Top 8 Wildlife Tours in the San Francisco Area

In General, SUP Activity Recommendations, SUP Location Recommendations by Perfect Paddles

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Find out the best 8 outfitters in the San Francisco area to experience a wildlife tour!

San Francisco

In this article, we discuss 8 Wildlife Tours in San Francisco you need to check out!


San Francisco is famous for its steep, winding streets, bountiful food markets, interesting architecture, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

But it should also be known for its tremendous treasure trove of outdoor activities. And exciting biodiversity of its wildlife found along its shores.

One of the most effective ways to interact with the wildlife has been the ability to SUP.

Participants in SUP Wildlife Tours can see the horizon as well as into the depths of the water below.

If you're interested in giving it a try, we've compiled the Top 8 Wildlife Tours in San Francisco.

This is a good activity to participate in as an alternative activity for those who need a break from the city and want to find their own slice of peace in the great outdoors.

Rubicon Adventures (Forestville)

Rubicon is a paddling company ready to take you on the ultimate paddling adventure.

They really shines in relation to Wildlife Tours with their Russian River Estuary Tour in Sonoma County.

The tour is approximately 2 hours long and takes paddlers from the river mouth, stops at Goat Rock Beach for a short break, and from there a short paddle around Penny Island.

If this isn’t an enticing enough adventure, the Russian River Estuary is home to one of the largest concentrations of marine mammals and sea birds with over 50 migrating species making their way to its shores on a yearly basis. On top of that, paddlers may also be able to spot otters, certain species of deer on land, and the occasional fish if the water is clear during the season.

This exciting tour will give paddlers a true taste of the California northwest region.

SUP Shack (Santa Cruz)

SUP Shack’s SUP-ventures take paddlers on a 2-hour tour of the Santa Cruz harbor. From there paddlers will be able to make their way to the ocean for additional sights to see and challenges to conquer.

Adventures always start in the morning where winds and waters are both calm, allowing beginners easy access to this exciting time on a board. Once a beginner lesson has been administered, paddlers are guided through the Santa Cruz Harbor. In the harbor they are likely to see rays, plenty of species of gulls, pelicans, and many species of rock-dwelling fish.

Once in the ocean, paddlers may be able to spot dolphin popping out of the waters. And if the migration patterns are correct, the occasional whale surfacing!

SUP Shack makes its way onto our list due to its accessibility for beginner paddlers. And its highly visual experience of seeing the harbor and the opportunity to paddle in the ocean. Perfect Paddles highly recommends!

wildlife tours

Petaluma SUP (Petaluma)

Petaluma SUP has a unique twist on the Wildlife Tour circuit. They provide paddlers with a self-guided trip to Lakeville Landing.

Before the trip is commenced, qualified instructors will go over the basic paddling techniques. They will make sure participants are up to the task of paddling the 5mile distance spanning 2 hours on the water.

If the team considers the paddlers fit, they will head out without a guide to Lakeville Landing. There they will pass Olompali State Park and see the beautiful rocky cliffs off the coast.

This tour is perfect for those who do not wish to paddle with a guide. Or if they are experienced enough to make the trip safely themselves and would like to take their time. As a bonus, Olompali State Park is home to the longest, continuous wetland estuary on the west coast of North America! Which means there are plenty of opportunities to see the biodiversity of the region.It is home to a large variety of birds, deer, bats, and of course various aquatic creatures such as bass and related species.

The unique bonus of being able to paddle close to the protected shores of the state park puts Petaluma SUP’s tour on our list!

Be sure to check out their page on Perfect Paddles for additional discounts through our Member Deal!

wildlife tours

Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. (Pillar Point Harbor)

Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. is home to a variety of SUP tours to keep even the most diehard paddler entertained.

Half Moon Bay takes paddlers on an adventure to Pillar Point with a starting point in the harbor. In the harbor beginner lessons and safety information will first be administered.

Once the lesson is taken care of paddlers will make their way into Pillar Point Harbor where a guide will tell paddlers interesting history of the harbor and area.

