Recreational kayaks are actually one of the most popular types of kayaks available on the market.
These type of vessels are suitable for individuals of all skill levels and are relatively easy to manage. They are great for vacations or as a way to get some exercise and enjoy fresh air.
Of course, to get your money’s worth, you need to get the best recreational kayaks possible.
Here, you will be able to find some of the most worthwhile options.
The vessels that I have included on this list have several things in common.
They are stable, are made from high-quality materials, can be maneuvered with relative ease, and are quite portable as well.
Here are some of the models you should pay attention to:
Best Recreational Kayaks
Quick Post Navigation
- 1 Best Recreational Kayaks
- 2 How to Choose the Right Recreational Kayak for You
Despite this, it does have the benefit of being one of the most reliable recreational kayaks out there.
This is largely because it is an incredibly stable vessel. The width of the kayak, when compared to the height, creates a balance which allows you to comfortably sit in the vessel without worrying about it overturning.
At nine feet, this is also a more maneuverable kayak, making it easier to turn, especially in places such as lakes and rivers.
At 43lbs, this kayak isn’t overly light. Nonetheless, you will be able to transport it from place to place by hand, without too much of trouble.
Being a sit on top kayak, this vessel is relatively easy to get in and get out. Therefore, it is great for divers looking to dive in and out of the vessel often.
There is certainly enough of space to store a lot of gear and equipment. There are two large tank wells complete with a bungee cord to secure them.
There are only two real downsides with this kayak. This first that it isn’t necessarily focused on comfort. Of course, this is easily remedied by getting yourself a padded seat to sit on.
Also, due to the dimensions of the kayak, space may be a bit of an issue. Paddlers who are very tall may find it difficult to find stretch their legs out when seated in the vessel.
However, if you are looking for a kayak that emphasizes function and is a good bargain, this would be the one for you.
- 9 feet, 43lbs
- Can hold between 275 and 325 lbs
- Two tank wells
- Bow and stern carry handles
- 1 person sit-on-top kayak, max capacity 275-325 lbs.
- Transport and Storage: 9 ft. length and only 43 lbs. means easy transport in the back of a pick-up...
- Seating: Durable padded Comfort Plus Seat Back provide cushioning, support and 4 way adjustability...
- Storage: Stern tank well with removable bungees, bow deck bungee
- Additional Features: Bow and stern carry handles, molded in side handles, molded-in cup holder and...
The Vapor 10 is slightly over ten feet long, which means that in addition to better stability, you also get a kayak that can provide speed as well.
This sit in kayak is great for colder temperatures or if you just don’t want to get wet. Since the kayak is quite long, it means that despite being in a snug cockpit, there is plenty of room to stretch out. Even kayakers who are a bit on the tall side will not feel cramped in there.
The Vapor 10 is made from a single layer of linear polyethylene. This is one of the more durable substances available if you are looking for a kayak in this price range. It will help to keep most minor scratches and dings at bay.
One of the advantages of this kayak is the level of comfort available. For instance, there is an adjustable padded seat, complete with backrest. Therefore, if you are looking to spend a considerable amount of time in the Vapor 10, as I did, you are not going to feel sore.
Another high point is the separate tank well at the back. Now, it isn’t overly large but as it is detached, you don’t have to worry about a crowded cockpit. There is a rim paddle rest that you can use when you are not using your paddle.
You should be warned that this is a bit of a hefty vessel to handle by yourself.
- 10 feet, 47lbs
- Made from single layer linear polyethylene
- Elevated tank well
- Rim paddle rest
- Single-user kayak great for quiet water paddling on lakes, ponds, and slow moving rivers
- Made from highly durable single layer linear polyethylene
- Adjustable Comfort Flex padded seat for all day paddling comfort and a cockpit rim paddle-rest
- Comfortable thigh/knee pads and Glide Track Foot Brace system for good fit and control
- Stern Day Well provides easy access to day-use items without storing them in the bilge of the boat
Whether you are looking to just paddle around, get some decent speed, or go fishing, you can do all of it in this kayak.
Yes, it is one of the more expensive kayaks on this list. However, the overall design of the vessel, as well as the well-formed features, make it a great bargain.
The Caper Classic measures at around 11 feet, which does make it quite long for a recreational kayak. This does provide you with the added advantage of being faster than many other options on the market.
