10 Best Recreational Kayaks (Versatile & Durable)

Best Recreational Kayak

The recreational kayak is a fun, practical, and durable boat. It is easy to operate by either one or multiple individuals and they usually come with paddles out-of-the-box.

Moreover, one of the best things about the recreational kayak is that you do not need a permit to operate.

Best, this boat also has a short learning curve. Even absolute beginners will start paddling like a professional in a matter of minutes. It is just so easy to learn and use!

For those fresh on the market for a quality kayak, we have exactly what you need.

We gathered some of the best recreational kayaks for the money and give you our impressions below. Let's see how well they perform!

You may also like to read other products reviews such as touring kayak, kayak life vest, kayak paddle, sit on top kayak, tandem kayak, kayak for dog, inflatable kayak, and many more.

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Product Name

Capacity

Weight

Rating

Current Price

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Recreational Kayak

1. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Recreational Kayak

3

57 lbs

4.4

Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

2. Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

1

44 lbs

4.4

Old Town Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak

3. Old Town Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak

1

47 lbs

4.3

Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

4. Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

1

47 lbs

4.5

Old Town Dirigo 120 Recreational Kayak

5. Old Town Dirigo 120 Recreational Kayak

1

50 lbs

5.0

Sun Dolphin Bali SS Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

6. Sun Dolphin Bali SS Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

1

44 lbs

4.2

LifeTime Sit-on-top Recreational Kayak

7. LifeTime Sit-on-top Recreational Kayak

2

60 lbs

4.4

Riot Kayak Sit-On-Top Flatwater Recreational Kayak

8. Riot Kayak Sit-On-Top Flatwater Recreational Kayak

1

55 lbs

4.7

Third Coast Sit In Recreational Kayak

9. Third Coast Sit In Recreational Kayak

1

50 lbs

4.6

Old Town Heron 9 Recreational Kayak

10. Old Town Heron 9 Recreational Kayak

1

37 lbs

3.5

1. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Recreational Kayak 

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Recreational Kayak
  • Capacity: 2 adults + 1 child
  • Weight: 57 lbs
  • Material: Polyethylene

One of the most striking features of the Ocean Kayak Malibu is its capacity. Indeed, this is one of the few models in this recreational kayak review that has a sit-in capacity of 2 adults and 1 child.

This is a recreational kayak that is fit for the whole family. It is made from a heavy-duty and long-lasting polyethylene material which is not only highly durable but will also protect you against impact.

Moreover, the seats are quite comfortable and can quickly and easily be adjusted to fit your position. Maneuverability is excellent as the cockpit is large and offers you free movement in every direction. Best, this model comes with 2 paddles out of the box.

For those who carry a lot of accessories, the Ocean Kayak Malibu has multiple hulls below the surface for dry storage. All in all, if you are planning a day out kayaking with multiple people, this kayak is an excellent model to consider.

Pros:

  • Multiple dry hulls to store your accessories
  • Excellent carrying capacity. Can accommodate 2 adults and 1 child
  • A rudder can be mounted at the back (requires additional accessories)

Cons:

  • The price. This model is the most expensive recreational kayak in this review
  • Due to its long length of 144 inches, it is more difficult to steer than a shorter kayak

2. Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak 

Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
  • Capacity: 1
  • Weight: 44 lbs
  • Material: Polyethylene

The Frenzy from Ocean Kayak is a sit-on-top recreational kayak that has a large cockpit and offers excellent maneuverability. Since it is fairly short at only 108 in, it is easier to turn using the paddle than longer kayaks.

Moreover, this model is comfortable and easy to adjust so as to provide long hours of recreational fun. But it can accommodate only one person of any body type.

Additionally, at 44 lbs this recreational kayak is relatively lightweight and can easily be lifted and placed on a car top for easy transportation. It even provides you with attachment points so that you can safely secure this kayak on top of a vehicle.

Unfortunately, it is more basic when compared to other recreational kayaks. However, this model still offers decent features as well as delivers excellent tracking as well as easy steering. This is mostly explained due to the small and compact size of this recreational kayak.

All in all, we recommend this lightweight recreational kayak for those looking for a compact, portable, and yet highly maneuverable kayak.

Pros:

  • Easy to turn the kayak left or right
  • Relatively lightweight at 44 lbs. Portable
  • Available in different colors based on user preference

Cons:

  • The price could have been a little bit more competitive
  • Little basic for the money

3. Old Town Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak 

Old Town Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak
  • Capacity: 1
  • Weight: 47 lbs
  • Material: Polyethylene

The Old Town Vapor looks pretty much like a traditional recreational kayak but it has one feature that makes it exceptionally different from others. That is its cockpit.

