Top 12-foot Recreational Kayaks & Buying Guide

Backpacker traveler friends travel and kayak on canoe

Are you looking for the best recreational kayak? Do you want to know which features make a kayak the best water companion? If yes, you can have a 12-foot kayaks. It is better than a longer touring boat and can support most recreational adventures.

Buying the right kayak will require extensive research due to the availability of many options. However, we will make your journey smooth in the following article. We will cover the top 12-foot kayaks. Each will have specific additions to serve a unique purpose. Please go through them and check the features to find the best fit.

Understand your purpose before deciding on one. For example, the requirements for fishing and weekend outings will be different. Know what you want to make the most of your investment.


Top 12-foot Recreational Kayaks

  • Best Sit-Inside: Eddyline Skylark
  • Best Value Sit-Inside: Wilderness Systems Pungo 120
  • Best Sit-on-Top: Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS
  • Best Value Sit-on-Top: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120
  • Best Tandem: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
  • Best for Fishing: Old Town Topwater 120
  • Best Pedal: Hobie Mirage Compass

Best Sit-Inside: Eddyline Skylark

Weight: 41 lbs |Width: 26″ |Length: 12′ |Capacity: 295 lbs

best 12-foot kayaks Eddyline Skylark

Rating 10


  • Co-extruded ABS laminate creates a hull that offers the looks and performance of a composite kayak yet with the durability of plastic
  • Co-extruded ABS material is lightweight, highly abrasion resistant, and easily maintained
  • The sharp entry and exit lines maintain firm tracking even in rough conditions; the rudder-free design makes the kayak easy to maneuver.
  • Padded seat cushion with extended thigh supports helps reduce hip and back fatigue; duo-foam backrest with forward lean and height adjustment
  • Adjustable foot braces promote proper paddling posture and support; the contoured design is comfortable without footwear and won’t catch clothing.
  • Fused Carbonlite front and rear bulkheads for dry storage and safety
  • Bow and stern deck bungees provide additional deck storage
  • Retractable carry handles and security loops

Eddyline Skylark is perfect for those looking for a lightweight and versatile kayak for recreational outings and overnight trips. It features a sleek and sporty look and two watertight hatches. The volume and load capacity will be less than other leading touring kayaks. But the benefits are improved performance and more storage space.

In addition, the narrower width helps with inspiring maneuverability. But its shorter keel will cause challenges in the tide or wind. However, experienced paddlers can face challenges confidently using the sharp exit and entry lines. Besides, you will have many comfort elements, including well-padded seating, easy-to-adjust foot braces, and thigh braces. All these additions make this kayak comfortable and supportive for different water adventures.

Skylark weighs 41 pounds and features ABS Carbonlite plastic to offer maximum durability. The material and design make this kayak lightweight and easy to transport.


  • ABS Carbonlite plastic makes it durable and lightweight
  • Perfect for different paddling itineraries
  • Stren hatches and watertight bow


  • Ideal for different skill levels

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Best Value Sit-Inside: Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

Weight: 49 lbs |Width: 29″ |Length: 12’2″ |Capacity: 325 lbs

best 12-foot kayaks wilderness systems pungo 120

Rating 17


  • A best-selling sit-inside Recreation kayak for small to medium-sized paddlers
  • Best-in-class speed makes the Pungo the easiest to Paddle and most efficient kayak in its class
  • The renowned hull offers reassuring stability without sacrificing performance
  • Phase 3 Air Pro seat is fully adjustable and offers ergonomic support for your lower back; The mesh-covered honeycomb-vented foam allows for more excellent airflow to keep you cool.
  • Adjustable footrests accommodate paddlers of different sizes, and thigh pads provide a more comfortable fit
  • The Pungo dashboard offers a removable Dry box, 2 cup holders, Slidetrax for accessories, and a recess designed for the Wilderness Systems battery to keep electronics charged on the go.
  • The rear Orbit hatch with a sealed bulkhead provides ample storage for your gear

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is a better recreational kayak than the above one. But you will have one watertight hatch when having this one. It is slimmer than sit-on-tops but with similar length. It is three inches wider than its leading competitor, Skylark. The size gives more room but impacts the maneuverability and speed.

The performance might be less satisfactory, but the price makes it worth having for all skill levels. Also, the stability is worth praising and develops confidence in paddlers. Besides, you will have many comfort elements, including an adjustable and well-cushioned seat. In addition, it features XL foot braces to fit all sizes.

