Renting a kayak is an easy way to get on the water. If you’re not sure which type of kayak to buy, I recommend renting one of each style before making a decision. Nearly all kayak rentals include the basics: the kayak, a paddle, and a PFD, as well as a manual air pump if you’re renting an inflatable. If you’re renting a hard-shell kayak, you’ll need to inquire about the best way to transport the boat—not all renters provide the necessary gear.
Arizona Hiking Shack, near 32nd Street & Thomas in east Phoenix, is where I’ve rented the majority of kayaks in the past. They have both sit-on-top kayaks and inflatable kayaks available for rent, as either single-person or doubles. Single-person kayaks run $35/day, while doubles are $45/day. They’ve always provided me the necessary river straps to transport rental boats on my vehicle. You can also rent a variety of other accessories, or purchase something new from their shop.
Redline also rents a number of boats these days and is a popular option, too. Previously known as East Valley Kayak Rentals, this outfit is located near Higley and McKellips in Mesa. Single kayaks rent for $45/day ($40 if paying in cash), while doubles cost $65/day ($60 if paying in cash).
REI Adventures is another rental option. REI rents inflatable kayaks for $35 (singles) and $50 (doubles) for “1 day” rentals, which means picking them up and returning them the same day between 8am and 5pm. For an extra $10, you can keep them for a full 24 hours. REI also offers river delivery and shuttle for only $15 per boat. That means that they meet you at the river with the kayak and help you set up the shuttle for your driver; the fee also includes one Tonto Pass for your vehicle. You’ll need advance reservations, and this service is only offered between 10am and 4pm, but otherwise this could be an excellent option.
Riverbound Sports also rents both hard-shell and inflatable rentals for $45 for singles, and $55 for doubles out of their Tempe location near University and Hardy. Unfortunately, these rentals are for 9am to 6pm only, but you can arrange “night-before” pickup, depending on availability.
There are a handful of other places you can rent from, including both individuals or other non-storefront locations; you can often find these advertising on craigslist and elsewhere. You can also rent kayaks from Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch by booking one of their unguided tours. Many kayak rental companies also rent stand-up paddle boards, too.