How to Choose a Sea Kayak Guide or Instructor

  • You’ve decided you want to try sea kayaking in Maine; OR
  • you’ve been paddling awhile but want stronger skills; OR
  • you’re fine with your skill level but would like someone to lead you on an island camping trip.

In all of these cases, members of the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides & Instructors can help.


Registered Maine Guide

The State of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been licensing guides for over 100 years now, for outdoor pursuits from hiking to moose hunting. The Sea Kayak Guide became part of the system circa 1996 and has been getting stronger every year. To be licensed as a Maine Guide, an applicant must prove they are proficient at the activity, along with navigation, map & compass, first aid, and group management.

ACA/BCU/Paddle Canada Instructor

The American Canoe Association (ACA), British Canoe Union (BCU), and Paddle Canada are organizations that certify paddlers and instructors in coastal kayaking.

Sea Kayaks

Sea kayaks differ from recreational kayaks in that they are longer, have deck lines, and have bulkheads which create watertight compartments for storage and flotation.


  • What is my skill level? Never kayaked; kayaked a bit; expert?
  • What am I looking for? Safe and leisurely guided trip; beginner skills; intensive instruction?
  • How much time do I want to spend? Half-day, multi-day overnight camping trip?
sea kayak camping in a tent with a view

What to ask a Maine Guide

The State of Maine has provided the following questions you may want to ask a Guide service

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How experienced are the guides?
  • What is the entire cost of the trip?
  • What type of deposit do you require to reserve a space?
  • What is you cancellation policy? Up to what point can the trip be cancelled and the money refunded?
  • Do you take a check or credit card?
  • What other costs are involved?
  • What happens in the event of an emergency?
  • Where is the nearest hospital? Where is the nearest rescue department?
  • What type? (tent, lodge, camp, etc.)
  • What is supplied? (sleeping bag, food, linens, running water, electricity, etc.)
  • Are meals provided? Who cooks? Can the menu be changed for dietary restrictions?
  • How many guests to a room or tent?
  • Is alcohol allowed?
  • Do you furnish transportation or do I?
  • Year and make of vehicle(s)?
  • Will an airplane be used?
  • What clothes and gear must I bring?
  • How many clients to a guide?
  • Will the guide be with me throughout the trip?
  • What physical condition must I be in?
  • Is there a limit on the amount of gear brought?
  • Who purchases license (if any)?
  • Get all information on paper and signed by the guide or company.
  • Take a camera and get photos of what was furnished, if not what promised.
  • Get references from past clients.
  • Ask if any emergencies or accidents have occurred during a trip.
National Ocean Survey Benchmark
sea kayaks on a beach and wetsuits drying
Sea kayaker paddling by red nun number 4