Best Recreational Kayaks Review

Of the many amazing outdoor activities, recreational kayaking is one of my favorite. It is a great way to get outside, be active, and connect with nature. Kayaking provides a well needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Recreational kayaking, whether it be on lakes, rivers, or ocean waters, is a great way to bond with family, discover tranquility on the water, and explore nature.

Many recreational departments and tourist facilities offer kayak rentals. But if you are ready to invest in your own kayak, and need some help with the buying process, then you are at the right place. We have created a recreational kayak buying guide to help you decide which kayaking features are important to you. Read until the end of the guide and you will find our top picks of recreational kayaks that we recommend for a fun day on the water.

What is a Recreational Kayak?

Recreational kayaking, like any other recreational activity, is when you kayak purely for enjoyment during your leisure time. Recreational kayaks are designed to accommodate your leisure with features that aid in comfort and maneuverability, making your kayak experience easy and relaxing. They are different from non-recreational kayaks, such as those used for racing or professional purposes, in that they often have less features and construction requirements. Often, kayaks labeled for recreational uses are made for calm, relaxing waters.

Different Types of Recreational Kayaks

Based on the body of water you intend to kayak in, the kayak design you are looking for, and your experience level, there are a variety of different types of recreational kayaks to choose from. Deciding what type of kayak you want will help you narrow down your decision.

Tandem vs Single

One of the first aspects you will want to sort it is how many seats you want your recreational kayak to have. If you are seeking peace and solitude on the water, then a single kayak will be best for you. If you desire to kayak with a friend or family member, then opt for a tandem kayak. Some kayaks even have removable seats, allowing you to easily convert your tandem kayak to a single.

Ocean vs Lake

Though many recreational kayaks perform well on all types of calm waters, there are some recreational kayaks specifically made to handle the challenges a specific body of water presents. For example, some recreational ocean kayaks are made of saltwater resistant materials that withstand the potentially damaging ocean waters. Other recreational sea kayaks have an upturned bow that allows the kayak to cut through choppy ocean waves well.

Sit-on-Top vs Sit-inside

Some recreational kayaks have a sit-in cockpit, while others have an open, sit-on-top design. Each design presents their own benefits. A sit-inside cockpit protects you from the wind and water, keeping you drier. A sit-on-top kayak is easy to get in and out of, even when on the water, allowing you to take a hassle-free dip in the lake.

Inflatable vs Hard Shell

The material in which your kayak is made of is mostly a preference; both hard shell and inflatable kayaks make for good recreational kayaks. An inflatable kayak offers much convenience over a hard shell kayak. Because of its light weight and compatibility, it is easy to store, transport, and carry to the water. Inflatable kayaks are a great option for those of you who lack extra storage space at home or do not have the budget to buy roof racks. However, the downside of inflatable kayaks is that they are at risk of puncturing and are generally slower than most hard shell kayaks.

Activity Oriented

Some recreational kayaks have a double use for a specific activity, such as fishing or touring. Recreational fishing kayaks, for example, have added features that accommodate your fishing supplies, while still being able to perform well on the water. They may include rod holders, tackle box storage, and paddle holders for hands free fishing. Recreational touring kayaks are specially designed to explore canals and to watch wildlife.

Aspects and Features to Consider in Picking a Recreational Kayak

To help you narrow down your decision, you will want to decide which features and aspects are important to you. Here are some of the best things to consider as you shop for a recreational kayak.

Activity and Body of Water

As mentioned above, you will want to consider what types of activities you will want to do in your kayak and what body of water you are likely to be kayaking on. What types of water surround you? Are you close to the ocean, or are you rather surrounded by rivers and lakes? Opt for a kayak that performs well on the bodies of water located near you.You will also want to consider how long of trips you plan to take in your kayak. If you plan to take long, full day kayaking trips, you will want to make sure the kayak you choose has enough storage to hold enough supplies for a day of kayaking.

