10 Best Kayaks For Beginners: Reviews and Complete Buying Guide

best kayaks for beginners

There is nothing quite like a warm, sunny day and being surrounded by the outdoors and still waters. Kayaks are the perfect mix of fun and adventure. If you have never tried kayaking before, it can be scary being in a small boat compared to all these other ginormous speed boats out on the water. But, kayaks are the absolute best for the small creeks, rivers, and waterways and nothing beats floating down those with ease. Novice kayakers have a lot to look forward to after their first kayak purchase.

Buying a kayak means not spending an arm and a leg to enjoy the great waterways. It is important to find the right beginner kayak so you can fully experience what the kayaking hype is all about. There are several factors that as a beginner kayaker you should consider.

First of all, stability is very important. Kayaks can be wobbly and you don’t want to find yourself in the creek drenched in water. Another important factor you should look out for is whether you’d prefer to sit in or sit on kayak type. There are various benefits and drawbacks to each type that we will cover.

And lastly, you should figure out if you’d prefer to kayak alone or if you’d prefer a tandem kayak. Kayaking alone is peaceful and rejuvenating, on the other hand, kayaking with another person can be a fun bonding activity for both of you. Let’s take a look at some of the top-rated kayaks for beginners.

What Are The Best Kayaks For Beginners?

  • Sun Dolphin Aruba 10′ Sit-In Kayak

  • Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit on Top Kayak

  • Intex Challenger Inflatable 1 Person Kayak

  • Old Town Dirigo 120 Recreational Kayak

  • Perception Tribe 9.5 Sit-On-Top Kayak

  • Lifetime 10 Foot 2 Person Sit On Kayak

  • Pelican Maxim 100X Sit-In Recreational Kayak

  • Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak With Paddle

  • Wilderness Systems Aspire 105

  • Old Town Loon 106 Recreational Kayak

Top 10 Kayaks For Beginners Reviews

A great choice for those that are just figuring out the kayaking game, the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 foot kayak is simple ad user-friendly. As a sit-in style kayak, it features a large compartment that will give you plenty of room to get comfy and wiggle around in. It comes with a padded seat but it is not adjustable like some of its other competitors. However, the padded seat is wide and durable and can withstand many years of use.

This kayak is ideal for those that want to wade in lakes or rivers. It isn’t meant for rough waters but it is perfect for those sunrises or sunset trips down the stream. Additionally, this kayak has plenty of compartment space where a small or medium-sized animal could come along for the ride. The Sun Dolphin sit-in design is ideal for those that want their furry friend to join them. They offer delivery to your home so this way you don’t have to figure out how you are going to lug this from a store.

Be aware that this kayak does not come with a paddle included so you will have to buy one separately. Also, there is no dry storage compartment for items. This kayak is ideal for those that aren’t doing long, drawn-out day trips and is perfect for the beginner kayakers that want a quick hop-in and hop out the kayak that won’t tip over. It is a top-rated kayak for beginners that will give you the chance to cruise waterways from a whole new point of view.


  • Made of high-Density Polyethylene which is very durable
  • Adjustable footrests for any height
  • Paddle holder connected so there is no chance of losing a paddle (easy on, easy off)
  • Large Sit-in opening (small pets can easily fit too!)
  • Can hold up to 300 pounds


  • No storage or dry compartment, don’t plan on bringing items you don’t want to get wet
  • Doesn’t come with a paddle included

Available in a beautiful orange and yellow color scheme, the Ocean Kayak Malibu 2-person kayak is colorful and durable for two people to enjoy. This easy on the eyes kayak is made for the liking for two and makes for the ideal sit-on-top kayak for a nice water stroll.

Featuring two padded sit on top seats and strong, convenient handles, this kayak is perfect for those that can’t wait to travel new territory. Strong grip handles located on the sides as well as the front and back of the kayak, allow for easy and quick portability. As a brand, Ocean Kayaks are reliable and have years of experience in the kayak and water sports market and offer a lifetime hull warranty.

The tandem kayak weight capacity is up to 500 lbs, which allows for two people and maybe even a child or furry friend. As a sit on top design, this kayak features up to 4 different footrest choices that you won’t need to adjust. Ocean Kayak’s footrest designs allow you to change your footing position when you want and whenever you want. Featuring 4 grooves for your feet, you can stay comfortable for the entire duration of your adventures.

