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The 7 Best Places To Kayak in Big Sur (& Where To Rent Them)

With Big Sur having some of the most beautiful rugged coastlines in the world, it’s no surprise people would want to find where they can kayak in the area. So, I did some research and talked to rental companies. Here’s what I found.

The most popular places to rent kayaks around Big Sur are Monterey Bay Kayaks and Adventures By the Sea. Renting kayaks generally costs $40-$85, depending on the shop. If you have your own kayak, the best places to launch it are Point Lobos State Reserve or Partington Cove. Watch for tides as they change quickly.

A couple kayaking

In this article:

  • Where to Rent Kayaks
  • Best Access Points
  • Can You Kayak To McWay Falls?

4 Kayak Rental Locations

Monterey Bay Kayaks$38-$489am-5pm Daily
Adventures By the Sea Cannery RowDepends on location9am-8pm Daily
Kayak Connection$50-$859am-5pm Daily
Venture Quest Santa Cruz$40-$709am-5pm Daily

1. Monterey Bay Kayaks

Open: 9am-5pm Daily

Reservations: Walk-in

Double Kayak: $38 per person/ 4 hours

Single Kayak: $48 per person/ 4 hours


There are two locations: Moss Landing and Monterey Bay.

Moss Landing

The Moss Landing location takes you to kayak at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve, which is a protected 7-mile-long estuary with sea otters, seals, and other wildlife.

More on this reserve later.

Monterey Bay

The Monterey location gives you the best of both worlds with wildlife viewing and the coastline of California.

“We paddle the shoreline from the Monterey Harbor, Fisherman’s Wharf, and historic Cannery Row areas. This is the best place to experience the famous Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, with its diverse wildlife and ecosystems. Typically, paddlers will see everything from sea otters, seals, sea lions, the occasional dolphin, shorebirds, and habitats like kelp forests.”

Monterey Bay Kayaks

Monterey Bay Kayaks also provide wetsuits, changing rooms, and lifejackets.

2. Adventures By The Sea Cannery Row

Open: 9am-8pm Daily

Reservations: Online or at (831) 372-1807


This kayak rental agency has many different options to take your kayak to including Cannery Row, Breakwater Cove, Lovers Point (Pacific Grove), and Stillwater Cove (Pebble Beach).

LocationDouble Kayak CostSingle Kayak Cost
Cannery Row$70$40
Breakwater Cove $70$40
Lovers Point (Pacific Grove)$60$30
Stillwater Cove (Tour Only)N/A$85

Cannery Row is known for tons of beautiful spots to explore. “Paddle through the kelp forest canopy along Cannery Row and experience the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Adventures By The Sea Cannery Row.”

Stillwater Cove is a great option if you are looking for something more adventurous. They offer kayak tours along the waters of Stillwater Cove inside Pebble Beach and along the edges of the world-famous golf links.

3. Kayak Connection

Open: 9am-5pm Daily

Reservations: Online

Double Kayak: $85 per person/ 4 hours

Single Kayak: $50 per person/ 4 hours


Kayak Connection rents kayaks in Santa Cruz and Elkhorn Slough.

The company also offers exceptional intermediate to advanced tours along the Central California coast, featuring locations such as Point Lobos and Davenport.

They also conduct exhilarating open ocean adventures in Santa Cruz.

4. Venture Quest Santa Cruz

Open: 9am-5pm Daily

Reservations: 831-427-2267

Double Kayak: $70 per person/ 3 hours

Single Kayak: $40 per person/ 3 hours


Rental kayaks from the Santa Cruz Wharf can easily access large kelp beds and cliffs where otters, seals, sea lions and many other marine animals live.

Your rental will get you a wetsuit and all kayak equipment. They even provide waterproof bags for your camera or other items.

4 Popular Access Points

If you happen to have your own kayak or would like to rent a kayak from a rental location and take it elsewhere, here are some of the best kayak access points in and around Big Sur.

1. Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos State Reserve Coastline

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve has often been called “The crown jewel of the California State Park System.” Who wouldn’t want to kayak at the crown jewel of California?

At the Point Lobos Reserve, kayaking allows visitors an intimate exploration of its rugged coastline, providing views of marine wildlife such as sea otters, seals, and an array of seabirds.

The clear turquoise waters and the contrast of the sea cliffs offer a remarkable kayaking experience.

The reserve charges $10 for entry with a kayak.

The area is open from 8 am to 7pm, with the latest entry time being 6:30.

2. Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve

Sea otter in the ocean

Home to more than 125 sea otters, Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve is a 7-mile long wetland channel that feeds into the Pacific Ocean. The reserve is open daily 9am-5pm.

As for where to launch your rented kayak at the reserve, the reserve’s website says:

“You can launch your kayak at the Moss Landing Harbor District Launch Ramp at the North Harbor, located on Hwy 1, north of Moss Landing (near the kayak shops) or Kirby Park along Elkhorn Road, north of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. Small watercraft can also launch in the Harbor of Moss Landing.”

3. Partington Cove

Partington Cove is a great option for adventure seekers. To get to the actual cove where you can launch your kayak, you go down the trail called Partington Cove Trail.

The hike down to the water is half a mile and you park on the side of Highway 1.

I have been on this trail myself and I would say it’s the most beautiful spot anyone could possibly kayak at.

Check out reviews and photos for Partington Cove Trail on AllTrails.

Experienced kayakers are known to launch their kayaks here and paddle to the infamous Big Sur destination McWay Falls.

Can You Kayak To McWay Falls?

My photo of McWay Falls Waterfall

It is not recommended to kayak to McWay Falls, as currents and rocks can be treacherous in the area.

However, experienced kayakers have done it. Here’s a video of Jon Frank kayaking with his buddy from Partington Cove to McWay Falls:

Can You Kayak in The Big Sur River?

It is said that the Big Sur River calms down a little bit once you enter Pfieffer Big Sur State Park. You can access this point with the state park fee. There is then an exit point at the parking lot of Andrew Molera State Park.

If you are looking for a kayaking adventure like this, check out Patrick Mueller’s experience kayaking down the Big Sur River here.

Where Can You Paddle Board in Big Sur?

  1. Pfeiffer Beach: Known for its purple sands and beautiful rock formations, the calm waters here provide an excellent spot for beginners or those seeking a relaxed paddle boarding experience.
  2. Sand Dollar Beach: As the largest beach in Big Sur, it offers excellent conditions for paddle boarding. With its wide stretch of coastline and steady waters, it’s ideal for all skill levels.
  3. Andrew Molera State Park: More suited for experienced paddle boarders, the Big Sur River mouth at this park offers a mix of river and ocean paddle boarding, presenting unique landscapes to explore.
  4. Limekiln State Park: This spot provides a mix of ocean and freshwater experiences, making it an excellent choice for those seeking variety in their paddle boarding adventure.

Where Can You Rent Paddle Boards?

  1. Big Sur Adventures: Located on Highway 1, they offer half-day and full-day paddle board rentals.
  2. Monterey Bay Kayaks: Just north of Big Sur, they offer a variety of paddle boards for rent and also provide guided tours of the Monterey Bay area.
  3. Adventures by the Sea: Located in Monterey, this outlet provides paddle board rentals, basic instruction for beginners, and insider tips on the best spots to paddle.
  4. Carmel Surf Lessons: Situated in Carmel-by-the-Sea, they rent paddle boards and offer lessons for beginners.