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Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Review

This is a dependable boat that's a great option for beginner paddlers who aren't ready to invest in a high-performance boat.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $280 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 Dan Kramer ⋅   ⋅  Jan 16, 2019
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62
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 5
  • Glide - 25% 5
  • Maneuverability - 25% 8
  • Comfort - 20% 4
  • Portability - 20% 8
  • Durability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is a nicely priced introductory boat. It will help measure your joy of kayaking before you spend money on a more expensive boat that might get banged up while you navigate those novice learning curves. It is very light 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 Arbua 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 and feeling stable while maneuvering well enough to enjoying a day on the lake at an affordable price for most paddlers. This boat is an excellent option for beginners to get comfortable paddling and learn basics before graduating to a more expensive, performance kayak.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  
Price $280 List$829.00 at REI
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$759.00 at Amazon$649.95 at REI
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$527.93 at REI
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Star Rating
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Pros Very light and portable, maneuvers well, stable, inexpensive, large open cockpitExtremely versatile, great stability, exceptionally maneuverable, comfortable, highly functional out-fittingComfortable, very maneuverable, versatile, easy to paddle, easy to climb in and outExtremely stable, excellent tracking, very durable, comfortable, multifacetedGreat tracking and glide, sheds waves easily, durable, fast and stable, great for any age or experience
Cons No seat cushions, hard to reach and adjust foot braces, not a lot of weight capacityDifficult to drain, heavy, cumbersome to shoulder carry, cheap plastic used on hatch leversCheap plastic used on hatch levers, heavy, slowHeavy, slow to get up to speed, burdensome to load and carryStern storage well doesn’t drain, heavy and burdensome to transport, deck plate cockpit console sticks
Bottom Line This is a dependable boat that's a great option for beginner paddlers who aren't ready to invest in a high-performance boat.An extremely versatile kayak that will allow you to experience the best of what both worlds, exceptional maneuverability and long distance tracking.The well outfitted Tarpon 100 allows for many different paddling applications, all in one super comfortable sit on top kayak.A super solid and stable all-around kayak great for any age or ability level at a modestly affordable price.This kayak is an outstanding choice for any day on the water but it truly excels on long touring days, especially in heavier wind and waves.
Rating Categories Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Wilderness Systems Aspire 105 Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 Perception Tribe 11.5
Glide (25%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
8
Maneuverability (25%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
6
Comfort (20%)
10
0
4
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
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6
Portability (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
6
Durability (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Specs Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Wilderness Systems... Wilderness Systems... Ocean Kayak Malibu... Perception Tribe...
Length 10' / 3.0m 10'6" / 3.2m 10' / 3.0m 11'5" / 3.5m 11'5" / 3.5m
Capacity (weight) 250lbs / 113kg 400lbs / 181kg 325lbs / 147kg 360lbs / 163.3kg 350 lbs / 159kg
Boat Weight 40lbs / 18kg 48lbs / 22kg 55lbs / 25kg 59lbs / 26.7 kg 52lb / 24kg
Width 30" / 76cm 29" / 74cm 30.5" / 77cm 32" / 81cm 30.25" / 77cm
Height 13" / 33cm 15.5" / 39cm 15.25" / 39cm N/A 16" / 41cm
Material/Construction UV-stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene High-density roto-molded linear polyethylene High-density roto-molded linear polyethylene Singler layer polyethylene UV, impact and abrasion resistant, high-density rotomolded polyethylene
Warranty Boat: Limited lifetime for original owner, Components: 1 year warranty Boat: Limited lifetime for original owner, Components: 1 year warranty Boat: Limited lifetime for original owner, Components: 1 year warranty Boat: Limited lifetime for original owner Boat: 5 years for original owner, Components: 1 year warranty
Features Adjustable padded backrest, rear gear compartment with bungee shock cord, adjustable foot braces, water bottle storage, carrying handles, paddle holder, padded thigh braces. Phase 3 Air Pro seat with mesh streched over contoured foam perferated pad, leg lifters and adjustable seat back angles, thigh and knee pads, adjustable slide locking foot braces, rear bulkhead compartment with Orbix stern hatch, shock cord bow and stern rigging for extra storage, rugged bow and stern handles, molded dashboard with gear tray and drink holder, replaceable skid plate and retractable drop down skeg. Phase 3 AirPro seat, Keepers XL foot brace system, Slide Trax accessory system, Orbix bow and midship hatches, gear storage pockets and molded cup holder, bow/stern/side carrying handles with paddle holders, self bailing tankwell with bungee. 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. 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.

