Oceanside Harbor is my favorite place in San Diego County to go kayaking. Depending on my mood I can stay in the harbor, go to the slightly rougher area between the sea and the harbor, or head out to the sea. The trip to the sea is just a quick 5 minute paddle and is what I do most.
Most beginners stay in the harbor or head out to the end of the jetty, but few enter the Ocean. Why? I don't know. I think they see that the sea is a little rougher than the harbor, and the harbor is large enough for a beginner to explore.
Unlike most other areas in San Diego, I rarely have to worry about sailboats, motor boats, or jet skis. They are there, but it just not as crowded as other places.
Throughout the years I have seen plenty of dolphins and other wildlife.
Offloading could not be easier. The dock is a few steps away from the street with several spaces to unload. There are also water stations with hoses on the docks, so it is great for rinsing afterward.
The harbor has several very good restaurants, and hotels are just a few paces away. I have tried most of them and have not been disappointed.
Near the restaurants is a kayak rental place. I have my own boat, so I don't rent, but I hear the owner is nice and the cost is inexpensive.
I live nearby, so I don't stay at any the hotels. I know there is a Holiday Inn and a Days Inn nearby, and a beautiful looking hotel that overlooks the marina.
There are no fees if you park near the boat dock area. There is paid parking near the restaurants.
Take Highway 5 to Oceanside Harbor Drive and head west. If you go east you enter Camp Pendleton Marine Corp. base. Head down the hill and go left at the fork. Park under the OCEANSIDE sign