10 Best Kayaks for Beginners
There are very many types and models of kayaks in the market to the point that it can be intimidating for absolute beginners to get started. However, kayaking does not have to be hard. Even the most professional kayakers in the world had to start from somewhere.
So, are you freshly starting out? If that’s the case, don’t feel intimidated.
We have carefully hand-picked some of the best kayaks for beginners and reviewed them in detail below.
Hopefully, this will help you find a high-quality kayak that will initiate you to the wonderful world of kayaking.
- 10 Best Kayaks for Beginners – Review
- 1. Sevylor Coleman Colorado – Best Overall Kayak for Beginners
- 2. Ocean Kayak Malibu – Best Tandem Kayak for Beginners
- 3. Intex Challenger K1 – Best Budget Kayak for Beginners
- 4. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak – Best Kayak for Kids
- 5. Sevylor Quikpak K1 – Best Lightweight Kayak for Beginners
- 6. Intex Explorer K2 – Easy-to-Paddle Kayak for Beginners
- 7. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 – Beginner Kayak with a Large Storage Compartment
- 8. Sun Dolphin Journey 10ss – Most Stable Kayak for Beginners
- 9. Perception Kayak R15 – Professional-Grade Kayak for Beginners
- 10. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 – Balanced Kayak for Beginners
- How to Buy the Best Kayak for Beginners
- Kayaking Tips for Beginners
10 Best Kayaks for Beginners – Review
1. Sevylor Coleman Colorado (Best Overall)
2. Ocean Kayak Malibu (Best Tandem Kayak)
3. Intex Challenger K1 (Best Budget)
4. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak (Best for Kids)
5. Sevylor Quikpak K1 (Best Lightweight)
6. Intex Explorer K2 (Easy-to-Paddle)
7. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 (Has Large Storage Compartment)
8. Sun Dolphin Journey 10ss (Most Stable)
9. Perception Kayak R15 (Professional-Grade)
10. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 (Has Balanced Speed)
1. Sevylor Coleman Colorado
2. Ocean Kayak Malibu
(Best Tandem Kayak)
3. Intex Challenger K1
4. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak
(Best for Kids)
5. Sevylor Quikpak K1
6. Intex Explorer K2
7. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10
(Has Large Storage Compartment)
8. Sun Dolphin Journey 10ss
9. Perception Kayak R15
10. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120
(Has Balanced Speed)
1. Sevylor Coleman Colorado – Best Overall Kayak for Beginners
- Weight capacity: 470 lbs
- Weight: 41.2 lbs
Sevylor’s Coleman Colorado can be considered as one of the best entry-level kayaks for beginners due to a number of reasons. For starters, this 129-inch kayak has a weight capacity of 470 lbs., which means it can comfortably accommodate 2 adults plus some fishing equipment.
The unit also has a puncture-resistant design that consists of a thick layer of 1000D tarpaulin at the bottom and an 840D nylon cover. You also get an airtight system that consists of multiple air chambers on the inside. This setup ensures that even if one is punctured, you still remain afloat.
Other features include Sevylor trolling motor fittings that allow you to attach an engine for paddle-free use, paddle holders to store your paddles securely, a double-threaded Boston valve for easy inflation/deflation, D-rings for attaching other equipment and mesh pockets for storage.
If you decide to take this beginner kayak out fishing, don’t worry as it has multiple slots for holding your fishing rods. However, there is no dedicated storage compartment but the cockpit is large enough to fit in some items inside.
More detailed: Sevylor Coleman Colorado Review
2. Ocean Kayak Malibu – Best Tandem Kayak for Beginners
- Weight capacity: 375 lbs - 425 lbs
- Weight: 57 lbs
The Malibu is a well-known and heavy-duty tandem kayak used by many skilled kayakers. However, this model is easy enough so as to be used by absolute beginners. So much so, the Malibu is regarded by many as being one of the best tandem kayaks for beginners on the market.
That said, the unit is fitted with 2 padded seats that have an adjustable backrest. This offers a lot of comfort for those who are planning to kayak for an extended period of time.
With its 144-in length, the Malibu offers excellent tracking over the water making it very easy and efficient to paddle with.
Additionally, the build construction is from a high-density polyethylene that is very durable. This also provides excellent shock resistance, which is an excellent trait for a beginner kayak as the risk of impact when used by beginners is higher.
However, this piece is very costly and also quite heavy (57 lbs.), but this is reasonable considering it is a tandem kayak.
3. Intex Challenger K1 – Best Budget Kayak for Beginners
- Weight capacity: 220 lbs
- Weight: 24.6 lbs
It makes a lot of sense not to spend the money on a kayak if you are a beginner. Intex's Challenger K1 is an affordable kayak to consider, especially if you want one for single person use.
That said, the product still has respectable features for the price. For instance, it is inflatable, which means it can be folded after use for compact storage and transportation.
You also get a heavy-duty 86-inch aluminum paddle as well as an air pump out of the box.
