Best Recreational Kayaks: Top Picks & Reviews

In 2024, the kayaking world is buzzing with top rated kayaks for all paddlers. This article carefully reviews the best recreational kayaks out there. It shines a light on kayaks like the versatile Wilderness Systems Pungo 120, which is named the top overall kayak.

We also look at the Eddyline Skylark. Each model is examined thoroughly, helping fans find their ideal recreational kayak. If you need a kayak for fishing or casual paddling, we have you covered with top-quality choices.

Now, dive into the best of best in recreational kayaks. We will give you the inside scoop on their performance, comfort, and how well they match different paddling styles. These reviews are here to help you pick the right one, for fun times on the water.

Key Takeaways

  • The Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is the best overall kayak, priced at $1,219 with an overall score of 76.
  • The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105, scoring 74, is the top sit-on-top kayak with a price range of $809-$1,119.
  • The Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 offers great value at around $800, scoring 71 overall.
  • Old Town Vapor 10 stands out for its affordability with a score of 67.
  • Eddyline Skylark, at $1,749, impresses with its lightweight performance, achieving a score of 81.
  • Additional information on the Dagger Stratos 12.5 will be included once available.
  • For more detailed kayak reviews and insights, check out this comprehensive guide.

Introduction to Recreational Kayaks

Recreational kayaks are perfect for those new to paddling or seeking calm waters. They are stable, comfortable, and easy to use. This makes them a top choice for casual paddlers, fishing fans, and people wanting a peaceful voyage. Equipped with roomy seats and storage, they ensure a fun day on the water.

What makes recreational kayaks shine is their ability to suit various needs. Ideal for calm lakes, rivers, and bays, their sturdy design offers safety. You can add float bags for extra security against capsizing. Plus, these kayaks feature comfy seats, especially in the pricier models, for an improved user experience.

Sea kayaks and recreational kayaks differ in some key ways. Sea kayaks have a sturdier build with materials like fiberglass. They offer more safety and storage options, including perimeter lines and hatches. While they may require more skills to handle, sea kayaks can be quicker on the water.

Recreational kayaks are made for all kinds of paddlers. Whatever your goal—be it a leisurely trip or fishing adventure—there’s one for you. These sturdy kayaks make a great start for anyone wanting to get on the water. They provide a stable and fun experience, no matter your skill level.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Recreational Kayak

When picking out a recreational kayak, think about where you’ll use it, your skill level, what you want from it, and how much you can spend. These details are key. They help make sure you get the kayak that’s just right for you. It can really boost your fun on the water.

Water Type

Where you plan to kayak matters a lot. Recreational kayaks are great for calm waters like ponds or slow rivers. If you’re often on faster rivers or dealing with currents, a touring kayak is better suited. It does well in such conditions, and even on the ocean occasionally.

Experience Level

Your skill level is a big factor too. If you’re just starting, you’ll want a kayak that’s stable and easy. That’s what beginner kayaks offer. As you get better, recreational kayaks can be a good fit. But for more experienced folks, kayaks built for touring or sea adventures might be more exciting. These require more skill and confidence.

Performance Preferences

What you need in terms of speed, handling, and how easy it is to direct the kayak is important. Recreational kayaks are good for easy paddling and short trips thanks to their good control. If you want more speed and plan to paddle a lot, touring kayaks are a solid choice. They move quickly and handle well in the water over longer distances.

Budget Considerations

Your budget is important when selecting your kayak. Starting kayaks are affordable, great for beginners. But if you can spend more, higher-priced options have advanced features and are more durable. Deciding what’s a must-have and what’s nice but not necessary can help you stay within budget while meeting your kayaking needs.

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120: Best Overall Kayak

The Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is known as the best overall kayak. Its design is perfect for a great mix of stability, comfort, and flexibility. It stands out for its smooth movement and easy access, making it a top choice for recreational use.

Reasons to Buy

Here’s why the Pungo 120 is a top pick:

  • Stability and Comfort: It has a roomy cockpit and seats you can adjust. These features help you stay comfy during long paddling sessions.
  • Ample Storage: It boasts a dry hatch, space behind your seat, and bungee cords on top. This means you have enough room for your gear.
  • Versatility: Although it’s great for calm waters, it can also manage easy rapids.
  • Excellent Maneuverability: The kayak’s design lets you steer easily and move in a straight line.
  • Durable Construction: It’s made from strong plastic and has a tough skid plate that can be replaced.