Indeed, the cockpit is large. In fact, one of the largest you will find in a recreational kayak. This large cockpit allows the user to perform a lot of free movements in every direction, useful especially in activities like fishing.

Moreover, it offers exceptional maneuverability and casting a long line in this kayak is not a problem. To prevent the inside of the cockpit from getting wet, it can accommodate a spray skirt as well. Leg movement inside the cockpit is excellent even if this recreational kayak is a little bit on the small side.

Moreover, another feature distinctive this unit is its padded seat which is made from a soft rubber material. It provides a lot of comfort especially for those who are planning to use their recreational kayak for long hours.

Bottom line, the Old Town Vapor recreational kayak offers an excellent solo experience when kayaking. It is versatile enough to be used in a wide range of kayak activities and offers great value for money.

Pros:

  • Large cockpit allows a lot of free movement
  • This recreational kayak is very easy to maneuver
  • Padded seat. Very comfortable and will not cause discomfort

Cons:

  • Limited color choices
  • Rear cargo hold does not have a lid for water protection

4. Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak 

Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
  • Capacity: 1
  • Weight: 47 lbs
  • Material: Polyethylene

The Scrambler from Ocean Kayak is a fully polyethylene molded recreational kayak that has been engineered from the ground up for comfort and ease of use. Moreover, this model is made in the USA and promises to use the highest grade materials in its construction.

As a matter of fact, it uses Polyethylene which is known to be very durable and long-lasting. Moreover, Polyethylene has excellent shock absorption during impacts. This can prove to be handy for those who get caught in treacherous whitewater when kayaking?

However, where this model really shines is in its simplicity and comfort.

Indeed, the seats are comfortable and fully adjustable in 4 different directions to provide you with the best position when kayaking. Additionally, there are footwells that provide a more comfortable sitting position regardless of your height.

Moreover, the sides have paddle holders that will keep your paddles safe and secure when not in use. We also note the presence of a molded cup holder that is located right between your legs for easy access during kayaking.

Best, this recreational kayak is available in no less than 3 different colors for more versatility in user preference.

Pros:

  • 6 inches cam-lock hatch for dry storage of your accessories
  • Foam seat is fully adjustable
  • Foot wells for a comfortable sitting position regardless of your height
  • Molded cup holder

Cons:

  • None

5. Old Town Dirigo 120 Recreational Kayak

Old Town Dirigo 120 Recreational Kayak
  • Capacity: 1
  • Weight: 50 lbs
  • Material: Polyethylene

The Old Town Dirigo is a canoe-kayak hybrid that measures an impressive 144-inch in length. With such a long length, it will track easily on water and will require minimum effort when paddling in a straight line.

Moreover, the build construction out of polyethylene is very good making this quality recreational kayak very long-lasting and durable, especially against impacts.

In addition, there is a dry storage compartment below the hull that can be used to store your fishing accessories. For even more convenience, there is a glove box hatch at the front for storing your sensitive equipment like smartphones or other pieces electronics like a portable fish radar.

For a more comfortable kayaking experience, this unit is equipped with a soft rubber coated seat that can also be easily adjusted.

However, bear in mind that this canoe-kayak hybrid model is not the easiest recreational kayak to maneuver. You will definitely need some basic experience to navigate with this unit as it can be more difficult for a beginner to steer or track correctly with this Dirigo kayak.

Pros:

  • Offers a lot of storage compartments
  • Very comfortable and adjustable seat with soft pads
  • Long length of 144 inches gives it excellent tracking

Cons:

Pros:

Cons:

  • More difficult to steer left or right than more compact kayaks
  • Rear rudder cannot be mounted on this unit

6. Sun Dolphin Bali SS Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak 

Sun Dolphin Bali SS Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
  • Capacity: 1
  • Weight: 44 lbs
  • Material: Polyethylene

Let's face it, not everyone has a lot of money to spend especially on a recreational kayak. This is where models like the Sun Dolphin Bali comes into action.

When compared to other models in this recreational kayak review, this unit is much more affordable with almost similar features.

However, it reflects its price as this recreational kayak is very basic and lack more advanced features you will find from a more expensive recreational kayak.

Further, it does not have a padded seat and the build quality is not on-par with other top-rated recreational kayaks we have reviewed so far. But, all hope is not lost. It is still a good recreational kayak for the money.

Indeed, to make it a better deal, it has a storage compartment at the back as well as multiple moldings like a cup holder and footrests.

All in all, if you are on a budget and looking for a decent unit that will get the job done, this model will make an excellent recreational kayak for beginners.

