Kayak Buying Guides

Sundolphin Kayak Reviews: Five Great Models You Should Consider

Written by Ryan Moore

SunDolphin makes just about any kind of small boat you can think of. From canoes, pedal boats, SUPs, to the kayaks we love. They focus particularly on recreational and fishing kayaks but span the breadth from traditional to sit on top modern kayaks. What we don’t see from SunDolphin is extreme sport whitewater boats.

SunDolphin began making boats in the 80’s. Then it was just pedal boats but today you can find a SunDolphin boat for nearly any recreation. Almost every step of the process is done in house. SunDolphin designs, manufactures, and produces their boats all in house. If there’s one thing to be said about that, it just means their limited lifetime warranty stands behind products they can keep an eye on.

Unique to SunDolphin is the PAC system which I love. This is a modular storage system helping you achieve your goals every time you take a SunDolphin boat out. Portable Accessor Carrier, as it’s called, can be deployed behind the boat to make room for more gear in the boat as you drag it along behind you. This has the distinct added benefit of keeping a few cold drinks cooler as you pull them along in the river.

I’m going to share with you some of my favorite SunDolphin kayaks and why I like them. We’ll review a handful of boats and hopefully I’ll be able to help you better choose the next SunDolphin kayak for your adventures!

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Review

Available in as many as 5 different colors, the Aruba 10 is a good mid-range boat for recreational users. At just 10’ long it will track true and straight when paddling, yet remains nimble enough to handle tight waters. It’s a traditional cockpit that is wide enough to accommodate most larger paddlers or those with wider hips which can be an issue in smaller kayaks.

I like the included cast drink holder which sits in the bow with a shock cord attachment. It is angled backward, however, which means you’ll need a drink with a sealed lid. Otherwise you’ll have no drink left! The seat is generous and the boat comes with adjustable foot braces.

If you choose the Square Stern model you’ll get the proprietary SunDolphin PAC module. This is a Portable Accessory Carrier which doubles as a floating cooler if you want to keep the brews chilled.

Sun Dolphin Journey 10-Foot Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak Review

This might be one of the best boats on the market for anglers from any manufacturer. At 10’ long it’s stable but agile and features all the best tech from SunDolphin in a single package.

While I would have liked to see a padded seat, the adjustable back rest is a winner. There’s a 6” dry well right between your knees for the important stuff – like your phone! There’s an additional dry well in the stern of the boat but we’ll get to that in a moment! This time we get a vertical drink holder which is perfect for an opened aluminum can that you don’t want to spill.

I like the amount of options on the boat. There’s a left side paddle storage and a fully adjustable rod holder for storage or trolling. In the stern is an additional rod holder and the SunDolphin original PAC module. It can be used for storage in the boat or dragged behind the boat to double the amount of storage space available!

Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-Foot Sit-on top Kayak Review

This open cockpit recreational kayak is loaded with features and based heavily on the design of the Journey fishing kayak. Remove the fishing gear and you’ve got yourself the Bali SS!

Since there’s a little extra space without the fishing rod holders, the Bali includes one extra storage space in the cockpit, just between the knees. Again, lacking the padded seat bottom is a bummer, but using a comfortable aftermarket foam pad might be an even better option anyways.

I like that there are two dry well storage options which means tons of room for safety when storing electronics of car keys. The last thing you want to do is have your car keys disappear to the bottom of the lake if you flip your boat!

Ultimately this might be one of the most versatile and well-equipped boats on the market at this price. It’s available in up to 6 colors, all at reasonable prices. Plus, the PAC system which converts the rear of the boat into a floating storage container can literally double the amount of gear you’re able to carry with the boat. It’s a killer system that only SunDolphin is using!

Sun Dolphin Bali 13.5-Foot Tandem Kayak Review

I have to admit, I love the new molded plastic kayaks which are taking over the market. SunDolphin is making some of the best kayaks in this new style and then Bali Tandem is a stand out winner among tandem kayak choices today. For a recreational two-person boat, it doesn’t get much more reliable.

Because of the open cockpit design, you’ve got more freedom to move than traditional boats. Go ahead, hang your legs over the edge while your partner paddles. If you happen to flip, it’s much easier to right the boat.

While most of the boat is consumed by making enough space for two people, there are enough features for an afternoon paddle. Three dry wells and three drink holders makes enough space for up to two adults and a small child. There are also adjustable foot rests for both main seats. Adjustable seats, paddle holders, and a small gear vestibule in the stern make up all the features on the boat.

Unlike some others, however, it does have padded seats for the main two paddlers. The passenger may have to find a piece of foam to pad the bum!

Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 12-Foot Sit-in Kayak Review

We’ve seen the Aruba 10 foot model, but the 12’ model steps up the game. This is a traditional enclosed cockpit design that’s somewhere between recreational and fishing specific. While it doesn’t have the top-class fishing features that the Journey brings with it, it does have two flush mount fishing rod holders stern of the cockpit.

There’s a 6” dry well both bow and stern accompanied by plenty of deck lashing. There’s a drink holders and small storage compartment both in the cockpit and they’re accompanied by adjustable foot braces for the paddler.

Again, the proprietary PAC system lends tons of storage and customization to this boat. If it were me, I’d pull the PAC module out and use the extra storage space for a few more cold drinks on a hot day of paddling and fishing. Unlike the other boats from SunDolphin, the Aruba 12 makes for a good hybrid recreational and fishing kayak. Whether you want to land a few trout or paddle the afternoon with some friends on the river, there’s a configuration of this boat that will work for you!

About the author

Ryan Moore

I like to write about Kayaks.