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6 Great Bay Area Team Building Activities

Last Updated on April 25, 2024 by Jess Grigsby

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corporate retreat san francisco bay area

Are you looking for a way to bring your team together? If so, a company retreat could be a great option. 

Company retreats offer creative opportunities for team members to come together, bond, and have fun outside of the office – often in an exciting or out-of-the-box environment. 

In this blog, we’ll outline a few of our favorite company retreats and team-building activities in the Bay Area so you can choose the one that’s right for your team.

Why Choose the Bay Area for Your Corporate Retreat?

team building activity santa cruz monterey california
Image: Grey3k via Wikipedia / CC by SA 3.0

Company retreats can take place pretty much anywhere.

Some Bay Area companies host them at big, fancy resorts while others head out for fun day trips and activities.

No matter what you’re considering for your team, the Bay Area and the Central Coast are the perfect locations.

Here are just a few of the reasons the Central Coast in particular is such an excellent spot for team-building activities:

  • Beautiful scenery. A good company retreat doubles as an out-of-office reset for people. Fortunately, the Central Coast offers lots of nature and beautiful scenery that will allow your team members to relax, unwind, and come back to work recharged.
  • Opportunities to bond. The purpose of a company retreat is to promote bonding and strengthen working alliances between your team members, and there are lots of ways to do that. Many companies take employees on fun, team-building activities or adventures (like kayaking) to encourage communication, trust, and teamwork. The Central Coast offers dozens of these opportunities to bond and will help your team become stronger and more in sync than ever. 
  • Space for even large groups. The Central Coast is an expansive area with plenty of activities perfect for large groups. Bring your entire team and enjoy a fun-filled company retreat in this beautiful area. 

The Best Team Building Activities in the San Francisco Bay Area

Here are a few unforgettable team-building activities we recommend:

Outdoor Activities

1. Kayaking at Elkhorn Slough

team building activity kayaking monterey

The ingredients for a great corporate retreat are excitement, beauty, and fun. Fortunately, kayaking at Elkhorn Slough offers all three! 

At Kayak Connection, we love offering beginner-friendly guided team-building kayak tours, and Elkhorn Slough is one of our most popular destinations. 

Because Elkhorn Slough is a sheltered location set off from the open ocean, it’s an excellent spot for large groups with variable experience and comfort levels.

The area is also home to tons of local wildlife, including otters, seals, sea lions, nudibranchs, birds, bay rays, leopard sharks, and more.

In fact, Elkhorn Slough has the highest concentration of southern sea otters in the world! 

In addition to being beautiful and relaxing, Elkhorn Slough also offers ample opportunities for teamwork and team-building exercises. 

For example, paddling a double kayak requires strong communication and teamwork skills and helps build friendship, respect, and confidence. 

Finally, the simplicity of kayaking makes it a perfectly accessible activity for all teams. 

Our expert guides will cater to each member of your group and provide safety instruction, gear fitting, and education and history information about the Elkhorn Slough area in a fun, casual setting.

Why we love it:

Kayaking has something to offer everyone. It’s an experience your team members will enjoy and remember for years. It’s also a great way to challenge your team and create friendly competition. 

Our guides are excellent at leading team-building games and kayak challenges, and the protected waters of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary offer close-up views of wildlife in their natural habitat. 

As if that weren’t enough, there’s also a large picnic area and catering available, so you can feed all your hungry kayakers after the adventure is done!

These tours can accommodate up to 180 people with rates starting at $65 per person.

Book your group kayaking tour in Elkhorn Slough today!

2. Kayaking at Santa Cruz

santa cruz kayaking team building

Are you looking for an even more adventurous kayaking experience? Santa Cruz, California, is the perfect destination. 

Compared to Elkhorn Slough, Santa Cruz offers more challenging ocean kayaking conditions. 

Still, it’s a very accessible tour that’s an excellent option for smaller groups who want a more adventurous paddling experience on the open ocean. 

