Best Recreational Kayaks

What is a recreational boat? Depending on your definition, a “recreational” kayak could mean any type of traditional sit-inside kayak or a 2022 sit-on-top kayak with all the bells & whistles.

American Paddler sees the term “recreational kayak” in the broadest possible sense. It is anything that gets people off their couches and onto the water having a great experience.

Best Recreational Kayaks pin

Best recreational kayaks are those that are made for casual weekend paddlers. They can be used in calmer, flatter waters such as lakes and protected bays. American Paddler offers additional guides for longer tours, ocean paddling adventures, fishing trips, and whitewater kayaking. It is dangerous to kayak on larger bodies without a sea kayak.

The Best Recreational Kayaks According to Our Opinion (Updated in 2022)

Image
1st place
Dagger Axis Adventure Multi-Water Kayak - 12, Lime
2st place
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Ocean, 10-Feet)
3st place
Perception Tribe 9.5 | Sit on Top Kayak for All-Around Fun | Large Rear Storage with Tie Downs | 9' 5"
Product
Dagger Axis Adventure Multi-Water Kayak - 12, Lime
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Ocean, 10-Feet)
Perception Tribe 9.5 | Sit on Top Kayak for All-Around Fun | Large Rear Storage with Tie Downs | 9' 5"
Rating
Weight
49 Pounds
41 Pounds
46 pounds
Width
29 inches
29 inches
31.25 inches
Weight capacity
325 Pounds
250 Pounds
300 pounds
Material
Polyethylene
Polyethylene
Polyethylene
1st place
Image
Dagger Axis Adventure Multi-Water Kayak - 12, Lime
Product
Dagger Axis Adventure Multi-Water Kayak - 12, Lime
Rating
Weight
49 Pounds
Width
29 inches
Weight capacity
325 Pounds
Material
Polyethylene
2st place
Image
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Ocean, 10-Feet)
Product
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Ocean, 10-Feet)
Rating
Weight
41 Pounds
Width
29 inches
Weight capacity
250 Pounds
Material
Polyethylene
3st place
Image
Perception Tribe 9.5 | Sit on Top Kayak for All-Around Fun | Large Rear Storage with Tie Downs | 9' 5"
Product
Perception Tribe 9.5 | Sit on Top Kayak for All-Around Fun | Large Rear Storage with Tie Downs | 9' 5"
Rating
Weight
46 pounds
Width
31.25 inches
Weight capacity
300 pounds
Material
Polyethylene

Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Today you can find the best recreational kayaks on the market in every size and budget.  But in order not to get confused, our review will help you choose the best recreational kayak for your needs.

10 Best Recreational Kayaks

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 Kayak

Image
Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak | Features Phase 3 Air Pro Comfort Seating | 12' 2"
Product
Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak | Features Phase 3 Air Pro Comfort Seating | 12' 2"
Rating
Weight
49 Pounds
Width
29 inches
Weight capacity
325 pounds
Material
Polyethylene
Image
Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak | Features Phase 3 Air Pro Comfort Seating | 12' 2"
Product
Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak | Features Phase 3 Air Pro Comfort Seating | 12' 2"
Rating
Weight
49 Pounds
Width
29 inches
Weight capacity
325 pounds
Material
Polyethylene

Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 provides a combination of all the above. This kayak is impressive and our personal favorite. The Pungo 120 offers speed, stability, as well as comfort in a seamless package. This kayak can be used on rivers and lakes, or for overnight adventures.

wilderness systems Pungo 120’s multi-chine hull ensures it is fast and stable. The Pungo 120 weighs only 49 pounds. Pungo kayaks are unrivaled in comfort, thanks to their 6-way adjustable, ergonomic adjustable seat and venting for quick drying.

Our favorite feature of the Pungo is its unique Kayak Konsole dashboard system. With quick access to everything you need, including phones, lures, and small electronics, it’s easy to find them all right in front. It’s also removable so you can store it elsewhere if you don’t want it.

Pros
  • A comfortable seating;
  • Excellent stability, maneuverability, and balance;
  • Plenty of storage.
Cons
  • There aren’t built-in rod holders;
  • No drain plug.

