10 Best Kayaks for Beginners in 2021 Reviewed

I often get the question: What are the best kayaks for beginners?

When it comes to choosing the best kayaks for beginner kayakers, it can be quite confusing.  I find that this question often leads directly to more questions: What should you use the kayak for? Long journey, exercise or competition?  How much do you want to spend?  How often will you be kayaking?

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 for beginners to know what kayak is right for them.

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 2021.

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:

10 Best Kayaks for Beginners in 2021


Intex Explorer K2 2-Person Inflatable Kayak

The Intex Explorer K2 2-person kayak is very easy to store as it deflates and folds up for compact storage. The kayaks are made from durable PVC material that is thicker and puncture-resistant, making them durable enough for open water. The paddles are also made of a lightweight aluminum material with comfortable foam handles. It comes in two striking bright colors: red or blue.

The best thing about this kayak is the fact that it inflates to 7’6″ wide by 16’3″ long, giving you plenty of room to paddle around with a friend or family member. It also comes with adjustable air valves so you can easily inflate the boat when needed and even adjust the air. When it comes to beginners, the Intex Explorer K2 is one of the best choices because it is very stable and can hold up to 2 people. The kayak also comes with a repair patch kit in case the boat accidentally gets punctured. Overall, the Intex Explorer K2 is a great choice for beginner kayakers.

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.


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.


Wilderness Systems Pungo 125 Recreational Kayak

Perfect for fishing or if you want to just cruise around, this sit-in recreational kayak 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.  

If you’re big into bass fishing, this would be a great choice, and is what many anglers use along with a top of the line fish finder for the ultimate experience.

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.


  • 1-person kayak
  • capacity 475lbs
  • 12’1” x 33”
  • Fully rigged weight: 99lbs
  • Weight: 81lbs.
  • Material: 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.


This is a premium built kayak with a great name behind it.  The only real downside we can see would be the price, as 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.


Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

If you want a durable yet affordable 1-person kayak, look no further than the Intex Challenger K1 Kayak Series.  This inflatable kayak is a great choice for those just starting out and looking to make some solo trips out on the water.

Made of welded material, this model will work great for any lakes or slow moving rivers.  The puncture resistant vinyl, two separate air chambers, and inflatable I-beam floor, give this kayak a solid construction for the price point.  There’s also a cargo net at the front of the kayak for extra storage space for your things.  

Included with the kayak is an 84-inch paddle, hand pump, as well as a repair patch.


  • 1-person kayak
  • capacity 220lbs
  • 15” x 30”
  • Weight: 27.2 lbs
  • Removable / Adjustable seat
  • Material: Puncture resistant vinyl

Measuring a total of 108 inches, and weighing only 27.2 pounds, this is one of the smaller kayaks on the list.  It’s also not ideal for bigger individuals as the maximum weight capacity is 220lbs.

One thing we like about this kayak is the quick assembly.  Once you get the hang of it, you can have the kayak inflated and completely put together in under 10 minutes.  The deflation process is similarly easy, so if you’re worried about transporting your kayak, you don’t need to be with this model.


This is a great value pick for those that want to get started in kayaking but don’t want to break the bank.  While this is a durable kayak and an excellent buy for the money, keep in mind that you aren’t paying that much so don’t expect the world.

If you just want to dip your toes into the water before making a big investment, you can’t go wrong with the Intex Challenger K1.


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.


  • 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.


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.


Perception Pescador Pro 10 Fishing Kayak

If you’re looking for a fishing kayak that was made with the beginner in mind, look no further than the Perception 10.0.  Sitting at 10 feet in length, this sit-on-top 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.


  • 1-person SOT 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.


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.


Old Town Vapor 10XT Recreational Kayak

Old Town Vapor 10XT Recreational Kayak (Sunrise, 10 Feet)

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.
  • 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.
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.


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 kayak 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.


  • 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.


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.


Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak

Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak | Tandem Kayak | 13

One of the most popular sit-on-top tandem kayaks in the world, the Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135 was made for 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.


  • 2-person kayak
  • capacity 475lbs
  • 12’1” x 33”
  • Fully rigged weight: 99lbs
  • Weight: 81lbs.
  • Material: 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.


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.


Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

Lifetime Muskie Angler Sit-On-Top Kayak with Paddle, Tan, 120""" (90508)

If you want a kayak that can stand up to the elements, the Tamarack Angler 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.


  • 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.


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.


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

One of the most popular kayaks for beginners for 2020, 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.


  • 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.


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.

What to Look for in a Starter 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.


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, or possibly prefer to pedal?

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.


When looking for your first kayak to buy, here are a few of the most common questions that beginner kayakers ask:

What type of kayak is best for beginners?

When buying a kayak, one of the most important things to consider is whether or not you want your boat as a recreational or a touring boat. If you plan on going out on long trips with lots of miles between ports, then a touring boat would be best.

If on the other hand, you plan to paddle in calm waters and stay near shoreline, then it is recommended that you get yourself a recreational kayak. Recreational models are usually made from plastic or fiberglass and are lighter than their counterparts.

Is kayaking hard for beginners?

To put it simply, no. Many people think kayaking is hard because it involves being outside in the water but at first sight that’s not true. 

The skills required to kayak are almost all self-taught and anyone who has ever paddled a canoe is already a proficient kayaker.

Which is better, sit in or sit on kayak?

As far as ease of use is concerned, sit in kayaks are more convenient than sit on models. Not only are they lighter but they also have front and rear bulkheads that provide better support.

Even if you plan on going out on tricky water conditions, a sit in model would be the easiest to maneuver and steer.

Which kayaks are most stable?

Stability is also a crucial factor to consider when you are buying a kayak. One of the best features to look for in a kayak is its rocker curve.

The rocker curve helps your kayak to track straight when you are paddling. Sit-on kayaks are more stable than their sit-in counterparts but they tend to be larger and heavier, making them difficult to maneuver in small bodies of water such as a lake or pond.

Which is better for a beginner, inflatable or hard shell?

The kind of kayak you purchase depends on your needs. Whether you are looking for a recreational kayak or a touring kayak, an inflatable model will not be ideal.

Inflatable kayaks are made from very thin material that is prone to puncture. Even though they make a good backup boat, it is still highly recommended that you use them on calm waters where there are no sharp underwater obstacles to avoid.

Hard shell kayaks on the other hand, are more durable and more suited for open waters.

What size kayak should I get for my height?

Most manufacturers provide a chart which will help you determine what size kayak is perfect for your height.

What kind of storage and carrying options do you have?

These are some of the most commonly found features on recreational kayaks:

One of the things that make sit in kayaks better than sit on models is the fact that they come with built in storage space. Some models have two or more floor compartments and are very easy to clean.

Should I get a 10 or 12 foot kayak?

When thinking about length, one thing to consider is your height. The taller the person, the longer the boat. If the boat is too small, then it would be extremely uncomfortable to use.

A good rule of thumb is to buy a kayak that is two inches longer than your own height.

What are the best kayaks for kids?

When thinking about what kind of kayak would be best for kids, it is important to keep in mind that you don’t want them to have one with lots of features and accessories.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Ryan Stoltz

Ryan Stoltz

Avid kayaker and lover of the outdoors. Having been kayaking for over 7 years, I love sharing my experiences and learnings along the way. Currently kayaking in upstate New York and always open to new adventures!

Scroll to Top