Be aware that the sit on top design is not as protected as they sit-in kayaks. So, if your furry friend can’t sit still then this kayak may not be ideal for you.

Ideally, this kayak is perfect for couples, families, and friends that want to begin their kayak adventures together. Additionally, if you are someone that prefers to have lots of room for dry storage, this kayak is perfect for you. There are up to 3 different dry storage compartments, this way your items can stay safe.


  • Features two chairs for you and a family, friend or partner to share the kayak
  • 3 dry storage compartments, great for keeping your items safe and away from water damage
  • Sit on top design is easy to get onto and could be safer. The kayak can’t sink when tipped.
  • Very spacious, designed for up to 500 pounds
  • Convenient handles that are located on the sides and the front and back of the kayak


  • Heavy, weighs 68 pounds
  • Difficult to steer around due to its wider design

If you are searching for affordability and convenient storage then the Intex Challenger Inflatable kayak is at the top of the list. This kayak is a great, affordable option that won’t leave you emptying your wallet for a quality kayak.

Made of heavy-duty and rip-resistant vinyl, the Intex kayak is durable and long-lasting. Some of you may be skeptical of an inflatable kayak but this one can last for years when taken care of properly. 

Some of the coolest features that this inflatable kayak has to offer are the removable chair, cargo net, removable skeg, and the paddle that comes included. Convenient and easy to blow up and go because it also includes a high output pump for quick assembly. Removing the chair will allow you to keep it clean and kept up and the cargo net allows for easy storage access for a sweatshirt or water bottle.

Featuring a weight capacity of up to 220 pounds, this is a great option for 1 person to enjoy. Although this option is suitable for up to 220 pounds, it can sink lower since it is an inflatable kayak as compared to hard-shelled ones. The more weight, the more likely hood it could dip and a little bit underneath. Be on the lookout to avoid rocks and trees in the water, as this could pose an issue for the kayak.

This inflatable kayak is ideal for those that have minimal storage space, a smaller budget, and those that are going to use it on a bigger body of water. Sometimes, tight spaces like rivers and streams contain lots of fallen trees and rocks that are difficult to avoid. Although the Intex is durable, these obstacles could reduce the lifespan of the Intex kayak. This kayak is perfect for those beginners looking to cruise on a lake.


  • Lightweight and convenient, can be blown up in minutes with the included pump
  • Ideal for small storage spaces and transportation spaces
  • Made of durable rip-resistant vinyl, comes with repair patches in case
  • Comes with a kayak paddle included


  • May not be ideal for small streams and rivers, cannot withstand lots of rocks and trees
  • No dry storage, only mesh cargo storage at the front

With years of kayak making under their belt, Old Town is a trusted kayak brand that offers durable and safe kayaks. The Diego 120 Recreational Kayak by Old Town is classic and easy to use a kayak. It is a bit skinnier than other recreational kayaks but offers lots of lengths for great stability for those unforeseen rocky waters.

350 pounds of weight capacity proves that the Dirgo is ready for any adventure. This is one of the best sit-in kayaks for beginners because it offers versatility and useful compartments that you may need as you go from novice to a more avid kayaker. As a kayak that can grow up with you, the Dirgo offers compartments as your kayak trips get longer and you need for dry storage space. This kayak is great for those who may be starting more simple on a bigger body of water, but look to expand into smaller and possibly more difficult streams and rivers. For beginners that are looking to take of kayaking as their new go-to hobby, this is ideal for you. 

Make sure that you are suited to transport this kayak because it is a whopping 12 feet long and 50 pounds. The extra capacity is awesome for on the water but not ideal for transporting. 

The compartment is very spacious and the sit-in design is ideal for those that want to bring their young kids along. Measuring in at 38 by 18.5 inches, the cockpit gives lots of room to move around and adjust as you need.


  • Large dry compartment area for storage of goods featuring a tight locking hatch, and a glove box hatch for smaller items, additional mesh area for storage as well
  • Extra length is perfect for more stability for beginners
  • 3 different color options so you can express your style
  • Heavy-duty, three-layer design can withstand for years on end


  • A paddle is not included in the purchase
  • Not very budget-friendly
  • Heavy and very long, maybe difficult to transport because handles are only on the front and back

Perception Tribe sit-on-top kayak is stable, durable, a great option for any novice kayaker. I love the number of color choices there are to choose from and the multiple footrest options. This beginner kayak offers lots of storage space for those who are looking to bring a cooler and float down the water for a long afternoon. 

