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Best Kayaks for Beginners: Top Picks in 2024

Updated: Dec 16, 2023


kayak on beach

Kayaking is a popular outdoor activity that offers a unique way to explore the waterways and get close to nature. One of the essential pieces of equipment for kayaking is the kayak itself. Kayaks come in various shapes and sizes, each designed for specific purposes such as touring, fishing, or whitewater paddling.


When looking for the best kayak, there are several critical factors to consider, including the type of water you'll be paddling in, your skill level, and your budget. The type of kayak you choose will depend on whether you plan to paddle in calm lakes, fast-moving rivers, or open ocean waters.


Other important factors to consider include the kayak's material, weight, and size. Kayaks can be made from different materials such as plastic, fiberglass, or wood, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The weight and size of the kayak will affect its maneuverability and portability, making it essential to choose a kayak that fits your needs.


We spent hours researching and testing various kayaks to identify the ones that offer the best performance, durability, and value for money. In the following sections, we'll take a closer look at the different types of kayaks and the factors to consider when choosing the best kayak for your needs.


Best Kayaks


We have researched and tested various kayaks to bring you the top picks for this year. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced kayaker, we have something for everyone on this list. Our team has considered factors such as stability, maneuverability, durability, and price to provide a well-rounded selection of kayaks. So, without further ado, here are the best kayaks you can buy right now.



intex challenger kayak

We highly recommend the Intex Challenger Kayak for anyone looking for an affordable and convenient option for exploring lakes and mild rivers.


Pros

  • The SuperStrong PVC material provides excellent durability and abrasion resistance, ensuring that the kayak can withstand impacts and rough waters.

  • The low profile design of the kayak makes it easy to paddle and maneuver through the water, even for beginners.

  • The removable skeg provides directional stability, making it easier to maintain a straight and steady course while paddling.

Cons

  • The inflatable seats may not be as comfortable as traditional kayak seats, especially for longer trips.

  • The kayak may not be suitable for more challenging water conditions, such as rapids or strong currents.

  • The included aluminum oars may not be as sturdy or durable as higher-end options.

We found the Intex Challenger Kayak to be a great option for casual kayakers who want a convenient and affordable way to explore calm waters. The kayak is easy to inflate and deflate, and it comes with a convenient carry bag for transportation and storage.


The spacious cockpit design and adjustable seats provide plenty of room for two people and their gear, and the low profile design makes it easy to paddle and maneuver through the water. We appreciated the added stability provided by the removable skeg, which helped us maintain a straight course even in windier conditions.


While the inflatable seats may not be as comfortable as traditional kayak seats, we found them to be adequate for shorter trips. The included aluminum oars were also serviceable, although they may not be as sturdy or durable as higher-end options.


Overall, we think the Intex Challenger Kayak is an excellent value for the price, and we would recommend it to anyone looking for a convenient and affordable way to explore calm waters.



goplus inflatable kayak

We highly recommend the Goplus Inflatable Kayak for anyone looking for a portable, durable and comfortable kayak for two.


Pros

  • The kayak is made of reinforced laminate PVC with mesh, which is puncture-proof, sun-proof and wear-resistant to endure long periods of wave impact.

  • The kayak features 2 padded EVA seats and footrests, which are adjustable to let you find the ideal position for a comfortable ride.

  • The kayak is quick and simple to inflate, and it comes with a carry bag for easy transport.

Cons

  • The kayak is a bit heavy at 39 pounds, so it may not be the best option for solo carrying.

  • The kayak does not come with a pump that can inflate to the maximum pressure of 2.18 PSI, so you may need to purchase one separately.

  • The kayak may not be the fastest option on the market, but it is stable and easy to control.

We recently took the Goplus Inflatable Kayak on a weekend trip to a nearby lake, and we were impressed with its performance. The kayak features 2 double-bladed aluminum paddles that are lightweight and easy to operate, and they make it easy to master for beginners. The kayak also comes with 2 fins for simple direction control, making it even easier to navigate.


