Best Kayaks for Beginners in 2021 [Reviewed] – Buying Guide

by weekendkayaks | Last Updated: October 7, 2020

Kayaking is a very popular water sport for those who love to adventure and being close to the water. A double bladed oar is used for paddling. It is a very versatile sport and can be done in seas, rivers, lakes or even ponds but for a thrilling experience, kayaking is popular in seas and fast flowing rivers.

The credit of introducing kayaking is given to Eskimos, who used to travel on kayaks made from wood. Their purpose was fishing or transporting goods.

Kayak literally means hunter’s boat.

With time, kayaking developed as a recreational activity and eventually as a competitive sport.

Nowadays, many types of kayaks are available in the market as per the convenience, budget and expertise of the person. Kayaks are mainly made from wood, plastic, fiberglass etc.

Sit In VS Sit On Beginner Kayaks

On the basis of structure, kayaks come in two basic forms: Sit In and Sit On Kayaks.

Sit In Kayak

A sit in kayak is the traditional and more popular variant of a kayak. As the name suggests, the person has to sit inside the kayak being fully enclosed.

The sit in kayaks will feel like a cockpit. The sit in kayaks are very stable and can be paddled at very high speeds without having to worry about the unbalancing of the kayak. Because of its enclosed structure, it is also used in cold waters to prevent the water to get in contact with the person.

Since the upper part is exposed, sometimes people use spray skirts to avoid splashing of water.

Sit On Kayak

On the other hand, sit on kayaks provide freedom to the lower part of the body. You can jump into the water and then climb back on. It can be used for leisurely fun. Also, in most cases, it is cheaper than the sit in kayaks.

These come with a self bailing mechanism in which water flows down through a small hole made inside it. For some people, one downside can be that you will definitely get wet because of the open structure. It is mostly used by the beginners for practicing because nervous people can hop on and hop off as they wish.

What are Features of the Best Kayak for Beginners?


If you are beginner who is set to start his kayaking, you will not like your kayak to capsize in the very beginning of your ride. That’s why you should look for a kayak with a broader base and a shorter length. Although it will not give you the professional speed but will be good for initial engagement.

Durability and Cost

Since you are just starting your kayaking experience that’s why you should buy a kayak which is durable and will last your learning period. At the same time, it should not be very expensive. First you should learn kayaking and then you can proceed with buying a kayak of your choice.

Below are 5 handpicked kayaks from Amazon, that will best suit beginners

1. SUN Dolphin Phoenix 10.4

sun dolphin phoenix review


  • Large open cockpit
  • Adjustable Seat
  • Water Bottle Holder
  • 300 lb capacity
  • Under $350


  • Ergonomic design
  • Well built
  • Great storage, tie-downs, and cup holder
  • Lightweight


  • Uncomfortable seat
  • Handles break after time

This polyethylene made sit in kayak has a maximum capacity of 300 lbs. It is a very good kayak and can be very easy to learn on. It others the perfect features to test out kayaking. If you are looking for a universal kayak to take out few a few hours each time, this is the kayak for you.

It provides enough storage for a day on the water. You will be able to store your snacks and other essential kayak gear.

We did notice the seat isn’t the most comfortable after extended periods of time, but it is fine for a couple hours. The handles to carry the kayak also seem to break after some use because it is only a piece of rope. This also isn’t a huge deal and any easy fix.

Overall, for the price, this kayak is an amazing value and we highly recommend it. There aren’t many kayaks at this price point with this many features and benefits.

Customer Reviews

“Awesome kayak, I really liked it. Very useful for beginners like me”

Very good kayak for rough use. Value for money”

2. Pelican Maxim 100X

pelican maxim 100x review


  • Very Durable
  • Cushion seat
  • Water Bottle Holder
  • 275 lb capacity
  • Under $400


  • Reputable brand
  • Easy to steer
  • Durable build
  • Plenty of storage for a day trip
  • Easy to carry


  • Seat isn’t the best
  • Average handles
pelican maxim kayak


From the house of Pelican, a reputable kayak manufacturer, it is an easy to carry, lightweight sit in kayak. It has good maneuverability and stability because of its redefined hydrodynamics.

This is a wonderful beginner’s kayak because it is easy to carry and great for most types of water. The value of this kayak is hard to beat. It will last a long time or until you decide to upgrade to a better kayak!

