Sea lions and otters are passive creatures, unlike their landlocked counterparts, who hide inside little cardboard boxes to terrorize snack time as cleverly disguised, awkwardly shaped crackers. Coexist with animate marine mammals with today's Groupon: for $30, rent a two-person kayak, or two one-person kayaks, for three hours from Venture Quest Kayaking (up to a $60 value).
Departing from Venture Quest's dock on the Santa Cruz Wharf, boaters explore the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary from a new, watery perspective while encountering marine flora and fauna. Even without prior experience, kayaking duos can easily navigate the two-person ($50) or a pair of single ($30 each) open-topped boats. A quick ocean-top jaunt to the lush kelp forest near Lighthouse Point may reveal views of harbor seals and frolicking sea otters dancing the cancan in their natural habitat. Sea lions are also known to lounge on nearby Seal Rock, batting their big brown eyes at the occasional passing dolphin or whale.
Kayak rentals include everything needed to survive for three hours on the gentle waves, including wetsuits and waterproof bags for cameras and other fragile equipment. High-ranking servants of Poseidon may rent additional gear, such as sails, for their craft. During summer months (May 31–September 30), the last aqua-carriage rental of the day must leave the docks before 5:30 p.m. to avoid being stuck at sea floating inside a pumpkin. Parking is available on the wharf for an additional fee (first half-hour is free; $2/hour after).
Venture Quest Kayaking
Venture Quest Kayaking's owner and head guide Dave Johnston leads paddling excursions across Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, from the shimmering interiors of seaside caves to the open water where whales and other wildlife frequent. He sets the standard for a team of experienced paddlers that lead the company's many tours. These nature tours, moonlight paddles, and trips to other ports send paddlers through waves and estuaries as guides encourage participants to hone their paddling technique and give the right-of-way to any ghost ships. Kayaking camps and classes teach skills such as riding into curling waves and safe ways to launch or do self-rescue in the surf. Their shop on the Wharf also outfits customers with a variety of rentals, including open- or closed-top single and double ocean kayaks.