While this is a relatively large vessel, I was surprised to find that it was lighter than I expected. It weighs about 47 pounds, which makes it bearable when lifting it to and from the water.
Also, the kayak is able to hold up to 425lbs. This is good news if you are planning on taking a lot of equipment or gear with you. Not only is the Caper Classic capable of carrying a considerable load, there are also plenty of storage spaces to put your items. There is a bow hatch, complete with a tight lid to keep water off dry goods. Equipment can be stored in the tank well, which has bungee cord to hold everything in place.
If one of your main goals is tracking, then this kayak will suit you well. Also, as it is not overly long, maneuverability is not an issue either.
The Caper Classic is complete with a Comfort Plus seat which really does live up to its name.
- 11 feet, 47lbs
- Constructed from polyethylene
- Can hold up to 425lbs
- Bow hatch and tank well
- Comfort Plus seat
- Renowned Tri-Form hull or stability, tracking and maneuverability; Molded-in seat well is 19 1/2"...
- Large bow hatch allows easy access to items stored inside hull; Large stern tank-well with bungee...
- Bow and stern grab handles and side-mounted carrying handles for easy off-water handling
- Molded-in cup holder, bow and stern carrying handles, side carry handle, and replaceable skid plate...
- Made in the USA
The kayak is just nine feet long and weighs around 38lbs. This makes it a breeze to pack it in your vehicle or even carry it over short distances.
Portability is not the only thing afforded by the Zydeco 9.0, however. You also get incredible stability. As the beam is so wide you are going to find it quite difficult to turn the vessel over.
This is a nice change for a sit in kayak, especially since it makes it easier to get in as well as out of the vessel. This size also makes it that much easier to maneuver and turn as well.
“Even beginners will find this kayak easy to manage”
As mentioned, this is a kayak that is best suited for those with the smaller size as there is limited space in the cockpit.
For those that do fit in, however, there is a SlideLock foot brace to make sure that the fit is perfect. There is a comfortable seat and back support in the cockpit which makes this is a good kayak to spend extended amounts of time in.
The only real downside to the Zydeco 9.0 is the lack of storage space. There are bungee cords on the hull which can store larger pieces of gear. However, it is lacking in either tank wells or hatches.
- 9 feet, 38lbs
- Built from polyethylene
- SlideLock brace system
- Offers advanced maneuverability and faster acceleration than other recreational kayaks. Comfortable...
- Lightweight for easy transporting. SlideLock foot brace system is easy to adjust and fits a large...
The standout feature about this vessel is the incredible durability. It is made from UV-stabilized Fortiflex high-density polyethylene. This means that despite being a hard shell kayak, there is a little bit of flex with the hull. This makes the vessel well equipped to withstand minor damages without cracking completely.
Also, because the shell has been protected from UV rays, it is also more likely to last you for a longer period of time.
The cockpit is quite spacey but because of the overall size of the kayak, taller individuals may find not find the space as comfortable. Still, you are unlikely to feel constricted as is usually typical of sit in kayaks. There are also adjustable foot braces so that you can find the best position for a person of your height.
The seating on the Aruba 10 is pretty comfortable, actually. The seat and the backrest are well padded so that you don’t feel it even after hours of sitting in the kayak.
Surprisingly enough for a kayak of this size, there is a large hatch where you can store your items and make sure that they stay dry. There is even bungee cord, crisscrossing the hatch lid to ensure that it is secure.
The Aruba 10 weighs in at around 39lbs, which makes it a lot easier to carry than most other vessels of this size.
- 10 feet, 39lbs
- Made from UV-stabilized Fortiflex high-density polyethylene
- Adjustable foot braces
- Can carry up to 250lbs
- Large open cockpit with adjustable padded seat with high back support
- Convenient gear storage with shock cord deck rigging
- Adjustable foot braces
- Rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex® High Density Polyethylene
- Carrying handles and water bottle holder
However, in many ways, the 11.0 is an upgrade
For instance, it is a lot faster, due to the elongated and narrower bow. Also, this kayak is much better suited to kayakers who may be a little taller as there is more room inside the kayak.
There is a SlideLock brace system to allow for a more comfortable fit as well.
This vessel, too, is equipped with a ConTour CFS seating system as well as a ConTour knee/thigh pad. Altogether, this makes for a very cozy and comfortable seating area. This is definitely the kayak that you want to take with you if you are planning on making longer journeys.
