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Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Review

This is a dependable option for beginner paddlers who aren't ready to invest in a high-performance boat
sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review
Credit: Sun Dolphin
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Price:  $320 List
Pros:  Very light and portable, maneuvers well, stable, inexpensive, large open cockpit
Cons:  No seat cushions, hard to reach and adjust foot braces, not a lot of weight capacity
Manufacturer:   Sun Dolphin
By Sara James & Dan Kramer  ⋅  Sep 9, 2022
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65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 11
  • Glide and Tracking - 30% 5.0
  • Maneuverability - 20% 9.0
  • Stability - 20% 8.0
  • Comfort - 10% 4.0
  • Construction Quality - 10% 4.0
  • Portability - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is a nicely-priced introductory kayak. It will help you gauge your interest in kayaking before spending money on a more expensive, high-performing kayak that might get banged up while you navigate those novice learning curves. It's very lightweight and easy to carry, and its compact length keeps it pleasantly maneuverable on the water. A stable and forgiving flat bottom hull lends confidence to the beginner paddler. The Aruba also keeps you on course, with its pointed bow and stern. Although its seat isn't that comfortable, you can find a seat cushion or lining to help pad your bottom. Its lightweight construction is less durable than the other boats tested, and it can't carry as much weight. Still, the Aruba 10 will get you out on the water at an affordable price and acceptable performance for most beginners.

Compare to Similar Products

 
sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review
Awards  Best Buy Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $320 List$750 List$430 List
Check Price at REI
$789.00 at Backcountry
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$600 List
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Star Rating
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Pros Very light and portable, maneuvers well, stable, inexpensive, large open cockpitExtremely stable, great tracking, very durable, comfortable, stackableVery lightweight, easy to paddle, comes with paddle, inexpensive as they comeGreat tracking and glide, sheds waves easily, durable, fast and stable, great for any age or experienceVery large cockpit, stable, easy-to-adjust seat, includes storage compartment
Cons No seat cushions, hard to reach and adjust foot braces, not a lot of weight capacityHeavy to carry, no internal dry storageThin plastic, harder to drain, not enough leg room for tall paddlersStern storage well doesn’t drain, heavy and burdensome to transport, deck plate cockpit console sticksSluggish, difficult to load, drink holder is far away from seat, no cover for storage
Bottom Line This is a dependable option for beginner paddlers who aren't ready to invest in a high-performance boatA super solid and stable all-around kayak great for any age or ability level at a modestly affordable priceThis highly economical package will get you on the water having fun in calm waters, without breaking your bank to buy or breaking your back to carryThis kayak is an outstanding choice for any day on the water but it truly excels on long touring days, especially in heavier wind and wavesA comfortable and stable kayak ideal for casual days paddling on calm water that comes at a reasonable price
Rating Categories Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Ocean Kayak Malibu... Pelican Brume 100XP Perception Tribe 11.5 Old Town Vapor 10
Glide and Tracking (30%)
5.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
Maneuverability (20%)
9.0
7.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
Stability (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort (10%)
4.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
Construction Quality (10%)
4.0
8.0
4.0
8.0
8.0
Portability (10%)
8.0
4.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Ocean Kayak Malibu... Pelican Brume 100XP Perception Tribe 11.5 Old Town Vapor 10
Length 10'-0" 11'-5" 10'-0" 11'-5" 10'-0"
Width 30" 32" 28" 30.3" 28.5"
Weight 40 lbs 59 lbs 40 lbs 52 lbs 47 lbs
Height 13" 12" 14" 16" 16.8"
Weight Capacity 250 lbs 360 lbs 275 lbs 350 lbs 325 lbs
Material/Construction UV-stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene Singler layer polyethylene RAM-X Premium polyethylene plastic UV, impact and abrasion resistant, high-density rotomolded polyethylene Single Layer Polyethylene
Features Adjustable padded backrest, rear gear compartment with bungee shock cord, adjustable foot braces, water bottle storage, carrying handles, paddle holder, padded thigh braces. Tri-form hull with an integral keel and sponsons, AirGo molded in seat and seat pad with adjustable AirComfort backrest, molded-in foot wells and calf rest, paddle holders, side/stern/bow carrying handles, molded-in oversized bow and stern tank wells with bungees, Splash resistent QuickStash dry hatch, 2 molded in fishing rod holders, 3 water bottle holder, replaceable skid plate. 2-piece Poseidon paddle, paddle tie-down, Twin-arched multi-chine hull with drain plug, cockpit table with a bungee cord, bottle holder, Molded footrests, knee pads and an adjustable ERGOLOUNGE padded backrest with ERGOFORM seat cushion. Lightweight EVA foam seat pad and contoured, padded seat back with hieght-adjustable backrest, molded-in footbraces, molded-in bow and stern well with bungees, replaceable stern skid plate, 6" cockpit hatch with cat bag liner, 3 drink holders, molded-in side handles and soft touch bow and stern carrying handles. Adjustable Comfort Flex seat, Glide Track foot brace system ,Stern day well, Molded-in cockpit tray with cup holder, Molded-in paddle rest, Built in carry handles, Thigh pads, Drain plug, Skid plate