The cockpit is sit-in but offers decent room inside for your legs regardless of your height. Moreover, there is a cargo net at the front for storing your accessories.
However, you will not find advanced features on this beginner kayak. For instance, it lacks fishing rod holders and thus, it's not ideal for fishing.
More Detailed: Intex Challenger K1 Review
4. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak – Best Kayak for Kids
- Weight capacity: 130 lbs
- Weight: 18 lbs
Kayaks generally tend to be long and bulky boats. This is not the case of the Lifetime Youth Wave. Not only is it not long at only 72-inch, it is also quite lightweight at 18 lbs. Moreover, this beginner kayak was specifically made with kids in mind.
The model offers a large, ergonomic cockpit that enhances balance and motor skills. Additionally, this design does not hinder the child's movements inside. This allows for easy turning when sightseeing.
Other features include a high-grade polyethylene construction that offers good shock absorption properties, molded finger handles for easy carrying, a lightweight double-sided paddle and paddle cradles to hold the paddles when not in use.
However, the unit has a low weight capacity of 130 lbs., though is reasonable considering it is designed for kids.
5. Sevylor Quikpak K1 – Best Lightweight Kayak for Beginners
- Weight capacity: 400 lbs
- Weight: 18 lbs
Inflatable kayaks are excellent kayaks for beginners mostly because they are quite affordable, easy to use and lightweight. This perfectly describes Sevylor's Quikpak K1, which weighs only 18 lbs.
Other than that, the kayak's total length is 103 inches, which makes it easily maneuverable. One of the best things that we like about it is the fact that it uses Airtight technology.
This is a boat safety technology that ensures if one part of the kayak gets punctured, it will not sink. The interior is made up of multiple chambers that are independent of one another and these prevent complete deflation in case of puncturing.
Additionally, the kayak is made from a thick 21-gauge PVC that is durable and long-lasting. This increases its puncture resistance.
More features include a comfortable padded seat, a high-quality pump, paddle and carry bag. However, you don't get a waterproof compartment for keeping your electronics.
More Detailed: Sevylor Quikpak K1 Review
6. Intex Explorer K2 – Easy-to-Paddle Kayak for Beginners
- Weight capacity: 400 lbs
- Weight: 35 lbs
The K2 from Intex is an upgrade from the K1 because it has a more streamlined form factor that makes it more efficient and easy to paddle. However, it has the same inflatable design and is delivered with a quality air pump.
This model is a tandem kayak that comes with 2 inflatable seats with adjustable backrests.
At 35 lbs, this unit is relatively lightweight, especially considering that it is designed for 2 people. It is also quite affordable and you get 2 paddles as part of the set.
Other features include a removable skeg for directional stability, carry handles on both the rear and front ends for easy portability and a bright yellow color for easy visibility in case of an emergency.
On the downside, the kayak's cockpit is not very wide and this limits the available space inside.
More Detailed: Intex Explorer K2 Review
7. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 – Beginner Kayak with a Large Storage Compartment
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs
- Weight: 40 lbs
Despite being a fairly basic sit-in kayak, Sun Dolphin Aruba still has a rich set of features. For one, it has a large storage compartment at the rear. The hatch for this storage compartment is waterproof and will keep all your accessories dry.
Moreover, the cockpit inside is quite spacious for your legs and you will be able to get a good footing when you paddle due to the presence of multiple footrests.
At 120 inches, you can expect that this kayak offers good tracking as well as excellent maneuverability.
Another good thing about this model is that you can purchase it in no less than 5 different colors and each has a rugged UV-stabilized polyethylene construction for long lasting use. However, it has a relatively small weight capacity of 250 lbs.
More Detailed: Sun Dolphin Aruba Review
8. Sun Dolphin Journey 10ss – Most Stable Kayak for Beginners
- Weight capacity: 250 lbs
- Weight: 44 lbs
The Sun Dolphin Journey is rated by many users as being one of the most stable kayaks on the market. This stability is mostly attributed to the fact that this kayak has a flat bottom that offers a larger surface area and contact with water.
Additionally, being so stable you can comfortably use in this model as a stand-up kayak. If you prefer sitting down and enjoying the view, then you will find that the cockpit is quite large and gives you good maneuverability in every direction.
You can comfortably use this sit-on-top boat for activities like fishing or recreation. Other features include a waterproof storage compartment, retractable carrying handles and 3 rod holders. However, you don't get paddles in this set.
9. Perception Kayak R15 – Professional-Grade Kayak for Beginners
- Weight capacity: 375 lbs
- Weight: 60 lbs
Even if you have never kayaked before, that does not mean that you do not deserve a high-quality and professional grade kayak. The Perception R15 has long been a good beginner kayak for those who can afford it.
That said, the boat is built using a high-grade polyethylene, which is very durable. On top of this, its single seat is built to achieve a Comfort Seating System (CSS), which helps to minimize fatigue during long periods of use.
Moreover, the foot brace at the front gives you a better paddling position allowing you to deliver more performance when necessary. With its long length of 144 inches, you can expect excellent tracking from this kayak.
