10 Best Beginner Kayaks in 2019 Reviewed

The art of choosing the best kayak:

I often get the question: What is the best kayak for beginners?

This question leads directly to a question: What should you use the kayak for? Long journey, exercise or competition?

Only when these basic questions have been addressed can you answer the original question. The answer I leave is always colored by personal experience and performance requirements of the current kayak type, which does not always coincide with your own requirements and expectations.

If you’re just starting out, buying your first kayak can seem like a daunting task.  With so many models, styles, accessories, and sizes, it can be a little confusing to know which beginner kayak is right for you.

Should you choose a sit-on-top or a sit-in?  What material should you go with?  Where will you be kayaking?  With so many questions, it’s no wonder people often feel overwhelmed with making a decision on buying a kayak.

Luckily, we’ve been where you’re at now, and have created this guide in order to help you out.  Below you’ll find our comprehensive kayak buying guide along with the 10 best beginner kayaks for 2019.

Kayaking is an awesome adventure that is only becoming more and more popular, and by the time you’re finished reading this, you’ll know exactly which kayak is right for you.

First, let’s take a look at what the top kayaks are for beginners right now:

Buying Guide – Tips for Choosing the Best Kayak for Beginners

What to look for in a kayak?

When looking for your first kayak to buy, there are a few things you want to take into consideration.

Durability / Material

If you’re new to kayaking, you’ll inevitably go through a learning curve as you figure out how to kayak.  Because of this, you’ll want a kayak that is durable and can withstand the punishment and abuse you’re about to put it through.

Investing in a durable yak is one of the main things you want to do when you’re just starting out.  Look at the reviews to see what previous buyers have to say, and also pay close attention to the material of the kayak.

Overall there are 7 different materials to choose from.  These include: Kevlar, carbon fiber, inflatable plastic, fiberglass, fabric with a frame, wood, and hard plastic.  A hard plastic or fiberglass kayak is a good bet, but the right inflatable kayak can work for beginners as well.

Hard plastic is going to be quite durable, but on the heavier side.  Fiberglass will be lightweight, but tend to be more expensive.  Carbon fiber and Kevlar are even lighter, but are very expensive and usually not necessary for beginners.

Wooden kayaks are more of a throwback and aren’t used much these days due to high manufacturing costs and their weight.

Stability

One of the most important things to consider when you’re just starting out, is the stability of the kayak.  The last thing you want is to get out on the water and constantly be tipping over.

Finding a vessel that is stable and is able to handle a little bit of “rock the boat” movements is definitely a good idea.  What you want to look for in this case is going to be a yak that is shorter than most other professional styles.

Kayak stability comes in two forms.  The first is called primary stability, and has to do with the stability of the kayak when you’re on calm waters, performing low-motion activities, entering and exiting the kayak, or just sitting still.

The second is called secondary stability, and this refers to how stable the vessel is when you’re in rough waters, high-motion activities like white-water kayaking, or going at high rates of speed.

In a nutshell, the flatter the hull is, the more stable the yak will be.  However, you’ll sacrifice some things such as turning ability.  So, you’ll need to figure out what is most important to you.  If you want a stable ride, invest in a flat hull design.

Kayak Length

Determining the proper length for your first kayak will be important.  When thinking about length, you’ll want to figure out what’s most important to you.  If it’s speed and tracking ability, you’ll want to go with a longer kayak.  However, if being able to turn the kayak with ease is your main concern, then you’ll want to invest in a shorter yak.

You also need to factor in how you’re going to transport the vessel.  Obviously, the longer the kayak, the harder it will be to transport and store.  With kayaks ranging anywhere from 7 feet to over 14 feet in length, it’s important to figure out what your needs are before buying.

Kayak Depth and Width

Taking into account the depth and width for your first kayak will play an important role in everything from steering the yak, to how much you can store in it.  Usually, beginners tend to go with kayaks that are wider because they offer more stability and are easier to get in and out of.