Reasons to Avoid

But, the Pungo 120 isn’t perfect for everyone. Here are some things to think about:

  • Weight: It weighs 49 pounds, which is a bit much. Some people might find it tough to carry and set up.
  • Non-Robust Hatch Levers: The hatch levers could be sturdier. This might affect how long they last.
  • Price: It’s priced at $1,219 USD or $1,599 CAD. It’s a bit on the expensive end, but you’re paying for top-notch performance and quality.

Performance and Specifications

The performance and specifications of the Pungo 120 really show off its excellence:

Length12′ 2″
Weight49 lbs
Cockpit Length54″
Max Capacity325 lbs
Price$1,219 USD / $1,599 CAD

In the end, the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is a solid pick for anyone who wants a kayak they can trust.

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105: Best Sit-on-Top Kayak

best sit-on-top kayak

The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105 is known as the top sit-on-top kayak. It’s famous for being super comfy, stable, and well-designed. After more than 20 years of improvements, it’s perfect for both serious and fun kayaking. It’s great for fishing or just cruising around.

Features and Benefits

At 10 feet, 6 inches long and 32 inches wide, this kayak is incredibly stable. Paddlers can feel safe whether the water is calm or choppy. Its strong build lets it tackle all kinds of water conditions without a problem.

  • Comfortable Seating: The seat has mesh fabric covers and 3D foam for air circulation and back support.
  • Large Rear Storage Well: Perfect for keeping fishing gear, coolers, scuba tanks, and camping essentials.
  • Dry Storage: It has a waterproof compartment upfront and a DryTec box for keeping valuables safe.
  • Accessory Rails: SlideTrax™ rails allow for easy customization without the need to drill.
  • Adjustable Foot Braces: The Keeper XL foot braces can be set to various lengths for comfort.


Despite its many benefits, the Tarpon 105 does have a few downsides. It’s pretty heavy at 57.5 pounds, which makes it harder to move. Adding a rudder for better steering is pricey. Its wide design, while great for staying stable, can make it not as fast. However, most people find these drawbacks okay given the kayak’s awesome features.

Ideal Use Cases

The Tarpon 105 is perfect for many kinds of kayaking. It’s a dream for fishing with its stability and big storage for your gear. It’s also good for relaxing paddles on different kinds of water. You can load it with up to 325 pounds of weight. That’s enough for a paddler and lots of stuff for long trips.

Length126 in – 320.04 cm
Width32 in – 81.28 cm
Height15.25 in – 38.74 cm
Weight57.5 lb – 26.08 kg
Max Weight Capacity325 lb – 147.42 kg

To sum up, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105 is the top choice for people who value comfort, stability, and flexible features in their kayaks.

Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5: Great Value

The Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 stands out for being a valuable choice among kayaks. It offers top-notch stability and endurance. At 11 feet, 5 inches long and about 59 pounds, it strikes the perfect balance. It’s wide enough at 32 inches for easy handling but strong for great performance.

The kayak’s design features a tri-form hull for amazing stability and performance. Self-bailing drain holes keep the kayak dry, which is perfect for long trips or camping. These design aspects make the Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 a reliable vessel despite its size.

Even though it’s big, the Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 is easy to maneuver. It’s crafted from high-quality plastic, ensuring it can handle many water conditions. This adds to its stable and durable nature.

Compared to other models, the kayak is priced competitively, making it a top value. It includes better seat padding and a dry hatch for your gear, improving its appeal. With excellent glide and tracking, it’s a leading choice for its price. This positions the Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 as a favorite for those after quality without the high cost.

Length11 feet, 5 inches
Weight59 pounds
Width32 inches
Hull DesignTri-form for stability and performance
DrainageSelf-bailing drain holes
ManeuverabilityRemarkable for its size
DurabilityThick plastic layers
PriceCompetitively priced

Old Town Vapor 10: Best Bang for the Buck

The Old Town Vapor 10 shines as a top pick for kayakers who love recreation, offering great value for its price. It’s a lightweight sit-inside model at 47 pounds. The boat is 10 feet, 3 inches long, with a 28.5-inch beam. Its flat hull makes it easy to control.

Thanks to its wide hull and low seat, the Old Town Vapor 10 is very stable. It handles well in different water types. Its strong plastic build keeps it durable, putting it in a strong spot among performance kayaks in this price category.


The Old Town Vapor 10 is known for being a smart buy. It has a large, comfortable cockpit and a convenient rear storage well. These features make it a favorite for its price tag, offering great space for gear and easy access.


This kayak blends comfort with performance well. While it’s not the fastest, many users love its stability and user-friendliness. It’s perfect for newbies and casual paddlers, though some say the seat could use more cushion.