This is possible considering that the Zydeco 11.0 also has a lot more storage space. In particular, there is a large hatch where you can put anything that you want to be kept safe and dry. The lid is especially secure. On the bow, there is a large patch of bungee rigging so that you can keep fishing equipment, extra paddles, or similar items of that size.
The 11.0 offers up significant durability as it is constructed from polyethylene.
- 2 feet, 48lbs
- Made from polyethylene
- Can carry loads up to 325lbs
- ConTour CFS seating system and ConTour knee/thigh pad
- Stern hatch and bungee storage
- ConTour CFS seating system. ConTour knee/thigh pad. SlideLock foot brace system.
- Stern Hatch. Bungee deck rigging. Soft touch handles.
- Stern bulkhead. Paddle Park. 11 ft. 2 in. total length.
- 27.75 in. total width. 15 in. total deck height. 21.75 in. total cockpit width.
- 38.5 in. total cockpit length. 325 lb. max capacity. 48 lb. total kayak weight.
How to Choose the Right Recreational Kayak for You
The good news is that anyone can use a recreational kayak.
These vessels have more or less been built with unskilled paddlers in mind. That being said, you still need to watch out for the following points when choosing a kayak:
Sit on Top or Sit In Kayaks
The most common type of recreational kayaks available are sit on top kayaks.
This, however, is because this design tends to offer greater stability than the sit in kayaks. This means that you don’t have to really focus on figuring out how to steady your vessel or really worry about flipping it over in the water. Also, even if you do, it is not that difficult to get onboard of a sit on top kayak.
These types of kayaks are also well suited to individuals who are looking for kayaks as platforms that they can scuba dive from.
That doesn’t mean that sit in kayaks are without their merit, however. The downside of sit on top kayaks is that you have to contend with a lot of splashing and are more likely to get wet. This is not an issue with the sit in versions as you are well protected. These kayaks are also great options for individuals who are kayaking in colder climes. The sit in kayaks offer a decent amount of protection from the elements.
In the end, the decision that you will make will be largely due to your personal preference. You will need to pick one that feels the most comfortable to you and is best suited to your paddling requirements.
Which Attribute is Most Important to You?
To keep things simple, you can break down the traits of a kayak into four main categories – stability, tracking, maneuverability, and speed. Dependent on the type of kayaking that you will do, you will find that one or more of these aspects have greater significance to you.
Now, there are certain features on a kayak that lends itself to these traits. For instance, kayaks that are longer, tend to be faster and also are able to track better. Nonetheless, these aren’t very good at maneuvering as they are quite elongated. Conversely, although shorter kayaks aren’t great at speed, they are easier to turn.
A good way to determine which attribute you value the most would be to look at the locations in why you would be using the kayak. For instance, will you be paddling in lakes and gentle rivers or will you be taking the kayak into the bay? With lakes and rivers, maneuverability is typically what is valued since tracking isn’t all that difficult. That is, of course, provided that weathercocking isn’t any issue. If you are expecting waves or currents, then your focus should be on tracking instead as you are less likely to need to turn in a bay area.
Moving onto stability, the best way to determine this would be to look at the beam on the kayak. The wider it is, the more stable that the kayak is likely to be. Wider kayaks are usually more stable than the ones that are long and narrow.
Transport and Portability
The other thing that you should consider is just how easy it is to transport a particular kayak. For example, does it fit into your vehicle? Also, do you find that you can load it and unload it without too much a hassle? Last but not least, if you need to, can you carry the kayak by yourself?
This may not seem like such an important point to cover but it is. This is because you need to be able to get your favorite kayaking spot with a minimal amount of effort. Also, even if you manage to be able to park right on the shore, you will need to have to carry or drag the kayak at least a short distance. Therefore, you should always make sure that you are able to physically handle a kayak by yourself.
With recreational kayaks, you may not be heading out on long journeys. Still, you can expect to spend a decent amount of time on the water. This is why you are going to require at least some storage options. Most kayaks have some bungee rigging to take an extra paddle or a fishing rod if you want. Don’t forget, though, that you are still going to need to store food, water, and perhaps even other gear. This means you are not only going to need enough space, you are also going to require the necessary features.
These are some of the things that you should look for in a good recreational kayak. If you don’t feel like perusing through all of the options available, just pick one from the list provided here.