Dagger Axis 12 Sit Inside Recreational Kayak

Image
Dagger Axis 12.0 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak | Multi Water | 12' | Aurora
Product
Dagger Axis 12.0 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak | Multi Water | 12' | Aurora
Rating
Weight
74 Pounds
Width
27.5 inches
Weight capacity
350 Pounds
Material
Polyethylene
Image
Dagger Axis 12.0 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak | Multi Water | 12' | Aurora
Product
Dagger Axis 12.0 | Sit Inside Recreational Kayak | Multi Water | 12' | Aurora
Rating
Weight
74 Pounds
Width
27.5 inches
Weight capacity
350 Pounds
Material
Polyethylene

Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Dagger Axes 12 Kayak has amazing versatility on lakes, reservoirs, intercoastal waterways, and ponds. The height-adjustable skeg allows the Axis to move straight ahead and provides excellent handling.

Its superior maneuverability and tracking make it a great choice for both whitewater and calm casual paddling conditions.

The Dagger’s comfortable options, such as an adjustable seat or foot braces, are not bad either. Bulkhead storage is located in the stern with bungee cords strapping attached to the bow.

Pros
  • Adjustable skeg:
  • Plenty of room;
  • Easy to operate.
Cons
  • No waist straps;
  • Can’t go rafting;
  • High price.

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10

Image
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Ocean, 10-Feet)
Product
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Ocean, 10-Feet)
Rating
Weight
41 Pounds
Width
29 inches
Weight capacity
250 Pounds
Material
Polyethylene
Image
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Ocean, 10-Feet)
Product
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Ocean, 10-Feet)
Rating
Weight
41 Pounds
Width
29 inches
Weight capacity
250 Pounds
Material
Polyethylene

Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is one of the most well-respected sit-inside recreational kayaks available. This lightweight kayak is ideal for beginners. The Aruba 10, a budget-friendly kayak that is comfortable and holds its own on lakes and slow-moving rivers, offers a wonderful first experience in paddling.

The Aruba 10 is available in a variety of brightly colored versions. Its high-density Polyethylene construction is also UV protected so that colors don’t fade in direct sunlight.

The kayak is equipped with a water bottle holder and rear storage well, but it’s not as big as the Aruba 10. It’s still a solid choice for those looking to get out on top of the water.

Pros
  • Durability;
  • Sustainability;
  • Easy transportation;
  • Comfort.
Cons
  • Uncomfortable seat;
  • Water conditions;
  • Paddle not always available.

Old Town Heron 9XT Recreational Kayak

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Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Heron 9XT Recreational Kayak, Black Cherry, 9 Feet 6 Inches
Product
Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Heron 9XT Recreational Kayak, Black Cherry, 9 Feet 6 Inches
Rating
Weight
39 Pounds
Width
28.5 inches
Weight capacity
300 Pounds
Material
Single Layer Polyethylene
Image
Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Heron 9XT Recreational Kayak, Black Cherry, 9 Feet 6 Inches
Product
Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Heron 9XT Recreational Kayak, Black Cherry, 9 Feet 6 Inches
Rating
Weight
39 Pounds
Width
28.5 inches
Weight capacity
300 Pounds
Material
Single Layer Polyethylene

Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Old Town Kayaks & Canoes are known for being reliable, sturdy boats. The Heron 9XT does not disappoint. This kayak is a solid competitor in the market. It packs a lot of great features into a compact and affordable package.

The Old Town Heron 9XT is tough enough to take a beating yet light enough to maneuver waves and class 2 or 3 rapids. Although it weighs slightly less than the Aruba 10, it is still lighter than the Aruba 10 and offers a paddling experience that is versatile, stable and tracks well. The lightweight design makes it easy for one person.

The Heron 9XT is a popular choice in liveries. Its comfort flexes seating, Support Track foot brace, and knee padding make it an extremely comfortable ride. The sealed bulkhead at the stern provides dry storage and buoyancy.

Pros
  • Comfortable seat and backrest;
  • Padded carrying handles;
  • Compact and lightweight.
Cons
  • Rear sunroof sometimes leaks;
  • Expensive enough.

Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 One-Person Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

Image
Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 One-Person Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak, Yellow, 11 Feet 6 Inches
Product
Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 One-Person Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak, Yellow, 11 Feet 6 Inches
Rating
Weight
47 Pounds
Width
29.5 inches
Weight capacity
350 Pounds
Material
Polyethylene
Image
Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 One-Person Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak, Yellow, 11 Feet 6 Inches
Product
Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 One-Person Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak, Yellow, 11 Feet 6 Inches
Rating
Weight
47 Pounds
Width
29.5 inches
Weight capacity
350 Pounds
Material
Polyethylene

Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 sit-only recreational kayak is quickly gaining popularity due to its ease of use and paddler comfort.