One of the best things about the Goplus Inflatable Kayak is its comfortable and adjustable seats. The 2-person kayak features 2 adjustable EVA seats, which will soothe your fatigue with high back support. And the 3-level adjustable footrest ensures a relaxed sitting position, making our kayak a perfect choice to enjoy a wonderful time with your partners on water.


The kayak is also designed with multiple humanized details, including a repair kit (patch and wrench), elastic rope in the front and rear to hold some necessary belongings, a drain hole to avoid water in the boat, and 4 handles to enable you to effortlessly move it to the beach.


Overall, we highly recommend the Goplus Inflatable Kayak for anyone looking for a portable, durable, and comfortable kayak for two.



If you're looking for a lightweight, stable, and safe kayak that's perfect for recreational paddling, then the Pelican Maxim 100X is a great choice.


Pros

  • The upgraded features of the Maxim 100X include additional storage space, a cockpit table with compartments, and molded footrests for added comfort.

  • The shallow V-chine hull provides better maneuverability and tracking while giving you increased secondary stability, making it perfect for beginners.

  • The added floating blocks on each side of the kayak and the flatter hull type ensure safety and peace of mind during your ride.

Cons

  • The kayak may feel a bit tippy for some users, especially beginners.

  • The handle line may snap after a few uses.

  • The kayak is a bit heavy to carry around, despite being marketed as lightweight.

We recently took the Pelican Maxim 100X out for a spin and were impressed with its overall performance. The kayak is easy to maneuver, even for beginners, thanks to its shallow V-chine hull. It also provides a stable ride, which is great for those who may be nervous about tipping over. The additional storage space is a nice touch, as it allows you to bring along all your personal items without having to worry about leaving anything behind.


One downside we noticed is that the kayak may feel a bit tippy for some users, especially beginners. This is something to keep in mind if you're new to kayaking. Additionally, the handle line may snap after a few uses, which can be frustrating. Lastly, while the kayak is marketed as lightweight, it can still be a bit heavy to carry around, especially if you're planning on taking it on long hikes to get to your paddling spot.


Overall, we think the Pelican Maxim 100X is a great choice for recreational paddlers who want a stable, safe, and comfortable kayak. Just be aware of its potential downsides before making your purchase.


You can read our comprehensive review here.



bestway hydro elite kayak

If you're looking for an affordable and easy-to-use kayak that can comfortably fit two adults, the Bestway Hydro Force: Rapid Elite X2 Kayak Set might be the perfect choice for you.


Pros

  • The kayak is made of premium nylon coating that can withstand harsh elements, making it durable and long-lasting.

  • With two interchangeable and removable fins, you can customize your ride based on water conditions for optimal directional stability.

  • The kayak is easy to set up and comes with everything you need, including 2 aluminum paddles, 1 hand pump, 2 fins, 2 seats, 1 gear bag, 1 carry bag, and a repair patch kit.

Cons

  • The kayak is inflatable, which means it might not be as stable as a hard-shell kayak.

  • Some users reported that the pump seemed fragile and might not last long.

  • The kayak might not handle strong currents or wind very well.

We recently had the chance to test out the Bestway Hydro Force: Rapid Elite X2 Kayak Set, and we were impressed with its overall performance. The kayak is easy to inflate and set up, and it comes with everything you need to get started.


One of the things we liked about this kayak is its durable construction. The premium nylon coating can withstand harsh elements, making it a great choice for those who enjoy kayaking in rough waters. The kayak is also puncture-resistant, which means you don't have to worry about it getting damaged easily.


Another thing we liked about this kayak is its user-friendly design. The two interchangeable and removable fins allow you to customize your ride based on water conditions, which is a great feature for those who like to kayak in different types of water. The double-bladed, aluminum oars are lightweight and easy to use, and the kayak also features two adjustable seats for added comfort.