The storage area on this kayak is abundant an especially for the price. There is dry storage in the front and the rear of the kayak. Additionally, there is a center compartment with a built-in bag, which is convenient for storing your belongings and ensuring that they won’t be soaked.

Keep in mind that this is a sit-on kayak so if you are looking for a kayak that allows you to get some extra sun, then this is the ideal kayak for you.

As a kayak that is ideal for cruising, the Perception Tribe 9.5 sit-on kayak will let you bath in the sun and lounge while stroking the waters. One of my favorite features is the beverage holder, this way you can bring whatever you would like on the go with you to make for the perfect afternoon.


  • Ample storage space, two dry storage compartments in the rear and front and another storage space in the middle with a hatch and bag
  • Convenient cup holder, so you can bring your favorite beverage with you
  • The sit-on-top style allows for extra sunlight and more sunbathing
  • Includes a skid plate for moving/dragging your kayak from one place to another, prevents damage
  • Maximum capacity is 300 pounds


  • Smaller width than other comparable kayaks
  • A paddle is not included in the price

As a simple sit on top kayak, Lifetime 10-foot Tandem kayak is ideal for those who want to cruise around with two or even 3 people. This kayak has an impressive 500-pound weight capacity and is meant for multiple people to cruise together. Although there are only two padded seats, three people can fit. 

Featuring continuous footrests so no matter your height you can stretch out and be comfortable, the rests offer many options. This kayak is one of the widest on the market coming in at 36 inches wide and would be ideal for someone who prefers extra cockpit size. Especially since it is an open-air sit on top kayak, this kayak doesn’t know any boundaries.

A stable and simple tandem kayak choice, this kayak is best for those who don’t need storage and are just looking to hop on the kayak and enjoy a smooth ride. If you are a pet lover and want to bring yours with you while you kayak, this would be the go-to beginner kayak for just that. Those that own bigger dogs can finally bring their pup for a stroll down the river or on the lake with this sit on top wide frame style.


  • Very wide, tandem style which is ideal for bringing large dogs along for the ride
  • Comes in bright colors, other boaters can easily spot you on the lake
  • Ideal stability, sit-on-top style perfect for those that like to get on and get off with ease


  • Uncomfortable seats when out on the water for a long time (4+ hours)
  • Minimal storage space

An affordable single person kayak is ideal for those that love to adventure on their own. The Pelican Maxim 100X includes fun and useful accessories that will accommodate you for your adventures on the water. There is plenty of storage and space for all of your belongings.

This kayak by Pelican is ideal for those that want to take longer trips. It takes straight in-line tracking to a whole new level. It is stable and fast and won’t let you down when you are trying to zip across the water in a timely fashion. Although this is ideal for tracking, it fits beginners because it is much more suitable for stability over speed.

You probably won’t be caught racing in this Pelican Maxim but for a beginner, this is perfect because you can have more control over where you go.

One of the best features is how lightweight this kayak is. Weighing in at only 39 pounds, this is the lightest kayak on our list that is made of hard shell design. For how lightweight it is, it sure can carry lots of weight. It can hold up to 275 pounds. Ideally, this kayak is for those that love to cruise as it features a cup holder at the front for easy access to your favorite beverage. Bring on the sunset cruises!


  • Very lightweight, only 39 pounds so it can be transported very easily
  • Ideal for those that need an all-around kayak, a few accessories like a cup holder and 1 storage space
  • Cockpit table and bottle holder for on the go treats


  • More unstable compared to other brands, may need a bit more coordination to get in since it is a sit-in kayak

This is an option that is a perfect starter kayak for the little ones in your life. This colorful Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is relatively inexpensive but offers great quality and is especially safe for young kids to try out. This is the perfect kayak for trusting to give fun and freedom but not compromise safety

It is lightweight and ideal for those little ones that want to be independent. The weight capacity is 130 pounds. Additionally, there is no backrest to worry about, and the whole kayak is easy to clean and upkeep. The durable polyethylene construction is ideal for years to come and won’t peel in the sun since it is UV protected. 

One of the best features is the back portion that is designed to swim up kayak access. This is perfectly fit for kids that love adventuring and jumping into the water for a quick swim. The wide and stable design with the lowered back is easy to climb up without fears of tipping the kayak.

