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Kayaking is a fun outdoor activity that’s perfect for every water and boat enthusiast. What could be better than gently floating on the cool water on a hot, sunny day? Kayaking is a great way to experience nature, clear the mind, and get a little exercise. It’s also the perfect family activity. If you own waterfront property, you may own kayaks already but might not be sure how to use them.
If you want to take up kayaking for the first time, perhaps you aren’t sure where to start. What should you know about kayaking vs. canoeing? What are the best kayaks for beginners? Are there kayaks just for kids? Kayaks are a big-ticket item, after all. There are certain elements to look for when buying a kayak, to make sure you’re making the right investment.
There are even different types of kayaks. The best kayaks for beginners will be stable, easy to maneuver, and will make you feel safe in the water. There is a type of kayak for kids and adults of every shape and weight. Likewise, kayaks are available with one seat, two seats, three seats, and up! Kayaking is a relaxing water sport that is easy to learn and enjoy.
As with all water sports, safety comes first. We want your first-time kayaking experience to be a memorable and positive one, so we’ve created this list of the top 10 best kayaks for beginners. You can feel confident when shopping for your or your family’s first kayaks. We also hope to answer the above questions, and more!
View The Best Kayaks For Beginners Below
1. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem
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If you – or you and your family – are just learning how to kayak, you may not be ready for each family member to have their own single-seat kayak, especially if you have younger children. This tandem kayak seats two, so it’s perfect for a parent and child (or two other family members), couples, even you and your water-loving dog.
This kayak is safe, durable, comfortable, and can safely hold a lot of weight. Unlike canoes, this kayak is stable so that you can feel secure and stable on the water. It also comes with a one-year warranty on the hull, so you don’t have to worry about that.
+This sit-in kayak comes with “Comfort Plus” seats, which give you more adjustability and prevent slipping; you will always be comfortable in this kayak.
+The open hull and no-slip grip pads on the floor of the kayak make it easy and safe to get in and out, preventing injuries.
+Special patented overlapping foot wells allow for comfortable bracing and easy balancing.
+Even though this is a kayak “built for two,” a single paddler can still use it.
+ It has a maximum weight capacity of 425 pounds; it’s12 feet long and 34 inches wide.
Why We Like It – It’s clear that this is one of the best kayaks for beginners; the Comfort Plus seats, grip pads, and patented footwells make us feel safe and secure. We also like having the option of using this kayak solo, or with another family member or pet.
2. Old Town Dirigo 106 Recreational Kayak
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This kayak for beginners takes our “Premium Quality” spot because it has all the extras to make your kayaking experiences comfortable, safe, and stable – for life. It’s among the best of recreational kayaks. Best for flatwater kayaking, this kayak has elements that are removable and adjustable. It also has the storage space you need.
You’ll feel like it’s completely customized for you. It even features paddle holders so that your hands can be free for sipping your drink, taking pictures, or just sitting back and relaxing. Surprisingly light and super streamlined, this kayak is made of three strong layers the best polyethylene, making it easy to clean and maintain so that this kayak for beginners can carry you all the way to the expert level.
+ This is a tandem kayak, but it has a removable seat so that you can take along a third paddler; if you are paddling solo, you can adjust the stern seat forward for safety and balance.
+ The Glide Track features adjustable foot braces and provides enough padding and safety for comfortable barefoot kayaking. It also lets you know when the braces are even.
+A bow console offers a storage compartment for your phone, keys, or whatever else that you need to keep dry while you kayak.
+It also features cupholders and a dash tray in the stern cockpit that will also keep smaller items safe and dry.
+Retractable handles make it easy to carry your kayak to and from the water or car.
Why We Like It – This kayak has all the features of a large pontoon boat in a small, compact package. The storage space and drink holders are a plus, and so are the many adjustable features that make us feel safe and stable on the water. This kayak makes for easy paddling, with handles and foot braces. The paddle holders will make beginners feel comfortable.
3. Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
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The SONGMICS Watch Box takes the organization to the next level. It comes with 12 watch slots with removable inserts to wrap and store each watch in its own compartment. There’s also a second-tier that slides out from underneath to place your other jewelry. In total, you’ll have 12 watch slots, 1 ring case, 2 earring cards, and 5 additional areas for other accessories.
The bottom drawer has a small knob to pull out whenever you need to access the jewelry. The glass lid does a wonderful job of preserving your watches and protecting them from dust, spills, and other damage. Faux leather adds to the classic appeal.
If you decide to go with this watch box, you’ll be able to choose between either black or brown faux leather. The white and cream-colored stitching makes for a nice contrast that’s very aesthetically pleasing as well.
+ Comes with compartments for all of your jewelry
+ Choose between brown or black
+ Protects your watches from dust
Why We Like It – We like this storage organizer because it looks and feels luxurious without having an outrageous price tag.
4. Wilderness Systems Pungo 125
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When you’re in the process of buying a kayak, you may wonder if any “techy” features may come with one. The answer is, “yes!” This kayak is the perfect example. Not only that, it’s safe and comfortable for a solo paddler. It’s a cross between a recreational kayak and a touring kayak, so you know it’s built to last, and trusted by the pros. It has the storage space you need and some extras that you’ll love.
+Stern latching hatches offer splash protection
+A slim hull shaped paddle makes your strokes more efficient with this streamlined and stable sit-in kayak. It has excellent speed and a tracking system, thanks to a Modified-V keel.
+Removable “dry box,” cupholders, and plenty of storage capacity.
+AirPro seating offers adjustability and comfort as it supports your lower back; foot braces allow for a custom fit.
+Thigh and knee pads for extra comfort.
Why We Like It – This beginner’s kayak is all about safety and comfort as it lends itself to so much customizability. It’s great to be able to track speed and strokes as well, all while keeping you stable. The high weight limit, storage space, and cupholders are a big plus!
5. Sun Dolphin Aruba Kayak
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When buying your first kayak, the “extras” may not be of concern. Your priority, for now, might just be to learn this great water sport safely so that you can easily build your confidence, and perhaps invest in the “extras” later. If that sounds like you, the Sun Dolphin Aruba is your best beginner kayak. It has everything you need and nothing you don’t. It’s among the safest yet simplest of recreational kayaks, and it’s a good choice for learning how to kayak solo.
+This kayak is made of a high-density, UV-stabilized polyethylene, so it’s built to last a lifetime.
+It has adjustable foot braces, so you can customize it to your perfect fit.
+A “deflector collar” protects you from splashes and sprays.
+It has a large and comfortable open cockpit that makes it easier to get in and out of the kayak. It also has a padded, high-backed seat that offers excellent support.
+ It features a gear storage compartment with shock cord deck rigging.
Why We Like It – Its simplicity makes this one of the best of beginner kayaks. The simplicity does not mean that safety and quality are sacrificed; it has just the right amount of storage space, comfort, and adjustability. This is a great starter kayak to buy for a fun and safe introduction to the sport.
6. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak
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This is one of the best beginner kayaks for kids! It’s made of durable, high-quality materials, so you can be sure that it’s safe, and its weight is low enough to be easy to maneuver. This kayak has some secrets up its sleeve that makes it specifically engineered for kiddos. Your child will love the bright lime-green color, and you’ll be able to easily spot them in the water. It’s made for a solo paddler, so it’s truly the best kayak for beginners – just for your child.
+ The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is made of the best durable polyethylene, so it can handle any bumps or hurdles the kids may run into while learning the sport.
+ It’s light enough at 18 pounds for your child to carry.
+ It has a weight capacity of 130 pounds.
+ This kayak offers multiple footrest positions, so kiddos of any height can be comfortable and feel stable.
+ Perhaps the best feature is a swim-up step on the end of the kayak, so your child can safely climb back in.
Why We Like It – It’s great to have a kayak just for the kids! It’s safe and easy for them to learn the sport. The kayak sits steadily on the water and can accommodate kids of different heights. We love the swim-up step as well.
