Buyers Guide & Information

Best Recreational Kayaks For Enjoyment

Take a load off an enjoy some time in nature with these highly rated kayaks.


A recreational kayak is made for leisure kayaking on open lakes or flat-water streams and rivers, whether on a camping holiday or for weekly fun. With many kayaks to choose from, this review can help you to select the right kayak for your fitness and fun.

Recreational Kayaks

  • Sit on Top
    The sit on top kayak has a higher center of gravity. This means when you sit on it, you will feel a bit more secure because it is wider than a sit in kayak.
  • Sit In
    The sit in kayak is longer than the sit on top, and slightly narrower, making it faster.

Benefits of Recreational Kayaks

When a non-athletic person wants to learn kayaking, they’d be using it for recreational purposes. The kayaks most used for recreation are the sit on top variety as they are more stable.

Kayaking offers many benefits. Enjoyable outdoor exercise like this improves core and tones arms, with the added bonus of vitamin D from the sun.

Choosing High-Quality Recreational Kayaks

It's always a good idea to have high-quality equipment, especially when doing outdoor sport involving water. Choosing high-quality recreational kayaks is not difficult when you have a thorough buyer's guide like this to help you. Read on for the breakdown on each point below.

Usage/Primary Paddling Location

If white water rafting on a wild river is what you're thinking of, you probably wouldn't want a recreational kayak.  Safe, protected water areas like open lakes are what recreational kayaks are perfect for. 

Beginners can start in these sit on top kayaks because they are more stable. It's their width that gives you a sense of stability, but they won't go very fast. You'll be sitting on a small seat with your legs out in front of you.

Sit in kayaks are better for very cold weather and water, as when you’re sitting in them, you get splashed less.

Kayaks can be made for oceans, fast rivers, and still water, so knowing where you want to go kayaking is an integral part of the shopping process, as well as your level of experience.

Durability, Design & Comfort

Across the board, different kayaks will have different designs depending on the conditions they'd be used in and the difficulties therein. You can get tandem kayaks, as well as the single-seater variety.

Though not ultimately designed to be comfortable, they do have more features that can be added for more comfort.

In terms of durability, the makers of the most popular kayaks recommend that you contact them if you notice wear or tear to discuss repairs. If you’re in low water amongst stones and rocks, your hull can get damaged. Be careful where you take your kayak.

Size/Dimension, Speed & Weight Capacity

Ocean kayaks and those for rougher water tend to be longer, even up to 20 feet.

The longer the boat, the better cruiser it is, but you won’t have as much ease in turning as you would in a shorter boat. 

Recreational kayaks, however, have a different purpose from ocean kayaks and are differently made. The usual length for the recreational kayak is 12 feet, though some can be as short as 8 feet. They can also be as wide as 36 inches.

The average weight capacity of a recreational kayak is 300 to 400 pounds, and if it is a tandem boat, then it can usually take up to 600 pounds.

Stability & Safety Features

As discussed, there are differences between the sit in and the sit on top recreational kayaks. On the whole, the sit on top kayaks are much broader than their sit in counterparts.

Two main types of kayak hull design can determine its best use. Nowadays, though, you can find hulls that are a mix of the two. The flat bottom hulls are the safest and most stable, while the v shape hull makes for more speed.

The rocker is another art of the design of the kayak. It is that curve from the bow of the hull to its stern. When you have a kayak with a rocker, you can maneuver it much more easily than if you have a kayak with little or no rocker.

Storage & Portability

As you can imagine, kayaks can be big and cumbersome, especially if you have a smaller frame. It should be good news then to hear that recreational kayaks can actually be quite light. 

They are made with fiberglass or other plastic, like polyethylene or harder ABS plastic, and they can vary in weight.

The bigger the kayak, the more storage space you will have. This is better if you plan on taking day-long journeys out on lakes of rivers and need to pack changes of clothes, water, food, and other bits and pieces.

Kayaks have been designed to be ultra-lightweight and portable for the single person who wants to use one for recreation and exercise.

Some kayaks can come with bungee handles and even storage space within the fore and aft. Ensuring you have the right-sized storage space is essential when you choose the best recreational kayak for you.

Performance & Propulsion

Each kayak has its own performance based on its design. It might be more stable for new recreational users, or its design could be made for speed.

When you get a new kayak, it can be useful to take it out in different conditions to see how it would handle in slightly rougher waters. Try to ensure there is a coast guard or lifesaver nearby if you do want to try it out in less than savory conditions.

The advantage of this sort of preparation is that if you did get caught out in sudden weather changes, you will know what your kayak can do.

