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As with most outdoor sports, kayaking can be a lot more fun with a buddy. If you’re looking to spend some time out on the water with a friend, family member, or significant other, perhaps a tandem kayak is what you’re looking for. Unlike most kayaks, tandems are built for two, making the experience a much more communal one. But a tandem model also comes with a few compromises when compared to the smaller, more maneuverable single-person boats that paddlers should consider when purchasing.
While sharing your kayak with another person can be a lot of fun, tandem models tend to be considerably longer than standard kayaks. This can make them more challenging to transport to and from the water, and make it more difficult to store them back home, too. Additionally, a two-person kayak often has less overall space to carry gear than two individual boats would have, which can be an important consideration if you’re embarking on a longer paddling excursion.
On the other hand, tandem kayaks tend to be faster and more stable, making it easier for two paddlers to go further than they would on their own. Plus, they happen to be a lot of fun, turning what is often a solitary sport into something you can share with others.
If you’re in the market for a tandem kayak, we have some suggestions for you to consider. These are our favorite two-person boats that you should pick up today.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
There are a number of reasons why Ocean Kayak’s Malibu Two tandem boat stands out from the crowd. For starters, it is extremely stable and easy to paddle, cutting through the water with ease. This sit-on-top model –– meaning it doesn’t have an enclosed cockpit –– provides enough room for two adults and comes with a smaller seat in the middle for a child or dog. At 12 feet in length, the Malibu Two is also fairly short for a tandem, making it easier to transport and store. That smaller size also translates to a bit more maneuverability out on the water, which is always appreciated whether you’re paddling on lakes or rivers. The included seats are surprisingly comfortable, too, making this a great choice for beginner and experienced paddlers alike.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Perception Cove 14.5
Built for comfort and maneuverability, the Perception Cove 14.5 is an impressive tandem kayak from a company with a rich heritage of making performance boats. Versatile and easy to paddle, the Cove is right at home on lakes and coastal waters, although it can be used on rivers and even mild surf, too. This is a tandem that is extremely stable and easy to control, making it a good choice for beginners, but with a level performance that veteran kayakers can appreciate, too. Its 550-pound carrying capacity is enough for two adults and all of their gear, and the open-cockpit design means there is even room for a small child or dog to join you on your adventure. The cushy seats included with the Cove 14.5 are enough to recommend it over other tandem models, as they help to make a day out on the water even more enjoyable.
Best Budget: Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 SS
If you’re looking for a tandem kayak that delivers a lot of bang for your buck, it’s tough to top the Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5 SS. This roomy sit-on-top model not only has space for two adults, but can accommodate a small child as well. As if that wasn’t enough, the boat can quickly and easily be converted into a solo kayak for those days when you want to go it alone. Paddlers will find the Bali is very stable, has plenty of onboard storage for securely hauling gear, and can carry as much as 500 pounds while still remaining quick and agile on the water. Best of all, this kayak is priced below many single-seat models, making it an incredible bargain for who are shopping for a tandem but don’t want to spend their entire savings.
Best for Ocean Paddling: Eddyline Whisper CL
With its enclosed cockpit and 18-foot length, the Eddlyline Whisper CL is a tandem boat designed for use on the ocean. The boat provides extra protection from the elements –– not to mention splashing waves –– helping to keep paddlers drier and warmer when kayaking in colder conditions. The Whisper CL comes equipped with a foot-controlled rudder as well, which improves maneuverability, allowing the boat to turn sharpers than its length would typically imply. It also features plenty of onboard storage, a 600-pound carrying capacity, and bow and stern bungie rigging for keeping important items, such as a water bottle, within easy reach. Sleek, fast, and easy to paddle, this is the boat to own if you and a friend want to explore ocean coastlines with one another.
Best for Whitewater Paddling: Jackson Kayak Dynamic Duo
Whitewater kayaking typically requires a shorter, more maneuverable boat that can navigate rushing waters and narrow channels with agility and speed. Those aren’t qualities that are often found in tandem boats, however, which tend to be longer and less nimble. Jackson Kayak’s Dynamic Duo is one of the exceptions to that rule as it was built from the ground up to not only take on challenging whitewater but safely carry two people as well. At 12 feet in length and outfitted with higher-than-usual sidewalls, this boat can tackle rapids and remain upright through all but the roughest of waters. Best of all, it allows experienced paddlers to bring a friend along for the ride, even if they’re relatively new to the sport.
Best for Flat Water Paddling: Old Town Twin Heron
By their very nature, tandem kayaks work well on flat water, which includes lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers where whitewater rapids aren’t much of a concern. The 13-foot, 6-inch long Twin Heron from Old Town is especially well built for that environment, however, offering outstanding stability and a knack for gliding effortlessly through the water. This kayak is comfortable, spacious, and easy to control –– so much so that it even works well for solo kayakers. This versatile boat even allows paddlers to remove the front seat to allow for extra storage or more space for a canine companion. But its main role is as a touring and recreational tandem, which is a job that it does extremely well.
Best for Fishing: Hobie Mirage Oasis
If you’re looking for the absolute best tandem kayak that is razor focused on fishing, the Hobie Mirage Oasis is the boat for you. Not only does this kayak comfortably seat two people, it even comes with four built-in hatches, plenty of storage space on deck, an eight-gallon livewell, and fishing rod holders molded right into the hull. The Oasis is also equipped with Hobie’s unique MirageDrive 180, which actually allows anglers to pedal –– rather than paddle –– their boat around the water. The MirageDrive even as a reverse gear for getting in and out of those hard to reach fishing holes. This is a true game-changer for kayak anglers, which when used in conjunction with the built-in rudder provides unparalleled speed and maneuverability. This boat is incredibly stable, too, making it easy to cast your line with confidence and accuracy. This level of performance does come at a price, however, as this is easily the most expensive tandem on this list.
Best for Anglers on a Budget: Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 130T
For a more traditional –– at a more affordable price –– check out the Yellowfin 130T from Vibe. This boat offers room for up to three (two adults, one child), two built-in fishing rod holders, plus mounts to add more, two sealed hatches, and a rear livewell. It can also be easily adapted to paddle solo, features adjustable foot braces, and is rudder-ready. This is a surprisingly full-featured and well-balanced fishing kayak that is also very stable and agile on the water, making it a good choice for anglers of course, but quite capable of handling recreational duties on flat water, too.
Best Inflatable: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible
Believe it or not, inflatable kayaks are a viable option for those looking for a boat that is easy to transport and store. Advanced Elements makes some of the best inflatables on the market, including a tandem model called the AdvancedFrame Convertible. This boat offers a level of performance that is nearly on par with hardshell models, but with the added ability of being easily stored in its included carrying bag when not on the water. This boat resembles a typical tandem in most ways and even offers a 550-pound carrying capacity to go along with its exceptional stability. Tracking and speed aren’t quite on par with a standard kayak, but the AdvancedFrame is still surprisingly easy to handle. Apartment dwellers will appreciate the ease of storage that this boat delivers, as well those who don’t have a kayak rack on the top of their vehicle.
Our writers spent 6 hours researching the most popular tandem kayaks on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 15 different kayaks overall, screened options from 7 different brands and manufacturers, read over 15 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 3 of the kayaks themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.