Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Do I need to make a reservation?

Rentals - No, just walk in anytime! We have a large fleet of rental kayaks at both our locations. Our one-time flat rates gives you the convenience of arriving anytime and paddling for as long as you like. Of course, rentals are subject to weather conditions. It is very rare that we are sold out, even on holidays, so should you ever have to wait a for a kayak, we will give you a discount!

If you have a group of 12 or more people and prepay on 1 credit card, we can give you a 10% discount.

Tours and Classes - Yes, spaces are limited because of our high guide-to-customer ratio.

Driveaway rentals - Yes, along with a $500 damage deposit authorization on your credit card.

Kirby Park Shuttle - Yes, we will only schedule a shuttle only if there are reservations.

What is the reservation and cancellation policy?

Reservations are secured with full payment in advance. Full refunds are given for cancellations or changes made up to 48 hours before your event or if we cancel for safety or severe weather reasons. There are no refunds for late arrivals or no shows. We have held your space and keep our classes small to ensure the best experience possible so please do not ask us to make exceptions.

We do not cancel for overcast or light rain days as long as water conditions are calm. These are some of the best paddling conditions, and wildlife is still abundant! Heavy fog may postpone a tour. Strong winds are the main reason we would cancel a tour.

What about the weather?

Strong winds are the main reason we would limit or cancel a rental, tour or class. Light rain, or overcast days, as long as the winds are mild, are great for wildlife viewing and will not cancel your program. Dense fog is rare and temporary, but it may postpone rentals and tours until it lifts. Check the weather online or call us for the latest local conditions.

What about children and minors?

For rentals — Children 5 to 12 years old must be in a double kayak with an adult. We require 1 adult for each child under 12. Youths 13 years and up can be in a single or double with other children 13 years old and up. There must be at least 1 adult in every group.

Youths must be 13 years old for sit inside kayaks and stand up paddle board rentals.

For guided tours — Children must be 3 and there must be at least one adult with any children under 12. Youth over 13 may join without adults as long as their waiver is signed by their parent/guardian.

For classes - we recommend kids are at least 12 years old for classes as we use single kayaks, but do make exceptions for Intro to Kayaking classes if the child is strong and tall enough to handle a single kayak.

You can request a private tour or class if your child/family does not meet these requirements.

What is the maximum weight capacity for your kayaks?

  • Standard sit on top single - 250 pounds.
  • Standard sit on top double - 475 pounds total.

We have a wide variety of kayaks so this is an average. There might be higher or lower limits depending on the program or model you choose, especially for sit inside touring kayaks.

What is the minimum fitness level required?

For our easiest tours we recommend a good sense of balance and ability to hike 1.5 miles.

For rentals - a good sense of balance, ability to hike 1.5 miles and be able to swim (especially the Monterey ocean location).

Which location is better, the Elkhorn Slough location or Monterey?

Both are wonderful, beautiful and unique eco-systems to explore by kayak for everyone. Get more information on the Monterey Experience and the Elkhorn Slough Experience. Eventually, you must paddle both locations for the full experience of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary!

When is the best time of day/year to go kayaking?

When there is little wind! Strong winds make paddling more difficult and is the main reason we cancel for safety reasons even on sunny, warm days. Overcast skies or light rain can be a calm time for paddling and great for wildlife viewing.

Generally, morning or late afternoon is the least windy time of day, but there are some seasonal variations. Check our Monterey and Elkhorn Slough page for more details for each location.

What do I wear/need to bring?

It depends on whether you are going out on a easy 2 hour guided tour or taking an intensive all day surfing class! Check your confirmation letter when you make your reservation for specific recommendations.

Basics: wear bathing suits and quick drying top and bottom layers, a windbreaker, and shoes you can get wet or muddy. Then once you arrive, you can decide what to wear from our selection of protective clothing. Also bring a change of clothing and towel (to leave in the car) in case you decide to wear your own clothing while kayaking. We mandate the use of wetsuits on certain colder days or for some activities where you will definitely get wet.

It is advisable to have hats, sunscreen, and eyewear retainers especially for prescription glasses. Try to take as little as possible on the water but if you want to bring your phone or camera, consider purchasing a new waterproof bag. We do not rent waterproof bags (rental equipment is not as secure as your personal bag). We have many inexpensive, useful items in our stores.

We suggest taking as little as possible on the water, leaving your towels, spare clothes, and any valuables in your car. You can also leave your car keys with us while you are on the water.