Design, Material, and Durability

Make sure the design of the recreational kayak you choose accommodates your needs and desires. If you want to kayak in peace and solitude, opt for a single person kayak. If you want some fun with a partner or family, look into tandem and family friendly kayaks.

If you have gear you want to take on your kayak journey, make sure the kayak you choose is designed with efficient storage. Keep in mind the shape of the kayak as well. The slimmer the kayak, the faster it will be on the water. However thinner kayaks are often more tipsy and require more skill and concentration to balance. Kayaks with a wider base, though they have less speed, are much more stable and easier to balance as you paddle.

Material is another important aspect to consider. As mentioned above, you could opt for a kayak made of a lightweight, inflatable material, or a hard shell kayak made of sturdy, hard plastic or fiberglass. The material of the kayak does have an influence on its price; inflatable kayaks are often cheaper than hard shell kayaks. So if you are shopping for a kayak on a tight budget, inflatable is the way to go.

Material also dictates the durability of your kayak. You can find quality, durable kayaks in a range of materials; from inflatable plastic to hard fiberglass, there are well made options in every category. But in general terms, if you are looking for a very durable kayak that will last you for years, look more towards hard shell recreational kayaks. Though inflatable kayaks can be made of durable material, they are always at risk of puncturing. Hard shell kayaks, though often more expensive, can withstand bumps and scrapes and hold up for years.

However, if you are on a budget, do not fret; there are many durable inflatable kayaks on the market. You just have to look for the right features that aid in durability and support. Look for inflatable recreational kayaks with I Beam supports, welded seams, and reinforced hulls, all of which will reduce the risk of punctures and unwanted deflation.

Convenience and Comfort

Having a recreational kayak with convenient features will make your kayak experience all the more enjoyable. When it comes to convenience, easily accessible storage is key. First consider how much gear you will need on your kayaking journey. If you plan to go on a long kayaking trip, or want to go fishing as you kayak, you will need more storage. Dry storage compartments are also convenient, allowing you to bring towels, cameras, and phones without fear of them getting wet and ruined. Other storage features, such as mesh pockets, bungee cord rigging, and cup holders are also handy.

Comfort is also very important while kayaking; if you are uncomfortable, you are likely to have a poor kayaking experience. As you shop for a recreational kayak, look for features that provide comfort and ease. Such features include padded or adjustable seats, back rests, thigh pads, ample leg room, and adjustable foot braces.

Storage and Transport

Before purchasing a recreational kayak, another aspect to think about is how you plan to store and transport your kayak. Consider the available storage space in your home, basement, or garage. Is there enough space to fit a full sized, hard shell kayak? If not, then you may want to consider an inflatable kayak. Inflatable kayaks score high in efficiency; because they can be compacted into a small bundle, they save in storage space. Such option is great for those of you living in apartments, condos, and small houses.

Transporting kayaks can also be a hassle. If you purchase a large, hard shell kayak, you will also want to invest in some roof racks that are sturdy enough to support the weight of your kayak. If you do not have the room in your budget to buy roof racks, an inflatable kayak is a good solution. Since it can be deflated, compacted, and thrown in the trunk of your car, an inflatable kayak saves on space and money.

The Best Recreational Kayak Reviews : Top Picks

Now that you have decided what aspects of recreational kayaks are important to you, it is time to choose a kayak to buy. Here are our top five recreational kayaks for those of you needing a place to start.

Best Sit-In Recreational Kayak

Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit in Kayak

If you are searching for a quality, single person, sit-inside kayak, then we highly recommend the Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit in Kayak. This recreational kayak performs well on all calm waters; from slow rivers, to large lakes, to the salty ocean waters, this kayak can handle them all. Its roomy cockpit, padded backrest, and adjustable foot braces provide comfort as you paddle. This recreational kayak is very stable on the water. With a wide base and hull design, it is easy to stay balanced. This is a great feature for beginners who have yet to acquire good balance on the water. For a hard shell kayak, the Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit in Kayak is very lightweight, weighing only 40 pounds. This makes it easier to transport and carry in and out of the water. The best part is, this hard shell kayak is very affordable: perfect for anyone on a budget. This recreational kayak is a great option for those of you looking to have some affordable, leisurely fun out on the water. To learn more about the Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit in Kayak, read our in depth review here.

