To make sure you don’t make one, below we’ve got a top 7 list that will have the best beginner kayak for a few different types of people. We’ll be looking at various options that suit different categories of kayaking, so there’s something for everyone.
To add to that, we’ll also discuss about the types of kayaks available, so you have a good idea of where your money should go, and what things aren’t really worth buying. Without wasting any more of your time, let’s take a look at our options first.
- Quick Summary: Top 7 - Best Beginner Kayaks
- 1. Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-foot Sit-on-top
- 2. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL
- 3. Intex Explorer K2
- 4. Ocean Kayak Frenzy
- 5. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-foot
- 6. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100
- 7. Old Town Vapor 10
- Buyers' Guide
Quick Summary: Top 7 - Best Beginner Kayaks
This study kayak from SunDolphin is a great way to start off into the world of kayaking. It offers great stability and maneuverability for even beginner kayakers!
This two person kayak is another great option if you plan on sharing your kayaking experience with someone. With plenty of storage and leg space, this is one of the most comfortable options on our list!
Undercutting every kayak on our list, the Intex Explorer K2 is the one to for for any beginner kayaker on a budget. Handles incredibly well and has great build quality!
Coming in at just 9 feet and 43 lbs, transporting the kayak is a breeze. At this size you'd think stability is compromised, but it certainly isn't!
The sit-in option on our list comes from the well known kayak manufacturer Sun Dolphin. With paddle and rod holders, this kayak is built for multi purposes.
If you don't mind spending a little bit more for having great fishing features, this is certantly the kayak you are looking for!
Start off your kayaking experience the right way with this comfortable kayak from Old Town.
This is a hard shell kayak built out of rugged, UV-stabilized high density polyethylene. This means that not only is it stiff and stable, but it’s also resistant to UV damage and you won’t be able to damage it beyond repair that easily. Even hitting it against a rock or two, which is inevitable while you’re learning, won’t do too much harm – not something that you can say for an inflatable kayak. As its name suggests, it’s 10 foot long, which makes it pretty much the perfect length for one person to maneuver it easily without it being short and unstable. (1)
Being a sit-on-top, you have a lot of legroom and place to put essentials such as your phone or your wallet, and they’ll be within reach. There’s also a few other smaller areas for storage, and you get a Portable Accessory Carrier to use as storage, too. At the back, right behind the seat, you have a closed dry storage compartment that has shock cord for larger items. Paired with shock cord storage at the front, this is an excellent kayak if you carry around a lot of things.
On the topic of storage, unfortunately there’s no closed dry storage, but you do get two shock cord sections at both the front and the rear, and you can actually carry quite a lot of things there. To add to this, you could also store a couple of things behind the front seat, as there’s plenty of room.
The entire kayak is made of polyethylene, so you’re looking at a hard shell kayak that’s durable, fairly resistant to UV light, and beginner-friendly in terms of damage tolerance. It has a maximum load of 450 to 500 pounds, which is quite a bit. You could even go out with your partner and a small kid or a pet, and there will be plenty of room.
If you’re looking at versatility in a large kayak, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL is definitely the one to go for.
Even though this is an inflatable kayak, it is a rather nice one, made of quality materials that won’t deteriorate within the first few months. However, it’s one that you shouldn’t be pushing too hard, as it’s made for smaller bodies of water, such as lakes or mild rivers. It’s not a kayak that you should be taking on your next ocean expedition.
With the Explorer, you’ll get two rather nice paddles, as well as a pump that will inflate the kayak pretty quickly. You’re pretty much all set, and all you need to do is get yourself to water and enjoy it. There’s also a removable skeg that will help quite a lot when it comes to stability and tracking.
If you’re looking to get your feet wet in the world of kayaking, but aren’t really sure how much you want to spend hundreds of dollars, the Intex Explorer K2 is a great option. And the fact that you can deflate it and store it when it’s not in use is an added bonus!
The seat that comes with the Frenzy is actually pretty comfortable. It has a nice padded backrest, and you can adjust it to fit you just how you like it. Paired with the multiple leg positions, you can rest assured knowing that you’ve got plenty of versatility when it comes to setting up your seating position.
Unfortunately, this being a compact kayak, you don’t have a lot of storage. The only room is the shock cord section at the front, and the one behind the seat, but none of them are closed. If you have things that shouldn’t get wet, you’ll want a dry bag with this one. If, however, you don’t mind this, the Frenzy is an excellent compact kayak for those who want a hard shell.