More importantly, Pungo 120 offers flexibility to add gear and have a better experience. It has SlideTrax mounting platforms where you can install your gadgets. In addition, it features a built-in skid plate that prevents damage to the hull. Also, it enables users to drag a short distance conveniently.


  • SlideTrax system helps users install their gadgets
  • For flatwater and protected paddling
  • Less dry storage facility


  • Better loading capacity for this size

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Best Sit-on-Top: Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS

Weight: 45 lbs |Width: 30″ |Length: 12′ |Capacity: 275 lbs

Best Sit-on-Top  Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS

Rating 7


  • The gullwing hull design offers stability and responsiveness; sharply formed entry and exit lines create excellent tracking performance
  • The cockpit features adjustable foot braces and dual gear tracks that accommodate after-market cup holders, rod holders, camera docks, and more (accessories not included)
  • The removable Cloud 10 folding frame seat (FS) features antimicrobial, marine-grade foam and solar weave tech-mesh fabric for durable, breathable, water- and sun-proof comfort.
  • The stern tank well features cargo bungees to secure a variety of crates or buckets for angling.
  • Large front and small rear hatches provide plenty of storage.
  • Bow and stern carry handles are balanced for easy transport; side carry handles double as one-handed paddle parks.

Eddyline Caribbean is the best-sit-on-top kayak that features an open cockpit. The seat is more recessed than the classic ones. The design allows it to be swifter and narrower than its sit-on-top competitors. It looks sleek but is stable because of its gravity.

You will find its entry and exit lines similar to the Skylark. There is a standard-size watertight hatch in the bow and a small hatch at the vessels. In addition, it features extended bungee cords that you can use to secure large items. All the features make Caribbean 12 FS suitable for overnight and longer day paddles. However, the load capacity is only 275 pounds, and the loading capacity will limit the duration of your trips.

Caribbean 12 FS has many comfort elements. It features a removable and well-padded seat. The foot braces are adjustable, and it has a gear track system to take your toys.


  • The narrower design makes it more efficient.
  • Perfect for flatwater paddling
  • The downside is its load capacity


  • Customization with gear track system

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Best Value Sit-on-Top: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120

Weight: 63 lbs |Width: 30″ |Length: 12′ |Capacity: 350 lbs

best 12-foot kayaks Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120


  • The Premiere sit-on-top kayak is now even better and more comfortable
    Fast, efficient, and straight tracking
  • The most comfortable and adjustable Phase 3 Air Pro seating system features cool to touch so your seat stays cool.
  • Ample Rear storage well for crates, coolers, fishing equipment, scuba tanks & camping gear; front storage hatch offers dry storage
  • Large, padded footrests for support and comfort; Easy to adjust locking lever to accommodate paddlers of different heights.
  • Dry Tec removable Dry box is perfect for storing wallets, phones, keys, and other valuables; sectioned storage tray to organize smaller items like sunscreen, fishing lures, and snacks
  • Magnate magnetic water bottle strap system; Sidetracks accessory rails so you can customize your kayak for fishing, Filming or adding other accessories

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 has all the advanced features but fits a flexible budget. It has an ergonomic and honeycomb fabric exterior on the seat to offer you the desired comfort on hot days and winter. Also, you can adjust the seat in three ways to get comfortable positions and boost your performance.

Besides, it features an open stern and bow hatch. As a result, this sit-on-top kayak’s load capacity is also higher. Also, its extensive stern hatch will enable users to accommodate more gear. SlideTrax accessory rails of the Tarpon 120 will offer you more customization options, and you can take your fishing poles, cameras, and other accessories to make your water adventure more exciting.

Tarpon 120 can help paddlers move through a wide range of waterways conveniently. It offers maximum stability to support your adventure. Also, it is dog-friendly, and you can have more fun with your non-human companion. But keep your pet in the open stern hatch. The downside is its weight, but you can expect the desired durability. Besides, it features a removable skid plate. 


  • Enough storage space
  • A bit heavier
  • SlideTrax accessory system


  • Built-in paddle holder 

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Best Tandem: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

Weight: 58 lbs |Width: 34″ |Length: 12′ |Capacity: 425 lbs

best 12-foot kayaks: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

Rating 17


  • Stable, compact 2-person kayak for ocean or flatwater fun
  • Two Comfort Plus seats and extra space for a small child or pet
  • Overlapping footwells offer comfortable foot bracing for the center seat
  • Skid plate provides durability where it counts
  • Screw-in drain plug helps keep water out of the boat
  • Molded-in side carry handles at the bow and stern make transport a breeze
  • Gear straps for storage of small daily essentials out on the water

You can have Ocean Kayak Malibu Two when you want a large burly double kayak. It feels like a battleship and helps with decent maneuverability and satisfying primary stability. However, newcomers will prefer this one and can handle ocean breezes and gentle swells. It will build confidence in all types of paddlers. Also, the load capacity is inspiring, but with limited storage space. 