Ocean Kayak has been a leader for sit-on-top kayaks since its inception. Its most-sold Scrambler is the best-selling. Its spacious cockpit, open deck can hold even the tallest paddlers. A large stern with shock-cord security is also included. An additional 6-inch dry storage hole is located in front of the cockpit for phones, wallets, keys, and other small items. It’s a very useful feature for a Sit-on-Top.

The Scrambler delivers a high level of performance with its Tri-Form-rotomolded hull. It can cut through waves like no other. Paddlers will find the Scrambler comfortable with multiple foot molds, a high back adjustable seat, and a cupholder, all of which bring you all the modern comforts.

Pros
    Cons

      Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational

      Image
      Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
      Product
      Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
      Rating
      Weight
      57 Pounds
      Width
      34 inches
      Weight capacity
      500 pounds
      Material
      Single Layer Polyethylene
      Image
      Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
      Product
      Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
      Rating
      Weight
      57 Pounds
      Width
      34 inches
      Weight capacity
      500 pounds
      Material
      Single Layer Polyethylene

      Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      The Ocean Malibu Two kayak is the perfect choice for the couple or a pair of friends looking to purchase a sturdy, versatile kayak for two. It’s still very popular and its construction has not changed much in over 20 years.

      Ocean Kayak Malibu discovered the secret of tandem recreational kayaking. It is versatility, versatility, and versatility. Its basic design and three positionable high-back seats make the Malibu Two easy to use on any kind of outing.

      The Malibu Two is very popular among anglers, dog owners, and families. Want even more room? Get the Malibu Two XL.

      Pros
      • Suitable for two adults and one child.
      • Design well.
      • Weighs little.
      Cons
      • A lack of storage space.

      eMotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak, Yellow, 12′

      Image
      eMotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak, Yellow, 12'
      Product
      eMotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak, Yellow, 12'
      Rating
      Weight
      90 Pounds
      Width
      35 inches
      Weight capacity
      500 pounds
      Material
      Polyethylene
      Image
      eMotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak, Yellow, 12'
      Product
      eMotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak, Yellow, 12'
      Rating
      Weight
      90 Pounds
      Width
      35 inches
      Weight capacity
      500 pounds
      Material
      Polyethylene

      Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      Kayaking does not only appeal to the young. However, for taller or heavier people, choosing the right kayak may be a difficult task.

      The Emotion Spitfire tandem kayak is one of the few recreational kayaks with a maximum weight of 500 pounds. The Spitfire, despite its heavier weight, offers excellent stability and performance as a sit/op-top kayak.

      The Spitfire weighs in at 90 lbs but is light enough to be comfortable. When you aren’t paddling tandem the front seat can also be used as an extra fishing gear area or companion for your dog.

      Pros
      • Built-in padded seats;
      • 500 lb load capacity;
      • Four carrying handles;
      • Duffel hatch.
      Cons
      • Heavy;
      • Difficult to maneuver.

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

      Image
      SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Bali SS Sit-on top Kayak (Lime, 10-Feet)
      Product
      SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Bali SS Sit-on top Kayak (Lime, 10-Feet)
      Rating
      Weight
      44 Pounds
      Width
      30 inches
      Weight capacity
      250 pounds
      Material
      Plastic
      Image
      SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Bali SS Sit-on top Kayak (Lime, 10-Feet)
      Product
      SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Bali SS Sit-on top Kayak (Lime, 10-Feet)
      Rating
      Weight
      44 Pounds
      Width
      30 inches
      Weight capacity
      250 pounds
      Material
      Plastic

      Last update on 2022-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10 could be the recreational kayak that you’re looking for if you don’t know which one is right for you. The Bali sits on the top kayak but has high walls and deep footwells that give it the feel of an adjustable seat-inside kayak.

      As with Sun Dolphin’s other models of the Bali SS, it won’t break your bank. The Bali SS still has some great features. Sun Dolphin’s portable accessory carrier (P.A.C.), which provides a comfortable cockpit and dry storage, a cupholder, a water bottle holder, and dry storage, is also included in the Bali SS. These can also be used to carry extra luggage or a backpack.

      The Bali SS is a good-budget recreational kayak. It can also be used on rivers and lakes.

