Top 7 Best Kayaks for Beginners | 2020 Reviews (Ocean Kayak)

Kayaking is becoming more popular these days as it does not involve too many people, and you are distant from other people. It is also one of the fun things you can do when you want to be fit or kill time. Choosing your first kayak may seem to be a difficult task. There are so many things to consider, like sitting on top or sitting in, materials being used, how you will use it (cruise, exercise, or competition), etc.

With all the choices to choose from, a narrowed-down option will ease your burden! Here are the seven best kayaks for beginners:

Top 7 Best Kayaks for Beginners Reviewed

  1. Malibu Two Tandem Sit-on-Top by Ocean Kayak – Best Overall
  2. Dirigo 106 by Old Town Canoes & Kayaks – Best Value
  3. Pungo 125 Recreational by Wilderness Systems – Editor’s Choice
  4. Pescadors Pro 10.0 by Perception 
  5. Aruba SS 10-Foot Sit-In by Sun Dolphin
  6. Explorer K2  by Intex 
  7. 370 Inflatable Sport Pro by Sea Eagle

#1. Malibu Two Tandem Sit-on-Top by Ocean Kayak – Best Overall

Malibu Two Tandem Sit-on-Top by Ocean Kayak

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Specifications:

  • Length: 12 inches
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Height: 24 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds
  • Weight Limit: 425 pounds
  • Construction: Single Layer Polyethylene

If you want to try and kayak for the weekend with the sun at the top, Malibu Two Tandem would be the best to buy as it does not only caters to beginners interested in doing the sport and to those who would like to have leisure time as well.

Malibu Two has three seating positions – which is very flexible; it supports solo, tandem, or tandem paddling with a child or pet. You may also accommodate another person, child, or pet. It shows how comfortable this Kayak can give. If you feel like doing this alone, it also has patented overlapping footwells in the center seat to give you comfortable foot bracing.

And speaking of comfort, this kayak also has a pair of Comfort Plus seats with four-way adjustability that accommodates more custom fit for a user, slip prevention, and common molded seats. The highbacks give a very comfortable ride for its users.

From sitting inside the kayak, maneuvering would be easy as well. The kayak is not too long nor short. It is relatively lightweight, which makes it steadier in the ocean. With the same advantage of its size, paddling is not difficult as your paddles will never knock together when going tandem. This kayak gives you more time to roam around the area instead of busying yourself in figuring out how to paddle when it’s your first time.

ProsCons
Stable even in slightly rough watersHeavier than usual kayaks
Comfortable padded seatsHeavier than usual kayaks
Flexible configurationWater gets in sometimes

#2. Dirigo 106 by Old Town Canoes & Kayaks – Best Value

Dirigo 106 by Old Town Canoes & Kayaks

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Specifications

  • Length: 126 inches
  • Width: 27.75 inches
  • Height: 14 inches
  • Weight: 42 pounds
  • Weight Limit: 300 pounds
  • Construction: Three Layer Polyethylene

Getting into kayaking, you may want to start to do this by yourself before showing to anyone the skills you have acquired. Dirigo offers this stability and easy-to-paddle ride that can help you learn the basics of kayaking through experience with the water.

Since it is made with a three-layer polyethylene mold, handling the kayak is easy, even with just doing it yourself. When you feel like going out for a ride, you can set all the things you need by yourself and go to have fun.

Aside from its easy handle, its glide-track-foot brace system creates a comfortable paddling experience. Steering is incredibly easy, while the easy-grip thigh pads make it easier to maneuver in the water. Its cockpit is roomy, so even when you want to chill for a whole day in your kayak, it is possible. 

With these advantages, it’s as if Dirigo is a car, with other features like their molded cup holder and waterproof glove box hatch for your phone & eyes. You do not have to worry about having storage as it comes with a Seal stern hatch for your medium-sized dry bag. The way this kayak handles extra weight is just superb, as it continues to be stable despite the added weight. 

All in all, if you are looking for a one-person kayak to teach yourself, or relax and unwind by yourself, this is the kayak you are looking for. Roomy, comfortable, has a glove box for your essentials, and most importantly, stable even with rough waters. This kayak will help you acquire the skills you will need once you get into this sport.

ProsCons
Adjustable seat & foot paddlesTracking may be a little difficult
Comfortable & roomy cockpitHatch gets water at times
Easy to maneuverLow lumbar support

#3. Pungo 125 Recreational by Wilderness Systems – Editor’s Choice

Pungo 125 Recreational by Wilderness Systems

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Specifications

  • Length: 246 inches
  • Width: 29.5 inches
  • Height: 15 inches
  • Weight: 53 pounds
  • Weight Limit: 425 pounds
  • Construction: Polyethylene

If you are looking for one of the best and easiest to paddle kayak, Pungo 125 is the item you are looking for. It reassures stability and performs pleasingly for any user because it has gone through rigorous engineering and testing before being sold out in the market. You will be able to use this kayak with ease, even for a beginner like you.