7. Perception Pescador Pro 12
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This sought-after kayak “sit on top” style will easily balance on the water, making you feel steady and secure. This is one of the best kayaks for beginners because the structure of the kayak itself teaches you proper form, all the while keeping your comfort and safety in mind. It’s also a good choice for other recreational activities on the water like fishing and photography, as the gear system allows you to attach a variety of equipment to it – including your oar so that your hands are free!
+Molded-in rod holders keep fishing poles steady
+With the removable seat, you can be comfortably seated in your kayak, or even recline to enjoy a few relaxing moments, while staying stable on the water, of course.
+The adjustable foot braces help you learn – and keep – proper paddling form.
+ It has plenty of storage capacity for fishing gear, photography equipment, and whatever else you may need on the water.
+ Comes with the basics: a cup holder, skid plates, and handles that make this kayak easy to carry.
Why We Like It – This is the best beginner kayak for the water sportsman. If you love fishing, nature photography, or simply observing the wide variety of nature found on the water, this kayak is a good choice for you. You’ll learn great kayaking form with the comfortable seating and adjustability of the foot braces. The available storage allows you to bring along anything you need to enhance your kayaking experience.
Related: Fish finders for Kayaks.
8. Sun Dolphin Bali SS Kayak
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This wonder of a kayak measures 10 feet in length, giving you plenty of room to get comfortable and have plenty of storage options. This starter kayak offers plenty of space for storage and room for you to get comfortable and find the seating position that’s perfect for you. This is your “one size fits all” kayak. This sit-in kayak is perfect for lakes and rivers, keeping you stable and balanced on the water.
+This kayak includes a Portable Accessory Carrier and a dry storage compartment.
+It comes with shock cord deck rigging and built-in carrying handles.
+The large open cockpit allows for safe and easy entry and exit from the kayak.
+In addition to a comfortable seat, the seating area has thigh padding, adjustable foot braces, and a paddle holder for when you need your hands free.
+This kayak makes stability a priority as it tracks and gives you a smooth paddling experience.
Why We Like It – It’s hard to beat how stable this beginner kayak is. Having all of the storage options is great. A generous weight limit and the comfortable, “one size fits all” structure makes it easier to get in and out, making kayaking less intimidating and shows that it’s a water sport for everyone.
9. Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
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This one-person, inflatable kayak makes it easy for you to take the sport of kayaking anywhere. Just because it’s inflatable doesn’t mean it’s less stable or safe in the water, This kayak is specifically engineered to protect against damage; in fact, it’s guaranteed not to leak. Amazingly, the weight capacity of this kayak is a whopping 400 pounds. And don’t worry, this kayak still has the cup holder you need.
+The Sevylor comes in an easy-to-carry backpack, altogether weighing only 18 pounds, and the backpack becomes the seat!
+Durable and stable; the 21 gauge PVC engineering can handle the lake.
+The tarpaulin bottom protects against punctures.
+It only takes five minutes to set up.
+If you do happen to hit a rough patch, and a puncture occurs, the multiple air chambers ensure that you stay afloat, even if one is damaged.
Why We Like It – This kayak is a great inflatable alternative to traditional kayaks. The safety measures in place provide a huge relief. The inflatable material is comfortable; it’s easy to transport, and we love the large weight capacity.
10. Sun Dolphin Excursion Fishing Kayak
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This is another simple, “no-frills” kayak that is perfect for your fishing trip. It’s safe, stable, and comfortable. You can spend hours on your favorite lake or river in this sportsman’s 10-footer. This kayak does something special with rod holders for your convenience. It’s sturdy yet lightweight. It also has storage options so that you can take your lunch and drink (or whatever else you need) on the water with you.
+This kayak has one swivel rod holder, and two that stay flush.
+It can carry a max of 250 pounds.
+Features a comfortable, supportive high-backed seat and foot braces that you can adjust.
+It has a storage hatch with deck rigging included.
+It tracks and paddles smoothly while keeping you stable and safe in the water.
Why We Like It – This kayak is fuss-free and perfect for the fishermen in our lives. It’s highly adjustable and customizable and makes sure that we can fish in comfort and style. It’s easy to get in and out of, and we love its generous amount of storage.