Along the way, paddlers will be able to see seals, sea lions, and occasionally sea otters. As well as the occasional Gray, Pilot and Humpback whale spotting off the coast if their migrations times are correct. Due to the increased time on the water and the chance to see some of the most famous animals in the area, Half Moon Bay makes it onto our top list of Wildlife Tours in the San Francisco area.

wildlife tours

101 Surf Spots (Redwood City)

101 Surf Spots offers paddlers a private boating expedition where groups will be provided world class views of the Golden Gate Bridge. As well as Alcatraz. And the San Francisco skyline before passing directly underneath where the captain will drop anchor in Treasure Island’s sheltered cove. Once safely anchored in the cove, participants will be able to dump boards over and explore the coves. While also being able to paddle to shore and explore on foot.

The most unique portion of the trip is Treasure Island which is an artificial island built in 1936-1937 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. This island is now home to a military base and various species of wildlife.

Paddlers will almost be guaranteed to spot a family of dolphin shooting through the water. And numerous bird species which make this artificially built island their home. The paddling portion of the trip is fun, easily accessible and safe for beginners.

The combination of a fun and interesting boat ride with a finale of being able to explore Treasure Island by paddling, makes for an exciting afternoon spent on the water. 101 Surf Spots also offers a Member Deal through Perfect Paddles, which means additional savings for paddlers! Be sure to check them out on our website here.

San Francisco

Sea Trek (Sausalito)

Experienced guides at Sea Trek offer half-day excursions for paddlers. They take them from the beginning stages of paddling to being incredibly comfortable on the water.

Starting in Bay Model, paddlers will make their way onto the water where they will paddle around Richardson Bay. There they will be able to see a variety of wildlife native to the area.

Most tour participants should expect to see harbor seals, sea lions, pelicans, cormorants and more! As an additional feature for the tour, guides will explain to the participating paddlers the unique history of Sausalito. Overall, this is a distinctive experience for paddlers of any skill level.

Also be sure to check out their page on Perfect Paddles for discounts on their services through our Member Deal!

Mike’s Paddle (Alameda)

Mike's Paddle offers world-class tours for beginner and experienced paddlers alike!

Their tours consist of four options – the Beach and Estuary Tour, Rock Wall Tour, Treasure Island Tour, and a Downwind Boat Tour.

For this list we'll be focusing on the Beach and Estuary Tour.

After completing a lesson, groups will be guided along the neighboring beach before reaching the Oakland Estuary between Alameda Island and Bay Farm Island.

Mike’s Paddle describes this tour as “serene” due mostly to the easy paddling conditions.

And ability to see a variety of wildlife including dolphin and a variety of ocean-dwelling birds.

Due to the options, the wildlife, and the bonus of having to paddle only one-way, Mike’s Paddle lands on our list!

Also be sure to check out their landing page on Perfect Paddles for discounts through our Buddy Deal!

wildlife tours

Napa Valley Paddle (Napa)

Our last spot belongs to Napa Valley Paddle located in, of course, Napa.

The reasons for their top spot are due solely to their wonderful Napa Valley Paddle’s Carneros Wildlife Preserve SUP Adventure.

It’s quite a title.

Or, as they state on their website, “Set to the champagne vineyard backdrop and accessibly only by water, paddlers glide across the ride with Mt. Tamalpais and Mt. Diablo looming large on the horizon.”

The tour takes participants to the center of migratory action where paddlers will be able to enjoy the beauty of birds in their natural habitat. The entire tour is home to one of the most beautiful habitats on the west coast. Paddlers can expect to see red-tail hawks, golden eagles, American green-winged teal, buffleheads, and gadwalls.

Paddlers can also add one wine tasting, charcuterie and cheese platter or a boxed lunch to enjoy after completion of the paddle.

Napa Valley Paddles offers a Buddy Deal through Perfect Paddles for discounts on their services. Be sure to check them out here!

Wildlife tours


San Francisco is one of the busiest hubs in the world to experience life in the city. And the natural habitats surrounding it. While paddling may not always be the main reason to visit the area, the chance to do so should not be passed up by anyone!

The northwest area of California is home to a large variety of wildlife species. One of the best ways to experience and interact with them is by hopping on a SUP.

We hoped you enjoyed reading about our Top 8 Wildlife Tours in the San Francisco area. And we cannot wait for you to personally experience all they have to offer. As always, Perfect Paddles will be there to guide you in the right direction towards the best tours, rentals, and shops in your area.

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