Extra Accessories & Features

A kayak on its own is made up of the hull and deck, and often a paddle is included. They come with paddle holders as a standard feature, but some provide cup holders and storage space.

If you're in choppy water, with lower sides, there is the risk of getting quite wet. Thus waterproof storage compartments could be handy for you for long days out on the water.

Most kayaks these days can come with extra padding for comfort. The seats could be padded, and there could also be foot braces for even more comfort.

Finally, for those who want to transport their kayaks with ease, many come with handles attached to the body of the kayak.

Ease of Setup

There are foldable kayaks on the market that have an inflated seat. These require more time and energy than kayaks that are already set up. In the case of pre-assembled kayaks, all you need is a trailer to load them on.

Budget & Warranty

When choosing your kayak, be sure to check any warranty information. Most companies ask that you contact them if there is any damage. After assessment, it will be possible to see if this comes from usage or negligence, or a fault in its design.

Many models offer a lifetime warranty, but you will need to contact the seller for specific information, depending on whether the model is still being manufactured.

8 Best Recreational Kayaks Reviewed

1. Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin

Best Recreational Kayak

Max Load Capacity

375 lbs.

Body Type

Rotomolded single piece polyethylene

Kayak Type

Sit on top


10 feet Long 32 Inches Wide

Kayak Weight

57 lbs


Limited Lifetime manufacturer’s warranty & one year on parts

Stability and maneuverability are two of the best features of the Vibes Kayaks Yellowfin Recreational Sit on Top kayak. Its range of color schemes is a bonus.

This model is best for fishing as it has four flush rod holders and a comfortable seat for those hours spent on the water. Also included are waterproof cargo hatches.

On all waters, this kayak is nimble yet sturdy. It’s lightweight for easy transport, but its hull design allows for fast movement when needed. At the same time, when you are out on the water for a long day, you can move without exhausting yourself.

At 10 feet and 32 inches wide, the Vibe Kayak Yellowfin is one of the best lightweight recreational kayaks. It’s perfect for lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.

Great reviews are the only ones you find of this model, with delivery of the product also rated highly.


  • Affordable
  • Waterproof hatches   
  • High stability for beginners
  • Lightweight and easy portability


  • Small for some
  • Not suited for rough water

2. Sun Dolphin Aruba SS

Best Recreational Kayak For A Woman

Max Load Capacity

260 lbs

Body Type

Polyethylene plastic

Kayak Type

Sit in

Dimensions (L*W*H)

96 x 28 x 16 inches

Kayak Weight

27 lbs


Limited Lifetime - Registration necessary within 30 days

Coming in three colors for you to choose from, ocean, red and tangerine, the Sun Dolphin Aruba SS is considered the best recreational kayak for a woman. It has an 8-foot span and is the best option for beginners who want a lighter kayak that is easy to maneuver. 

With this kayak, it is simple to track and paddle on rivers and lakes. In it, you will find a storage compartment and a recessed drink holder.

For some people, its best feature is also its worst. Some love how portable it is, but for others who value stability much more than portability, it might not be their top pick. It’s because it is so portable that it rates high on our list. Depending on your body shape, it could be the best buy for you.

At around the $300 mark, this kayak has all you need for recreational kayaking and is well-suited to a smaller adult.

More options from Sun Dolphin can be found here.


  • Affordable
  • Easy tracking
  • Easy steering
  • Budget friendly option
  • Sit In Kayak with abundant storage


  • Small for some

3. Ocean Kayak Malibu

Best Tandem Recreational Kayak

Max Load Capacity

425 lbs

Body Type

Triple-layer polyethylene

Kayak Type

Sit on top


12 feet Long 34 inches wide

Kayak Weight

57 lbs


limited Lifetime

When tandem kayaking is what you are after, Ocean Kayak offers the best product on the market. Despite being designed to hold two people, the Ocean Malibu tandem is light for its size and purpose.

It can be used on oceans and freshwater. What makes this your best tandem recreational kayak is that you don’t need two people to manage it. One person can paddle, while the other can enjoy or look after a child or pet, for which there is an extra 3rd seat.

The Ocean Malibu sit-on-top kayak is not one that could make you feel claustrophobic. Being 12 foot long, the Ocean Malibu feels sturdy, and what helps with that is its width of 34 inches.

It also has a patented foothold that overlaps giving you comfort for many hours on the water. Though weighing 57 lbs, remember this is the tandem model, so it is more substantial than single-person kayaks.

For our complete guide to tandem kayaks, check out this article.


