Just a few steps away from downtown Vancouver's cityscape, you’ll find a world of shimmering waters and breathtaking landscapes.
It's a haven for thrilling water activities, where you can glide on kayaks, embrace the wind while windsurfing, and explore the mysterious depths through scuba diving and snorkeling adventures.
In this article, we'll uncover the top spots in Vancouver for kayaking, windsurfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. So get ready to paddle, sail, and immerse yourself in the cool waters around the city!
Kayaking in Vancouver
Jericho Beach, located on the Pacific Ocean coastline, is a popular destination for watersports enthusiasts who come here for kayaking, paddleboarding, windsurfing, and skimboarding.
For kayak enthusiasts, Jericho Beach offers a convenient location and a unique perspective of the city and the surrounding natural beauty.
If you don’t have your own kayak, you can rent a single or double kayak, or avail of the guided rental from Jericho Beach Kayak.
The winds at the Pacific Ocean coastline can create waves in the otherwise calm waters. To have a more serene kayaking experience, consider arriving closer to sunset when the winds are calmer.
False Creek is a fantastic year-round kayaking spot, offering scenic views of the city skyline, mountains, and water. You’ll have lots to see, including attractions in Yaletown (Yaletown) and Granville Island, along with local wildlife, like seals and kingfishers.
Since False Creek is a busy waterway, you’ll share the waters with other water sport enthusiasts. But if you’re only starting out, the calm and contained waters are perfect for you.
For a convenient launch, head to the docks at Creekside Paddling Centre, where the Dragon Zone Paddling Club operates. Here, you can rent equipment or receive instruction from their experienced guides.
You can paddle to Granville Island and stop there for a quick drink. Be sure to look for designated public docks, be familiar with the regulations, and secure your kayak properly to prevent it from drifting away.
English Bay Beach
The sandy beach of English Bay provides easy access to the water so it’s a convenient launch and pull-out point for kayaks.
It also offers an exciting experience as the tide here goes in and out several times a day. This causes the shoreline to look different after just a few hours of kayaking.
After your kayaking adventure, English Bay offers a vibrant atmosphere popular among both locals and visitors. You can relax on the beach, have a picnic, or explore the nearby amenities and activities
Kayaking in English Bay allows you to explore the surrounding waters and nearby attractions, such as False Creek and Kitsilano Beach. You can paddle along the coastline, take in the sights, and even stop for a rest on the sandy beaches along the way.
You can start your kayaking adventure from Stanley Park and paddle to English Bay, or do it the other way around. Along the way, keep an eye out for wildlife like seals and birds, and soak in the beautiful coastline and natural scenery.
Snorkeling in Vancouver
Campbell River is a salmon spawning stream flowing from the mountains of Vancouver Island to the ocean. Snorkeling in this area provides a unique opportunity to witness the salmon’s journey and their interactions with other marine life.
Snorkeling with salmon is a rare experience in all of the world, so having it in Campbell River is a real treat. That’s why even though it’s 274 kilometers away from Vancouver, it has a well-deserved spot on our list.
Plus, the big animal encounters while snorkeling also make the Campbell River more enticing. It’s possible you’ll find a bear in one spot, a beaver or a deer in another.
Campbell River is also a popular destination for scuba diving. The place boasts rich marine biodiversity and various diving sites that attract scuba diving enthusiasts from all around.
Haven’t tried scuba diving before? Local tour operators and guides are available to ensure your safety and guide you through the experience!
Howe Sound is just 30-40 minutes away from downtown Vancouver via the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge. The calm inland waters here provide ideal conditions for snorkeling year-round.
As you snorkel, you might get the chance to see adorable harbor seals up close, swimming gracefully or sunning themselves on the rocks.
Beneath the surface, you’ll discover a colorful underwater world teeming with fish, starfish, crabs, and other fascinating marine creatures.
Snorkeling excursions start from Horseshoe Bay, where you’ll be taken to explore seal colonies and stunning spots like Pam Rocks. Aside from witnessing magnificent ocean views and bird sanctuaries, you’ll get to paddle alongside playful seals!
Whytecliff Park is a designated natural marine sanctuary, with over 200 species, including rockfish, crabs, and starfish.
The best part? Whytecliff Park offers shore diving, making it super easy for snorkelers to jump right in from the beach and explore the underwater world at their own pace.
Consider taking the scenic route by driving Marine Drive west from the Lions Gate Bridge, and passing by the Lighthouse Park and Horseshoe Bay neighborhood. Keep going until you reach 7100 Block Marine Drive, and you’ll arrive at this snorkeling destination.
Scuba Diving in Vancouver
Cates Park in Deep Cove 28 mins
Cates Park is nestled on the west side of Indian Arm at Roche Point in North Vancouver.
This beautiful park offers a unique blend of natural beauty and marine life, making it a perfect destination for diving enthusiasts. You’ll spot flounders, red rock crabs, little snails, Dungeness crabs, and Oregon tritons all around.
While it’s 28 minutes away from Vancouver, the commute is so worthwhile!
Be aware of the water’s current and potential poor visibility, particularly during summer. Consider wearing extra weight and utilizing a compass to stay oriented while exploring underwater.
Aside from what we’ve said so far about Whytecliff Park, this scuba-diving-cum-snorkeling spot is perfect for divers of all skill levels.
Plus, if you’re up for some adventure, it’s a popular spot for night diving, where you can witness marine life that comes out after dark.
Take advantage of low tide at Whytecliff Park to walk across the rocks and reach the charming Whyte Islet, a perfect spot for stunning photos.
Porteau Cove Park
Porteau Cove is conveniently located about 40 kilometers north of the city along Highway 99. Its main dive site is 18 meters deep, offering fascinating encounters with octopus and small wrecks.
For an adventure-packed day, consider combining a visit to Porteau Cove with nearby Whytecliff Park, which a lot of scuba divers already do.
Porteau Cove is one of the wonderful attractions that people stop to check out on a Sea to Sky Highway (Sea to Sky Highway) road trip. Drive a little further up and check out the Britannia Mine Museum and Shannon Falls!
Windsurfing in Vancouver
As you may already know now, Jericho Beach is a versatile destination for a lot of water activities including windsurfing.
Being close to the city center makes it a convenient choice for windsurfers seeking a quick getaway to the water. What’s even better is the excellent wind conditions, ranging from 2 to 20 knots year-round, making it an ideal location for windsurfing enthusiasts.
With its sandy shoreline, accessing the water and embarking on thrilling windsurfing adventures is a breeze.
When windsurfing at Jericho Beach, keep an eye on the wind forecast and come prepared with both light and strong wind gear.
Boundary Bay Regional Park
Boundary Bay Regional Park in Tsawwassen is ideal for windsurfing because the wind conditions are said to be consistent. While the winds may be gentler during the summer, they can pick up and blow fiercely across the bay after a southward storm.
There are other water activities offered here. So, if you want to learn kiteboarding or paddleboarding, head over to one of the windsurfing schools nearby to avail of lessons.
The park features a vehicle-access ramp just south of the main entrance, at the east end of 1A Avenue via 67th Street.
Cowichan Lake, located on Vancouver Island, is easily accessible from Vancouver. With the many water activities available here, Cowichan Lake is perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway.
The main reason windsurfers flock to this spot is the orientation of the lake. Since it runs from west to east, the wind is channeled along the length of the lake, producing increased wind speed.
The shore length of this body of water is around 28 kilometers. If you’re looking for extended rides or ample space for maneuvering, then this one hits the mark.