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If you’re lucky enough to be planning a vacation in or around Sarasota, Florida, Sarasota kayak tours are an experience you won’t want to miss!

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about planning a guided Sarasota kayak tour as well as what you can expect during your paddle.

From choosing a kayak touring company, determining what to wear, and anticipating the excursion, we’ll walk you through the entire kayaking tour experience from start to finish.

Stick around to the end of the article for our complete photo story that highlights what Sarasota kayak tours are really like!

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Check out our awesome guide to Sarasota Kayak Tours from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!
The Sarasota mangrove tunnels

Sarasota Kayak Tours

Sarasota kayak tours are by far one of the best things to do in Sarasota!

Why, you may ask?

Because Sarasota kayak tours are an exciting way to experience the beautiful turquoise-blue ocean water, explore Sarasota’s unique mangrove tunnels (that you won’t find anywhere else!), and to check out the Florida wildlife.

As you kayak, it’s not uncommon to spot dolphins, manatees, and other native seabirds frolicking in the crystal-clear waters of Sarasota Bay.

Likewise, getting to paddle through the tangled-up mangrove forest while spotting ocean life such as oysters, fiddler crabs, sponges, and shells is a magical experience you won’t soon forget.

Additional planning tip: The Sarasota and Siesta Key mangrove tunnels are located within Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Beach Nature Park. (Ted Sperling Nature Park on Lido Key, 190 Taft Drive, Sarasota)

Mangrove tunnels started off as man-made ditches that were dug years ago as a way to control mosquitos. They eventually turned into ‘mangrove arbors’ with mangrove trees forming a canopy of branches and leaves over their exposed root systems.

Now an important component in preventing erosion and protecting Florida’s shoreline, the mangroves also serve as nurseries for many types of fish and oysters and are rookeries for many different species of birds.

And psst…check out our related posts before your trip:

Choosing a Sarasota Kayak Company

The first thing to note is that not all kayaking companies and excursions are created equal and that it is important to do your research ahead of time.

In order to have fun (and be relaxed), you’re going to need to feel safe and well attended to by your kayaking guide.

This involves trusting that the kayaks and equipment are in good working order and that the guide is knowledgeable of the local area as well as attentive to the needs of the group.

Though there are a few different companies that offer kayaking through the Sarasota mangrove tunnels, we choose to book our experiences through Kayaking SRQ.

Owned and operated by Florida natives to the Sarasota area, the staff and crew at Kayaking SRQ are dedicated to providing you with a safe and enjoyable experience, as well as guarantee a great time!

Additional planning tip: Kayaking SRQ has several options for guided tours, as well as kayak rentals and paddle board rentals. The mangrove tunnel tour is our personal favorite!

Make a Reservation

Due to the popularity of kayaking in Sarasota, I recommend making a kayaking reservation for the date and time of your choice as soon as you know your Sarasota vacation itinerary.

Guided kayak tours depart at scheduled times and usually fill up on each trip, especially during peak seasons.

Making a reservation will ensure that you get the number of people that are looking to kayak scheduled for the time you’d like to go.

It is important to note that if the weather is not suitable for kayaking during your reserved time (thunder and lightning, storms), you will be asked to rebook or cancel your reservation.

Likewise, if you’re kayaking during the hottest months of June, July, and August, be sure to consider ways to beat the Florida heat in order to best enjoy your paddle.

Additional planning tip: Typically those ages 2 and up can take part in a guided kayak tour.

Depending on age and experience, the kayaking company will help you decide on whether a single or double kayak is best for you.

Children who cannot paddle on their own will most definitely have to ride with someone who does.

Check out our awesome guide to Sarasota Kayak Tours from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!

Sarasota Kayak Tours: The Experience

When kayaking in Sarasota, you will first present to a designated meeting point where you will likely sign a safety waiver and ensure that you have paid for your experience.

(SRQ Kayaking= 2 hour guided tour; $59 single kayaks, $118 tandem kayaks-price is for 2 people.)

This is a great time to ask questions and to apply your first layer of sunscreen.

Afterward, staff will lift the kayaks into the water one-by-one as individuals and partners board either a single or tandem kayak. Your feet will get wet during this process as you must first step into the water before getting into the kayak.

Once everyone is in their kayaks, the tour guide will review some basic paddling techniques, as well as go over general safety guidelines.

Additional planning tip: You have the option of either wearing a lifejacket or of having it located next to you in the kayak.

Beginning the Paddle

Typically, Sarasota kayak tours begin in Sarasota Bay.