To ensure your child’s safety, the design is flip resistant. So no matter how rough and rowdy they get hopping on and off of the kayak, this kayak was designed with play in mind.


  • Flip resistant for your child’s safety and less hassle
  • Swim p dock on the rear of the kayak, this is ideal for jumping off, swimming and getting back on the kayak. Perfect for kids that not only want to kayak but swim too
  • No seatback that a child can get tangled up in, this is ideal for their safety
  • Paddle included with purchase


  • Only designed for children, not adults
  • No handles for the children to grab onto in case of instability

Measuring up at 10 feet and 6 inches, these Wilderness Systems Aspire 105 kayak offers ultimate user-friendly comfort.  For those that are searching for an ergonomically friendly backrest, this will be your best bet.

This is one of the best kayaks for beginners who have back problems or tailbone troubles. It can be difficult to want to try a new hobby like kayaking but finding those that are uncomfortable. The Wilderness Systems Aspire is here to reduce your pain and give a comfortable ride. Additionally, there are thigh and knee padding for comfortable support for the duration of your ride. The padded footrests are a bonus, as not many other brands feature this amount of comfort!

One of my favorite features is the Trotta skeg cockpit control which allows for you to stay on course in unsuspected heavy winds or waves. The cockpit control of the skeg is not too difficult to learn but this may be more ideal for a beginner or intermediate kayaker.

Keep an eye out for the width of this kayak. If you are someone that loves a wide kayak then this cockpit may not be for you. It is only 29 inches wide which is about 3 or 4 inches smaller than some other beginner kayaks.

For the size, it only weighs 48 pounds which is not too bad to lug around. There are two different handles, one on the front and one located at the rear. It can handle up to 400 pounds which is much higher than some other single kayaks.


  • Control of the skeg from the cockpit, this allows for easy control when there are heavier winds or waves
  • Very comfortable and padded compared to most other kayaks. It features knee and thigh pads, and ergonomic backrest that has lots of padding and foot pas as well
  • Can hold up to 400 pounds which is high for a single person kayak


  • Smaller width coming in at 29 inches, around 3 to 4 inches less than other competitors
  • No drain plug, if water gets in it can be difficult to let out

A well-trusted company that has over 100 years of experience, Old Town offers its Loon 106 which is outfitted for recreational kayakers and fishers. The customer service that Old Town offers is fantastic features a lifetime hull (the bottom of the kayak) warranty. This is perfect for those that want security and that want to know they’ll have a guaranteed durable warranty.

The design of this strong kayak features 3 layers of polyethylene, so if you run into any small trees, rocks, or debris your hull ill not be severely damaged in these rough waters. The width of this kayak chimes in at 31 inches giving ample cockpit space for maneuverability.

One of my favorite things about the Old Town Loon 106 is that it is made here in the USA which can be somewhat rare nowadays. The homegrown craftsmanship is undeniable and there is a lot of care put into each of the kayaks.

If you are someone that is looking for a beginner kayak on a budget, then this might not be the best fit for you. It comes with a heavier price tag but this includes so many user-friendly features. For example, there is a removable dashboard for a customizable fit, ample dry storage space, and a plush comfort chair that many other kayaks lack.


  • Durable featuring 3 layers of polyethylene for ultimate protection from trees and debris
  • Made in the USA, homegrown and raised craftsmanship, over 100 years of expertise
  • Lifetime Hull warranty
  • Ample cockpit space, measuring in at 31 inches


  • More expensive compared to other beginner kayaks
  • A paddle is not included in the purchase

Best Kayaks For Beginners Comparison Table

Beginner Kayak Buying Guide: What To Look For

If you are a newbie at kayaking, it can be especially difficult to know what you should pay attention to when searching for hours on the internet for your new kayak. It is important to know that these suggestions are a gist of what you should look out for and what could make your kayaking experience go much smoother. Let’s take a look at what to search for in a recreational kayak.

Sit-in Kayak

Sit-On Kayaks vs. Sit-In Kayaks

There are two main types of kayaks that you will come across when searching. The first tone is the original sit-in kayaks. These kayaks fit our typical picture of a kayak where there is a sort of protection around the person that is in the kayak. The cockpit is where the seat is located and you are low to the water. 