Best Affordable Recreational Kayak

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

For those of you looking for an affordable recreational kayak that provides you with convenience and durability, the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is a great option. This inflatable kayak fits two passengers, but has removable seats if you desire to kayak solo. With a roomy cockpit, adjustable seats, and inflatable backrests, this kayak offers comfort for a day of relaxation on the water. Even though it is inflatable, the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is a durable recreational kayak; it is made of a durable vinyl material that reduces the risk of punctures. Better yet, it also has a removable skeg that aids in maneuverability and tracking on the water. Having an affordable price tag and good quality, the Intex explorer K2 Kayak is a great recreational kayak for those of you on a budget. To read a more thorough review of this kayak, click here.

Best Recreational Kayak for Beginners

Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak

If you are new to kayaking, and have yet to develop much balance and turning skills, then you will want a recreational kayak that is stable and has good maneuverability. The Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak offers just that. This single person, sit-inside kayak performs well on any calm, recreational body of water. Thanks to its sleek design, it has great maneuverability that will make paddling easy for any beginner. It is also very comfortable; with an adjustable seat, foot supports, and thigh pads, you are sure to feel relaxed and supported as you kayak. Along with comfortability, this kayak is very durable. It is made from a hard polyethylene material and has a skid plate for added keel protection. For storage and easy access of your day trip gear, there is a molded in well at the stern of the kayak. The Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak is a great option for any beginner kayaker looking for an enjoyable and easy day on the water.

Best Lightweight Recreational Kayak

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

One of the biggest perks of inflatable kayaks is their weight, which makes them easy to transport and carry. If you are interested in a lightweight, inflatable kayak, we highly recommend the Intex Challenger K1 Kayak. At only 27 pounds, it is one of the lightest kayaks on the market. This single person, sit-inside, inflatable kayak is perfect for a day out on recreational waters. From lakes to slow rivers, it can handle it all. This recreational kayak is constructed with stability and convenience in mind: it has an inflatable I Beam that adds extra support as you paddle. It can be deflated and collapsed into a small package that is easy to store and transport.For added tracking ability, this recreational kayak has a removable skeg, making it easier to paddle on the water. The best part is, this lightweight, recreational kayak is reasonably priced. For anyone wanting an affordable recreational kayak that is very lightweight, the Intex Challenger K1 Kayak is our recommended choice. To read more about this great recreational kayak, you can find an in depth review here.

Best Tandem Recreational Kayak

Sea Eagle SE370K Inflatable Kayak

If you want to enjoy a day on the water with a friend or the family, the Sea Eagle SE370K Inflatable Kayak is a great kayak to consider. This family friendly, inflatable, tandem kayak is the perfect kayak to take out on lakes and mild rivers. Though it is inflatable, it is very durable and sturdy. With five I Beam construction, salt water resistant hull, and welded seams, this kayak is sure to stay stable and inflated for years to come. It is also self bailing, making packing up the kayak that much easier. Besides, it has two built in skegs for extra tracking ability, making it easy for you and your partner to paddle and turn the kayak. You are sure to feel stable, safe, and happy in this kayak as you explore the outdoors. To find out more about this tandem, recreational kayak, read a full review here.

Recreational kayaking is a great way to get active, have some fun, and enjoy the outdoors. Whether you prefer an inflatable recreational kayak or a kayak that is made of a hard shell material, there are plenty of options on the market to choose from. From affordable beginner kayaks, to higher quality, pricier kayaks, there are recreational kayaks to fit all budgets. Hopefully our recreational kayak buying guide has made it easy for you to decide which type of kayak and features you want. We wish you the best of luck as you shop for a new, recreational kayak.

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