However, if you go with a wide yak, you’re going to sacrifice some speed, and the increased drag will make paddling a bit more difficult.

As far as depth goes, bigger guys, or those who want more leg room and space, should opt for a kayak with good depth.  The hull will sit up higher on these and you’ll have a lot of room in the cockpit, however, you’ll be more susceptible to the elements such as wind and the cold.

Purpose of the Kayak

Knowing what you intend to use the kayak for is going to play a big role in determining what kind of kayak to get.  Are you looking for adventure and taking it out in rough waters?  Do you want something that is going to be family friendly?   Will you be fishing with the kayak?

These are all things you need to take into consideration before making your purchase.  Once you know what you’ll be primarily using the kayak for, you’ll know what type of kayak you’ll need.

10 Best Beginner Kayaks for 2019 – Reviews and Comparison

Perfect for fishing or if you want to just cruise around, this sit-in recreational yak is our top-rated overall kayak.

Specifically built for flat water kayaking, the Wilderness Pungo 125 comes with a modest deck rigging and is perfect for rivers and lakes.

Made of polyethylene material, it has great durability and is economically sound, lasting a long time if taken care of properly.

Weighing in at only 49lbs, it’s extremely lightweight, making it easy to transport or carry if needed.  Even though the Pungo is light, it’s still very stable and has plenty of room in the cockpit.

 

Specs

  • 1-person kayak
  • capacity 475lbs
  • 12’1” x 33”
  • Fully rigged weight: 99lbs
  • Hull weight: 81lbs.
  • Hull Construction: Rotomolded polyethylene

Due to its stability, this kayak is able to handle both choppy and calm waters with ease and is difficult to tip over, making it a great choice for beginners.  So, whether you’re headed out on the lake or the river, the Pungo won’t let you down.

Due to the multi-chine hull, you’ll notice that this yak is very efficient in the water and offers excellent stability no matter what level paddler you are, beginners included.

Have a lot of stuff you want to bring while kayaking?  No worries!  The Pungo 125 has a watertight, full-size stern hatch capable of holding extra clothes, food, or accessories.  If that’s not enough, it comes with a bungee deck rig to secure dry bags.  It also has a removable kayak console, giving you extra space if needed.

Pros
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat
Cons
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat

Overall

This is a premium built kayak with a great name behind it.  The only real downside we can see would be the price.  Coming in at around $1,000, it might be a bit pricey for some beginners.  However, if you want a kayak that will last for years to come, this is a great choice.

2. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Beginner Kayak

 

One of the most popular sit-on-top tandem kayaks in the world, the Ocean Kayak 12 was made for affordable family fun.  It comes with two Comfort Plus seats that can be used in multiple positions because the forward seat can be rotated around to be able to ace towards the rear paddler, and also includes enough room for a pet or child in the middle.

The Tri-Form hull design is able to handle flat, swift, and rough waters, making it one of the most versatile kayaks on the market.  With the ability to carry up to 425 lbs. in combined weight, you’ll have no problem fitting a couple adults and all the gear you need.

It weighs in at only 57 pounds, and is 34 inches wide, which provides paddlers with a stable ride that is great for beginners.

 

Specs

  • 1-person kayak
  • capacity 475lbs
  • 12’1” x 33”
  • Fully rigged weight: 99lbs
  • Hull weight: 81lbs.
  • Hull Construction: Rotomolded polyethylene

Included in the kayak are tank wells and gear straps, which allow you to stow your gear with ease. It also has overlapping foot wells which will allow for stable solo paddling and comfortable foot bracing.

This yak is virtually indestructible, built of high density polyethylene (HDPE) for the hull which is somewhat flexible, so it’ll give a little bit on impact, reducing the risk of cracks. It also comes with a skid plate that offers extra durability whenever you’re beaching or launching the kayak.

The seats are made of UV resistant nylon pack cloth, with brass clips and stainless steel springs to clip onto the hull. They also come with reflective logos which illuminate when it’s dark.