The second type of kayak that you will come across is sit-on kayaks. These kayaks are very user friendly and might be a better bet for beginners. There is no feeling of being confined and if you accidentally tip (which will probably happen at some point!) then it is much easier to get back on and shake off the embarrassment.

The two vary in the type of kayaking experience you want to have. Sit-in kayaks are ideal for those that enjoy the extra added protection from wind or the sun. They are you more “Typical” kayaks that leave you cocooned in the kayak. The sit-on kayaks can be much easier to get onto compared to sit-in kayaks. If you are looking to be going on and off the kayak frequently, then the sit-on kayaks would be a better fit. If you are looking for more dry storage and protection, the sit-in kayaks are your best bet.


As a beginner kayaker, one of the most difficult aspects is finding your balance. For some, this comes a lot more naturally and for others, they are not as lucky. Typically, sit-on kayaks are more stable but they leave you more out in the open air to wind and water. Sit-in kayaks are more difficult to get on to because they tend to wobble more.

A common misconception is that the more length, the more unstable a kayak is. This is not necessarily true. The length actually can increase the stability of the kayak but this is as long as the width is not being compromised. So if there is a longer kayak you like but the width is around 28 inches, don’t fret because it could be just as stable as other 30-inch-wide kayaks. 

However, it is important to note that sometimes the hull (the bottom of the kayak) design can make a pretty sizeable difference. If the hull is rounder and has a single hull design, then it could be less stable than some of the double hull designs. Some of the double hull designs are mostly featured on kids’ kayaks because this ensures sore stability and safety since kids aren’t the best at balancing quite yet.

There are about 4 different types of hull designs that can be found on kayaks. For beginners, you will want to go with a more stable and flatter hull to ensure that you don’t rock and roll out of your kayak on the first attempt.

Storage Space, Length and Inflatable Options

It is really difficult to enjoy a kayak when you don’t even have the space to store it. It is important to consider your living situation. For example, having a garage or somewhere to store it inside will be the best for upping the kayak’s lifetime.

Additionally, if you don’t have much space in an apartment or room then you may want to consider an inflatable kayak. And the inflatable option is great for those that don’t feel quite ready for a full-sized kayak and a kayak rack but want to start using right away on the go. Several options include hand pumps making it easy to use wherever you are.

Lastly, consider the overall width, length, and weight of your kayak. This may sound silly and obvious but if you are someone that will be storing it for the winter then taking it out in the summer, you may have to carry it quite far. Several kayakers have homes that are cottages or cabins and having an overly heavy and excessive large or long kayak can make getting ready for the summer months dreadful.

top rated sit-on kayaks for beginners


Do I need A skeg on my recreational kayak?

The simple answer is no, you do not need a skeg. A skeg is a part of a kayak that is added on for extra support when there is wind or rough waters. A skeg is ideal for the kayaker that plans on longer trips in more open waters. Beginner kayakers than plan on using a kayak recreationally and don’t plan on taking long trips into vast open waters then it is not necessary. However, if a skeg is a feature on the kayak, it can be a bonus for sure! Just be sure to take good care of it when taking out of the water, this could be more work. 

What is the best kayak material for long-lasting durability?

The ideal material that you want to keep an eye out for is polyethylene. This material is the ideal choice for a long-lasting hull and for avoiding deep scratches and pits from debris. If you are looking into an inflatable kayak, make sure the material is rip-resistant or some sort of strong reinforced vinyl. That will be your best bet for long term enjoyment. 

Are Sit-in kayaks or Sit-on kayaks more stable?

Generally, the gist is that sit on kayaks provide more stability (although there are very stable sit-in kayaks!). The reason why sit-on kayaks are considered more stable is due to how flat their hulls are and there is not as much shifting and sliding to get into.


It can be so exciting to start searching for a new kayak knowing that adventure awaits you. As a beginner, stability is likely going to be your number one concern in terms of what to look out for.

The best beginner kayak overall choice is the Perception tribe 9.5 recreational kayak due to the quality and stability of the kayak. This kayak has ample storage space and is perfect for those fun in the sun days. The runner up that is more affordable is the Intex Challenger Inflatable kayak, which allows for on the go kayak fun without breaking the bank.

Overall, it is important to choose which kayak best suits you and your needs. Finding the right kayak can offer hours of fun and can help you enjoy the water from a whole new perspective 

Table of Contents