Customer Review

“I am really happy with what I got out of the box. We made good headways in 15-20 mph winds without fatigue”

3. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90

vibe kayaks slipjack 90 review


  • Spacious Sit On Top Kayak
  • Adjustable Cushion seat
  • Waterproof Storage
  • 4 Rod Holders
  • 9′ Long
  • 42 lb
  • 300 lb capacity


  • Fast Kayak, treads great
  • Turns quickly and easily
  • A lot of storage
  • Comfortable kayak with tons of room
  • Plenty of storage for a day trip
  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Solid handles


  • Seat sometimes slides
  • You’ll get wet in this kayak (may not be a con if it’s a nice day)


It is a very lightweight sit on kayak. The open space with backrest and cushioning etc. makes it a very comfortable ride. With so much of space onboard, it makes it perfect for fishing as well.

Technically it is a “fishing” kayak since it comes with rod holders but we think it is great for everyday, recreation kayaking as well. The kayak is very fast and turns great for a sit on kayak.

With the kayak only 9 ft long and 42 lbs it is very easy to take in and out of the water. It has tons of storage space for such a short kayak and the wide base makes it very stable for beginners.

Overall, the kayak is a little more expensive but has some great features to justify it. If you are going to use your kayak for any kind of fishing or just prefer a sit on kayak, this is the one for you!

Customer Reviews

“Oh my god, I went to the bay fishing and faced no problem at all. I really liked this product. It got delivered in a 45 ft truck and all the neighbors were just looking at me.”

4. Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 Kayak

ocean kayak malibu 11.5


  • Tons of room
  • Comfortable seat
  • Waterproof Storage
  • Sleek, modern look
  • 11′ 6″ Long
  • 59 lb
  • 360 lb capacity


  • Comfortable and so much space
  • Incredibly well built
  • Easy to drive
  • Plenty of storage for a day trip
  • Cool designs
  • Multiple handles


  • A little heavy
  • Small dry storage compartment
ocean kayak malibu review


Made with high speed durable material, it is a sit on kayak that can sustain weights up to 360 lbs. It is very user friendly and so great for a beginner to learn how to kayak.

This is ideal for the person that thinks they are going to use the kayak quite a bit. It is very well built… one of the best we’ve seen in this price range. This kayak will hold up for a very long time, even with frequent use.

Lakes, rivers, oceans, you name it! This kayak is very versatile and can be taken about anywhere. It is especially great as a beginner kayak to see where you like to kayak most.

Overall, it’s a little expensive compared to other kayaks on this list but definitely worth the investment. If you can afford the little extra cost we would highly recommend taking a look at this amazingly built kayak.

Customer Reviews

“I am a war-veteran and just love to do kayaking. It is just perfect.I also take my dog with me in it.”

5. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100

lifetime tamarack kayak


  • Sit on top with a lot of leg room
  • Padded seat
  • Waterproof Storage
  • 3 Rod Holders
  • 10′ Long
  • 52 lb
  • 275 lb capacity
  • Under $400


  • A lot of legroom
  • Very stable
  • Treads well with decent speed
  • Plenty of storage for a day trip
  • Side handles


  • Heavy for such a low weight capacity
  • Flimsy handles


A fishing kayak, made out of high density polythene with a stable design. It comes with 3 rod holders. Like the others, even if you don’t want to use the kayak for fishing it is still a great all around recreational kayak.

The multiple footrests is a nice design that allows the kayak to fit many different people.

This is a fairly basic kayak that is straight to the point. It doesn’t have many features that will blow you away but it is at any amazing price. This makes the kayak perfect for beginners. That way you don’t have to shell out a ton of many. You can start with this to see if you really enjoy kayak.

It is important to remember that a beginner’s kayak is meant to be low investment and a test to see if you have an interest in kayaking. This is a great kayak to do just that.

Overall, the kayak is well built and straightforward. It won’t turn any heads but it will definitely make for a great time on the water. If you’re looking for a kayak at a great price this is the one for you!

Customer Reviews

“It turns out to be a great purchase. I and my wife are really enjoying it. I am 6’ and my wife is 5’7’’. We own 3 kayaks but we really love kayaking and fishing in this.”

Wrapping it up

There you have it… the 5 best beginner kayaks. If you’re completely new to kayaking we recommend to do some research but don’t overthink it. With these entry level kayaks there really is a ton of differences.

We recommend to pick the one that has the couple features that really stand out and go with it. None of these kayaks are crazy expensive and each of them will get you on the water!

Which kayak are you going to get? If you already have one… which do you have? Leave us a comment below! We look forward to hearing from you.