Also, don’t worry about water getting into the vessel. It comes with four self draining holes that drains any water that comes over the side.

Pros
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat
Cons
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat

Overall

Overall this a great kayak that offers versatility and stability all rolled into one.  Whether you’re alone, or kayaking with others, this is a great choice for any beginner.

3. Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Kayak

If you want a kayak that can stand up to the elements, the Frenzy might just be the kayak for you.  This is a great recreational kayak that can handle anything from kayak surfing to fishing, to rough waters.

A solid mid-sized sit-on-top kayak, the Frenzy can be comfortably paddled for a 5-mile round trip just as easily as it can be used for playing in the surf.

Because it has a center keel line that is long and pronounced, you’re able to track straight in windy situations and long-distance paddling is easier compared to most other kayaks of this length.

Specs

  • 1-person kayak
  • capacity 475lbs
  • 12’1” x 33”
  • Fully rigged weight: 99lbs
  • Hull weight: 81lbs.
  • Hull Construction: Rotomolded polyethylene

The hull on the Frenzy has an uplifted rocker that allows its nose to stay high above the waves so you can surf with confidence.  Also, like other Ocean Kayaks, this one has ample room for storage which makes it a great choice for divers and fishermen alike.  With a maximum capacity of 300 – 350 lbs. it perfect for people of all shapes and sizes.

Another often overlooked feature is that it has a GPS holder, so you’re able to know where you’re at at all times.  This is great for beginners who are worried about getting lost while they’re out kayaking.

As far as the downsides go, the Frenzy isn’t built for speed, so if that’s important to you, this probably isn’t the kayak you should buy.  Also, if you’re not a fan of getting wet, this also isn’t a good choice.

Pros
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat
Cons
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat

Overall

Overall, the Frenzy is great for those who will be in choppy waters or who live on the coast and want to take their kayak out to the beach and do a little kayak surfing.  With great stability, this is a solid beginner kayak to get your feet wet with.

4. Perception Pescadors 10.0 Kayak

If you’re looking for a kayak that was made with the beginner in mind, look no further than the Perception 10.0.  Sitting at 10 feet in length, this kayak tracks well, but isn’t too long, making it pretty easy to maneuver.

Weighing in at only 52 pounds, it’s a lightweight kayak that can hold up to 325 lbs.  Also, even though it’s only 10ft in length, it has ample storage, with two dry storage compartments, one at the bow, and one right behind the seat that is smaller.

Specs

  • 1-person kayak
  • capacity 475lbs
  • 12’1” x 33”
  • Fully rigged weight: 99lbs
  • Hull weight: 81lbs.
  • Hull Construction: Rotomolded polyethylene

Some other great features include a Comfort Seating System (CSS), which makes paddling very comfortable, molded-in footwells, a tank well, and a paddle keeper that is molded into the side of the yak, which will hold the paddles if you get tired.

The only real drawback of this vessel is that it’s not ideal for bigger people.  If you’re a taller person, or looking for a lot of space, this isn’t the kayak for you.

 

Pros
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat
Cons
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat

Overall

Overall, the Perception 10.0 is a great beginner kayak that is extremely comfortable and offers great stability.  So, if you’re looking for a comfortable kayak that’s easy to maneuver, you can’t go wrong with this one.

5. Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak

The Old Town Canoe Vapor 10 is the perfect entry-level kayak that is fun to use and won’t break the bank.

As the name suggests, this is a 10-foot vessel and is made from polyethylene, making it lightweight and robust.  The Comfort Flex seat is adjustable and there is a large open cockpit which gives taller/larger paddlers a lot of room to stretch out and makes it easy to get in and out.