Our Analysis and Test Results

Sun Dolphin is probably one of the most recognized companies on the market due to their entry-level cost and availability in most big box sporting goods stores. We were skeptical but then impressed by the Aruba 10's ease of transport and its respectable tracking and maneuverability. This boat's seating system lacks comfort, but with a little thought and creativity, you can make some modifications with a little foam or a seat cushion.

Performance Comparison


sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review - the aruba provides reasonable performance for beginner paddlers at a...
The Aruba provides reasonable performance for beginner paddlers at a great price.
Credit: Sara James

Glide and Tracking


As an introductory boat, this inexpensive, stable kayak makes most beginner paddlers feel comfortable and confident paddling from day one. Sun Dolphin chose to go with a planed hull to promote better stability compared to the rounded hull or V-shaped hull of some of the other kayaks we tested.

sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review - even with a pointy bow, the aruba has a flat bottom shape that makes...
Even with a pointy bow, the Aruba has a flat bottom shape that makes it challenging to slice through the water in a straight line.
Credit: Dan Kramer

This flatter-style bottom doesn't do much to help the boat's glide performance. It has more surface area to push through the water than boats with V-shaped hulls, which slice through the water. To compensate, the designers added a semi-upswept, pointed bow and stern to help the kayak track, which translates to a smoother and longer glide. But even with these attributes, this kayak takes extra strokes to get and maintain glide.

In addition, the Aruba does not track that well compared to many of the other kayaks we tested. The kayaks turn very easily, which can be annoying when you are trying to keep pointed at a distant target.

Maneuverability


Longer boats are better for tracking and gliding. In contrast, shorter vessels tend to handle better when turning. With the flat hull, you won't have to fight lateral resistance under the waterline when turning the way you do with longer kayaks. In addition, some vessels have a keel or harder chines that cause friction as their edges catch water when turning. This is not the case with the Aruba.

sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review - the aruba 10's short length makes for easy maneuvering in tight...
The Aruba 10's short length makes for easy maneuvering in tight rocky coves.
Credit: Val Viegener

In our maneuverability testing, we were able to spin the Aruba 10 around 180 degrees remarkably well with just two fairly easy sweep strokes, making it one of the most maneuverable boats in the tests. It also carved up the slalom course, finishing with a high score. The angled bow helps the flat hull pierce through water and waves, aiding the kayak’s ability to handle well while maneuvering through friction that would hinder the boat.

sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review - the kayak's flat bottom promotes stability while the wide-open...
The kayak's flat bottom promotes stability while the wide-open cockpit eases entry and exit.
Credit: Dan Kramer

The Aruba shouldn’t tip over on you, but if it does, it’s a pain to re-set. Once you have dragged it to the beach, the drain plug helps get most of the water out but depending on how loaded the kayak is, this can be a slow and tiring experience.

Stability


The Sun Dolphin really stood out in this metric despite not being very long. The flat, wide hull, and low-to-the-ground seat keep this kayak floating along nicely, making it comfortably stable for paddlers of all abilities.

sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review - this is a great kayak for a pond or small lake and, at only 10 feet...
This is a great kayak for a pond or small lake and, at only 10 feet long, this boat is very maneuverable for even the youngest or most novice paddlers.
Credit: Sara James

In moving current, we managed to accidentally tip this kayak over, but only after we took it in conditions it wasn’t really designed for.