Though many other kayak brands promote their comfortable seating, Pungo 125 has Phase 3 air Pro seat, which is fully adjustable and will greatly support your lower back. The seats are patented, which makes it the most comfortable seat for kayaks out there. Not only that, the mesh for the back is honeycomb-vented, which allows for greater airflow to keep you cool under the heat. It also has adjustable footrests and thigh pads to keep your lower body parts at ease. Pungo 125 just sounds perfect when you want to try to kayak and end up relaxing in the middle of the water, under the sun.

Pungo 12 also offers storage spaces like the rear hatch with a sealed bulkhead,  removable dry box, two cupholders, and sidetracks. The most significant and unique for this kayak is the Wilderness systems battery that they offer as an accessory, which keeps the electronics charged on the go. This accessory will suit someone who likes to enjoy nature and share their sentiments with their friends and family. 

You can assure yourself that with Pungo 125, you get a roomy kayak, easy paddling, and a lot of extra features that you will never know you need. This product just makes the kayaking easy even with rough waters or wind, recommended not only to beginners but to those experienced as well – this just goes to show that once you have mastered your skill, you don’t have to buy a better kayak.

ProsCons
Easy adjustments to featuresLittle difficulty in installation
Tracks well and is stableShallow cup holder
Fits any user wellNo forward bulkhead

#4. Pescadors Pro 10.0 by Perception 

Pescadors Pro 10.0 by Perception

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Specifications:

  • Length: 126 inches
  • Width: 32 inches
  • Height: 14 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds
  • Weight Limit: 325 pounds
  • Perfect for sit-on-top fishing kayak for beginners

Pescadors Pro 10.0 by Perception is perfect for your first fishing kayak. Fast, stable, and designed for straight track in different conditions; it is a total package.

Although best as your fishing kayak, it can also handle well light coastal waters and mild river currents. It is also suited for ponds, lakes, slow-moving streams, and calm coastal waters. Its lawn-chair- style mesh seat design with two-level seat adjustment provides a breathable seat arrangement to give you comfort throughout your adventure. You may also adjust the seat lower for relaxed paddling or raised for utmost propelling. Pescadors Pro 10.0 by Perception comes with a sturdy blade specifically for the Pescador kayaks.

The shorter length and lighter weight compared to its previous models increase maneuverability. The body of the kayak is a leak-proof one-piece construction unit with built-in buoyancy for added safety. It also has large openings for the front and rear storage for your personal belongings and other necessary gear equipment. Its lightweight construction eases transport and storage.

Other accessories included together with the kayak are integrated accessory rails on each gunwale for fish finders, rod holders, and more.

The kayak falls on the pricey side, but this is a proper kayak. Backed by a 5-year warranty, this kayak is proudly molded and hand-assembled in the United States of America. 

ProsCons
Suited for tall (6-footer and up) peopleKind of narrow; you might flip easily
Perfect for calm, stable watersA bit on the heavy side
Well built craft for its sizeA little bit expensive

#5.  Aruba SS 10-Foot Sit-In by Sun Dolphin

Aruba SS 10-Foot Sit-In by Sun Dolphin

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Specifications:

  • Length: 115 inches
  • Width: 29 inches
  • Height: 14 inches
  • Profile: Thin profile kneeboard
  • Weight: 40 pounds
  • Weight Limit: 250 pounds

Aruba 10-Foot Sit-In by Sun Dolphin shines best on choppy waters and strong currents. The body construction of the kayak is made with rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex High-Density Polyethylene. It would last for years of abuse. It goes to any direction with ease while maintaining stability. You will less likely fall over or tip from this kayak.

Carrying handles are lightweight and retractable, giving you flexibility when transporting it. An adequate seat covered with protective thigh pads and adjustable foot braces allows comfort and versatility. 

The kayak also includes a limited lifetime warranty from the company to have your peace of mind. Consumers are happy with their purchases. They are surprised about how this little kayak turned out to be a good one, even for a beginner.

ProsCons
Just the perfect size for beginnersDrink holder sets horizontal under the sun
Very stable and comfortable rideSome retail stores do not include paddles
Easy to maneuverThe rear hatch is not watertight
Decently priced A bit heavy for a one-seater
LightweightLimited storage

#6. Explorer K2  by Intex 

Explorer K2 by Intex

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Specifications:

  • Length: 123 inches
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Height: 20 inches
  • Weight: 30.6 pounds
  • Weight Limit: 400 pounds
  • Made for small bodies of water like lakes and mild rivers

Bright yellow color and sporty graphics help visibility on the water, especially when you are in danger or need help.