Pros:

  • The most affordable recreational kayaks in this review
  • Available in 6 different colors
  • Padded back pad for back support
  • Small and compact kayak. Easy to maneuver

Cons:

  • Not as durable as other models in this review
  • Seat pads absent. Not the most comfortable recreational kayak for long hours of use

7. LifeTime Sit-on-top Recreational Kayak 

LifeTime Sit-on-top Recreational Kayak
  • Capacity: 2
  • Weight: 60 lbs
  • Material: Polyethylene

So far, we have seen that most recreational kayaks for the money are made for only one person. It is an undeniable fact that the recreational kayak is meant to be a solo experience. However, this does not have to be the case all the time.

Models like the LifeTime recreational kayak can accommodate 2 people and has a weight capacity of 500 lbs. which means that even if you are on the plus size, this kayak will still have the carrying capacity.

To make paddling easier and more comfortable, this model comes with 2 adjustable and comfortable backrests. To complete this 2-person experience, it comes with 2 durable and long-lasting paddles made from a hard plastic.

Best, this recreational kayak has been engineered in such a way that it can still be used by a single person for more versatility.

All in all, despite being a fairly simplistic recreational kayak, this model from Lifetime offers a lot of versatility.

Especially for those who have a little bit more experience when it comes to kayaking as this model is definitely not the easiest one to maneuver.

Pros:

  • Can accommodate 2 people with a maximum width capacity of 500 lbs
  • Comfortable backrest for long hours of paddling without fatigue
  • Comes with 2 sports paddles out-of-the-box

Cons:

  • More difficult to maneuver than other models
  • The heaviest recreational kayak at 60 lbs. Not the most portable

8. Riot Kayak Sit-On-Top Flatwater Recreational Kayak 

Riot Kayak Sit-On-Top Flatwater Recreational Kayak
  • Capacity: 1
  • Weight: 55 lbs
  • Material: Polyethylene

Despite its expensive pricing, the Riot remains one of the best recreational kayaks for the money. There are multiple reasons for that. For one, this is a sit-on-top kayak with a large cockpit that offers you excellent maneuverability in all directions.

Moreover, at 144 inches, this model is one of the longest in this review. It has excellent tracking and due to the fairly narrow width and streamlined form factor, it can be used as a sports kayak because it can go really fast when necessary.

Additionally, there is a large hatch at the front of the kayak to store your accessories. The only caveat is that this model does not have a rear hatch. However, this is a recurring problem for almost all sit on top kayaks mostly because they have such a large cockpit.

We also find the presence of a rod holder and a cup holder for more convenience. This kayak is definitely versatile and can be used for a wide range of activities, from recreation to fishing.

Pros:

  • Excellent tracking due to its long length of 144 inches
  • Versatile. Can be used for a wide range of activities
  • Large hatch at the front to store your accessories

Cons:

  • The price. It is an expensive recreational kayak

9. Third Coast Sit In Recreational Kayak 

Third Coast Sit In Recreational Kayak
  • Capacity: 1
  • Weight: 50 lbs
  • Material: Polyethylene

If you need a fast and highly maneuverable recreational kayak, there are few models that can beat the Third Coast. Indeed, this model has been engineered from the ground up for speed and maneuverability.

Out-of-the-box, you get a hard plastic paddle with this model as well as a paddle holder on both sides of the kayak. The 20-inch oval hatch at the front is very convenient for storing your various accessories. Moreover, you will also find the presence of a rear hatch which is even larger for you to store bigger items.

When it comes to comfort, this recreational kayak delivers. It has an adjustable and comfortable rubber seat that can be moved both forward and backward to your liking. Moreover, there are footrests inside the cockpit so that you get a better position when maneuvering this recreational kayak.

Additionally, this unit is made from a hard polyethylene material that is very durable and resistant to impact. It can be used for kayaking even in rough waters without worry of a puncture in addition to being an excellent recreational kayak on calm waters.

Lastly, there are carry handles to both the front and the back of this recreational kayak for easy portability. Even if this recreational kayak is a little bit on the heavy side at 50 lbs, you will have absolutely no problem carrying or towing it.

Pros:

  • Large 20-inch oval hatch to store your valuables
  • Fast and highly maneuverable sit-on-top kayak
  • Seat is fully adjustable for better maneuverability
  • Rod holders to the side of the kayak

Cons:

  •  None

10. Old Town Heron 9 Recreational Kayak 

Old Town Heron 9 Recreational Kayak
  • Capacity: 1
  • Weight: 37 lbs
  • Material: Polyethylene

The Old Town Heron is another canoe-kayak hybrid that is compact and highly maneuverable. Moreover, at 37 lbs this kayak is the lightest you will find in this review.