Eddyline Skylark: Impressive Lightweight Performance

The Eddyline Skylark is a top pick for those who love lightweight kayaks. It uses an advanced ABS material that’s both tough and light. This means it’s as strong as those pricey composite kayaks but much easier on the pocket.

Many users say it weighs between 32 and 41 lbs. This light weight makes it easy to carry around, even on top of cars.

Construction Quality

This kayak’s hull is tough against fading, which keeps it looking good. People also love how stable and easy to steer it is. They’ve had fun paddling in places like the Chippewa River and the Pine Barrens.

And if you’re worried about big waves, don’t be. The Skylark handles swells from 1′ to 3′ on Lake Erie with no problem.

Ease of Transport

The Skylark shines when it comes to moving it around. Its light build makes it easy to get in and out of the water. Some folks have taken it on over 550 miles of adventures in just two years.

Although it doesn’t have things like a cup holder, it’s still a top choice for fun on the water. Its great performance and long-lasting build make it perfect for anyone starting out or who loves paddling.

Weight32 – 41 lbs
MaterialABS, fade-resistant
SpeedUp to 5 knots
PerformanceHandles calm and choppy waters over 1′
DurabilityProven over long distances (550+ miles in 2 years)
Stability & TrackingExcellent, suitable for various water bodies
Ease of TransportHigh, due to lightweight build

If you’re into kayaking and want something light and reliable, the Skylark is a great option. It’s not just for experts. It’s also perfect for newbies looking for a great kayak.

Top Picks for Sit-on-Top Recreational Kayaks

sit-on-top recreational kayaks

The Sea Eagle Explorer 380x and Pelican Pulse 100X are top choices for sit-on-top kayaks. They shine because they work well for different kinds of water fun. Both are known for their quality and flexibility.

Sea Eagle Explorer 380x

The Sea Eagle Explorer 380x mixes stability with toughness. It’s great for new paddlers and pros alike. This kayak handles well in calm or rough waters, showing its true versatility.

  • Durable Build: Made from strong materials that last.
  • Inflatable Design: Easy to take with you and put away.
  • Ample Storage: Enough room for all your stuff.

Pelican Pulse 100X

The Pelican Pulse 100X is known for being easy to use. It’s perfect for those just starting out. Its solid build and light weight promise a fun time on the water.

  • Lightweight: Effortless to move and handle.
  • Stability: Guarantees a steady ride, which is ideal for beginners.
  • Comfortable Seating: Has a comfortable seat for those long paddle adventures.

Both the Sea Eagle Explorer 380x and Pelican Pulse 100X lead in their class. They’re built tough and have features anyone can appreciate. If you’re new to kayaking or fish here and there, you’ll find these models reliable and fun to use.

Top Picks for Sit-in Recreational Kayaks

Sit-in recreational kayaks are popular among those who enjoy paddling in calm waters. They offer great tracking, stability, and comfort. This makes them good for both beginners and experienced paddlers. The Delta Kayaks Delta 12AR and Perception Kayaks Sound 10.5 are top choices in this category.

Delta Kayaks Delta 12AR

The Delta Kayaks Delta 12AR is loved for its balance of speed and stability. Its sleek design helps new paddlers feel secure and attracts experienced ones. It has plenty of storage for anything you need for your water adventure.

Delta Kayaks Delta 12AR

Perception Kayaks Sound 10.5

The Perception Kayaks Sound 10.5 is easy to use and stable. It’s designed for control in different water situations. This makes it a great choice for all paddlers. Its comfortable seats and adjustable footrests add to the joy of paddling.

Perception Kayaks Sound 10.5

Delta Kayaks Delta 12AR12 feet26 inches43 lbs300 lbs
Perception Kayaks Sound 10.510.5 feet29.5 inches46 lbs335 lbs

The Delta Kayaks Delta 12AR and Perception Kayaks Sound 10.5 are top-of-the-line choices. They offer great stability, tracking, and ease of use. They set the bar high for quality sit-in kayaks, perfect for memorable days on the water.

Affordable Recreational Kayaks

affordable kayaks

For those on a tight budget, kayaks like the Pelican Mission and Sevylor Quikpak K1 are great choices. They offer quality and fun without the high cost. These kayaks are well-loved for their strong build and good reviews. They are perfect for anyone looking for a mix of value and performance.

Pelican Mission

The Pelican Mission stands out in affordable kayaks. It’s easy to handle, making it perfect for new and moderate paddlers. This kayak is built to last from strong polyethylene. It fights off tough weather like a champ. With lots of room to store goods, padded seats, and designed for calm waters, the Pelican Mission gives a great paddling experience at a good price.