Comfort


One of the biggest tradeoffs when shopping for a lower-cost kayak is its outfitting. Seating systems, foot and thigh braces, and other extra features are usually stripped down. When comparing the Aruba 10 to another, more expensive sit-in model, it’s evident that you get what you pay for. It's not terrible, but your posture, comfort, and performance will suffer.

The Sun Dolphin line offers little in the way of padding on their seats. You sit in a cupped plastic seat that is made from the same plastic as the boat. It's just raised up a bit off the cockpit in case you take on water. The only support and adjustability you get is a thin, padded back strap. The foot peg braces seem to be sturdy enough, but one of the downfalls of this design is having to reach in and under the cockpit to the bottom of your feet to move the levers. This can be a cumbersome and difficult process, especially for larger paddlers. It may knock you off balance.

sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review - the foot peg bracing system adjusts so that it can fit paddlers...
The foot peg bracing system adjusts so that it can fit paddlers short, tall, or anywhere in between.
Credit: Dan Kramer

There is light, thin padding provided in the cockpit to brace your knees and thighs. There is no additional outfitting to make it more comfortable. The Sun Dolphin includes a simple water bottle holder, bungee cord paddle holder, and carrying handle on the bow and stern for transport.

sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review - you'll find the water bottle holder and bow carrying handle on the...
You'll find the water bottle holder and bow carrying handle on the bow of the Aruba 10.
Credit: Dan Kramer

Construction Quality


Sun Dolphin's UV-fortified Fortiflex polyethylene build isn't as sturdy or well-built as some of the other boats we tested. The material used in the construction scratches more easily than most other kayaks, leaving lots of little dings and curly plastic pieces on the hull. These will increase drag and slow down your boat's glide.

There is definitely less plastic used in the construction of this boat, which helps keep its weight low, but it can't carry as much weight as some of the other kayaks do. Some of the kayaks we tested were only six inches longer but about eight pounds heavier. Due to less study plastic and less space, this Sun Dolphin is limited in its carrying capacity.

sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review - the aruba 10 is amazingly lightweight, making portaging and...
The Aruba 10 is amazingly lightweight, making portaging and transporting it a breeze.
Credit: Dan Kramer

Portability


For a sit-in, hard shell kayak, the Sun Dolphin is an extremely light boat. The thinner plastic construction, lack of heavy-duty quality outfitting, and the overall shorter length keep the boat weight at 40 pounds. This makes it one of the most portable boats we tested.

This lightweight boat is noticeably easier to pick up and shoulder than the others. It's also easier with two people, one on each side using the carrying handles. Testers were able to lift the kayak onto a car's roof rack and then take it off with little to no difficulty. Dragging the boat around rocky portages did not require much effort. We all agree it was the boat we preferred to carry to the water's edge.

sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review - the aruba 10's stern is equipped with a carrying handle and a...
The Aruba 10's stern is equipped with a carrying handle and a storage compartment that's held on with a bungee cord. It's also where the drain plug is located.
Credit: Dan Kramer

Value


The Aruba 10 is a good option for the beginner who wants to make sure they will enjoy flat water kayaking and still have plenty of fun for their money. Even after you become hooked on kayaking and ready to upgrade to a more advanced-model kayak, you'll have fun playing in your Aruba 10. Keep in mind though, that it isn't as durable as the pricer boats, so you may want to spend a little more to make your kayak last for years to come.

sun dolphin aruba 10 kayak review - kayaking is a fun and rewarding activity by yourself or with your...
Kayaking is a fun and rewarding activity by yourself or with your friends.
Credit: Val Viegener

Conclusion


Taking the plunge and getting into kayaking should be a fun and exciting time. It can also be nerve-racking as you gather information to make the best choice on something that you plan to enjoy for years to come. Good thing Sun Dolphin has made some quality, beginner-level kayaks at a very accessible price. This makes it a lot easier to get into a boat and test the waters of kayaking without sinking your ship and wallet.

Sara James & Dan Kramer
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