One advantage sit on tops have is they were made for climate that you live in. A sit inside kayak and 90 - 100 degree heat is no fun. Lots of choices for slow rivers and coastal paddling. Look at the buyers guide at sit-on-top-kayaking.com.
I would try out both kinds by renting before you buy. I own both kinds, but for a beginner in your area, a decent SOT is probably the way to go. Avoid the wide barge like boats that seem stable, there are lots of good choices for seaworthy SOTs that can be paddled at a reasonable speed.
Kayak Deck Gear Bags
PFD's (Life Jackets)
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