Kayaking is a sport that is easy to fall in love with. A great upper body workout combined with the joy of being able to escape into the open water is incredibly appealing. Using your kayak for leisure can be incredibly rewarding and take you to places you have never been to before. Kayaking allows you to go on day trips through still lakes but can also take you through rough waves on the ocean. Some kayaks even have capabilities to take you down intimidating river rapids. These little boats offer up endless opportunities.

The best recreational kayak will be one that allows you to use it in multiple different ways. All around great boats will have features that allow you to take them through rough rivers and still lakes. We have found the top five recreational kayaks on the market that do just that.

How To Choose A Recreational Kayak – Buying Guide


We have created a kayak buying guide that will help you to determine key features in your next kayak. Being prepared for your day includes being able to bring all of your luggage and gear with you.

When using top-rated kayaks recreationally, getting one with top of the line features will ensure a perfect day on the water. They are famous for their stability and maneuverability making them the best boats to use if you are looking for a fun day on the water or are new to the sport. Their unmatched stability will quickly instill confidence in your rig and make you never want to get out of the water.


Having a skid to line the bottom of your boat will give your kayak added durability. This will act as a barrier between the bottom of your boat and some unexpected rocky terrain. Great for beginners or those going in unconquered areas that may have some unexpected surprises a skid plate will ensure you stay afloat. Some kayaks even have a replaceable skid which means that once it sees some wear and tears you can simply replace the skid rather than buy an entirely new kayak.


A skeg is essentially a fin that is often retractable on the bottom of your kayak. This is important when navigating through rough water. A skeg can be lowered into the water when in turbulent water to allow you to formulate a straight path in the water. This is a great feature when looking to do distance paddles.


A recreational cockpit should be large enough for you to get in and out without bumping your knees or body. It will be a long oval shape that makes you feel comfortable. You should be able to put a blanket around you for the colder days and have enough room to move your feet around. Your legs should be able to stretch out and have a wiggle room. Keep in mind that if you do roll your rig you should be able to quickly escape if emergency maneuvers fail.


This is an important factor when considering a kayak. A comfortable seat will make your trip more enjoyable and comfortable. Look for a fully adjustable seat with lots of padding. You can add a pillow or even a yoga mat for added comfort, but having a base that makes you feel comfortable and confident is vastly important.


The whole idea behind the best recreational kayaks is to be able to take the sport with you wherever you go. To be able to get the most use out of it, we recommend getting a lightweight boat with carrying handles that allow easy transportation. Portaging your boat between lakes or even just transporting between your car and the river will be made easier with a lightweight and easy to carry design.


You get what you pay for with the best recreational kayaks. A lightweight, comfortable rig can range from $500 to $1500. When looking for a boat for you there are many things you should consider that will affect the price. Weight is a key factor. The lighter the kayak is the more money it will cost. The trick here is to get a boat that you feel comfortable handling. If you can’t lift the boat onto your car or trailer chances are you won’t get on the water as much as if you like.

Types of kayaks for recreational use

There are a few different styles of kayaks you can choose from. Each one has its benefits and drawbacks. Understanding these will allow you to make a decision that will be best for your use.

Sit On Top

This is where the deck of the kayak is open and flat. It allows you to go for a swim in the middle of the lake. These rigs are great for days on the lake but can’t stand up to the massive waves found in the ocean.


  • Easy to enter and exit the water
  • Don’t have a confined feeling
  • Can have more storage (open-air though)


  • High center of gravity
  • Can be less stable
  • Expect to get wet
  • Less stable in turbulent water


These are enclosed kayaks that you sit inside. They are what most people think of when someone says “kayak”. Their shape allows them to cut through the water while keeping you warm. This makes them a great option for early or late season trips. These kayaks can also be used in white water and river situations where other types, like a sit on top, are not ideal.


  • More watertight
  • Lower center of gravity
  • Many have dry storage areas
  • Great for beginners


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


An inflatable sit on top kayak gives you the benefits of a rigid model, with added portability. These don’t take that long to inflate and can be just as durable as their more-traditional counterparts. Even if you live in a small apartment and only have a car you are still able to easily transport your kayak without special straps or a rack system. You can even take your inflatable kayak on hikes and use it when you get to your perfectly secluded lake.


  • Extremely portable
  • Compact to store and transport
  • Incredibly durable


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



Q: How Long Are Recreational Kayaks?


Recreational kayaks are typically less than 12 feet (3.6 meters) long. These are kayaks that are great for an afternoon on the water. If you are looking to use this type of kayak for beach camping you may be able to get away with it depending on what type of body of water you’re paddling on

A longer rig will be more stable in the water while a shorter one may be more maneuverable. If you are planning a camping weekend on a relatively calm lake having a short kayak will be able to get you to your site without issue. With that being said, these aren’t usually the type of kayaks you would take on the ocean or on a long haul trip. They are more for cruising around the lake with the family.

Q: How Much Does A Recreational Tandem Kayak Weigh?


Recreational kayaks can weigh anywhere between 20 and 100 lbs. The large variation comes from the type of materials that are used. If you have a polyethylene (plastic) boat it will be the least expensive but also one of the heaviest. Fiberglass is a great compromise between weight and price while composite kayaks will be the lightest but also the most expensive.

Pro Tip: If you are looking for beginner kayaks you may want to start with a polyethylene option as it won’t set you back financially while allowing you to see if you enjoy the sport.

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


When trying to decide which kayaks are best for you, it is important to first ask yourself a few questions. First off, it is important to consider how many people will be using your kayak. Will you be needing a solo or tandem kayak? Be sure to consider kayaking with your dog as they will require an extra seat as well. It is also important to determine a budget in the beginning stages of your search. This will help narrow down which kayaks you should be looking at.

Finally, consider what you intend to use your kayak for. Do you plan to spend long days stretching out in your kayak fishing? Maybe the Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 would be best for you. Or would you rather get an adrenaline rush as you plow through the ocean rapids? Then you may want to consider the Riot Kayaks Boogie 50 Whitewater Surf Kayak. Deciding how you plan to use your kayak will allow you to make an informed decision on which one is right for you. It will also give you an idea of the different priorities you have for your kayak. Are you needing one that can stow lots of gear or one that is compact and easy to maneuver? Answering these questions will ensure that you choose the best recreational kayak for you.

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

A: There are many different types of best recreational kayaks and each one will have its own ideal way of paddling. For example, a sit on top kayak will require more effort from your core and legs while a traditional setup will produce power predominantly from your arms. No matter what style of kayak you have your legs will be a key aspect. They give you stability and increase your control when paddling especially through rough waters.

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

A: These are kayaks that have added stability for a great overall boat. Instead of a kayak that is only good for one type of environment, like an ocean fishing kayak for example, a sit-on-top kayak does a lot of things well. It has a long enough body that it can handle some wake, but not long enough to take it through rough ocean waves. These kayaks also have a stable base which makes them great for beginners or people who have limited experience in these types of boats.

Globo Surf Overview

Reviews of the best kayaks for recreational use agree that having a boat that can seamlessly perform in both still lake and open water conditions is key. One with a comfortable seat that is adjustable to fit your height will allow you the freedom to stay on the water for longer periods of time.

Regardless of whether you are buying one of the best recreational kayaks for long paddles or just weekend fun, we recommend a kayak that can handle being in the surf so that you can safely go into lakes and rivers with unexpected conditions.

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!