      Pros
      • Reasonable price:
      • Plenty of storage space;
      • Optional portable accessory holder;
      • Adjustable foot braces;
      • Paddle holder;
      • Easy to steer.
      Cons
      • No bottom seat;
      • Little comfort.

      Old Town Vapor 10

      Image
      Old Town 10-Feet Vapor 10 Angler Recreational Fishing Kayak (Camo)
      Product
      Old Town 10-Feet Vapor 10 Angler Recreational Fishing Kayak (Camo)
      Rating
      Weight
      44 Pounds
      Width
      28.5 inches
      Weight capacity
      325 Pounds
      Material
      Polyethylene
      Image
      Old Town 10-Feet Vapor 10 Angler Recreational Fishing Kayak (Camo)
      Product
      Old Town 10-Feet Vapor 10 Angler Recreational Fishing Kayak (Camo)
      Rating
      Weight
      44 Pounds
      Width
      28.5 inches
      Weight capacity
      325 Pounds
      Material
      Polyethylene

      Last update on 2022-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      There were many options available, but the Old Town Vapor 10 was our choice. Old Town is a well-respected manufacturer of exceptional kayaks. The Vapor 10 is a great sit-inside option for comfort and accessibility.

      The large, open cockpit is an important reason. Vapor 10’s spacious cockpit interior is an uncommon feature among budget kayaks. It can accommodate tall paddlers and dogs of average size.

      The Vapor 10 is best paddled in calm lakes or rivers. Its larger cockpit opening makes it easier to take on water in choppy conditions than most sit-in kayaks.

      Pros
      • Skid plate for durability;
      • It is suitable for all kinds of waters;
      • Trolley system.
      Cons
      • The tracker is average.

      Perception Tribe 9.5 Sit-On-Top Kayak

      Image
      Perception Tribe 9.5 | Sit on Top Kayak for All-Around Fun | Large Rear Storage with Tie Downs | 9' 5"
      Product
      Perception Tribe 9.5 | Sit on Top Kayak for All-Around Fun | Large Rear Storage with Tie Downs | 9' 5"
      Rating
      Weight
      46 pounds
      Width
      31.25 inches
      Weight capacity
      300 pounds
      Material
      Polyethylene
      Image
      Perception Tribe 9.5 | Sit on Top Kayak for All-Around Fun | Large Rear Storage with Tie Downs | 9' 5"
      Product
      Perception Tribe 9.5 | Sit on Top Kayak for All-Around Fun | Large Rear Storage with Tie Downs | 9' 5"
      Rating
      Weight
      46 pounds
      Width
      31.25 inches
      Weight capacity
      300 pounds
      Material
      Polyethylene

      Last update on 2022-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      Designed with both men and women in mind, the Perception Tribe 9.5 is a short-length sit-on kayak. In this kayak, there are 9 feet 5 inches in length, so women and shorter paddlers will find it easy to maneuver. Lightweight and easy to carry, it is also convenient.

      There is a 300-pound cargo capacity on the Tribe 9.5, so you can carry all of your camping gear. The large rear cargo area is ideal for storing a cooler, and the bungee cords allow you to secure your cargo. A rigging system is also provided on the bow in order to attach additional equipment.

      With its padded seat and adjustable backrest, this boat is stable and sturdy, allowing you to paddle comfortably. To keep small items close at hand, there is a small storage hatch in the center of the cabinet.

      Pros
      • Stable;
      • Easy to use;
      • Great maneuverability;
      • Versatile use;
      • Convenient transport and carrying;
      • Accessibility.
      Cons
      • Center hatch designs are not watertight;
      • Straps wear out quickly;
      • No paddles.

      What makes a recreational kayak good?

      Is recreational kayak good?

      Kayaks can vary in price, as you may have noticed. You can attribute this to many factors, but it is primarily due to the following:

      • Construction and material;
      • Comfortable and luxurious features;
      • Performance refers to stability, speed, maneuverability, and tracking;
      • Storage options.

      Construction and materials

      You can find kayaks in every price range, from the lowest-priced inflatable kayak to the best-selling Kevlar/fiberglass performance boat. Polyethylene is the most widely used material for commercial kayaks. This hard-shell plastic is durable and easy to produce. Since polyethylene tends to fade and break down in the sunlight, kayaks with UV protection will be of better quality than ones without.