Other features include a storage compartment at the rear, a waterproof hatch at the front and a weight capacity of 375 lbs. On the downside, the unit is very heavy and thus, not easy to carry.
10. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 – Balanced Kayak for Beginners
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs
- Weight: 49 lbs
Lastly, this Pungo 120 is designed to have an impressive balance of speed, manageability, comfort and stability. This ensures you get the best performance, especially when it comes to paddling in a straight line.
You also get durable thigh and knee padding so as to help you maintain comfort in the cockpit.
Other features include a large rear storage compartment, a fully adjustable seat with a mesh fabric for improved aeration and comfortable carrying handles for easy transportation.
The only problem is that this boat is very expensive.
How to Buy the Best Kayak for Beginners
In a kayak, you get stability based on the shape of the bottom of the kayak. In order to make the beginner kayak more stable, manufacturers equip them with a flat bottom, which offers a wider surface area.
But one of the main advantages of the flat bottom is that it can be used as a stand-up kayak as well. This means that the user can stand up on the kayak and perform various activities like fishing or sightseeing without the risk of the kayak rolling over.
That said, if you require a lot of stability in your kayak, we recommend Sun Dolphin's Journey 10ss.
Durability is key in the beginner kayak category, mostly due to security and safety reasons. You absolutely do not want a puncture in the middle of nowhere and where your kayak can sink to the bottom.
To make the kayak more durable, manufacturers opt to go with heavy duty and durable materials like polyethylene in the case of a molded kayak or PVC for inflatable ones.
Inflatable kayaks like Sevylor's Coleman Colorado may seem inferior to molded ones, but they are still quite durable. Most inflatable kayaks actually have a thick tarpaulin lining at the bottom to prevent puncturing when navigating through shallow waters.
In short, if you are looking for a durable beginner kayak then we recommend that you keep an eye out for terms like “PVC” and “polyethylene” such as in Perception Kayak's R15.
Those are extremely durable and long-lasting plastic-based materials that have high sunlight resistance and will not corrode in seawater.
You do not want a beginner kayak that is excessively heavy. This is because you will oftentimes need to carry your kayak to the river or lake.
As stated above, the dimensions of the kayak will affect its tracking and steering. The longer the kayak, the better tracking it will have but more difficult it will be to steer.
If you are planning for a solo kayaking experience, then a 120-inch kayak such as Sun Dolphin's Aruba 10 offers excellent maneuverability, good tracking and good steering.
If you want the best tracking though, go for Ocean Kayak's Malibu, which is 144 inches long.
Kayaking Tips for Beginners
Kayaking is not as intimidating as it looks. However, there are still some common practices that make it more fun and safe.
1. Kayaking location
Choose your location wisely. When you kayak, you will quickly find that some locations are more beginner-friendly than others. If you are freshly starting out kayaking, you should avoid running waters like white water as those are mostly reserved for people who have kayaked for a while and have gained some experience in doing so.
Additionally, it is also recommended to kayak in clear water where you can see the bottom. It is safer. You should absolutely avoid kayaking in murky waters.
While a PFD (Personal Floatation Device) is a must for almost anyone planning to kayak, it is especially important for beginners. Indeed, beginners have a higher risk of the kayak rolling over and the paddler projected in the water.
Wearing a PFD while kayaking will literally save your life.
3. Paddle length
Unlike a popular belief, paddling speed is not responsible for performance. Indeed, when paddling, it is the length of the paddle that dictates the performance, efficiency and the speed that you obtain while kayaking. As a general rule, the longer the length of the paddle, the more efficient and performance you get.
However, one major caveat with having a long length paddle is that it is more difficult to maneuver and can be tiring to the hand, especially for those who are planning to paddle for an extended period of time.
Therefore, you will need to choose a paddle that is of appropriate length to your kayak as well as to your body size. In general, is a good idea to go with a paddle that is around the same height as you.
4. Length of kayak
The length of the kayak will dictate 2 things:
Tracking: Tracking is the ability for the kayak to continue moving in a straight line without steering from left or right. In short, the better the tracking of the kayak, the more enjoyable the experience.
Steering: Steering is the kayak negotiating either a right or left depending on the way you paddle. A kayak with a good steering is more maneuverable than others. But will most of the time lack tracking because it is usually smaller and more compact than a model that offers good tracking.
5. Storage compartments
A good big and a kayak should have decent storage compartments. They are there so as you can store your various accessories like fishing, smartphones, and others. However, overloading your storage compartment will make maneuverability difficult.
As you have seen, these boats have very diverse features but Sevylor's Coleman Colorado stands out as the overall best kayak for beginners because it can carry a lot of weight, is puncture-resistant and has multiple fittings and holders for attaching extra equipment.
Though quite expensive, Ocean Kayak's Malibu has a durable, comfortable and long design that gives excellent tracking. However, if you are on a tight budget, we highly recommend Intex's Challenger K1 for single person use.