While we enjoyed using this kayak, there are a few things to keep in mind. Since the kayak is inflatable, it might not be as stable as a hard-shell kayak, which might be a concern for some users. Additionally, some users reported that the pump seemed fragile and might not last long. Finally, the kayak might not handle strong currents or wind very well, so it's important to be aware of the weather conditions before you go kayaking.

Overall, we think the Bestway Hydro Force: Rapid Elite X2 Kayak Set is a great choice for those who are looking for an affordable and easy-to-use kayak that can comfortably fit two adults. It's durable, user-friendly, and comes with everything you need to get started.



intex excursion kayak

If you're looking for a reliable kayak that can easily be transported, the Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series 2-person Kayak Set is a great option.


Pros

  • The 3-ply laminate construction combined with SuperStrong enhanced molecular formulation PVC provides superior structural strength and unmatched resistance to damage from abrasion, impact and sunlight, while allowing more pressure for rigidity.

  • High-pressure inflation provides extra rigidity and stability, with spring-loaded valves for easy inflation and fast deflation; the two removable skegs included allows for optimal maneuverability in deep or shallow water.

  • Extra space in the bow and stern allows for storing any necessities for your adventure; stainless steel D-rings also allow the safety and ease of tying down dry bags and gear.

Cons

  • The oars seem flimsy but should be ok for casual kayaking. Serious kayakers should get their own oars.

  • Tarda en armarse pero muy bueno, asiento no muy cómodo.

  • Compared to a good hard kayak, inflatables are generally terrible, including this one.

We recently took the Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series 2-person Kayak Set out on the water and were impressed with its durability and stability. The kayak is easy to inflate and deflate, making it a breeze to transport. We appreciated the extra space in the bow and stern for storing our gear, and the stainless steel D-rings made it easy to tie everything down.


While the included oars seemed a bit flimsy, they were sufficient for casual kayaking. Serious kayakers may want to invest in their own oars for a better experience. We also noticed that the seat wasn't the most comfortable, but this wasn't a major issue for us.

Overall, if you're looking for a reliable, inflatable kayak that's easy to transport, the Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series 2-person Kayak Set is a great option.




If you're looking for a portable and easy-to-use kayak, the Sevylor QuickPak K1 Sit-On-Top QuikPak Kayak might be the perfect fit for you.


Pros

  • Sets up in just 5 minutes, making it perfect for spontaneous outings

  • Easy-to-carry backpack system doubles as a comfortable seat

  • Rigid floor, flat bottom, and three-chamber design provide stability and security on the water

Cons

  • Paddle included is not the highest quality

  • Footrest can be difficult to adjust

  • Inflating and deflating can take some time and effort

We recently took the Sevylor QuickPak K1 out for a spin and were impressed with its ease of use. Setting up the kayak was a breeze and we were on the water in no time. The backpack system was a game-changer, allowing us to easily transport the kayak to and from the water.


Once on the water, the kayak was stable and easy to maneuver. The footrest provided a comfortable position for our feet, but we did have some trouble adjusting it to the right length. The backrest allowed us to lean back and relax, making for a comfortable ride.

While the paddle included with the kayak is not the highest quality, it was sufficient for our needs. Inflating and deflating the kayak can take some time and effort, but the double lock valves make the process as easy as possible.


Overall, the Sevylor QuickPak K1 Sit-On-Top QuikPak Kayak is a great option for those looking for a portable and easy-to-use kayak. Its stability and ease of use make it perfect for beginners, while its portability and backpack system make it a great option for those who want to take their kayak on the go.



pelican argo kayak

We highly recommend the Pelican Argo 100XR kayak for those looking for a lightweight and stable kayak with premium features.


Pros

  • The premium quality Ergocoast seating system is comfortable and can easily be removed from your kayak which also makes it a great beach chair!

  • Includes one back quick lock hatch with storage bag and a storage platform with bungee cords. This kayak is also equipped with adjustable footrests, premium knee pads, a bottle cage and a secondary bottle holder.

