast lies some one of the most unique cave formations that has become rapidly more popular over the last decade as images of the Benagil Caves have made their way to numerous top destination lists. After a quick karaoke filled road trip down from Lisbon, my friend Mia and I made it to Benagil on the southern coast of Portugal. The next morning we were at the port waiting for the kayak rental to open at 0900 and were one of the first people to make the short trip to the cave entrance. We realized it is also possible to swim there (only about a 200m swim from the main beach) or take a tour boat, but it is only accessible by water and kayaking was definitely the easiest option for getting in to explore. Going early not only helped to avoid crowds of tourists, but also provided some excellent lighting for photos as the morning sun beams poured in from the top!
3) Vineyard Tour in Virginia
During an annual spring wine festival in Norfolk, Virginia I learned about a vineyard on the eastern coast that offered vineyard kayaking tours. Kayaking and drinking?? Done and Done. A few weeks later, my friends and I met with the tour guide, a fantastic laid back guy who guided our small group upstream for a good 45 mins before we reached the pier and dragged our kayaks ashore. We were greeted by a friendly dog who belonged to the owners of Chatham Vineyards (who also graces the front of some of their bottles) and he happily accompanied us out to the vineyards where we explored a bit before heading in to sample the wines. After completing the tour and sharing a bottle outside in the open fields, we climbed back in our kayaks and lazily paddled back, mostly letting the water pull us along.
4) Through the Mangroves in Japan
After a quick flight from Okinawa to one of Japan's southern-most islands Ishigaki, I took a ferry over to the even smaller island off its coast, Taketomi. After exploring the famous sand star beaches (where the grains of sand are actually shaped like small stars), I rented a kayak and paddled upstream through winding mangrove trees. The massive twisty roots were minor obstacles along the river requiring constant attention for how deep they were, but provided a dark and mysterious route to the bottom of Nara waterfall. The weather was slightly dreary, but the upside was that no one else on the river and it felt like I was discovering an area of the island that had never been explored before. While that is definitely not true based on the numerous photos available online, it is still remote and is certainly not filled with tourists that would flock to such a location in a more well-known or accessible destination.
5) The World's Largest Swimming Pool
Chile boasts the world's largest swimming pool which stretches an impressive mile long and holds more than 66 million gallons of water. While it is quite disappointing that this massive pool does not allow swimming, it is open for small crafts ranging from kayaks to small sail boats. The apartment I rented included a kayak so nearly immediately after dropping my bags, I untied the kayak and headed out. Having the entire pool to myself, I spent most of the afternoon out paddling back and forth exploring all areas of the pool.
6) Around the Islands in Norway
Although hiking is the biggest draw for visiting Norway with the unparalleled views and stunning cliffs, another excellent activity to see more of the beautiful nature is spending a day out exploring the numerous small islands or the fjords. Due to the continually cold waters in Norway, this kayak trip required wet suits and water skirts to keep us mostly dry and warm. After bundling up and pushing out, we spent an afternoon circling the lovely little islands and learning about the history of the place from the local guide.
Where is the best place you have been kayaking? Comment below!