As all recreational kayaks of this type, the cockpit is quite large and can be used with a spray skirt to keep the inside dry at all times. Furthermore, the compact form factor of this kayak makes it highly maneuverable.

The seat and backrest are equally comfortable and do a good job of preventing back pain especially when kayaking for an extended period. Moreover, there are foot braces inside the kayak the provides you with a better body and foot posture when paddling.

Sadly, there is no storage hatch in this recreational kayak will storing your valuables. However, due to the small size of this kayak, this small omission can easily be forgiven.

In short, if you are looking for a very light, small, and highly maneuverable recreational kayak for 1 person, the Old Town Heron is a worthwhile model to consider.

Pros:

  • Small and compact. Very easy to maneuver
  • The lightest recreational kayak in this review at 37 lbs
  • Adjustable seat and braces for better paddling posture
  • Sterns carry handles on both sides for better portability

Cons:

  • None

How to Buy a Recreational Kayak

How to Buy a Recreational Kayak

1. Material

The type of material that your recreational kayak is made off is an extremely important factor to consider. Mostly because it will dictate the durability of your kayak both in the short term and in the long term.

Basically, there are 3 common types of materials used in the construction of the recreational kayak.

  • Polyethylene
  • ABS plastic
  • Composite

Polyethylene: Most budget recreational kayaks online are made from polyethylene which is a hard plastic material. It will not degrade easily and has very good durability especially against impacts that often happens when operating a kayak.

ABS plastic: If you want a higher quality recreational kayak than one made from regular hard plastic, you can go with ABS which is another type of plastic but has a longer lifespan and is also harder.

Composite: Another type of material that manufacturers have recently been using is composite. Basically, this is a mixture of multiple materials that makes the recreational kayak more durable.

An example of the composite material is fiberglass mixed with plastic that gives it a new property of being very long-lasting (possibly for a lifetime) and extremely durable against impact.

2. Paddle and Blade

In addition to the type of material used in your recreational kayak, you must also consider materials useful the paddles as well. The paddle is the accessory that you use to move your recreational kayak backward or forward.

A good quality paddle has a fiberglass shaft and a fiberglass blade. The handle is soft, usually coated with a very smooth rubbery material for comfort.

However, this type of paddle is usually reserved only for top-rated recreational kayaks that are also expensive. If you are opting for a budget solution, a paddle with a hard plastic blade and shaft will do the job just fine.

3. Spray skirt

The spray skirt is a great innovation that allows you to navigate your recreational kayak without getting wet.

A spray skirt is basically a waterproof skirt that covers the top part of your body as well as the cockpit of the recreational kayak. In so doing, it prevents water from entering the cockpit and therefore, your feet always remain dry.

When purchasing a spray skirt for your recreational kayak, the most important factor is definitely the size. It will need to fit you as well as be sufficiently large so as to cover the whole of your recreational kayak cockpit.

4. Skegs

Skegs look like shark fins and they serve a vital purpose in the recreational kayak. That is of tracking. Tracking is simply the ability of the recreational kayak to move in a straight line when you are not paddling.

Without the skeg, the recreational kayak will turn left or right every time you paddle in one direction or the other which will destabilize it and make paddling non-efficient. Therefore, skegs of vital.

5. Rudder

Similar to the skeg, the rudder promotes tracking as well. However, it is more versatile than the skeg and allows you to steer your recreational kayak left or right quickly and easily.

Not all recreational kayaks come with a rudder as your recreational kayak will need to be fitted with a rudder mounting system to accommodate a rudder.

We usually recommend that you go with a model that comes with a rudder mounting system as it makes it incredibly easy and effortless to navigate with the kayak.

6. Weight

The weight of the recreational kayak is another important aspect to consider. This is because sometimes you will find it necessary to carry your recreational kayak from point A to point B.

Therefore, it needs to be fairly lightweight so as to be portable. Portability is even more important when you are purchasing a one-man recreational kayak as most of the time you will be the only person dragging your kayak around.

As a general rule, anything below 50 lbs is an excellent value for the recreational kayak as it is lightweight enough to be carried around and operated by a single person.

Conclusion

As we have seen, the recreational kayak is a versatile boat that is not reserved for leisure purposes only. It can be used for a wide range of activities. For one, you can use the recreational kayak for fishing.

Moreover, most models have a wide storage compartment to store your various accessories. Best, this small boat is made from strong and durable materials that will last a long time. The recreational kayak is definitely not something that you buy every year and should last you for decades.

If you have still not found the best recreational kayak for the money, we recommend you read our review one more time.

Allen Ethan