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Home | Family Kayak Adventures in Marin and Northern California

Family Kayak Adventures in Marin and Northern California

One of the activities we love to do is kayaking. It's a fantastic way to experience nature and peacefully explore local waterways. What we love most about it is that it's an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages! Tandem kayaks often have a third seat for a small child, and kids can easily pick up the skills needed to paddle their craft through the water. It's fun and great exercise, and it's a fantastic way to relax and connect with nature.

For beginners, all these kayak rental outfits offer the sit-on-top style ocean kayaks, which are stable, lightweight, and easy to paddle. The only drawback is that you can get a little wet while you're paddling, but then that's part of the fun. We've kayaked on lakes, bays, and rivers, and each type of location offers a different experience.

Here's our list of businesses that offer kayak rentals in Marin and the Bay Area; we included Monterey Bay and Lake Tahoe, too, since they're vacation hot spots where kayaking is a popular and fun activity. Most of these outfits offer guided tours, but renting a kayak and heading out on your own is surprisingly easy. Rentals usually include basic kayaking lessons and safety gear like life vests.

The majority of these are on-water, so you can rent your boats and get paddling right away. Off-water shops are always more than happy to help you load up your kayaks en route to your launching area.

Here are some tips for beginning kayakers:

  • Wear hats and use sunscreen, since you'll be out in the open for much of the time.
  • You're going to get wet, so avoid cotton clothing and opt for quick-drying clothing like workout shirts and board shorts.
  • Try to go in the morning when winds are calm. It will be an easier and more fun experience for all.
  • Make sure you get a dry bag to stow your valuables and anything that you don't want to get wet.

Johnson's Beach Gueneville kayaks

Marin County Kayaking

The calm waters of Tomales Bay in West Marin, where you can paddle to spots like Heart's Desite Beach, and Richardson Bay in Sausalito are perfect for kayak adventures. Another favorite spot for kayakers are the waters in San Pablo Bay off China Camp State Park in San Rafael.

Blue Waters Kayaking

Inverness and Marshall
(415) 669-2600

Blue Waters Kayaking offers rentals in both Inverness and Marshall so you can explore Tomales Bay.

Point Reyes Outdoors

Point Reyes Station
(415) 663-8192

Point Reyes Outdoors offers kayaking tours and camping trips in Drake's Estero, Tomales Bay, and other West Marin locations. They also offer rental kayaks which can be picked up at Greenbridge Gas Station in Point Reyes Station.

Sea Trek

(415) 332-8494

Paddle Richardson Bay and the Sausalito waterfront! Sea Trek's rental shop is located near the Bay Model in Sausalito.

Outback Adventures

San Rafael
(415) 461-2222

Outback Adventures offers on-water kayak rentals near China Camp State Park, at Buck's Launching in San Rafael (off Point San Pedro Road). Explore the gentle waters of San Pablo Bay and put in at China Camp Beach for a picnic!

101 Surf Sports

San Rafael
(415) 524-8492

101 Surf Sports offers on-water rentals at their location on Third Street in San Rafael, on the San Rafael Canal.

Sonoma County Kayaking

The Petaluma River and the Russian River in western Sonoma County are popular places for kayak excursions, as are the county's lakes.

Clavey Paddlesports

(707) 766-8070

Clavey Paddlesports in downtown Petaluma is located just two blocks from the Petaluma River. They rent single and tandem kayaks as well as stand-up paddleboards and rafts and offer kayaking classes.

Petaluma Stand Up Paddle

(707) 658-2423

Petaluma Stand Up Paddle offers kayak and SUP rentals as well as tours out of the Petaluma Marina. Check out their special guided and unguided family trips.

Johnson’s Beach

(707) 869-2022

This old-school getaway on the Russian River in downtown Guerneville offers kayak rentals right on the beach. Read more about Johnson's Beach.


Jenner and Guerneville
(707) 865-2249

Howarth Park

Santa Rosa
(707) 543-3753
Sprawling Howarth Park in Santa Rosa is home to Lake Ralphine, where you can rent kayaks for bargain prices. It's a great place to try out kayaking. Read about visiting Howarth Park.

Spring Lake Regional Park

Santa Rosa
(707) 539-8092
This small lake in Santa Rosa is another perfect place for beginning kayakers who want to take it easy. Rent kayaks at the Lakeside Grill near the Violetti Road entrance. Read about visiting Spring Lake Regional Park.

River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips


(707) 433-7247

Blue Waters Kayaking — Lake Sonoma

(415) 669-2600

Point Reyes-based Blue Waters Kayaking also offers kayak rentals at Lake Sonoma and Yorty Creek Recreation Area near Geyserville and Healdsburg.

Lake Sonoma Marina

(707) 433-2200

San Francisco Kayaking

City Kayak

San Francisco
(415) 294-1050
City Kayak rents kayaks from their waterfront location at Pier 40 near AT&T Park.

Monterey Bay Kayaking

Monterey Bay, with its abundant marine life—including sea otters, seals, and whales—is a fantastic place for nature-loving kayakers. You can paddle from numerous locations, including Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Moss Landing. Kayaking is especially fun in Monterey, where you can explore Cannery Row, the kelp forest, Monterey Harbor, and Fisherman's Wharf.

Monterey Bay Kayak

Monterey and Moss Landing
(831) 373-5357
Monterey Bay Kayak offers kayak rentals and tours in Monterey and Elkhorn Slough Reserve in Moss Landing.

Adventures by the Sea

Monterey and Pacific Grove
(831) 372-1807

Adventures by the Sea offers kayak rentals at Cannery Row and Breakwater Cove in Monterey and at Lover's Point in nearby Pacific Grove.

Kayak Connection

Santa Cruz and Moss Landing
(831) 479-1121 (Santa Cruz)
(831) 724-5691 (Moss Landing)

Kayak Connection offers kayak rentals and tours in Santa Cruz Harbor and Elkhorn Slough Reserve in Moss Landing.

Venture Quest Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Wharf
(831) 427-2267

Capitola Boat & Bait

(831) 423-1739

Lake Tahoe Kayaking

Calm and crystal clear water makes Lake Tahoe a fantastic place to kayak. Most kayak rental outfits on the lake offer rentals from April or May through October only, with actual dates depending on the weather. Many top Tahoe destinations, like Emerald Bay, have kayak rentals on-site.

Kayak Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe
(530) 544-2011

Kayak Tahoe offers kayak rentals from South Lake Tahoe and Vikingsholm/Emerald Bay.

Tahoe City Kayak & Paddleboard

Tahoe City
(530) 581-4336

Tahoe Adventure Company

Tahoe City
(530) 913-9212

West Shore Sports

Tahoe City (Sunnyside), Homewood, and Tahoma
(530) 583-9920 (Sunnyside and Homewood)
(530) 525-9920 (Tahoma)

West Shore Sports offers kayak rentals in Tahoe City's Sunnyside area, Homewood, and Ed Z'berg Sugar Pine Point State Park in Tahoma.

Tahoe Paddle & Oar

Kings Beach
(530) 581-3029

2020 Marin Summer Camp Guide