Sea Kayak At Sunset On The Ionian Sea | Puglia Italy

Take a three-hour tour with Santa Caterina Sea Kayak

The world looks different floating inches above the waves and aquamarine water. And when in this lovely corner of Italy, you should consider taking a kayaking tour. We adored Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. But with August temperatures slightly steamier than where we lived in Scandinavia, being near the water – a plus. We booked a three-hour sunset tour with Santa Caterina Sea Kayak online and in advance. Never kayaked before? No worries, a quick technique, and safety lesson from our charming guide Marco Garbetta and our group eight was off, maneuvering the gently rocking waves up the coast.

This is sea kayaking on the Ionian and it was vastly different from slipping paddles into glacial fjords in Norway, which is the only other place I’ve ever been in a kayak. I grew up in a canoe. A heavy but stable silver Grumman canoe that my Dad would strap to the top of our Charlie Brown colored Jeep Wagoneer. Then off to the lake or a nearby river to fish and float for the afternoon. At summer camp, I earned a badge for paddling out to an island in a coastal lake and back to the dock. But knowing how to maneuver a canoe does not always a sea kayaker make.


With Marco’s positive and encouraging instruction – who had to frequently remind me not to switch my grip on this paddle – we made it safely from Santa Caterina harbor to Porto Selvaggio and back. Don’t know where I’m talking about? Take a look below at the map. This is the inside of Italy’s heel – a little pretty stretch along the Gulf of Taranto, a smaller part of the greater Ionian Sea.

Kayak Tour starts at Santa Caterina port | Guide Marco assists the kids into their boat

Making our way out of Santa Caterina harbor, we paddled down the rocky shore beneath the Alto tower standing tall on the clifftop. Carefully, one kayak at a time, we entered the Grotta Verde – a cave where holes above in the rocks let in the most amazing light. In here, the water glows a mystical green.

A slight challenge to steer your boat without hitting the rocks, but not so difficult my teens couldn’t do it. And Marco was guiding from inside the cave the entire time. Not always accessible in cases of high tides or rough water, check before you head out to manage expectations. We were so happy we could enter this beautiful grotto.

Torre dell’Alto, Salento Coast (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Inside the gorgeous Grotta Verde | Photo credit: Santa Caterina Sea Kayak

Continuing up the coast, we parked our boats for a bit to experience the Porto Selvaggio regional natural park. Here you can submerge and cool off in an underground cold spring. (Not actually that cold if you’re Scandi conditioned, but refreshing on a hot day down in southern Italy.) Or you can climb up atop the rocks for opportunities to jump off. Swim through to caves and wave to your peeps spying up top.

Porto Selvaggio is a huge natural area that you can visit without a boat as well. A pretty pebbly beach and the rocky cave croppings can be reached after a one-kilometer walk through the dense pine forest housing lots of local fauna. Popular with locals in summer, it was lovely for a short stop via kayak.

Plunge in the small cold springs at Porto Selvaggio Park | Photo credit: Santa Caterina Sea Kayak
Swimming at Porto Selvaggio | Photo credit: Santa Caterina Sea Kayak
Regional Natural Park Porto Selvaggio

Soon – as the afternoon turns towards sunset – you’ll climb aboard your vessel and paddle yourself back. This was my first time piloting a kayak by myself and I’ll admit – at the start – I had some fear and definitely some doubts. But these fairly new and yellow polyethylene kayaks were supremely stable. I quickly decided to relax and let the water roll and guide me. As Marco said when I expressed my anxiety after we finished – “Wasn’t it funny?” Si. Yes, Marco. It was. Cheers to tackling new things. What a day out.

Sunset at sea | Photo credit: Santa Caterina Sea Kayak

Santa Caterina Sea Kayak runs kayak tours out of four places in Puglia. We took the Porto Selvaggio tour of course, but you can paddle the waves beginning in Polignano a Mare or Torre dell’Orso on the eastern coast of Puglia. At the very tip, tours also begin from Santa Maria di Leuca. Check their website for more details and availability for your trip. The Porto Selvaggio tour lasted three hours and was around 6 kilometers of paddling in total. The website considers this tour – EASY. If my teens and I can do it – so can you.

You don’t need any experience, but must be in a semblance of physical fitness. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult with whom they will share a double kayak (subject to availability). Safety and operating lesson provided at the beginning by a 2nd level sea kayak instructor of the Italian Canoe and Kayak Federation. For our trip – this was Marco.

There are sealed storage spaces on your kayak, but never a guarantee everything will stay dry. Marco had a great little waterproof camera and took many fantastic shots of our crew which he generously shared after our tour.

  • Swimsuit
  • Dry fit or swim T-shirt (you will be getting wet)
  • Water shoes (not slides or flip-flops)
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses with a safety lanyard
  • Water bottle
  • Optional: dry bag or box for wallet, camera, and keys

Life jackets, sea kayaks, and paddles are provided. We finally found waterproof beach shoes at a local tourist shop – but if you’re planning ahead – pack your own in your carry-on bag.


Current prices for a three-hour tour to Porto Selvaggio run 45€ per person. Check the trips calendar online and conveniently book on WhatsApp. We appreciated the communication before and after our trip.

Santa Caterina Sea Kayak website

Photo credit: Santa Caterina Sea Kayak

One last note: this post was not sponsored, I can just highly recommend. Heading to Puglia soon? Book with Marco and crew for your trip. Still in planning stages? Save it for later. Or share it with someone to inspire them right now. Cheers from here. Puglia is amazing. Have you been?

Want to read more about sea kayaking adventures in Norway? Click on these two experiences below.


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