When it comes to storage, you’ve got a dry compartment at the back, right behind the seat. This can keep essentials dry and out of harm’s way, and there’s also shock cord rigging as well, so you can get a backpack or a dry bag there, too. You will also get a shock cord rigged section at the front, but it’s really small and not exactly useful for anything more than a water bottle, for example.
The foot braces inside and the seat make the Aruba a very comfortable kayak. However, taller users might find it a bit tight inside, as this is a closed off kayak. However, if you don’t mind that, this is a great model that will keep you warm when paddling in less-than-ideal conditions.
Last but not least, the entire kayak is made of Fortiflex, which is basically UV-stabilized, rugged high density polyethylene. We already spoke about it, but it’s probably the best choice of material for a kayak at this price range. You won’t regret getting it.
In terms of fishing, you’ve got two flush mounted holders for a fishing rod and one top mount fishing rod holder. There’s also a place to store your paddle while fishing, and the entire kayak has a weight capacity of 275 lbs. This means that it checks all the boxes when it comes to a fishing kayak, as you can carry your own weight, and quite a lot of gear, too.
The entire kayak is made of high density polyethylene, and has a fairly interesting design. The bow is sharp for acceleration and tracking, while the hull has a flat bottom to add a bit of extra stability – something that’s always appreciated when you’re fishing. Overall, if you’re looking for the best beginner kayak for fishing, the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 is the one to go for.
The cockpit is semi-closed, somewhere between a sit-in and a sit-on-top kayak. This means that you’re shielded from the sides, but there’s a pretty large opening that makes getting in and out of the kayak pretty easy. It also means you can easily fit a larger dry bag inside if you need one. Considering the kayak doesn’t have any closed storage or shock cords, this might be necessary.
Comfort is excellent, thanks to the Comfort Flex seat that’s adjustable, and the Glide Track foot brace system. You can set both of them up just the way you like them, which means you’re looking at a pretty versatile kayak for just about any user.
As far as convenience goes, you’ve got a cockpit tray that has a cup holder, as well as a storage compartment at the back and a molded-in paddle rest. There’s no paddle with it, so that’s an additional expense, but this is overall an excellent kayak for any beginner, really.
Inflatable vs hard shell
First, there’s the stiffness. Getting a kayak up to speed is all about transferring the force of you paddling to the water. With a hard shell kayak, most, if not all of your force goes to the water, making acceleration and maneuvering rather easy. On the other hand, if you opt for an inflatable kayak, some force will undoubtedly get lost, which means you’ll get a bit more tired when paddling. This is even worse if your kayak isn’t inflated properly.
However, you’ve also got the storage and portability. A hard shell kayak is as big as it is – you’ll have to find a way to transport it, and you’ll have to find a way to store it. If you don’t have a larger car and plenty of room in your home or garage, it’s going to be a problem. Inflatables are a lot easier in this regard, because you can just deflate it and store it away until you need it again. You can get a budget electric pump that uses your car’s outlet and inflate it when you get to the water, which saves you a bit of effort.
Single seating, double seating, or both?
The thing is, a two-seat kayak isn’t only useful when you have two people paddling. Such kayaks are usually larger, and come with a lot more storage area. Therefore, if you’re going to be out in the water for extended periods of time, and you think you’ll need to carry a few extra things with you, this might be a good thing. You can use the extra storage room for the things you’ll be taking with you, and you could even use the second seat for a backpack, or even better, a pet friend!
Touring kayak, whitewater kayak, fishing kayak … which one?
For example, getting a fishing kayak for touring isn’t a problem. You still have quite a lot of room for storage, and to add to this, you’ll get a few nifty fishing-specific accessories that might come in handy. On the other hand, getting a fishing kayak for whitewater is a problem – you’re not protected, the kayak is large and difficult to maneuver, and you’ll be in trouble before you know it.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to be honest with yourself about what you’ll be using your kayak for, and choose the one that fits that category best. If you aren’t sure, get a general-use kayak, they tend to be pretty versatile, even though they won’t really excel at anything in particular.
Your budget is important
Last but certainly not least, you should set a budget before you go shopping for a kayak. This is something that can easily cost you thousand of dollars, so make sure you know what you’re getting into, and set a reasonable limit for yourself. With that said, happy shopping!