Like Elkhorn Slough, kayaking in Santa Cruz offers the opportunity to see lots of wildlife, including seals, sea lions, otters, porpoises, dolphins, whales, and more! 

Why we love it:

Kayaking at Santa Cruz is an experience that will challenge and unite your team. With the guidance of our expert kayak instructors, your group can paddle safely through the waters off the coast of Santa Cruz while employing skills like communication, perseverance, and teamwork. 

Additionally, the Santa Cruz area is just plain beautiful, and this tour is the perfect way to help your team members unplug, come together, and reconnect with the natural environment.

These tours can accommodate up to 20 people, with rates starting at $85 per person.

Book your group kayaking tour in Santa Cruz today!

3. Hiking at Wilder Ranch

wilder ranch team building
Image: P Logan via Flickr / CC by SA 2.0

Are you looking for the most fun hikes for team building near Santa Cruz? Look no further than Wilder Ranch. 

Situated along the beautiful Santa Cruz coastline, Wilder Ranch State Park offers more than 7,000 acres with a little something for everyone.

Hike to the top of Ben Lomond Mountain or explore the nature preserve or seashore. 

With more than 35 miles of trails throughout the park, there’s something for hikers of all ages and abilities. 

Why we love it:

Wilder Ranch is beautiful and exciting, and it’s an excellent spot for a “choose your own adventure” outing. 

Avid hikers can choose more strenuous trails, while those who prefer a more accessible outing can enjoy a scenic walk along the seashore or a tour of the Park’s several historic buildings. 

Indoor Activities

4. Pottery Classes

Image: Tony Alter via Flickr / CC by SA 2.0

Pottery classes at a place like Clay By the Bay are a great way to spend some time together and learn something new in the process.

Clay By the Bay’s pottery classes, which range from basic to advanced, are ideal for people of all ages, abilities, and skill levels.

What better way to have some fun together and take home a fun souvenir at the end of the experience?

Why we love it:

Pottery classes offer a unique blend of creativity, collaboration, and relaxation. Plus, they’re an engaging experience that allows team members to step away from the conventional office environment and explore their artistic sides in a supportive, stress-free setting. 

Working with clay provides a tactile, hands-on activity that can help encourage mindfulness and reduce stress while also allowing every single one of your team members to focus on the present moment and the creation process. 

Last but not least, pottery classes foster a collaborative atmosphere that can promote communication and cooperation among team members as they share techniques, ideas, and encouragement. 

5. A Team Paint Night

Image: Cydcor via Flickr / CC by SA 2.0

Instead of planning yet another happy hour get-together, take your team to enjoy a PaintNite experience. 

PaintNite is a complete party planning platform that pairs you with an event planner to host a fun paint-and-sip event at a location of your choosing.

Want to explore options other than painting? PaintNite also offers mosaic classes, terrarium and Zen garden workshops, candle-making classes, resin art courses, and more.

Participants are invited to enjoy some cocktails and light snacks and

let their creative juices flow. 

Why we love it:

Paint-and-sip events are a great way to foster a relaxed and fun environment where team members can get creative outside their typical work settings.

The combination of painting and tasty beverages creates a fun, relaxed, unique atmosphere that’s rich in opportunities for teamwork and new connections.

Plus, participants don’t need to have any prior painting experience, and perfection is not an expectation, which makes this activity inclusive and accessible. 

Through working together on a creative project, team members can discover new facets of their colleagues’ personalities and talents, leading to increased mutual respect and improved collaboration back in the workplace.

6. Escape Rooms

Image: David Hofmann via Flickr / CC by SA 2.0

An escape room is a themed game in which players are locked in a room and must use elements of the room to solve puzzles, find clues, and complete objectives. Do it successfully and you’ll escape within the set time limit.

The themes can range from detective stories to historical or futuristic settings, and each escape room provides an immersive experience that promotes teamwork.

If you’re in the Bay Area, The Escape Game is a great place to plan 

Why we love it:

Escape rooms aren’t just the latest fad for fun outings; they’re also one of the best team-building exercises out there. 