  • Tandem
  • Spacious
  • Great for fresh water or salt water
  • Comfortable, patented footholds


  • Heavy
  • Not speedy

4. Advanced Elements AE1012-R

Best Lightweight Recreational Kayak

Max Load Capacity

300 lbs

Body Type

PVC tarpaulin

Kayak Type



30 x 17 x 10 Inches (Folded) 

10.5 Feet Long 32 Inches Wide (Not Folded)

Kayak Weight

36 lbs


1 year on defects (Material Or Workmanship)

The design of the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame is what makes this model onto our best buy list. It is a folding kayak and an inflatable in one. It has aluminum ribs that support it. The makers claim that what this does is give you the maneuverability of an inflatable boat, but the support and sturdiness of a hard shell boat.

The Advanced Elements also gives you a padded seat and cargo space. Two-color choices, lime or red/grey, are also available.  When it comes to you, it is pre-assembled at the factory. Your job will be to put the seat in place and inflate it.

Another reason to go for this model is that it has much more space than other models, 10 chambers to be exact. Built for one, you can spend hours on your kayak, enjoying nature with everything you need to be stowed with you.

It is as lightweight as you can get but clever in its design, which is why it is one of the best recreational kayaks. More of the top lightweight models can be found here.


  • Lightweight
  • Hybrid design
  • Sturdy aluminium ribbing
  • Tons of storage space
  • Comfortable padded seat


  • Requires set up

5. Dagger Kayaks Zydeco

Best Recreational Kayak Under $500

Max Load Capacity

220 lbs

Body Type

PVC tarpaulin

Kayak Type

Sit in


9.1 Feet Long 28.5 Inches Wide

Kayak Weight

36.5 lbs


Limited Warranty 

Its color is molten, and it is made by Dagger Kayaks. The Zydeco 9.0 isn't always easy to find, and it is not the most budget friendly recreational kayak on the market, but it is a firm favorite. It is a kayak with speed and maneuverability that is also stable for those starting out. 

Weighing 36.5 pounds, the Zydeco is also aimed at women kayakers, possibly due to its portability. It's essential that you fit comfortably in the kayak you choose, and each model has its own quirks. A 6ft kayaker might not enjoy this model as much as a 5ft person would.

Though not the smallest, at 9.1 feet, this kayak can give you proper tracking and speed. What makes this interesting is that the cockpit is designed in a way to make it roomy enough for comfort but good enough for performance.

If you are looking for a shorter length kayak with a lighter weight than others on the market, but still want excellent performance, this is the one for you.


  • Good tracking
  • Smaller sized
  • Cockpit is roomy
  • Stable design for beginners


  • Too small for some


Best Sit-In Recreational Kayak

Max Load Capacity

250 lbs

Body Type

Polyethylene, UV-stabilized

Kayak Type

Sit in

Dimensions (L*W*H)

120 x 30 x 13 inches

Kayak Weight

39.7 Lbs 


 Manufacturer’s 2-year warranty

Coming in five bright colors, the Sundolphin Aruba is one of the favorites on the market. It has the usual water bottles and carrying handles, but for a 10-foot sit-in kayak, it is not on the heavy side.

Though not equipped with a rod holder, it does have a paddle holder. Its hull is made from polyethylene, which is UV-stabilized, and high density to boot for added protection. It also comes with back and foot support.

What you get is a decent amount of storage, padding for extra comfort, and a light kayak for ease of movement. Some kayaks have drain plugs, but this model does not. As such, it is better for a still lake than a choppy ocean.  

The Sundolphin Aruba is not the smallest kayak on our list, nor is it the longest, but it is very stable and gives good performance in a recreational setting.


  • Affordable
  • UV Stabilised
  • Lightweight and easy to transport


  • Smaller
  • No drain plug

7. Old Town Heron 11XT

Best Rated Recreational Kayak For Beginners

Max Load Capacity

325 lbs

Body Type


Kayak Type

Sit in


11 Feet Long 28.5 Inches Wide

Kayak Weight

41 lbs


lifetime Hull Warranty and Limited on other 

The brand has been in the industry for a long time; thus Old Town's recreational kayak offers what both beginners and amateurs can enjoy. It's especially good for taller or longer-legged people as it has a spacious cockpit. Compared to other models, the Old Town Cloud is on the longer side at 11 feet.

The seat is adjustable and comfortable. Not only is it roomy, but it also has space that is waterproof for any extras you want to take on board and keep dry.

When in the water, the deck height sits at 13 inches. Some models reach as high as 16 inches, depending on their design, so this model really does offer good value and high quality. These days, many kayaks have extras for added appeal.

