With this week bringing the first 90-degree day of the year, summer has finally arrived in Seattle. The continued spread of the novel coronavirus means that recreation options are much more limited this summer, and since our city is surrounded by water, it might be tempting to just find a swimming hole to cool off. But it’s important to remember that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, so please be careful as you evaluate your options.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that the coronavirus can spread through recreational water. However, even as you gear up for an afternoon on the water, you should still practice social distancing, avoid crowds (drive elsewhere or keep walking down the beach if your first-choice water access point looks too crowded), and wear masks whenever possible.

Also, many beaches or watercraft rental places may be closed or have limited hours due to COVID-19, so it’s always a good idea to check websites or call before you go.

Here are some options to enjoy the water in Seattle regardless of your budget. 

Low cost ($0-$20)

Swimming and tubing

There are several swimming beaches in the Seattle area, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, many do not have lifeguards this summer, and most remain closed. Public Health — Seattle & King County strongly recommends that people should not swim at closed beaches. Keep both coronavirus and water safety best practices in mind. This means wearing a mask when you’re not in the water, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others on land and in the water, and wearing a properly-fitted life vest if you’re planning to swim in open water.

“Gathering at crowded beaches is not a good scenario,” said Dr. Daniel Pastula, a neuro-infectious disease expert with the University of Colorado Hospital, in a recent interview with the UC Health website. “When you’re close to someone who is mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic, you could inhale droplets and become infected.”

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Jamel Adams cools down with 9-month-old son Jamarri during a Sunday that hit the mid-80s at Seattle’s Lake Union Park, July 26, 2020. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Jamel Adams cools down with 9-month-old son Jamarri during a Sunday that hit the mid-80s at Seattle’s Lake Union Park, July 26, 2020. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Due to the coronavirus, only five lifeguard-watched swimming areas in Seattle were earmarked to open this summer: Matthews Beach Park, West Green Lake Beach, Pritchard Island Beach, Mount Baker Park Beach and Madison Park Beach. But they remain closed currently as the county tries to curb the spread of the virus.

In Bellevue, however, Enatai and Chism beach parks are open and staffed with lifeguards.

Don’t want to swim? If you have an inflatable device to keep you — and your cooler — afloat, that’s an economical way to cool off in the water. A tubular floating device will run you anywhere from $10 to a couple of hundred dollars depending on the size and fanciness of your pool toy of choice. Alternatively, buy two inexpensive pool noodles, slide one under your shoulders and the other under your knees, and you’ll be floating lazily in no time. Just remember to keep your distance from others!

Renting wooden boats

The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle is offering free one-hour rowboat rentals. (Sandy Lam / The Center for Wooden Boats)
The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle is offering free one-hour rowboat rentals. (Sandy Lam / The Center for Wooden Boats)

After being closed for much of the summer season, The Center For Wooden Boats (CWB) has reopened their South Lake Union and Cama Beach campuses for boat rentals. Their Public Peapod Program offers free one-hour rowboat rentals for groups of five or less. While most of the boats that CWB rents out require you to learn on the boat, their rowboats are beginner-friendly, said CWB in a news release earlier this month.  

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Midrange cost ($21-$100)

Given Seattle’s lake scene, small boat rental companies are everywhere, offering an assortment of things you can paddle. During the coronavirus pandemic, many companies are taking extra measures to make sure their devices are sanitized between uses. 

Paddleboards, kayaks and small boats

Paddleboarding is a “low risk situation,” Pastula said in the UC Health interview.

Especially for people who have their own boards, Pastula likened paddleboarding to going on a walk in a remote area by yourself.

But it’s always a good idea to try and keep your distance from others, even when you’re on the water. If you don’t have your own board, you have to be a bit more cautious.

Paddleboards are available to rent by most bodies of water. While some rental companies have completely ceased operations due to coronavirus, the ones that remain open have implemented new safety measures that allow families to still get out on the water for around $18-$25 per hour.