  • The Twin-arched Multi Chine Hull offers excellent stability giving you a secure and steady ride. It also makes it incredibly easy to get in and out of the kayak.

Cons

  • The kayak holds a maximum capacity of 300 lb, which may not be enough for some larger individuals or those carrying a lot of gear.

  • The paddle tie-down may not be as secure as some users would like.

  • The kayak may not be as fast as some other models, making it better suited for leisurely paddling rather than racing or long-distance trips.

Overall, we were impressed with the Pelican Argo 100XR kayak. It is safe, stable, and comfortable, making it a great choice for beginners or those looking for a leisurely paddling experience.


The premium features, such as the Ergocoast seating system and adjustable footrests, make it a great value for the price. The lightweight design and ergonomic carrying handles also make it easy to transport and store.


If you're in the market for a high-quality recreational kayak, the Pelican Argo 100XR is definitely worth considering.



advanced elements kayak

We highly recommend the ADVANCED ELEMENTS Attack Pro Inflatable Kayak Yellow for anyone looking for a stable and responsive kayak that can handle rough whitewater conditions.


Pros

  • The drop-stitch floor, self-bailing ports, and 12″ bow/stern rise (rocker) allow for quick turns and facing whitewater conditions head-on.

  • The covered cargo bay on the stern deck is perfect for storing a drybag or other gear.

  • The heavy-duty PVC tarpaulin material offers a smooth, hydrodynamic outer skin, making it durable for long-term use.

Cons

  • The kayak's 35″ width may make it less maneuverable than narrower kayaks.

  • The maximum weight capacity of 225 lbs may not be sufficient for larger individuals or those carrying heavy gear.

  • The kayak does not come with a pump, so you will need to purchase one separately.

We recently took the ADVANCED ELEMENTS Attack Pro Inflatable Kayak out on the water and were impressed with its stability and responsiveness. The drop-stitch floor and self-bailing ports allowed us to take on rough whitewater conditions with ease, while the 12″ bow/stern rise (rocker) allowed us to make quick turns and maneuver through tight spaces.


The covered cargo bay on the stern deck was a convenient feature for storing our gear, and the heavy-duty PVC tarpaulin material held up well against the elements. However, the kayak's 35″ width did make it slightly less maneuverable than narrower kayaks, and the maximum weight capacity of 225 lbs may not be sufficient for larger individuals or those carrying heavy gear.


Overall, we highly recommend the ADVANCED ELEMENTS Attack Pro Inflatable Kayak Yellow for anyone looking for a durable and stable kayak that can handle rough whitewater conditions. Just make sure to purchase a pump separately!



pelican sentinel kayak

If you're looking for a lightweight, stable, and comfortable kayak, the Pelican Sentinel 100X Sit on Top Kayak is a great choice.


Pros

  • The twin-arched multi-chine hull offers excellent stability, making it easy to get in and out of the kayak.

  • The adjustable ERGOLOUNGE seating system provides extra-thick cushioning and an extra high and wide padded backrest for a comfortable ride.

  • Additional storage includes a front storage platform, a tank well with bungee cords, and the EXOSHELL 13 L removable storage compartment.

Cons

  • Some users have reported that the seat straps don't provide enough back support.

  • The kayak doesn't come with handles on the sides, which can make it difficult to carry.

  • The molded footrests may not be comfortable for all users.

We took the Pelican Sentinel 100X Sit on Top Kayak out for a spin and were impressed with its stability and ease of use. The twin-arched multi-chine hull kept us steady and secure, even in choppy waters. The adjustable ERGOLOUNGE seating system provided comfortable cushioning and support, allowing us to paddle for hours without discomfort.


The additional storage options, including the front storage platform, tank well with bungee cords, and removable EXOSHELL 13 L storage compartment, made it easy to pack everything we needed for a day on the water. We even brought our furry friend along for the ride, thanks to the kayak's pet-friendly design.