Sevylor Quikpak K1

The Sevylor Quikpak K1 is all about easy adventures. It’s inflatable, so you can take it anywhere and set it up fast. Even though it’s light, it stands stable on water and is comfy. Best for smooth waters, it’s made for fun outings. And because it’s affordable, it’s the go-to kayak for many.

Tips for Buying Used Recreational Kayaks

Buying second-hand kayaks is a great way for paddlers to save money. When shopping for a used kayak, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

Condition Check

One key step is to look at the kayak’s condition closely. Check for any damage, especially on the hull. Make sure the kayak is not too worn out and will still work well.

Outfitting Examination

It’s also crucial to check the kayak’s setup. Ensure the seats, footpegs, and storage places are comfortable and in good shape. This is important for enjoying your time on the water. Think about what you need. For example, the Pungo 140 has a spacious cockpit if you like easier entry and exit.

Test Paddle

Don’t forget the test paddle. Trying out the kayak on water is the best way to see if it suits you. It lets you check its stability and how easy it is to move. Doing this is smart before you buy. You can also ask experts at Riverside Kayak and Fluid Fun Canoe & Kayak Sales for advice.


When looking for the best recreational kayaks, knowing the different kinds is key. There are 16 types, each with its own features and benefits. You have to think about what you want your kayak to do. This helps in choosing the one that fits your needs best.

Many things affect a kayak’s performance. This includes how stable, quick, or comfy it is, and how much you can carry. Hard-shell kayaks are strong and made from durable stuff. On the other hand, inflatable kayaks are lighter and cheaper. Both have their place.

There are also kayaks just for fishing or touring. Fishing kayaks are very stable for their fishing trips. Touring kayaks are fast and go well in open water. If you like wild waters, you might prefer a whitewater kayak. For those who want a bit of everything, there are crossover kayaks. They are a mix, fitting for many activities. This guide is here to help you pick the right kind of kayak for your adventures.

If you want to know more about the types out there, check out this comprehensive guide. It details the good and not so good about each kind.


What are the best recreational kayaks currently available?

The top recreational kayaks for 2024 are the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 and the Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5. Also, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105, Old Town Vapor 10, and Eddyline Skylark are favorites. They are noted for being stable, comfortable, long-lasting, and high-performing.

What makes the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 the best overall kayak?

The Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is loved for its strong stability and cozy seat. Its design lets it move easily yet store a lot. With a 12′ 2″ length and 325 lbs capacity, it’s perfect for many paddling trips.

What should I consider when choosing a recreational kayak?

Think about where you’ll paddle, like gentle rivers or coastal waters, your skill level, and what you want from the kayak. Also, keep your budget in mind. This will help you pick a kayak that fits your needs and is fun to paddle.

Why is the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105 considered the best sit-on-top kayak?

The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105 is known for its cozy, user-friendly design and solid feel. It’s easy to carry with molded handles and has useful extras. It may be a bit heavy and slow, but its quality and features stand out.

What makes the Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 a great value option?

The Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 offers good stability and tough build at a fair price. It comes with nice features like comfortable seats. With its smooth paddling and steering, it’s a great value for its price.

How does the Old Town Vapor 10 stand out in terms of affordability?

The Old Town Vapor 10 is a great pick for those on a budget. It has a big open cockpit for easy getting in and solid stability. While it might not be the fastest, its price and fun design make up for it.

What are the benefits of the Eddyline Skylark?

The Eddyline Skylark is awesome for being light and strong, thanks to ABS. It’s easy to carry, offers dry storage, and has solid support for your feet. This makes it great for those who want quality and performance.

What are the top sit-on-top recreational kayaks?

The Sea Eagle Explorer 380x and Pelican Pulse 100X are at the top for sit-on-top kayaks. They’re known for their great stability, strong build, and easy-to-use features. Perfect for new paddlers or fishing now and then.

What are the top sit-in recreational kayaks?

The Delta Kayaks Delta 12AR and Perception Kayaks Sound 10.5 are the top sit-in kayaks for movement and speed. They offer great stability and are designed for both new and skilled paddlers.

What are some affordable recreational kayaks?

Affordable picks include the Pelican Mission and Sevylor Quikpak K1. They’re both strong and well-liked, offering a good mix of price and quality for paddlers.

What should I check when buying a used recreational kayak?

When picking a used kayak, look at the hull for damage and flexibility, check the outfitting for comfort, and paddle-test it. Doing these things helps you find a good kayak at a lower price.
Forhad khan
Forhad khan
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