The first step to choosing the best kayak for you is knowing where you want to use it.
Will you kayak in calm lakes, or rivers with wind, and possibly white water?
Will you use it to travel short distances, or multi-day trips with gear?
Have you used kayaks before?
Recreational kayaks are best for smaller ponds, lakes and creeks. They are easy to handle, and have a larger cockpit for easy access. With a wider hull, they are designed for stability and control.
Touring kayaks are designed with extra length that allow for fast paddling in open water. They extra length provies increased stability in choppy conditions. Touring kayaks can be used for day trips, or multi-day trips, since they offer storage compartments for gear.
In a sit-on-top kayak, the paddler sits on top of kayak, rather than down inside it. These kayaks have a self-bailing design, which prevents they from filling with water from waves. This allows them to be used on the ocean, and rivers where the water may be rougher. You can get in and out of sit-on-top-kayaks easily, allowing you to go swimming, if you desire.
Whitewater kayaks are designed to handle the fast moving water of rivers and streams. With increased maneuverability, comes a little less stability, so it's best to practice with these kayaks before tackling the rapids. Classes may also be a good idea to help you gain experience with this type of kayak.
Fishing kayaks are designed for quiet paddling in lakes and ponds. Increased stability helps you reel them in, and move around in the kayak without capsizing. Fishing kayaks also feature increased storage space for coolers, gear and beverages.
Inflatable kayaks are versatile, allowing use in calm waters or whitewater. Since they ride high in the water, and are also self-bailing, they are easily maneuverable in a variety of conditions. Storage for gear is possible, and they are easily transported and stored, since they are inflatable.
Tandem kayaks allow for more than one person to be aboard, and are popular for recreational kayaking, as well as touring and fishing. They are available in both sit-in, and sit-on-top designs, as well as inflatable designs. Tandem kayaks are a great way to share the fun of kayaking with the kids or friends.