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.

The pointy bow of the SunDolpin Aruba 10 keeps the kayak slicing through the water and tracking towards your destination.
The pointy bow of the SunDolpin Aruba 10 keeps the kayak slicing through the water and tracking towards your destination.

Glide


As an introductory boat, this inexpensive, stable kayak makes most beginner paddlers feel comfortable and confident paddling from day one. Sundolphin chose to go with a planed hull to promote better stability compared to the rounded hull of the Wilderness Systems Aspire 105.


These flatter style bottoms don't do much to help the boat's glide. They have 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.

The Aruba 10's length makes for easy maneuvering in tight rocky coves.
The Aruba 10's length makes for easy maneuvering in tight rocky coves.

Maneuverability


Longer boats are better for tracking and gliding. In contrast, shorter vessels tend to handle better when turning. With these planning hulls, you won't have to fight lateral hull resistance under the waterline when turning the way you do with longer boats like the Perception Tribe 11.5 and the Ocean Kayak Malibu 11. These vessels have a keel or harder chines that cause friction as their edges catch water when turning.


In fact, the Aruba is one of the most maneuverable boats in the test, second only to the much higher end Wilderness Systems Aspire 105. In our maneuverability testing, we were able to spin the Aruba 10 around 180 degrees remarkably well with just two fairly easy sweep strokes. It carved up the slalom course, finishing with a high score. The angled bow helps the flat hull pierce through water and waves, aiding the kayaks ability to handle well while maneuvering through friction that would hinder the boat.

The Aruba 10's backband and thigh braces pads in the kayak's cockpit are simple and minimalistic.
The Aruba 10's backband and thigh braces pads in the kayak's cockpit are simple and minimalistic.

Comfort


One of the biggest tradeoffs when shopping for a lower-cost, lower-end kayak is in its outfitting. Seating systems, foot, and thigh braces, and other extra features are usually stripped down. When comparing the Aruba 10 to another sit-in model like the Aspire 105, 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 bracing system adjusts so that it can fit paddlers short  tall  or anywhere in between.
The foot peg bracing system adjusts so that it can fit paddlers short, tall, or anywhere in between.

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.

There is light, thin padding provided on 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.

You'll find the water bottle holder and bow carrying handle on the bow of the Aruba 10.
You'll find the water bottle holder and bow carrying handle on the bow of the Aruba 10.

Portability


For a sit-in hard shell kayak, the Sun Dolphin is an extremely light boat. Of the five non-inflatable boats we tested, it's the lightest overall. 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.

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.
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.

Durability


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 of the 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. The Wilderness System Aspire 105* is only 6" longer and is heavier by about 8 pounds. Its sturdier plastic hull, and extra length translates lets it carry an extra 150 pounds.

On the up side, although the foot brace system is hard to access, it seems reasonably solid. And the one strap adjustment for the backrest feels dependable.

The Aruba 10 is amazingly lightweight  making portaging and transporting it a breeze.
The Aruba 10 is amazingly lightweight, making portaging and transporting it a breeze.

Best Applications


The Aruba 10 is an admirable beginner's kayak and is a solid entry-level boat for those transitioning from a sit on top to a sit-in boat. The kayak's flat bottom promotes stability while the wide-open cockpit eases entry and exit. This is a great kayak for a pond or small lake and, at only ten feet long, this boat is very maneuverable for even the youngest or most novice paddlers.

Value


The Aruba 10 is an option for the beginner who wants to make sure they will enjoy flat water kayaking and still have plenty of fun for their money. Thankfully, Sun Dolphin keeps that in mind with this entry-level and inexpensively priced boat that is sure to keep you happy paddling. Even after you become hooked on kayaking and ready to upgrade to a more advance model kayak, you'll have fun playing in your Aruba 10. Keep in mind though, it isn't as durable as the pricer boats, so you may want to spend a little more to have your kayak for years to come.

Kayaking is a fun and rewarding activity by yourself or with your friends.
Kayaking is a fun and rewarding activity by yourself or with your friends.

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.


Dan Kramer