Over the past 4,000 years kayaks have continued to gain more and more popularity as they go. Kayaks were originally invented by the Aleut and Inuit Peoples who lived around the Arctic Ocean shores. The frames of the kayaks were originally composed of wood or the bones of whales and were covered in the waterproof skins of seals. Kayaks back then and even still to this day were used for hunting purposes to catch narwhals and other whales.

Today Kayaks come in a wide range of shapes sizes and varieties that are meant for different purposes. We will go through the most popular categories below.

Recreational Kayaks

Recreational Kayaks come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. There most defining characteristics however, are that they provide ample stability and are relatively easy to use. Recreational Kayaks are usually the starting point for kayakers getting into the sport and can be used for a wide variety of reasons such as fishing, day paddling, photography among other uses. Typically Recreational Kayaks start as low as around $200 and can go as high as $1000 in price range.
recreational kayak

Inflatable Kayaks

These kayaks have gained more and more momentum in the industry lately because of the increased demand for them. Many people are starting to downsize and do not have enough room to store giant hard shelled kayaks so they turn to the inflatable kind. As demand has been increasing so too has the quality of these kayaks. Typically the rule of thumb on these kayaks is you get what you pay for in terms of performance and paddling quality. However you can still get very durable kayaks for under $100. Typically the difference between a $100 kayak and a $1000 + kayak is the fact that the $1000 kayak is faster, paddles more smoothly and had more tracking ability to it. Some can even compete with hard shelled kayaks.
inflatable kayak

Touring and Sea Kayaks

Touring and sea kayaks are typically more expensive than most types of kayaks ranging from $1000 + in price. The reason why is because of the design, quantity, and quality of materials put into these kayaks. Some are made of high quality rotomolded Polyethylene while others are made of lighter weight fibreglass and composites. The design and material make the kayak lighter which in turn allows you to paddle faster and travel greater distances. Sea Kayaks are usually much more slender which allows you to cut through the water with relative ease. They can be used for day or even multi day camping trips. Be advised that you should at least be an intermediate paddler before attempting going into the ocean with these kayaks.
sea kayak

Fishing Kayaks

These types of kayaks have really taken off over the past years and have been one of the biggest growing items in the fishing industry. More and more people are choosing fishing kayaks over canoes for a variety of different reasons. One they are usually lighter than a canoe. Two they provide ample customizability where you can include fishing rods, live wells as well as fishing crates and tackle which can be added onto the kayak. Three they are more stable. Fishing Kayaks today are built to be very stable and some can even be used for stand up casting. Fishing Kayaks range from a wide variety of different prices but typically the more expensive it is the more customisable and better suited to fishing it will be.
fishing kayak

Sit On Top Kayaks

Most Sit On Top Kayaks are used for either recreational or fishing/ diving purposes. They usually provide more room than sit in kayaks because of their open deck and storage hatches. Most Sit On Top Kayaks are built to be super stable so that you can fish or paddle with confidence without worrying about capsizing. They come in a wide variety of different hull shapes and can be anywhere from $300 and up.
sit on top kayak

Tandem Kayaks

These kayaks are built to sit two or more people and as a result have a higher maximum capacity than most kayaks. Tandem Kayaks come in virtually all forms such as Sit On Top, Touring, Inflatable , Fishing and even Recreational models. Before getting into these boats you will have to learn how to paddle in unison which can prove more difficult than it looks. Tandem Kayaks are usually more expensive and can be more than double the price of single kayaks.
tandem kayak

Whitewater Kayaks

These kayaks incorporate the most advanced designs and materials seen in any type of kayak, and are used by highly skilled experts to navigate all levels of whitewater rivers. They are designed for high manoeuvrability with a high rocker (hull curve) and are always used with a waterproof sprayskirt around the cockpit to allow them to be rolled over and back up without taking on water. The interior outfitting employs tight fitting backrests, thighbraces, and footbraces so that the paddler can instantly translate control movements from his paddle and body to the kayak. Although this sport looks extreme to the un-initiated, it is relatively safe and a very exciting way to experience the thrill of running whitewater rivers! However, extensive training is necessary to obtain the athletic skills needed to safely run whitewater.
whitewater kayak
There are a few more kayaks out there but these are the most popular and used models.

Derek Smith runs a blog called Floating Authority. To find a complete guide on the how to pick a kayak that is right for you click here. If you are looking at specific types of kayaks visit his home page.

picture of us having kayaked out to patch coral for snorkeling

We have a lot of sports on the island, but the one we do every day and sometimes twice a day is kayak snorkeling. This is something you can’t do everywhere in the world, so often even kayak instructors have never experienced it. There are over 900 patch reefs at Glover’s Atoll where our island is located. They offer fantastic snorkeling, but there is no land near the patches. So we paddle up to them, the guide jumps out and secures his or her boat, and then ties everyone up to each other, making a long line of kayaks like you see in this photo.

Often, the water is over your head, and so you must be able to get in and out of your boat without tipping over. This is the trick we teach you on your first full day on the island. Everyone has to demonstrate they can do this before going on a kayak snorkel expedition. You wouldn’t want to paddle a half mile from the island and jump out and then not be able to get back into your kayak! It’s also quite a gear shuffle, getting your lifejacket, hat, sunglasses, and paddle off and stowed, and getting your fins, mask, and snorkel on. We teach you the whole process. First you test it out near the island, and then we go kayak-snorkeling that afternoon to practice what you learned. It’s my favorite sport. The number of creatures we see is amazing!

[Photo by Victor Myers]

Most of you have probably heard of cave tubing, which is extremely popular in Belize, mostly for cruise ship passengers because it is a unique short tour, and close to Belize City. But if you want the real deal, you will want to go cave kayaking instead. On our Belize Adventure Week 8 night package we run the Caves Branch River from top to bottom in hard shell sit-on-top kayaks. We have been running this river for about 30 years now, and were the first outfitter in Belize to explore the Caves Branch by kayak. We used to run it in rafts and inflatable kayaks but switched over to hardshell kayaks only about 8 years ago, mostly because of the mandatory portage where you have to deflate any inflatable boats and lug everything 1/4 mile through the jungle. The hard shell kayaks are much easier to simply drag that distance.

Belize cave kayaking

Our recent guest Rick Pratt sent me a bunch of his video clips after his trip and I just love this one. It is of entering the cave at the beginning of the adventure. What an amazing feeling, to kayak right into the darkness! He really caught the feel of it in this video, and I wanted to share it with you.

This one day adventure takes the whole day. You kayak in and out of four caves. There are also several windows that look out into the daytime sky with jungle flora spilling into the window. But mostly you are running this river in the complete darkness, with only your headlamp and the lights of others with you lighting the way. In the final cave you run into the cruise ship groups, but usually not too many as we run it on a day that there are less (or no) other tours.

cave kayakingWe have lunch along the way in one of the open areas, right before the portage. Lunch is served on the bottom of a kayak. What a fun day.

At the end of the run our driver Jose has driven all the way around to pick us up. It’s surprising how far you have traveled, cutting off a huge section of road by paddling right through a mountain. We put-in at a spot on the Hummingbird Highway about 2 hours from Belize City. We take off on the Western Highway only 30 minutes from the city.

Join us this winter for this one-of-a-kind adventure, along with the rest of the Belize Adventure Week itinerary: waterfall rappelling, ziplining, hiking, whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, kitesurfing, windsurfing, kayak surfing, sport fishing, kayak fishing, paddleboarding, and board surfing (not to mention hammock surfing!) All these sports, in one action-packed 8 day trip.