The water is deep here, but the bay is protected from large waves and the wake of other boats.

Is it not uncommon to spot dolphins and several different varieties of sea birds while kayaking in the bay. This is also a great time to become comfortable with the kayak and to work on your paddling skills.

As you paddle your way to the mangrove tunnels, your anticipation will build as you see the gigantic forest of tangled roots and shrubs.

Though the tunnels are wide enough for kayaks to easily glide through, you will need to strategically maneuver and steer your way through as the tunnels are winding, versus a straight shot.

In addition, occasionally there is a low-lying branch that may require you to duck your head.

Though there is not a lot of time to stop and take photos, I do recommend that you pause long enough to take pictures and to admire the intricacy of this beautiful ecosystem.

After your make your way back to the original landing area, you will be given assistance in getting out of the kayak before the crew takes it out of the water. Once again, your feet will get wet as you disembark.

Check out our awesome guide to Sarasota Kayak Tours from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!
A single kayak

Do you Need Experience to go on a Kayak Tour?

There’s no need to worry if you’re kayaking for the first time!

Sarasota kayak tours take place in protected bodies of water in order to avoid waves and rough seas.

Being that each guided tour begins with a short paddling lesson, technically, no previous experience is needed.

Having been new to kayaking at one point, I will say, however, that kayaking does indeed take some physical strength, coordination, and endurance.

If you are questioning whether or not you have what it takes to be able to keep up with a group, I suggest riding tandem with someone else so that the work of paddling is shared.

On our most recent Sarasota kayaking tour, our 9-year-old son rode tandem with my husband, our 11-year-old son rode tandem with me, and our 14-year-old son paddled alone in a single kayak.

Your kayaking guide will indeed check in with you from time to time to be sure that you are getting the hang of things if you are worried about paddling alone.

Check out our awesome guide to Sarasota Kayak Tours from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!
Paddling in a double kayak

What to Wear Kayaking

When considering what to wear kayaking, we recommend the following:

  • Shorts and a t-shirt or tank top.
  • Sandals or shoes that can get wet (and that dry fast).
  • Sunglasses and a hat (sun protection is key).
  • Wear a light jacket or sweatshirt when kayaking in the early morning or evening, or if the weather is cool.
  • Life-jackets are provided by the kayak company.
  • No need to bring a swimsuit or swim towel unless the company advertises swimming as part of the excursion.

Sarasota Kayaking Tips

  • If it is especially hot outside, be sure to bring along a bottle of water.
  • Know ahead of time if your kayaking reservation is private or combined with a larger group.
  • Have a backup plan in the case of inclement weather.
  • Listen carefully to the safety and paddling tips from your kayak guide as they really do make a difference.
  • Sit upright with good posture while kayaking. Likewise, stay alert to your surroundings.
  • Pace yourself when paddling but be sure to keep up with the group.
  • It may go without saying, but hold on tight to your camera, smartphone, or GoPro so that it doesn’t fall into the ocean (the kayak company is not liable).
  • Tip your kayaking crew!

Sarasota Kayak Tours: Photo Story

Check out our awesome guide to Sarasota Kayak Tours from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!
Step 1. Gather at the designated meeting point (typically 30 minutes prior to your reservation time).
Step 2. Head to the kayaking launch area.
Landing area
Step 3. The kayaking staff will load the kayaks into the water for individuals to board them.
Check out our awesome guide to Sarasota Kayak Tours from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!
Step 4. Get a short lesson on safety and paddling and let the adventure begin!
Check out our awesome guide to Sarasota Kayak Tours from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!
Step 5. Make your way to the mangroves. They’re a little more tricky to paddle through than just the open water.

Is there anything that you are still wondering about when it comes to Sarasota kayak tours? I’d love to help answer your questions!


If you like our article on Sarasota Kayak Tours, click here to check out our Related Posts:

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Siesta Key, Florida:

The surrounding area:

*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

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Check out our awesome guide to Sarasota Kayak Tours from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!
Check out our awesome guide to Sarasota Kayak Tours from Top US Family Travel Blog, Travel With A Plan!

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  1. What a great idea! I have recently re-discovered my love for kayaking and hadn’t thought about doing it while we visit new places. What a great way to discover and explore a new place… and get some exercise. I love this idea. Hopefully, we get down to Florida and can do this with the kids. Thank you for sharing! – Linzey @thefamilyfuntour

    1. I have a friend who is in Florida right now using this recommendation of the mangrove tour. I can’t wait to hear if they love it just as much as we did!