While we did find the lack of handles on the sides to be a bit inconvenient, the kayak's lightweight design made it easy enough to carry with two people. The molded footrests were comfortable for us, but some users may prefer a different design.


Overall, we highly recommend the Pelican Sentinel 100X Sit on Top Kayak for anyone looking for a stable, comfortable, and versatile kayak.



Buying Guide


When choosing the best kayak, there are several factors to consider. We want to make sure that you get the right product that best suits your needs. Here are some key features to look at when making your purchase.


Type of Kayak


The first thing to consider is the type of kayak you need. There are several types of kayaks, including recreational, touring, sit-on-top, and inflatable kayaks. Recreational kayaks are great for beginners and are usually shorter and wider than touring kayaks. Touring kayaks are longer and narrower, making them faster and more efficient. Sit-on-top kayaks are great for warm weather and are easier to get in and out of. Inflatable kayaks are great for those who have limited storage space and want a portable option.


Size and Weight Capacity


The size and weight capacity of the kayak are also important factors to consider. You want to make sure that the kayak can accommodate your weight, as well as any gear you may bring along. The length and width of the kayak can also affect its stability and maneuverability.


Material


Kayaks can be made from a variety of materials, including plastic, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Plastic kayaks are durable and affordable, while fiberglass and carbon fiber kayaks are lighter and more expensive. Consider the material that best suits your needs and budget.


Features


Finally, consider the features of the kayak. Some kayaks come with additional features such as adjustable footrests, padded seats, and storage compartments. Make sure to look for features that will enhance your kayaking experience.


In summary, when choosing the best kayak, consider the type of kayak, size and weight capacity, material, and features. By taking these factors into account, you can find the perfect kayak for your needs and have a great time on the water.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is the most stable kayak design?


When it comes to stability, wider kayaks tend to be more stable than narrower ones. Additionally, kayaks with a flat bottom or a pontoon-style hull are more stable than those with a rounded or V-shaped hull. However, keep in mind that stability also depends on the individual paddler's skill level and experience.


What kayak to buy for beginners?


For beginners, we recommend a recreational kayak that is stable, easy to maneuver, and comfortable to sit in. Look for kayaks with a wider beam, a flat bottom or pontoon-style hull, and a comfortable seat. Sit-on-top kayaks are also a good option for beginners as they are easier to get in and out of.


Is a sit-in or sit on kayak better?


Both sit-in and sit-on kayaks have their advantages and disadvantages. Sit-in kayaks offer better protection from the elements and are more suitable for cooler water temperatures. Sit-on kayaks are easier to get in and out of, offer more storage space, and are generally more stable. Ultimately, the choice between sit-in and sit-on kayaks depends on your personal preference and the type of paddling you plan to do. Read our comparison guide here.


Who makes the best recreational kayaks?


There are many reputable kayak manufacturers that make high-quality recreational kayaks, including Old Town, Perception, Wilderness Systems, and Pelican. It's important to do your research and read reviews before making a purchase to ensure that you are getting a kayak that meets your needs and is made by a reputable manufacturer.


Best budget touring kayak


For those on a budget, the Perception Tribute 12.0 kayak is a great option for touring. It offers good stability, speed, and maneuverability, and has a spacious cockpit for added comfort. It's also lightweight and easy to transport, making it a great choice for beginners or those who want to try touring without breaking the bank.


Best kayak for sea and river


For those who want to paddle in both the sea and river, we recommend a crossover kayak like the Dagger Stratos 14.5 L. It's designed to handle both calm and rough waters, and has a longer length for added speed and tracking. It also has a comfortable seat and ample storage space for longer trips.


Read our related Kayak Articles:


Lifeguard LI may receive a commission for purchases made through the affiliate links in this article. However, our goal is to provide unbiased advice on the best and most eco-sustainable products on the market. Our recommendations are always based on thorough research and testing, regardless of any potential affiliate relationships.

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