Kayaks For Beginners Buyer’s Guide
If you’ve decided to take up kayaking, then congratulations! You’ve chosen a water sport that’s easy to learn, fun, and relaxing. It’s also a great way to get a light workout and experience nature. If you compare kayaks and canoes, kayaking is much safer.
A kayak is much more stable than a canoe, and you can’t always conveniently keep your belongings safe and dry in the latter. Kayaking is also much more comfortable than canoeing, and you can potentially get just as good of a workout. Now you just need your first kayak! Like everything else, some kayaks that are better for beginners.
It’s okay to be picky when selecting your beginner’s kayak; you’ll likely spend at least some time in the open water, after all. The best kayak for beginners should be safe, stable, and durable. It’s natural to be nervous as a beginner, but no worries; there are just a few more items for you to consider.
What you should look for in your beginner kayak
Ask yourself if you will be kayaking solo, as a couple, or as a family. Will you be taking a furry friend along? Do you need an ocean kayak or just one for the lake? Beginner kayaks can accommodate all of this! How many inches wide do you need the cockpit? Consider the weight limit you’ll need your kayak to have.
When thinking about this, don’t just think about the weight of paddlers; also consider the amount of gear you’ll need storage options for. If you’re a nature photographer, fisherman, or have other expensive gear with you, then storage is something you may want to make a priority. If you’re looking for a tandem kayak, you’ll want your kayak to be easy to get in and out of.
You might also want it to have cup holders, and offer outstanding stability on the water. Perhaps the best kayak for beginners for you is a kayak that can accommodate a tandem excursion and a solo paddler. Of course, safety should be your priority, but the best kayaks for beginners will be versatile, too.
What are the top kayak brands?
Every brand in this list is a good one – they made our “Top 10” for a reason! The brand mentioned most often in this list is the Sun Dolphin. Their kayaks are always made out of high-quality materials. They consistently offer ample storage options, stability, comfortable seating, adjustability, and make kayaks tailored to the water sportsman.
Most importantly, they prioritize safety. They do not, however, take our #1 spot – that belongs to the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem kayak. When it comes to the cream of the crop of kayaks, this one gives you the most for your money. This is as well as comfort, stability, and safety. This is only one specific kayak, however; it may take our top spot, but SD appears more often, and so are perhaps more versatile and beginner-friendly in what they offer. You want to make the best choice for you and your family; this is simply a matter of perspective.
Are there kayaks specifically for kids?
The answer is, “yes!” See #6 on this list. Your child’s first kayak is an important decision because it’s the vessel in which they’ll learn the sport of kayaking, as well as the proper posture and paddling form. You may not see many variations in the type of kayak for children, as far as the engineering and material, but rest assured that any kayaks for kids will be durable, reliable, and safe.
The best beginner kayaks for kids will have a lot of ways to customize it to fit your kiddo’s height, so they’re comfortable in the seat. A child’s kayak should be brightly colored so that you can easily spot them in the water. What is your child’s weight, and what kind of gear will they be bringing with them? Most kayaks for kids will have a weight limit of no more than 140 pounds.
The most important kayaks for beginners are the ones for kids – the love of the sport of kayaking starts with them! With our list in hand and a little research, you’ll find the best type of kayak for your child that you both will love.
Is this watersport safe for the elderly?
It can be safe for just about anyone, as long as they can bend, sit, stand up, and have reasonably good balance. It’s a huge plus if your older friend or relative has kayaked before, even if a lot of time has passed. If you’ve got an elderly loved one, make sure their vessel has an extra-large cockpit so that they have ample room to climb in and out and get settled once they’re in.
Oar holders in this situation are a good idea, so their paddle doesn’t get lost in the water. Make sure their seat has excellent padding, including thigh padding, and adjustable foot braces. Everyone should wear a life jacket while kayaking, but especially the elderly (and kids). Make sure their vessel has a cup holder so that they can stay hydrated and try not to make the excursion too long. Be proactive and consult with your elderly loved one and their doctor, if possible.