MBK does not include footwear, however we do sell a wide selection of water shoes, booties, and sandals in our retail store. Warm sox and/or booties are recommended for classes or longer day trips.

Do you have lockers to stow my gear while I'm on the water?

MBK suggests that you lock your belongings in your vehicle and leave your car keys with us. To accommodate customers on bike or foot we have limited space for belongings in our staff room.

What is the parking situation?

Monterey - A city-owned public beach parking lot in front of our store is $1.50 per hour. The pay machine takes credit cards and cash (usually). There are two 24-minute free spaces if you are just making purchases at the store. All waterfront parking lots charge fees but you may find free spaces a few blocks away from the waterfront.

Elkhorn Slough/Moss Landing - North Harbor is a large paved parking lot with fees of $6 for half day (cash only). They also charge for launching privately owned boats/kayaks.

Will I get wet? Do I have to wear a wetsuit?

One of the wonderful things about kayaking is that it's a water sport! This means that you could get a little wet, ranging from just your little toe to a much larger percentage of your body.

If you are renting in Monterey, we recommend the wetsuits (included) and do not provide paddling pants (if you go for a swim, they can fill with water). However, they are available for people on guided tours.

At our Elkhorn Slough location, wetsuits are not used as often because the water is not as cold as the ocean, and we offer paddling jackets and pants as well as the option of wearing your own quick drying clothing.

Keep in mind that most people get cold from being splashed with the wind chill factor and not because they are IN the water.

Safety Info

What are the most important things I need to be aware of to be safe while kayaking?

We cover items in our rental and tour orientations in more detail.

  1. Choose the best tour or class for your experience level
  2. Choose the right kayak for your skill level when renting
  3. Always wear a well fitting life vest and keep it zipped up
  4. Always be aware of the wind and its direction. Strong winds can increase quickly and make paddling very difficult at both locations. Coastal weather can change quickly.
  5. Hypothermia - the effects of cold water can be debilitating. The Pacific Ocean on the Central Coast is approx 54°F year round. Even if you are not completely wet, getting splashed with wind chill can make you very cold.
  6. Power boats and sailboats, especially around the harbor entrances. They are larger, less maneuverable, and they may not see you. Give them the right of way and avoid paddling or stopping in a boating channel (between the green, and red buoys in any harbor).
  7. Waves or surf - don't paddle too close to a rocky shoreline and always be careful when launching and landing. Beginners can tip over even in small waves and this increases your chances of hitting other people or even being knocked over by your own boat. At Elkhorn Slough, opposing tides and winds can combine to make choppy standing waves. Turn your bow into waves and avoid getting sideways to a wave.

Marine Wildlife and Fishing

Read our important info page before paddling.

Will I see sea otters this time of year?

Yes! Luckily the Monterey Bay and Elkhorn Slough is home to a large resident sea otter population and they can be seen here year round. Other marine mammals that live here year round include harbor seals and sea lions.

Where and when will I see more otters, Monterey or Elkhorn Slough?

While you see many sea otters in both locations, they are easier to view on Elkhorn Slough because they tend to stay in a smaller area.

How close can I get to a sea otter?

Although they are irresistably cute and it may be tempting to approach them for a closer look, it can be stressful for them, and it is illegal to disturb resting or sleeping marine mammals as well. Read our important Marine Wildlife info. Remember that its more fun and rewarding to watch wildlife engaging in their natural behavior from a distance, rather than watching them get scared and swim away from you!

Are there sharks out there? Dolphins? Whales?

The ocean and slough are home to sharks of all kinds. However, there are very few capable of, or interested in attacking humans and they are rarely seen in the areas you will be paddling.

Fun tip: Elkhorn Slough is a shark nursery! (For leopard sharks and smoothhounds who are small and feed on plants, crustaceans and invertebrates!)

In Monterey, dolphins can be seen occasionally, while whale sighting by kayakers are rare because they tend to stay further out in the bay.

Where can I fish?

You must have a fishing license that will give you specific dates and areas that are open to fishing.

Elkhorn Slough Marine Protected Areas (PDF)

Monterey Peninsula Marine Protected Areas (PDF)

Can I rent a kayak to fish?

Yes, you can do a Drive away rental, even if you launch from Monterey Beach because you may go beyond our rental area.

Should I take a class, tour or rental? I have more rental questions!

What's the difference between a Guided tour, class, and rental?