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two has footwells instead of pedals. They are comfortable but lack flexibility. The stern seat can support shorter paddles, but you will need frequent breaks. In addition, it has a spot for a third person, but you can only take your child. 

The seats are adjustable but not flashy and feature a simple strap system. Adjust the seat before starting your water journey. Otherwise, you will experience difficulties when being on the water. 


  • Provides excellent stability and builds confidence 
  • Light enough for two persons
  • Limited storage space


  • Seats need improvement

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Best for Fishing: Old Town Topwater 120

Weight: 82 lbs |Width: 33.5″ |Length: 12′ |Capacity: 500 lbs

best 12-foot kayaks: Old Town Topwater 120

Rating 19


  • Old Town’s Topwater 120 PDL Angler Fishing Kayak offers big fishing performance in a hands-free, easy-to-machine 12-foot size.
  • This kayak uses the low-maintenance forward/reverse pedal drive and a patent-pending easy-docking system for hands-free performance fishing.
  • Packed with features, the Topwater 120 PDL Angler includes an adjustable elementary seat, an oversized stern tank well for storing gear, three-rod holders, rod and tackle storage, and EVA foam deck pads for traction and comfort while standing.
  • Thanks to an ultra-stable double hull design, the Topwater 120 PDL Angler provides unmatched stability and precision handling in a compact, easy-to-transport design.
  • The kayak’s revolutionary universal transducer mounting system makes mounting your favorite fish finder easier than ever.
  • Sport type: Outdoor Lifestyle

The load capacity of the Old Town Topwater 120 is worth praising. It is one of the best kayaks of Old Town available in the current market. In addition to impressive loading capacity, it features an open-air and large stern with bungees. You can store a cooler, tackle box, or any oversized container. Also, it has a bow hatch with a waterproof covering for water-sensitive items.

You will find the seats comfortable with low and high settings. You can adjust and find the best position. Besides, it has excellent stability and a traction pad to stand comfortably and safely. The kayak features three-rod holders along the hull to offer customization. Another worth considering feature is a universal built-in transducer to accommodate all the fish finders. 

You can use this boat in rivers and calm waters. Avoid open ocean expeditions since the design will not support them. Use it responsibly and have fun on this fishing platform. 


  • Large and open-air stern
  • Bow hatch for water-sensitive items
  • Excellent load capacity


  • Perfect for calm water

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Best Pedal: Hobie Mirage Compass

Weight: 68 lbs|Width: 34″|Length: 12′ |Capacity: 400 lbs

best 12-foot kayaks Hobie Mirage Compass

Rating 8


  • Includes a 2-piece paddle to help navigate surf-strewn beaches, rocky inlets, and other shallow areas
  • Oversize cockpit and flat deck offer maximum stability, so you can even stand up on this kayak
  • The sleek bow effortlessly cuts through water and offers premium performance, stability, and speed
  • The patented MirageDrive 180 forward-reverse propulsion system offers complete power and maneuverability; pull one of the two shift cables to quickly pivot the fins 180 degrees.
  • Patented Kick-Up Fin technology makes the fins automatically retract upon impact with an obstacle and redeploy once clear.
  • Dual fins provide shallow water access and easy shore landings by simply pushing one pedal forward; cranks adjust with the push of a button

Hobie Mirage Compass is the best pedal kayak that can serve different purposes, even if marketed as a fishing kayak. Its pedal system operates on a horizontal plane. However, it works well on water travel and supports specific water activities. It will have less impact on the lower extremities and allow users to cruise easily. Its hands-free operation feature enables users to try different water activities and use the gadgets on the H-track accessory system. Besides, it has a transducer cavity and excellent stability. 

Mirage Compass features a deck where you can stand and enjoy fishing more. However, the load capacity is 100 pounds but with plenty of storage space. There will be a watertight bow hatch and a massive open-air stern tank for storage.

You can enjoy water adventures and paddle when using this kayak. Bring a paddle, keep it in the built-in paddle holder, and use it whenever you experience inconvenience in your paddle system. 