      Performance kayaks are usually lighter but more expensive than other boats, such as carbon, Kevlar, or fiberglass. These recreational boats can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

      Inflatable kayaks are generally made of durable material, such as PVC, that is tough and won’t crack easily.

      Comfort and luxury

      Ask any paddler who has been around for a while to share their advice with newbies. There are worse things than sitting in an uncomfortable chair or carrying a heavier paddle.

      Different kayaks offer different comfort options. There are adjustable seats, footpegs, or thigh braces. You can also get rolling skeg wheels with handles to make it easier to transport. Be sure to do your research so you know what your kayak can do for you.

      Some kayaks are equipped with additional bells and whistles. These include convenient dry storage for smartphones and wallets as well as cup and bottle holders, drink and water bottle holders, gear pockets, and customizable options to store all types of coolers, fishing equipment, and safety equipment.

      Performance

      Performance is perhaps the most important aspect of kayak prices. Different sizes and shapes offer different options for paddling. For example, longer kayaks can be faster but are less stable.

      Performance kayaks are more expensive than regular kayaks because they combine several aspects that provide seamless performance at many levels. The kayak’s hull shape, rocker, and other add-ons like rudders, pedal drives, and skegs all play a part.

      The term “Tracking” is important for kayakers to understand as it determines how straight the boat can paddle.

      Storage options

      Boy Scouts will tell you that your preparedness is only as good as the gear you have. When choosing your next kayak, storage space is crucial for kayakers.

      Storage options

      Kayak storage is available in many different forms. However, the most common form for sit-inside models of kayaks is a watertight stern well. This allows gear to be stored below deck level and dry. You will find that kayaks can have better wells than others. You should consider the accessibility, size, and location of these pods. They may be more convenient than you think.

      Some kayaks have self-contained bulkheads that are located below the deck. A bulkhead can be described as a separate, sealed compartment that will not fill up with water when the kayak is submerged. Bulkheads are useful because they provide additional storage and can help keep your kayak from sinking if it happens to tip over.

      Sit-on kayaks and inflatable kayaks offer less storage space. A good sit-on-top kayak should at minimum have shock-cord-bungee strapping to secure gear. Some models (like Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11) offer small dry storage pods that can hold keys or electronics.

      Conclusion

      When choosing the best recreational kayak, keep in mind how you plan to transport it to and from the water, make sure it’s not too big, for you and you alone can handle it, and check the capacity.

      Another important thing to consider is the type of water you plan to use it in, and how much gear you plan to take with you at one time.
      After testing a lot of kayaks, we’ve made our pick of the top 3 best:

      But it’s also worth noting that any of the options presented would be a great choice for an outing. If you think our selection is not complete or you want to add to it, you can always email us and we will check your option and include it in the top list. Good luck!

      FAQ

      How Long Are Recreational Kayaks?

      Most recreational kayaks are less than 12 feet (3.6 meters), which gives them a good balance of speed and stability. A longer rig will make you faster but be less stable. While kayaks that are shorter with a wider beam can tip less often, they are more efficient and quicker. Most of these are too short for open waters.

      How heavy is a recreational Tandem Kayak?

      A recreational tandem kayak can weigh from 20 to 100 lbs. The material you use will determine the size of your tandem kayak. Plastic (polyethylene) boats are the heaviest and most cost-effective to buy. Fiberglass boats are more lightweight, but they can be significantly more expensive.
      Pro Tip: Start with a Polyethylene option for beginner kayaks. It won’t cost you much and will let you discover if you like the sport

      How should I choose a recreational sit-in Kayak?

      Before you decide, consider your specific needs. If you plan to paddle solo, a solo kayak will be the best option. If you’re traveling with a partner, a tandem is the best choice. Inflatable kayaks make great recreational kayaks. You should also ensure the kayak has sufficient storage space if you are planning multiple-day trips.

      What is the best way to paddle a Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak?

      Paddling it with low-angle strokes is a great way to keep the energy up and have fun. It is important to choose a paddle that is both comfortable to use and that hits the water at a right angle. A number of the best recreational kayaks are equipped with adjustable seats, which allow you to adjust the position and make paddling much easier.

      What’s the point of a Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak?

      While kayaks can only be used in one environment, such as the ocean or whitewater model, recreational sit-on-tops can do many things well. Their long bodies are strong enough to handle some wake but their main concern is stability and comfort. These dogs are ideal for those who are new to the sport or just want to get better

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