Kayaking is a sport that is easy to fall in love with. Not only does it provide a great upper body workout, but it also allows you to explore nature and escape into the open water. If your goal is to relax and have fun, the best decision you can make is to get a recreational kayak.

Designed for casual paddling, recreational kayaks put an accent on stability and comfort. They are usually very versatile and work equally well on lakes, slow-moving rivers, and even ocean surf. On top of this, most are highly maneuverable and convenient to transport.

While these models share many features, there are still a lot of differences that impact a kayak’s performance. To help you find the ideal one, this article will present the best recreational kayaks currently on the market. In addition, we’ll also tell you about all the kayak features that you need to consider when choosing.

How To Choose A Recreational Kayak – Buying Guide


Types Of Kayaks For Recreational Use

A few different types of kayaks can be used for recreation, each with its benefits and drawbacks. These include inflatable kayaks, sit on tops, and sit-in kayaks.

Sit On Top

This type of kayak has an open and flat deck. It’s comfortable for days on the lake but can’t handle larger waves in the ocean.


  • Easy to enter and exit
  • Doesn’t create a confined feeling
  • Often has more storage space


  • High center of gravity
  • Can be less stable
  • Expect to get wet
Traditional (Sit-In)

These are enclosed kayaks where you sit inside a cockpit. Their shape allows them to cut through the water well, so they are better for ocean surf, rivers, and rapids.


  • Keep you fairly dry inside
  • Lower center of gravity
  • Fast on the water


  • Harder to enter and exit
  • Less storage space
  • Heavier and bulkier appearance


An inflatable top sit kayak gives you the benefits of a rigid model, with added portability. It’s the perfect option if you like to explore new areas because it packs easily in your car without requiring roof racks.


  • Extremely portable
  • Compact to store and transport
  • Rugged and durable construction


  • Reduced weight capacity
  • Requires more time to set up
  • Need to carry a pump with you


A recreational kayak cockpit should be large enough to make it easy to get in and out without bumping your knees or body. While sit-on-tops are best in this regard, sit-ins can be pretty comfortable too. Since recreational paddling is about relaxation, it’s a plus if there is room to stretch your legs. Lastly, the cockpit shouldn’t confine you if you need to perform an emergency maneuver.


Comfort is one of the most important factors when choosing the best kayak for recreation. In addition to a spacious cockpit, the seat should be soft and breathable to allow longer paddling sessions. On top of this, it’s a plus if the seat is adjustable and if the kayak has leg braces for optimal foot position.


The whole idea behind the best recreational kayaks is taking the sport with you wherever you go. To get the most of it, we recommend picking a lightweight boat with carrying handles that allow easy transportation. Weight can vary significantly between kayaks, so consider whether you can get the boat on your car and down to the water easily.


A skeg is essentially a fin on the bottom of the kayak that improves tracking. It’s a big advantage if your kayak has one, as it will make keeping the kayak in line a lot easier. Furthermore, it’s even better if the skeg is retractable.

Skid Plate

If your kayak is too heavy to carry, the only option you’ll have is dragging it to the water. In this scenario, it’s very useful if the kayak recreational model has a skid plate. Basically, it’s a piece of metal on the rear part of the hull that protects it from damage. In addition, some kayak models even have replaceable skid plates.

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Q: How Long Are Recreational Kayaks?


Recreational kayaks are typically shorter than 12 feet (3.6 meters), which offers a good balance between speed and stability. A longer rig will be faster but usually less stable, while shorter kayaks with a wider beam have less chance of tipping. That being said, most of these are generally too short for the open water.

Q: How Much Does A Recreational Tandem Kayak Weigh?


Recreational tandem kayaks can weigh anywhere between 20 and 100 lbs. The large variation comes from the type of materials that are used. Polyethylene (plastic) boats will be the heaviest, but also the least expensive to buy. On the other hand, fiberglass boats are extra-light but can cost significantly more.

Pro Tip: If you are looking for beginner kayaks, you may want to start with a polyethylene option. It won’t set you back financially and it will allow you to see if you enjoy the sport.

Q: How Should I Choose A Recreational Sit-In Kayak?


Before deciding, you should carefully consider your needs on the water. If you’re paddling on your own, a solo kayak is the best choice. If you’re going with a buddy, be sure to get a spacious tandem. If you plan to take the boat everywhere, the best recreational kayak is an inflatable kayak. Lastly, if you’re planning multi-day trips, make sure the kayak has a big enough storage area.

Q: How Do I Paddle A Recreational Sit-On-Top Kayak?


For preserving energy and enjoying your ride, you should paddle it using low-angle strokes that go easy on your arms and shoulders. It’s also important that you get a paddle that feels comfortable to use and hits the water at the right angle. In addition, the best recreational kayaks come with adjustable seats that allow you to find the perfect position and make paddling even easier.

Q: Why A Recreational Sit-On-Top Kayak?


Unlike kayaks that are only good for one type of environment (like ocean or whitewater models), recreational sit-on-top kayaks do a lot of things really well. Their long bodies can handle some wake, but the focus still lies on stability and comfort. Because of this, they are perfect for beginners and people who want to improve.

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Kayak recreation is one of the healthiest and most relaxing activities you can enjoy on the water. While focusing on comfort, the best recreational kayak should also be stable and easy to paddle so you get a full experience on the water. We hope that our reviews and buying guide helped you decide and that your new kayak will make you love paddling even more.

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