Best Beginner Kayaks of 2017

Buying a kayak for the first time can be an intimidating experience. With so many different models that vary in size, weight, design and features, it’s hard to know where to begin your search.

Your first kayak purchase doesn’t have to be complicated, though! There are a lot of kayaks out there with an easy learning curve and entry-level price perfect for newcomers. Better yet, “beginner-friendly” kayaks don’t necessarily mean lower quality! Your first kayak can serve you well long after you’re no longer considered a beginner.

As your boating experts, we’ve collected and reviewed some of the models that are best suited for new kayakers. We’ve written our own in-depth reviews of each model, as well as a handy guide to choosing between them!

Keep reading to find the perfect one for your adventures!

Best Beginner Kayaks for 2017 – Summary

Perception Pescador 12Best for FishingSit-On-Top1-Person Check Price
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10Best Recreational Kayak for BeginnersSit-Inside1-Person Check Price
Ocean Kayak Malibu TwoTop Tandem Kayak for BeginnersSit-On-Top2-Person Check Price

Our Guide to the Best Kayaks for Beginners

1. Perception Pescador 12

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  • As mentioned above, the Pescador allows beginners to experience the quality of a high-end kayak at an entry-level price. According to users, it’s also a very versatile kayak, allowing beginners to experience kayaking in a wide variety of environments. Buyers said it was a great model for building confidence, since it allows some room for error without becoming unstable.


  • The most common criticism of the Pescador 12 was the weight of the kayak—some users found it difficult to manage alone. Smaller individuals may have to enlist the help of a friend to carry this kayak. That weight factor has a lot to do with the stability of the boat, but it can make portage a bit less convenient.


Reviews of the Perception 12 Pescador—from both beginners and experienced kayakers—were overwhelmingly positive. With great stability, speed, tracking and storage, the Pescador is a great fishing kayak for any level of experience.
As an inexpensive rebranded model of a high-end kayak, the Pescador 12 allows new kayakers to enjoy a higher level of quality while still paying entry-level prices.

2. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10

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  • The Aruba is immensely popular as a starter kayak. Although there are certainly kayaks that deliver better performance, the Aruba offers a whole lot of quality for a very low price. For novice kayakers eager to get out on the water, the Aruba is a solid model with a gentle learning curve. It has reliable tracking and a good balance. While it’s not as stable as the Pescador for rough conditions, it’s ideal for beginners learning on a smooth lake or relatively calm river. Overall, it’s one of the best casual recreational models out there.
  • The Aruba is also easy to transport, according to users. It’s lightweight enough that a single person can carry it, and compact enough to carry around in the bed of a truck or on the top of a small car. That’s a big advantage over the Pescador, which is more than 20 pounds heavier.


  • The Aruba 10 is a great starter kayak, but dedicated kayakers may eventually want to upgrade. The design is best suited for lakes and slow rivers, and new kayakers may want to branch out to more challenging bodies of water once they have built up some confidence.
  • Another minor issue: the seat bottom is hard plastic. Most owners say they found the Aruba comfortable, but you may want to purchase an extra cushion alongside this kayak.


For the price, the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is one of the best recreational kayaks around. Though beginners may outgrow this kayak, it’s a great starter model for leisurely weekends on the lake or river.
The Aruba 10 delivers superior durability, control and tracking compared to other kayaks in this price bracket. If you’re looking for a great beginner recreational kayak, the Aruba 10 offers the best bang for your buck.

3. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

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  • Malibu bills this kayak as the most popular model in its class and area. We can’t speak to that, but we do know that this is a best-selling and highly-rated tandem kayak among recreational kayakers. It’s a durable, inexpensive, and stable model that many owners swear by.
  • Owners of the Malibu Two praise both its stability and versatility. Fans say it performs equally well in bays, lakes, and rivers without any threat of tipping over. Many reviewers said they enjoyed taking the Malibu Two out into the surf in the ocean.


  • The Malibu Two is a heavy kayak at nearly 60 pounds. It can be difficult for a single person to maneuver this tandem kayak onto the top of a car. Additionally, the Malibu Two’s weight makes it primarily a “family fun” kayak—it’s great for leisurely weekends, but this kayak will not be winning you any races.
  • As a sit-on-top kayak, the Malibu Two is better suited for warmer weather, since paddlers are going to get wet. If you’re looking for a kayak to use in colder climates, you should consider a sit-in model. In addition, the Malibu Two doesn’t provide much storage area, so it’s not well-suited for longer trips


The highly popular and well-regarded Malibu is great beginner tandem model. It’s a versatile, durable, and stable kayak that can deliver years of fun out on the water. Though it’s not the lightest kayak, the Ocean Malibu Two is perfect for recreational excursions in a wide variety of bodies of water. If you’re looking for a great way to bond out on a lake, river, or bay, we highly recommend the Malibu Two.

What makes a great first kayak?

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Which Beginner Kayak is Perfect for You?

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