Specs

  • 1-person kayak
  • capacity 475lbs
  • 12’1” x 33”
  • Fully rigged weight: 99lbs
  • Hull weight: 81lbs.
  • Hull Construction: Rotomolded polyethylene

This kayak is also versatile, ideal for both recreational kayakers and anglers alike.  Plus, in order to make the kayak even more comfortable, Old Town included padded thigh braces as well as adjustable foot braces in order to achieve the ideal paddling position.

Similar to the Perception R15, the main drawback is that this kayak is going to be a little small for taller/bigger people.

 

Pros
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat
Cons
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat

Overall

Overall though, the Old Town Canoe Vapor 10 is a great starter kayak that offers comfort, versatility, stability and affordability, that make it a great pick for any beginner.

6. Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak

One of our favorite affordable inflatable kayaks, the Intex Explorer K2 is great for beginners who want a kayak that doesn’t take up any space, but is still want to enjoy some kayaking on calm waters.

Able to easily fit two adults, this yak comes with an uplifted bow that will keep you dry when you’re out on the water, along with bow and stern covers which allow the inflatable kayak to keep its shape.

Built with heavy-duty 30-guage vinyl that’s over a 1,200 denier nylon shell, this yak is very durable and puncture resistant.   It also has a good amount of space, with enough room to fit two adults and a dog or child, making it a great choice for family adventures.

Specs

  • 1-person kayak
  • capacity 475lbs
  • 12’1” x 33”
  • Fully rigged weight: 99lbs
  • Hull weight: 81lbs.
  • Hull Construction: Rotomolded polyethylene

One great feature that the Intex Explorer K2 comes with is three separate air chambers, so that if one of them gets punctured, the other two chambers will still be inflated and be able to get you to shore safely.

The one negative with this kayak is that it’s not built for speed or rough waters.  So, if you’re planning on kayaking in choppy rivers, or want to spend hours out at sea, this isn’t the vessel for you.

 

Pros
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat
Cons
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Fitted with loads of additional accessories
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Comes with a comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat

Overall

Overall, the Intex Explorer K2 inflatable kayak is perfect for those wanting something simple that they can take out on calm waters and enjoy on a sunny day.  Also, if you live in a small apartment or don’t have anywhere to store your kayak, going with this inflatable is perfect if you’re just starting out.

7. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Foot Sit-in Kayak

If you’re in the market for a sit-in kayak, the Aruba 10 is a great beginner kayak to start with.  Packed with an adjustable back pad for support along with adjustable foot braces based on your height, this yak is able to fit to your body type for increased comfort.

The Aruba 10 is also built with plenty of storage, with a Portable Accessory Carrier (also known as a dry storage compartment) and a back storage compartment that is tightly sealed so no water can get in.

In the front of the vessel you’ll notice two cup holders that are perfect for sodas or a relaxing beer if you so choose.  As far as the build goes, it’s made with high-quality polyethylene, so it’s able to handle underwater obstacles and run-ins with your occasional rock or two.

Specs

  • 10’ in length
  • 30” in width
  • 40lbs in weight
  • 250lb capacity
  • Single person sit-in design
  • UV-stabilized Fortiflex High-Density Polyethylene

One thing you won’t get hit with often though is water, because the Aruba 10 comes with a spray deflecting collar which will keep you dry.

When it comes to tracking and stability, the Aruba 10 has a narrow stern and bow which helps to keep it on track, allowing it to slice through the water.  Also, because the vessel is 30 inches wide, and comes with a flat bottom, it is very stable, which is good for beginners.

There are a couple of downsides to this kayak though.  The main one is that there is no padding on the seat, which makes it uncomfortable on extended outings.  Also, this kayak has limited storage, and isn’t a good fit for larger individuals.  With a max capacity of 250 lbs., it’s ideal for those who don’t weigh a lot and are carrying a lot out with them.