Although rentals cost less, we do recommend starting your first experience with a guided tour. Even if you have paddled before, your experience can be enriched with information about the area and wildlife, and you always learn more about kayaking. Our guides also provide a safety factor (they are fully trained in kayaking instruction, group beach launching and landing, water rescues, First Aid/CPR, group management, emergency procedures, and carry cell phones or marine radios, first aid kits, tow ropes, and other rescue gear).

With a rental, you are responsible for your kayak, gear, launching and landing, and getting back. We will equip you with the boat and gear, and do a beach orientation that goes over weather, water conditions, forecasts, and the local guidelines on where to paddle. If you are beginners renting sit-on-top kayaks, we will teach paddling skills and how to re-enter if you capsize. You can launch whenever you are ready and paddle as much as you like. When you return, please notify a staff person and wash up your gear.

Classes are designed to focus on developing skills for paddling on your own. We use singles (sit-on-top or sit-inside kayaks) and practice balance, strokes, rescues etc. We have classes for all levels, from beginner through to advanced, as well as private instruction with ACA trained instructors. Classes are highly recommended if you are considering purchasing kayaks or planning an extended trip.

What's the difference between single and double kayaks?

Because they are wider, doubles are generally more stable. They also tend to be faster with 2 people working together (and we will teach you how to do this easily!)

We prefer to use doubles on our guided tours because it is easier to talk to one another and stay together as a group.

Singles can be tippier (some more than others) and not as fast as doubles.

You don't have to have any previous kayaking experience to rent a sit on top kayak, though everyone should be a good swimmer. If you are not a good swimmer we suggest going on a guided tour where you will be well taken care of by our trained and personable staff.

Kids must be at least 5 years old. Kids 5 to 12 must be with an adult in a double kayak. Kids 13 years old and up may paddle in single kayaks as long as there is an adult (over 18 years) in the group.

What is a SUP, and who can rent a stand up paddleboard?

Stand up paddleboards are like very wide, long surfboards but designed to be stable and paddled standing up with a longer one bladed paddle. Compared to kayaks, they do require more balance and water skills, but offer an excellent, intensive full body workout. We offer classes, guided tours, and rentals at both locations for adults and kids 13 and up.

Do you charge an hourly rental rate for kayaks?

No, we charge one low, flat rate for gear, instruction, and a fun experience without a time limit! This allows you to paddle at your own pace without worrying about a start or return time. All specialty gear like protective clothing, lifejackets, well equipped boats, and quality paddles are always included in the price for your convenience.

We do offer a great deal for those wanting to paddle more regularly. Check out our Frequent Paddler packages with unlimited rentals at both locations for an entire month!

Do I have to go through the rental class each time I rent?

No. If you already know how to paddle, control and re-enter your boat, you can ask for the "express" which is just to inform you of the latest weather forecast and local area information.

Can I kayak beyond your rental areas?

Yes, you may do a drive away rental, even if launching by our shops. Please be aware water conditions can be rougher outside our paddling area and we may not be able to rescue you.

Can I stop and get out for lunch or to use the bathroom when paddling at Elkhorn Slough/ Moss Landing location?

Elkhorn Slough is a Reserve and paddlers may only land and get out of their kayaks at the public access beach in the North Harbor and at Kirby Park which is 4.5 miles into the Elkhorn Slough. Please do not get out of your kayaks anywhere other than Kirby and the North Harbor because banks of the Slough are part of a fragile ecosystem and composed of dense mud. Restrooms are located in our retail shop, in the North Harbor parking lot and at Kirby Park (4.5-mile paddle from the shop).

Can I stop and get out for lunch or to use the bathroom when paddling at the Monterey location?

Yes, there are public restrooms in the harbor and San Carlos Beach, but they are not really convenient. Keep in mind that you shouldn't leave your kayaks unattended on the beach (tides can come up) or landing ramps (busy areas). Landing at San Carlos Beach will be subject to weather.

Buying a Kayak

How do I choose a kayak to purchase?

Our knowledgeable retail staff are available to help you select a kayak that is best suited for your needs. We carry a wide variety of kayaks at both of our locations for you to demo (taking 3 models to test paddle in front of our store) or rent a specific model for a longer paddle. We will even credit the cost of your demo or rental toward the purchase of your new kayak.

You will also receive 10% off all your other purchases AND a free class, tour, or 1 hour of private instruction with each new boat purchase because we want you to have the very best experiences with your new kayak!

For those looking for the best kayak for them, one of the best deals we offer is the Frequent Paddler Package.

Don't see your question? Call us! 800-649-5357