  • Liightiest but well-equipped
  • Excellent stability to boost confidence
  • The paddle comes with most purchases


  • The price is more than traditional ones

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12-Foot Kayaks Comparison Table

Eddyline Skylark 12′ 26″ 41 lbs 295 lbs Sit-Inside
Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 12’2″ 29″ 49 lbs 325 lbs Sit-Inside
Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS 12′ 30″ 45 lbs 275 lbs Sit-on-Top
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 12′ 30″ 63 lbs 350 lbs Sit-on-Top
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two 12′ 34″ 58 lbs 425 lbs Tandem
Old Town Topwater 120 12′ 33.5″ 82 lbs 500 lbs Fishing
Hobie Mirage Compass 12′ 34″ 68 lbs 400 lbs Pedal


What to Look for When Purchasing a 12-Foot Kayaks

Happy young caucasian couple kayaking on river with sunset in the backgrounds

Kayaking is a thrilling outdoor activity that allows individuals to explore serene water bodies while enjoying the tranquility of nature. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, choosing the right kayak is essential for a rewarding and enjoyable experience on the water. This article will delve into 12-foot recreational kayaks, providing a comprehensive buying guide to help you select the perfect kayak for your needs.

Why Choose a 12-Foot Recreational Kayak?

A 12-foot recreational kayak perfectly balances stability, maneuverability, and speed. These kayaks are versatile and well-suited for various water conditions, including calm lakes, slow-moving rivers, and coastal waters. Compared to shorter kayaks, their longer length offers improved tracking, allowing for smoother and straighter paddling. Additionally, their increased stability makes them suitable for beginners and casual paddlers.

Design and Hull Type

Consider the design and hull type of the kayak. The hull shape dramatically affects the kayak’s stability, speed, and maneuverability. Recreational kayaks typically have a flat or slightly V-shaped hull. Flat hulls offer excellent initial stability, making them suitable for calm waters and beginners. V-shaped hulls provide increased speed and improved tracking, ideal for more experienced paddlers and diverse water conditions.

Weight Capacity

Before purchasing a kayak, consider your weight and the gear you intend to carry. Ensure that the kayak’s weight capacity accommodates your body weight and any additional equipment you plan to bring. Overloading a kayak can compromise its stability and performance.

Cockpit Size and Comfort

Kayaking is not about conquering the river

The cockpit size and comfort are essential, especially if you spend extended periods on the water. Ensure that the cockpit is spacious enough to accommodate your body size comfortably and allow easy entry and exit. Adjustable footrests and padded seats contribute to overall comfort during long paddling sessions.

Storage Space

Evaluate the kayak’s storage options, such as hatches, bungee cords, or deck rigging. Ample storage space is crucial for carrying personal items, safety gear, and other essentials. Consider the size and accessibility of the storage compartments to ensure they meet your specific needs.


If you plan on transporting your kayak frequently, consider its weight and ease of portability. Lighter kayaks are generally easier to transport, but ensure that the kayak’s weight doesn’t compromise its durability and stability

Additional Features

Look for additional features that enhance your kayaking experience. These may include paddle holders, cup holders, fishing rod holders, gear tracks for attaching accessories, and rudders or skegs for improved tracking and maneuverability.

Wrapping Up

When purchasing a 12-foot recreational kayak, it’s crucial to consider several factors to ensure you select the right one for your needs. Carefully evaluate the kayak’s material, design, weight capacity, cockpit size and comfort, storage space, portability, and additional features. Considering these factors, you can make an informed decision and choose a kayak that will provide you with countless hours of enjoyment on the water. So, get ready to embark on your kayaking adventures and explore the beauty of nature with the perfect 12-foot recreational kayak. Remember, safety should always be a priority. Remember to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) and familiarize yourself with basic kayaking techniques before heading out onto the water.


Quick Answer: Top 12-foot Recreational Kayaks & Buying Guide

Eddyline Skylark 12′ 26″ 41 lbs Check Price on Amazon
Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 12’2″ 29″ 49 lbs Check Price on Amazon
Eddyline Caribbean 12 FS 12′ 30″ 45 lbs Check Price on Amazon
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 12′ 30″ 63 lbs Check Price on Amazon
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two 12′ 34″ 58 lbs Check Price on Amazon
Old Town Topwater 120 12′ 33.5″ 82 lbs Check Price on Amazon
Hobie Mirage Compass 12′ 34″ 68 lbs Check Price on Amazon


Final Verdict 

The article has covered all the possible factors to support your purchase. You know the buying considerations and have the list of top models. However, your purpose will decide the best 12-foot kayak for you. 

You can go with Eddyline Skylark since it has earned a good reputation for its added comfort, excellent stability, gear storage, and speed. These features make it an ideal companion for both experienced and novice paddlers. So you can check the features, research, and go ahead.


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