This sturdy kayak is made with vinyl construction and has an inflatable l-beam floor for protection. Comfort and rigidity are tested on this inflatable kayak. This kayak is equipped with removable SKEG for directional stability. It also includes a cockpit with an adjustable inflatable seat with a backrest designed for comfort and space. Seats are good for two adults. Fully inflating them will not be more than 12 minutes, thanks to the Boston valves on each side of the kayak. 

Worry not if ever you got the kayak lost, there is a U.S. Coast Guard I.D. provided. The company also provided a repair patch kit if ever you had too much fun in the water.

According to Intex, it comes with a hand pump before, but they do not include it anymore. The good thing is, two 86 inches of aluminum oars are still provided.

ProsCons
Fast inflation, around 10 to 12 minutesDrifts a bit too easily even with skeg attached
Adjustable and removable seatsNot stable enough to withstand strong winds
Fast inflation, around 10 to 12 minutesSeats a bit low on the ground
Durable, value for moneyA bit small for tall people
Self-bailingNo hand pump included

#7. 370 Inflatable Sport Pro by Sea Eagle

370 Inflatable Sport Pro by Sea Eagle

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Specifications:

  • Length: 156 inches
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Height:  13 inches
  • NMMA certified
  • Weight: 32 pounds
  • Weight Limit: 650 pounds

Since 1968, manufacturing this affordable inflatable 370 Sport Kayak by Sea Eagle Sport is as lightweight and portable among other brands on the list. It fits for beginners and experienced paddlers alike. Its compact foldable design can easily be dried out and will fit through any car compartment. It is also equipped with lashed down inflatable spray skirts to protect your lower body from getting wet. It also serves as protection for your personal belongings.  

The kayak can take all the environment’s beatings well because of the sun and saltwater resistant hull material it uses. There are also open and close drain valves if ever you were in a sticky situation.

Even if the vessel is light, it can withstand rough surfaces underneath without getting deflated. This rugged kayak is equipped with an i-beam construction floor. It can hold up to three people, or 650 pounds of things.

If you are still undecided with using it every weekend, this kayak is affordable enough to make you feel less guilty about not using it often. 

ProsCons
Tough construction. Not easily punctured over rough surfacesBlue dye from the webbing of the seats bleeds when wet
Affordable and replaceable if damaged or stolenRides a bit low on the water - difficult to paddle
Requires smaller storage space after useTime-consuming to assemble and inflate
Portable, easy to packStorage for the back seat is a little small
Less likely to capsizeMore effort to paddle overcurrents

Getting the Best Kayak for Beginners – Buyers Guide

Finally, having your kayak is fun and exciting! Who does not want to run and plunge into the water? It may also stress you out when you have to dive into your priorities and your personalized needs. 

Your kayak will be with you for years, so investing in gears suited for you is a must. You may chill out now, for we provided the things you need to consider before buying the best kayak for beginners. 


Types of Kayaks

Sit-On-Top Kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks are well suited for beginners. It is perfect for a recreational day on the water or fun fishing activity. They are versatile and better suited for warm temperatures since you will get wet from water splashes. It is easy to ingress and egress while having a stable vessel. This type of kayak is self-bailing. They have holes that allow water from the inside to drain outside.

Sit-In Kayak

Sit-in kayaks give you a little shelter from the harsh wind and water. A spray skirt (a flexible waterproof cover for your waist) is optional if you do not want water entering your vessel while paddling. It also provides a cockpit, giving more storage space than a sit-on-top kayak. You would not feel uncomfortable inside since it is roomy. It also has a lower center of gravity than the sit-on-top kayak, making it more efficient to paddle.

Inflatable Kayak

The third and last option are inflatable kayaks. Inflatable kayaks are portable, durable, compact, and lightweight. These kayaks are easy to transport; you may deflate it once you are done using it. Inflatable kayaks may be a good choice for starters who are excited to have their kayak.

Weight Capacity

You should always keep in mind to check the capacity of the kayak you are going to buy. Each type of kayak varies with the weight limit. The maximum capacity weight of the paddler’s body weight, also the maximum weight it can carry, should be stated in the description. It will keep you safe and stable during kayaking activities.

Length and Width

A wider kayak is better for a beginner. A wide kayak is more stable and easy to maneuver on the water. Although it may sacrifice some speed, you are still getting used to being on the vessel. A longer and narrower kayak will glide more smoothly and is faster on straights. You need to hone your skills enough to manipulate this type of kayak. 

Recreational KayaksTouring Kayaks
  • 8 feet to 13 feet long
  • Suitable for calm waters like small lakes, rivers, creeks, etc.
  • Can efficiently navigate narrow inlets or passageways
  • 14 feet to 18 feet long
  • Suitable for oceans, seas, big rivers or lakes
  • Can handle large waves

Considering the paddler’s weight and height is essential when choosing the right kayak length. You might not fit comfortably in a short-length kayak if you are a 6-footer. 