Pros
  • Easy to launch and transport
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Stable & durable build
  • Includes foot and paddling braces for additional comfort
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Doesn’t do well in choppy waters
  • No drain plugs
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • No seat-bottom cushion
  • Doesn’t have fishing rod holders

Overall

Overall, the Aruba 10 is a great buy for those wanting a solid sit-in kayak that they can take out on relatively calm waters. Due to its lightweight and great tracking ability, this is a solid beginner kayak for those looking for a little fun in the sun on the weekends.

8. Lifetime Youth Wave Kids Kayak

If you’re looking to buy a beginner kayak for your kid, you can’t go wrong with the Lifetime Youth Wave kayak.  Built for kayakers weighing less than 130 lbs., this sit-on-top yak is 6 feet long and comes with molded-in handles on the sides and at the front and the back.

Weighing in at only 18 pounds, this vessel can be easily transported without much of an issue.  Some of the features of this kayak include self-draining scupper holes, reverse chine for enhanced stability and a swim-up step, along with a ergonomic cockpit design that will enhance their motor skills and balance.

Specs

  • 10’ in length
  • 30” in width
  • 40lbs in weight
  • 250lb capacity
  • Single person sit-in design
  • UV-stabilized Fortiflex High-Density Polyethylene

Made of high-density polyethylene, this is a pretty tough kayak and even includes a 5-year limited warranty in case anything happens to it.

The main drawback would be the size.  Since it’s only six feet in length, there’s only so much use your kids will be able to get out of it until they’re too big for it and need to upgrade.  It’s also not suitable for anything other than calm waters which could be an issue for some.

Pros
  • Easy to launch and transport
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Stable & durable build
  • Includes foot and paddling braces for additional comfort
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Doesn’t do well in choppy waters
  • No drain plugs
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • No seat-bottom cushion
  • Doesn’t have fishing rod holders

Overall

Overall, this is a great starter kayak for your kids if they’re little and want to do their own thing out on the water but aren’t quite ready for an adult sized kayak yet.  Let them get their feet wet with this one and then once they learn the ropes, you can upgrade to something a little bigger.

9. Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-Foot Sit-on top Kayak

One of the most popular kayaks for beginners for 2019, the Sun Dolphin Bali SS is great for those wanting to adventure down lakes and rivers.  Featuring a hull design, and built with Fortiflex high-density polyethylene, this vessel is very durable and also resistant to the harsh effects of both salt and fresh water.

Plus, with a paddle holder, protective thigh pads, and also adjustable foot braces, the Bali SS is perfect for people of all heights.  While the kayak is made or only one person, there is enough room where you can comfortably bring along a child or pet as well.

Specs

  • 10’ in length
  • 30” in width
  • 40lbs in weight
  • 250lb capacity
  • Single person sit-in design
  • UV-stabilized Fortiflex High-Density Polyethylene

The cool thing about the Sun Dolphin Bali SS kayak is that it comes in various sizes.  While this one is a 10-footer, you also have the option of getting a smaller 8 foot yak or a larger 12 foot one as well.

Some of the features included in the Bali SS are a dry storage compartment for your supplies and a Portable Accessory Carrier (PAC) that acts like a backpack for storing even more supplies.

If you want to use the vessel for fishing, it comes with a shock deck rigging in order to secure your fishing accessories.

The two main downsides of this kayak are that it is pretty slow in the water and it also doesn’t come with a bottom seat cushion, making longer journeys a bit of an issue.

Pros
  • Comes in multiple attractive colors depending on your preference
  • Very affordable and great value for the money
  • Lots of safety features
  • Smooth ride and easy to paddle
  • Tracks really well and very stable
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Optimized for longer adventures and very comfortable
Cons
  • Polyethylene frame is strong but it’s also susceptible to scratching and flexing
  • Hull design makes the kayak stable but really slow
  • No bottom cushion for the seat and footrests are somewhat uncomfortable

Overall

Overall, the Sun Dolphin Bali 10 SS is great for those looking for a versatile kayak that can be used in a variety of situations and doesn’t cost a fortune.  Plus, with all the storage it comes with, you’ll have no issues carrying all your needed supplies.