If I have back issues, are kayaks safe for me?
Fortunately, yes! Most kayaks have seats that offer excellent back support. There are varying levels of cushion and padding, so you’ll have to sit in some kayaks and see how they feel. Some kayaks offer high-backed seats, too. Most kayaks also have adjustable foot braces, so you can get the support from your lower body that your back needs to stay comfortable.
High-quality seats will also distribute your weight evenly, so the pressure is taken off your back. The real test will be to try your kayak on the water for an extended period of time. Perhaps talk with your doctor before purchasing a kayak, and mention that you’re a beginner. There are many kayaks with high-quality seating; you and your doctor should be able to come up with a solution for you.
Are there kayaks that will support my other water hobbies, like fishing or nature photography?
Absolutely, even if you’re among beginners in kayaking, but more advanced in other water sports. Look for a kayak that offers a lot of storage options and rod holders. This is where you’ll want to consider the weight you’ll need your vessel to accommodate. You may want an oar holder as well so that your hands can be free.
The storage room will protect your camera or other equipment from getting wet while you’re not using it – in addition to keeping your keys and other essentials safe and dry. Rod holders will keep any fishing pole steady. The oar holder will keep your oar from falling in the water so that you can concentrate on getting that perfect nature shot. There are even kayaks with a reclining seat so you can just lay back, relax, and soak it all in.
How do inflatable kayaks compare to non-inflatable ones?
Beginners may be inclined to feel that an inflatable vessel isn’t as safe as a non-inflatable one, but that’s not necessarily the case. See #3 and #9 on this list. Of course, an inflatable kayak is lightweight and perhaps more convenient for travel, but don’t necessarily offer the “extras” that non-inflatable kayaks can.
However, inflatable kayaks are undoubtedly a great way to give the sport a try without emptying your wallet on an expensive vessel. Inflatable ones are, of course, almost always cheaper. They are easy to clean. Just hose them down using a decent amount of water pressure. Inflatable kayaks are often engineered with the best PVC technology and durable, strong materials like tarpaulin to ensure your safety.
They will also have extra inflatable parts that will make sure you stay afloat, even if you hit a rough patch. Most of them are brightly colored for safety reasons, made of anti-puncture materials, and are equipped with extra air-filled chambers.
You’ll have to pump it full of air, but most come with a high-quality, high-powered air pump that makes the job fast and easy. Some even have cup holders! So don’t let an inflatable vessel deter you; they are just as safe, stable, and fun for beginners as non-inflatable ones.
Kayaking is a watersport that everyone can enjoy, and it’s an easy one for beginners to learn. There is a kayak for every shape and size, even ones specifically for kids. It’s a sport that is relaxing to participate in by yourself, perfect for couples, and will make lasting memories for families. The family dog will even want to get in on the fun – and he can with the right kayak! Remember that safety comes first. As a beginner, you may want to consider taking a kayaking safety course and always wear a life jacket.
The materials that kayaks are made of are easily searchable. Make sure you’re getting the best, most durable, and safest materials in your vessel. Kayaking easily lends itself to fishing, nature photography, and good old-fashion nature observation. The best kayaks will have storage options for any equipment you want to bring with you and keep safe and dry on your excursion. Because of this, consider the weight limit that you’ll need your kayak to accommodate.
You may want to make sure that your vessel has cup holders so that you can conveniently stay hydrated and spill-free. You can invest in an inflatable kayak or a non-inflatable one. Just think about you or your family’s lifestyle. If you do a lot of traveling and hiking to your water destination, an inflatable option may be the most practical choice for you.
Be sure that your kayak offers superb back support, thigh padding if you need it, and that all foot braces are adjustable so that you can get a comfortable and customized fit. You might even find that you like to go kayaking barefoot. You may feel more comfortable getting in and out of your kayak if the cockpit size is generous. Don’t worry – all kayaks should be stable and make you feel secure and balanced in the water. All you need is a little practice and confidence, and you’ll be ready to take on the water.