Some kayaks may have adjustable footrests that may help tall or small people adjust inside the vessel. This footrest is a convenient feature you should consider, especially if you are still growing or are not the only using the kayak.

Buying the best kayak for beginners is a big purchase and a long term investment. You would want to feel comfortable and confident enough when kayaking. The vessel is only a piece of equipment to help you polish your skills. It would take some fun times before you become a pro or get the hang of it.

Storage

You are finally one step away from getting your kayak. The last thing to consider is your storage. Where will you put your kayak and paddleboards? A minor thing to consider but would be a major inconvenience if you did not put much thought on this. It will be a waste if you bought a kayak and just put it outside your house. When transporting your gear through your car, you must have a kayaking roof rack. It can be brought in-store, or you may make one yourself. Just make sure that it is tightly secured in your car to avoid car accidents.


Top Pick – Best Beginner’s Kayak

The vessel has the right wideness and narrowness for a beginner. Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top by Ocean Kayak provides excellent stability and control, making it easier to maneuver and to avoid capsizing.

This kayak can be the best of both worlds when doing leisure activity or diving into the sport. Being a two-seater kayak, it provides better versatility among other kayaks. You also have a choice of using it as your compartment for your personal belongings.

Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top by Ocean Kayak makes it to our top pick, not only because it looks stylish, but also because it is versatile and functional. This kayak can still keep up with your skills if you graduated from being a beginner. Backed by its brand reliability, this kayak is a good investment and will last you for a long time.

Among the brands mentioned above, Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top will keep up with your demands, even if you are no longer a beginner.


Conclusion

Water sport adventures like kayaking can be a hassle-free activity and can also keep you in shape. Now that you finally discovered the best kayaks for beginners, it would not be that hard for you to choose your kayak. The convenience it offers for your needs is ideal for anyone, be it young or old, beginner or experienced. 

Always remember that the wider the vessel, the more stable and slower it is. Buying the right kayak should be your best pick because it will be there with you for a long time. 

Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top by Ocean Kayak exceeded consumers’ expectations, making it our top pick.

Different types for different people. It all boils down to your preference and what you need. Picking the best kayak for a beginner like you may be difficult at first, but once succeeded, you will say that your kayak is worth it. After all, you do not want to finish last.


F.A.Q.s (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the difference between a kayak and a canoe?

Kayaks are designed to sit a few people while canoes are designed to carry two or more people. Kayaks are used for competitive watersport activities while canoes are used for events like a family trip down the lake. Kayaks use a two-handled paddle where you may choose between sitting in or sitting on kayaks. You are in the cockpit if you prefer sit-in kayaks. You are sitting on top of a kayak, if you prefer sit-on kayaks, open to vast elements. Kayaks also tend to have closed decks, not seeing the lower half of your body, while canoes have open decks.

Do you need to be in shape?

You do not have to be in shape. Kayaking does not involve much movement unless you want to take it seriously. You would still enjoy kayaking whether you are fit or not. But please keep in mind the maximum capacity weight of the vessel you are going to use. There is a tendency for the kayak to capsize if it exceeded the weight capacity. The more you do kayaking activities, the more fit you will be. Your endurance and flexibility will help kayaking easier for you when you keep on practicing kayaking.

What do you need before you start kayaking?

Before going on a kayak trip, you need to pack the essentials: water, sunscreen, waterproof bags, extra clothes, and hat or cap (depending on the climate). You may also bring food if you are going to stay in the vessel for a while. Putting your essentials in a waterproof bag is recommended since you have a chance to get wet or fall off the water. You may want to bring a waterproof pouch case for your phone or camera to capture that amazing view from nature.

Wearing clothes suitable for the weather is essential to avoid getting sunburn or hypothermia.

Is kayaking difficult to do?

If you are going to paddle in a calm body of water, it is easy. Entering and getting off the kayak will be the possible reason for tipping or falling over. However, it might become a challenge for you if there are strong winds and currents. It depends on how you want your activity – leisure activity, competitive race, or chill and fun activity with your friends and family. You will not fall off the kayak that easily if you know how to balance the vessel and not panic when the kayak is capsizing.

Can you still do kayaking activities during bad weather?

Kayaking is an all-weather activity. You will enjoy kayaking through the rain. It is part of the experience, a nice adventure to do. Though it depends on your mood, if you want to catch waves and conquer the rough seas, you may do so. Kayaking is best enjoyed during warm days in summer. Please do not go outside if there are storms or heavy thunderstorms, as advised by your local news channel. Strong winds and high water levels may lead you to danger. Risking your safety is not recommended. 

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