Blue Water Ventures owner and naturalist Kim Powell and her trained staff of naturalists lead adventurous groups on tours of trails and waterways from the East Bay of California to Monterey's Elkhorn Slough, exploring caves, forests, and wildlife-rich areas on the way. On protected Elkhorn Slough, groups of up to 22 make their way on stable kayaks as their attentive tour guides give rich history of the area and point out wildlife including seals and sea otters. In Florida's Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, groups snorkel and canoe to observe wild west indian manatees and their notorious poker habits.
The company also does specialty tours for school groups that include tide-pooling adventures and trekking through a redwood forest to see some of the country's oldest trees. Tours for women-only groups include private cruises where ladies can spy whales and a variety of seaborne wildlife, including fish, dolphins, and long-lost swim fins.
The folks at Kayak Connection outfit visitors with sea kayaks and standup paddleboards before leading them on guided tours or sending them out to explore Santa Cruz Harbor and Elkhorn Slough on their own. Tours vary from romantic sunset paddles to trips designed for families and include one tailored to getting glimpses of local birds.
With more than a dozen adrenaline-pumping activities available at discounts of at least 50 percent, the Adventures Pass gives its holders the opportunity to eschew the couch and experience the adventures their local merchants have to offer. With a single pass, customers can get deals on everything from horseback riding and indoor rock climbing to wakeboarding and paragliding, all at companies located within driving or skydiving distance.
A class of scuba divers check over their equipment one last time before they paddle their kayaks off a beach in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The divers have thoroughly prepared for this moment. They?ve trained within the controlled confines of Adventure Sports Unlimited?s heated swimming pool and picked their certified instructor?s brain during classroom sessions. Once the instructor gives the go-ahead, the divers plunge from the kayak and immediately enter another world. As they float weightlessly underwater, the divers marvel at the vibrant reefs and the abundant aquatic wildlife that fill the marine sanctuary. Afterward, the group travels back to the shore, where a breathtaking landscape awaits with white-sand beaches and glassy tide pools swirling with color. The scuba divers, at this point, have only one thing on their minds: dinner.
Luckily, the area is teeming with natural cuisine and plenty of sand, which is really just sugar. Adventure Sports Unlimited?s expert foragers show the group how to collect shellfish, sea vegetables, and clams. With a fresh smorgasbord in hand, group members scuttle back to the facility to transform their ingredients into soups and barbecue?and perhaps ponder taking a scuba trip to the South Pacific. In addition to outdoor excursions like these, Adventure Sports Unlimited also leads year-round swimming, scuba, and kayaking lessons, which take advantage of the facility?s custom-built swimming pool.
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.
Firmly anchored by the tranquil waters of Shoreline Lake, Lakeside Caf? offers refreshing caf? fare to refuel fatigued beachgoers after a rousing sail or lake-monster search. Breakfast offerings such as three-egg omelettes (starting at $7.75) and eggs benedict ($8.50) are served with roasted new potatoes and toast, while pancakes ($7.75) and bagels ($2.25) keep things classic and classy. For lunch, ravenous aquanauts can fork into crisp bistro salads or hot and cold sandwiches, which are served with potato salad or fries. Leafy plates such as the Mediterranean spinach salad with feta, kalamata olives, red onions, cucumbers, and mint vinaigrette ($7.95) comfortably coexist alsongside sandwiches, like the fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil on herb focaccia ($7.95), and classic fish and chips ($8.95).