Picture this: your team, locked in a room, racing against the clock to crack codes, solve puzzles, and work through clues to escape before time runs out. 

It’s not just about the thrill of the game; it’s what the pressure cooker environment does to your team dynamics. 

You’ll see leadership skills emerging from the least expected places, communication ramping up as every second ticks by, and collaboration happening at its finest because, well, you’re all in it together. 

Nothing builds camaraderie like joint victory—or a promise to beat the game next time if things don’t go as planned.

How to Plan the Perfect Company Retreat Your Team Will Love 

Ready to plan an unforgettable company retreat on the Central Coast? Here are our top team outing ideas:

1. Set a goal

What’s the primary objective of your company retreat?

Do you want to build connections between remote team members?

Provide a fun, memorable break from the office? Build communication?

No matter your goal, make sure you’re designing a retreat that supports it – especially if you’re researching team offsite ideas in the Bay Area. 

2. Poll your team

As you plan the event, be sure to ask for input regarding team outing ideas.

Solicit their opinions about everything from what to do to where to go and which offsite team-building activities in the Bay Area are interesting to them.

To make this as easy as possible, build a convenient survey or some other easy method for people to communicate their accessibility, location, food preferences, and other requests.

As you gain input, be sure you’re constructing an accessible, welcoming, and enjoyable retreat for everyone.

3. Offer options

Speaking of accessibility, one of the best ways to ensure an accessible retreat is to offer options for different Santa Cruz team-building activities.

If you want to go kayaking, for example, consider offering team members a choice of Santa Cruz (suited for more adventurous kayakers) OR Elkhorn Slough (better for timid or novice kayakers).

Options ensure you’re providing something for everyone and help make the retreat as enjoyable as possible. 

4. Provide plenty of notice

To give your retreat the greatest chance of success, you want as many of your team members to be there as possible.

To facilitate this, ensure you’re giving everyone plenty of notice to plan. Remember – your team must factor in variables like childcare, vacation time, and family arrangements.

As such, we recommend a minimum notice of at least three months.

As your team plans to attend the retreat, make yourself available to discuss lodging, travel, and other important considerations. 

5. Control the controllables

You want your company retreat to be easy and enjoyable for your team members.

This means you should handle as many variables as you can for people who plan to attend – especially if the retreat is out of town.

Be sure you’ve booked lodging at the retreat venue, transportation to and from the retreat area, catering, and any team-building activities you want to participate in. 

6. Choose the right time

Timing is everything when it comes to a company retreat – especially if you’re planning one that revolves around outdoor activities.

Make sure you’re not planning your retreat during a time when it’s inconvenient for your team (near the holiday season, for example), and always ask your guide/tour company about the best time to participate in each activity.

For example, if you’re planning to go kayaking in Santa Cruz or Elkhorn Slough, we recommend scheduling your team-building activity for the late spring or summer months. 

7. Offer downtime

Don’t schedule your team to the max.

Remember – company retreats are supposed to be relaxing and engaging.

While it’s important to plan some fun activities, you should also create plenty of time for your team to explore on their own, rest, or just spend time together.

Your Best Company Retreat is Just Around the Corner

When it comes to planning a fun, engaging company retreat, California’s Central Coast is a great place to do it, and Kayak Connection is a great team to do it with. 

We love providing guided team-building kayak trips and will work with you to plan an accessible, fun, unforgettable Santa Cruz corporate retreat or Monterey corporate retreat for every member of your team.

Ready to learn more about our team-building activities or start planning your trip? Contact us now!

Author: Jess Grigsby

Since 2012, Jess has co-owned and operated Kayak Connection together with her husband Dave. She is a lawyer, coach, avid kayak enthusiast and mother of two teenage girls. At Kayak Connection, Jess oversees a team of experienced kayak guides who are all CPR certified, with many holding advanced Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certifications. Our team is composed of environmental educators, naturalists and classroom teachers with experience working with all kinds of visitors, from school groups to large corporate teams.