Oh, and don’t forget to always wear a life vest!

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Prices for paddleboards and kayaks hover around $20 an hour. Moss Bay, a boat rental company off Lake Washington, requires all rental agreements to be conducted over the phone and that boats (which only allow for a maximum capacity of four) leave within at least 15 minutes of each other. 

Kayakers meander along the Sammamish River near Bothell Landing Park on Tuesday afternoon. The river connects Lake Sammamish with Lake Washington and passes through Redmond, Woodinville, Bothell and Kenmore and is about 14 miles long. 

Photographed on July 28, 2020. 

 (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
Kayakers meander along the Sammamish River near Bothell Landing Park on Tuesday afternoon. The river connects Lake Sammamish with Lake Washington and passes through Redmond, Woodinville, Bothell and Kenmore and is about 14 miles long. Photographed on July 28, 2020. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Off Portage Bay, Agua Verde Paddle Club has never required online reservations for their kayak and paddleboard rentals — until this year. Now, they require visitors to join a virtual line to allow themselves time to implement a whole host of safety and sanitary precautions. 

The University of Washington’s Waterfront Activities Center located on Union Bay also offers double kayak and canoe rentals. UW students receive a discount with their student ID. They are not accepting walk-up rentals or allowing for same-day reservations. Masks also must be worn at all times.

Fly-fishing

Emerald Water Anglers, a fly-fishing shop in West Seattle, offers guided trips and classes for beginners and experienced anglers alike. Class registration comes with gear for the day, so you don’t have to invest in equipment to start learning how to fish. Fly-fishing is a naturally socially distanced sport, as the 9-foot reel requires several feet of distance between fishers. Emerald Water has also been taking additional precautions — everyone must wear masks on their trip and no transportation is provided to the different fishing sites. Prices range from $25 for a one-hour, small group casting lesson, up to $550 for a full-day excursion. 

High cost (over $100)

Rent a donut boat 

“Donut boats,” circular water crafts that require no boating experience, are available for rent on Lake Union. Seattle Donut Boat has reduced the number of passengers from eight to five and now requires a “no touch” online check-in. Just come with your own snacks and you’re ready to go. Two-hour boat rentals are $198 and their one-hour sunset cruise is $125. 

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The Lake Union-based Electric Boat Company offers six-person donut boats starting at $170 for two hours.

Definitely not ocean-going seaworthy, this electric Donut Boat cruises at 4 mph and is a rental, making its way slowly across Lake Union on a Friday in July. It can seat six with a dining table in the middle and was rented from The Electric Boat Company’s Seattle outpost. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Definitely not ocean-going seaworthy, this electric Donut Boat cruises at 4 mph and is a rental, making its way slowly across Lake Union on a Friday in July. It can seat six with a dining table in the middle and was rented from The Electric Boat Company’s Seattle outpost. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

Boat rentals and yacht charters

Motorized boats are available to rent for half or full days — cost is dependent on the type of boat and whether you choose to ride with a captain, but it generally ranges from $200-$600 for a half-day. Boatsetter, a national boat chartering company with dozens of boats available in Seattle, has limited the number of passengers per boat to 10. Captains are still available on request, and individual boat owners (who charter their boats through Boatsetter) are responsible for the cleanliness of their boats. The Electric Boat Company has electric boats starting at $250 for their standard boats, and $350 for their luxury models. The Center for Wooden Boats is also offering small group cruises around Lake Union — cruises cost $250 (member price) or $300 (nonmember price). 

Personal watercraft rentals 

Several companies in the Greater Seattle area offer personal watercraft rentals (Jet Ski, Sea-Doo, etc.) starting at around $500 for a full day. Because of coronavirus, Seattle Jet Ski Rentals, located in Kenmore, is not offering launches, so personal watercraft must be trailered by customers. Generally, the prices for the rentals do not include the cost of gas. Riders must be at least 21 and have a valid driver’s license to rent personal watercraft.