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Best Overall: Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 at Dick's Sporting Goods
"Reviewers loved how easily it maneuvers and noted that the stable hull design tracks well."
Best Budget: Intex Explorer K2 at Amazon
"Made for paddling lakes and rivers, this kayak includes some nice features for the price."
Best for Beginners: Dagger Zydeco 9 at Backcountry
"It's a little shorter than other kayaks, which allows for excellent maneuvering and easy steering."
Best Sit-On-Top: Lifetime Daylite Sit-On-Top Kayak at Walmart
"The open nature of the Daylite's cockpit provides a level of freedom that is tough to top."
Best Inflatable: Advance Elements AdvancedFrame Sport at L.L. Bean
"Made from durable materials, this inflatable kayak can bounce off rocks and logs without fear."
Best Lightweight: Eddyline Sky 10 at REI
"It's both lightweight and stable, so this boat can be easily transported to the water."
Best Tandem: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two at Ocean Kayak
"A two-person kayak that is versatile enough for just about any type of waterborne adventure."
Best for Fishing: Old Town Topwater Angler Kayak at L.L. Bean
"Features a transducer system that can be used for mounting a GPS to help find fish."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5
Built for use on lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers, the Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 Kayak is a great option for beginners and veterans alike. Reviewers loved how easy this kayak is to maneuver and noted that the stable hull design gets good traction on the water. The cockpit is spacious and features adjustable foot braces to fit rowers of any size. You'll ride comfortably on the water, too: the seat has ergonomic support and there's has a cup holder and storage hatch to keep your belongings dry. There are even dedicated holders for fishing rods, making this versatile kayak a great option for fishing. It can hold up to 325 pounds but only weighs 44 pounds.
Best Budget: Intex Explorer K2
The Intex Explorer K2 inflatable kayak is proof that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to get a high-quality, feature-packed boat. Tipping the scales at 31 pounds and measuring 10 feet in length, the Explorer K2 is lightweight, easy to carry, and very durable. Made for paddling on lakes and rivers, this tandem kayak includes some nice features for the price. It comes with adjustable seats with backrests, two grab handles at the bow and stern, two aluminum paddles, a carrying bag, and a pump. This kayak can hold up to 400 pounds and has Boston valves that help inflate the boat quickly.
Best for Beginners: Dagger Zydeco 9
If you're new to kayaking, or just want an affordable option that's easy to get in and out on the water, look no further than the Dagger Zydeco 9. This high-quality kayak was designed with novice paddlers in mind. It's a little shorter than other kayaks on our list, measuring 9 feet in length, but this allows for excellent maneuvering when you're on the river. Being able to maneuver also allows you to steer easily, and helps instill confidence so you can return to the water knowing you've mastered all the paddling strokes. The Zydeco 9 features a spacious cockpit and an adjustable seat so you can travel in comfort. Plus, the bungee rigging allows for supplies to be taken with you on your journey. This kayak weighs 36.5 pounds, can hold up to 220 pounds, and is available in three different colors.
Best Sit-On-Top: Lifetime Daylite Sit-On-Top Kayak
For those who prefer a sit-on-top boat over a sit-inside model, the Daylite from Lifetime is a great recreational option at an affordable price. This kayak features multiple footrest positions, a storage area that's built into the deck, a comfortable seat, molded carrying handles, self-bailing drain holes, and a UV-resistant shell. The open nature of the Daylite's cockpit exposes paddlers to splashing water and the elements when compared to a traditional kayak, but it also provides a level of comfort and freedom that is tough to top. It comes with a paddle and has a five-year limited warranty. Incredibly stable and easy to paddle, this boat is perfect for excursions on flat water or even calm ocean bays, which is where it truly gets a chance to show what it can do.
Best Inflatable: Advance Elements AdvancedFrame Sport
Advance Elements makes some of the best inflatable kayaks in the business, including several very good recreational models. The company’s AdvancedFrame Sport is head and shoulders above the inflatable competition, thanks to its surprisingly good tracking and ability to generate speed. This boat is a lot of fun to paddle and feels right at home on lakes, ponds, and gentle rivers.
Made from very durable materials, the AdvancedFrame can bounce off rocks and logs without fear, resisting scuffs, abrasions, tears, and punctures with ease. Best of all, when you’re done paddling for the season you can deflate the boat, store it in its included duffle bag, and easily transport it back home without the need for a kayak rack on your vehicle. It even stores under your bed or in a closet.
Best Lightweight: Eddyline Sky 10
Another versatile all-around performer, the Sky 10 is a great kayak for those who want a boat that can do a lot of different things very well. Weighing 32 pounds, the boat is both lightweight and stable, making it a good choice for those looking for a boat that can be easily transported to the water for a workout or an enjoyable day out on the water. Made of durable ABS laminate plastic, this kayak resists abrasion and is easy to repair so it's sure to last you for many outings. It measures 10 feet in length and has a large cockpit that's easy to get in and out of. There are also dual storage compartments that provide a safe, dry place to store important gear making this portable kayak a real winner.
Best Tandem: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
As much fun as it is to go kayaking on your own, it is even more enjoyable when you can bring a friend along. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a recreational tandem that was specifically built for a relaxing day out on the water. Its 12-foot length and 34-inch width make this a very stable boat, even for beginners. In fact, the Malibu Two is so easy to paddle that even though it is a tandem, it can still be piloted by a single kayaker as well. Throw in comfortable seats, side handles for easy carrying, and the option to add as many as three storage hatches and you have a two-person kayak that is versatile enough for just about any type of waterborne adventure.
Best for Fishing: Old Town Topwater Angler Kayak
Anglers looking for a good recreational kayak that can pull double-duty for both paddling and fishing will find a lot to love in the Topwater Angler Kayak from Old Town. This boat was designed to help you catch fish. It features a pontoon-style hull that glides quietly on the water and has a transducer system that can be used for mounting a GPS to help find fish. A rear storage hatch, built-in fishing pole holders, and a spot to store a tackle box round out this already impressive package. And thanks to its EVA foam deck pads, this boat also has the added ability to be a stand-up kayak, making it one of the most versatile options on this entire list.