Cup holders, fishing rod holders, comfortable foot pedals, the Old Town Cloud is the best rated recreational kayak for beginners.


  • Established brand           
  • Good value
  • Ideal for taller people
  • Adjustable seat
  • Fishing rod holders included


  • Longer
  • Heavier

8. Perception Pescador 10 

Best Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

Max Load Capacity

325 lbs

Body Type


Kayak Type

Sit on top


10.6 Feet Long x 32 inches wide 

Kayak Weight

57 lbs


5 year warranty 

The Perception Pescador is always on the best-seller lists even though there are updated models available. It's considered a favorite in recreational kayak reviews because of its size and its extra features.  

At the back of the kayak, there is ample space for whatever you want to reach back for. There is insulated storage up front too. The rear hatch also has a lot of space for extras you need to take with you for day trips.

Not only is there padding, but its ventilated on the seating area for those long days fishing. The Perception Pescador is made for slow-moving water, like lakes and streams. Its design is not for speed on choppy water.

If what you have in mind is a day spent fishing, then this kayak might be your best buy. It’s not too heavy, nor difficult to use, and has all the extra features modern design gives you.

More Perception Kayak reviews can be found by clicking here.


  • Ventilated seat
  • Ideal for calm waters
  • Equipped for fishing  


  • Higher priced 

Top Brands of Recreational Kayaks

The products listed today all score well on performance and durability. Their makers compete with each other to get a favorable share of the market and therefore have to provide the quality they claim to.

Vibe is just over five years old and has affordable good looking kayaks. Advanced Elements have been making hybrid models for a decade, and Sun Dolphin was set up in 1982, giving it decades of experience in the field.  

Recreational vs. Touring Kayaks

Recreational Kayaks are not the same as touring kayaks. The former are made wider to be more stable for long and enjoyable days for any experience level. Touring kayaks, however, are designed for speed and track well. Importantly, a touring kayak will lift when water increases, which is better suited for those touring adventures.

Using a Recreational Kayak

If you are new to kayaking, remember to choose the area you go paddling in carefully. When you go paddling, remember to use your upper body, not just your arms. Your waist area should turn and stroke, not your arms moving the paddle in and out.

Launching a kayak is when you start and landing a kayak is when you end your trip.

You should get in when it is floating by standing next to it, turning and balancing as you go in. Place your feet in as you swivel around.

Landing must be done as carefully as launching. Approaching the safest landing point with as much shelter from the elements is what you should try to aim for. 

Safety Tips When Using Recreational Kayaks

To enjoy kayaking, you need to be aware of your surroundings, ensure the weather and water are right for the kayak you have, and that you have the correct clothing on.

If there are rules for boating where you are going, you must follow them. Staying safe is your number one priority. Once you have checked all the boxes, you can enjoy all that kayaking has to offer.

Care & Maintenance: Taking Care of Your Recreational Kayak

When you are not using your kayak, you must shelter it from the sun. Keep your stow areas clean and tidy, removing anything damp from your trip out.

Always inspect for damage after use, and if there is the slightest concern about it, contact its maker for assistance. Though the sun could dry it for you, you should wipe it down and rinse after use. Check out this video for how to give your kayak a thorough clean:

Frequently Asked Questions

How to avoid tipping over in a recreational kayak?

It’s not the boat, nor the weather, it can sometimes be you turning too sharply that makes a kayak tip over.

Does kayaking help with weight loss?

Yes, it does. It primarily gives you an upper body work out with excellent toning for the arms and back muscles. Though you would lose fat, you might build muscle, so the scales might show the same weight. 

Is it safe to go kayaking alone?

Yes, it is, but you must take precautions. Have a walkie talkie designed for use on the water. Keep a fully charged mobile phone on you. Always tell someone where you are going, and carry a GPS on you if you don't have one on a two-way radio.

Are recreational kayaks easy to steer?

Yes, they are. They are designed for smooth steering, and because they are wider and usually shorter than other kayaks, steering is not difficult. You will get better with more practice.

How much do recreational kayaks normally weigh?

A recreational kayak will typically weigh around 30 lbs at its lightest, and even up to 80 lbs at its heaviest.

What other features does a recreational kayak include?

A spray skirt stops water from entering the kayak. A skeg, found under a kayak keeps it going straight, just as a rudder does. The rocker is the curvature in the bottom of a kayak.


Kayaking is not a new sport nor hobby, but the modern world has given kayaks comforts and conveniences from new materials for better speed to self-ventilating padding for long hours seated.

Of all the products listed today, Vibe is the most popular. Its price is affordable, but what you get in exchange for your money is a safe, well-made kayak, with good looks to boot.

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