K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, has exploded in popularity in recent years. Sort of a cross between kayaking and surfing, it’s a really fun way to get out on a lake, river or ocean, enjoy a good time and get in some great exercise too. Whether you’re highly experienced or brand new, these spots around the world are some of the best destinations for paddleboarding.
Hawaii is a surfing mecca, so it’s no surprise that it’s also one of the best places for paddleboarding. There are a number of great spots on Oahu, particularly Sunset Beach on the north shore, which is known for its big wave surfing during the winter, hosting some of the most popular surfing competitions on the planet. But during the summer, the water here is a lot calmer, perfect for paddleboarding. You can even paddle all the way to Waimea Bay, a four-mile journey from Sunset Beach. If you’re a beginner, Puaena Point at Hale’iwa Beach Park on the Waimea Bay side of the Anahulu Bridge, is a perfect flat water area with few waves as well as easy access.
Santa Cruz is one of the best places you can go paddleboarding in northern California, though the water is a bit chilly no matter what time of year so you’ll want to wear a wet suit. The wharf is a great spot for beginners – while you’ll have to share your space with surfers, kayakers and sea lions, you might get the chance to see a whale while you’re paddling. The Santa Cruz Harbor is another good spot, with a variety of boards, lessons and guides available in addition to staying in the calm harbor and paddling around without venturing into the ocean. Steamer Lane offers a range of outstanding breaks for all skill levels, from beginner-friendly to highly experienced, though surfers would probably prefer you leave this area to them.
Bali is one of the best year-round destinations for paddleboarding with its consistent, glassy waves, ideal for both beginners and the advanced. Avoid the crowds and head to the even calmer, less-visited beaches to the north, like Medewi and Balian. While you’re here, you can also enjoy spectacular hiking and climbing in the mountains with various treks available, including up to a volcano or through the rice fields. Of course, the diving is legendary for being some of the best the planet has to offer.
The turquoise waters that surround these islands are a haven for paddleboarders, a sport that’s become increasingly popular here, especially in Providenciales. The clear, calm waters of Grace Bay are ideal. If you’d like to explore the spectacular backcountry of the archipelago, several local outfitters offer stand-up paddleboard tours that will allow you to do just that. In these islands, you’ll get a totally different perspective of the mangrove swamps, and in open shallows, you can watch wading herons as well as juvenile nurse sharks that swim right underneath your board.
The crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe have offered unparalleled opportunities for recreation for years – and, it’s breathtaking natural beauty is best appreciated through silent, non-motorized sports like paddleboarding. The north shore is ideal, with typically tranquil, glassy waters – in fact, you can see as far down as 70 feet on a calm morning. Exploring any spot along the lake’s 72-mile shoreline by board offers an intimate experience that other types of watercraft just can’t match. Go in the morning or early evening, when the lake is at its flattest and winds are typically light, especially if you’re a beginner.
While surfers in Australia tend to head to the big waves in New South Wales, the best place for paddleboarders is in the largest city in western Australia: Perth. The beautiful, flat waters of the Swan River are the best for newbies to hone their technique and develop confidence. Cottesloe Beach is an ideal stretch of sand for laid back paddleboarding with gentle waves as well as a few breaks stretching from Cable Station to Deep 6, Dutch Inn, Seconds and Cove. If you want to get out and snorkel, this area is perfect for that too.
The Bahamas features nearly 120 miles of shoreline and roughly 700 islands, surrounded by calm, clear, tropical waters boasting stunning views of reefs and marine life. An ideal SUP spot is Abacos, for the full on marine and beach experience. If you’re going to Nassau, you can enjoy great boarding too, with local outfitters offering all the gear you need for paddling alongside sea turtles and schools of brilliantly colored fish beneath the clear, cerulean waters. Great Exuma is another outstanding spot for SUP.
Costa Rica is renowned for surfing, but it’s also becoming increasingly popular for paddleboarding, especially for tourists who don’t have the time to spend a week learning how to catch a wave. Playa Danta in the Guanacaste region is considered one of the best destinations in the country for SUP, while Jaco is a perfect spot for those who want to enjoy seclusion and an off-the-beaten-path feel. Not only is it great for water adventures, but it also offers the chance for thrilling zip-line and ATV rides through the jungle. Bring your snorkel gear for gazing at the abundance of marine life in the breathtaking underwater world.
The warm, clear Caribbean-like waters of the Florida Keys are perfect for a paddleboarding vacation. Paddlers visiting the island chain can traverse a “downwinder,” by riding the board backed by tradewinds to cover longer distances. When there is no wind, boards can be used as a fishing platform or to just quietly enjoy the secluded areas of backcountry flats. The laid-back attitude of Key West pairs perfectly with this slower-paced sport, providing the opportunity to tour mangrove forests while keeping an eye out for fascinating marine life, including everything from manatees to sting rays.
Amsterdam may sound like a strange place for stand-up paddling, but as this sport can be done on just about any type of water and the city is home to 165 canals, so it’s actually a perfect destination. The canals cut their way through the city’s golden-era buildings, cobblestone streets and adorned gables. There are no sharks to be found here, you’ll just need to keep an eye out for the occasional rusty bike as you pass the historical, storybook-like buildings. While you’re taking in all the magnificent architecture, you can even paddle right next to Anne Frank’s house, where the historical importance of Amsterdam truly sinks in.
Puerto Vallarta is a paradise for paddleboarders of all skill levels, as well as other water sports enthusiasts. Here you can glide along the calm, warm waters of Banderas Bay while watching for humpback whales, dolphins and sea turtles. Los Muertos Beach, the most active stretch of sand along the bay, offers board and paddle rentals as well as lessons with a seasoned expert. While you’re here, you can also enjoy amazing diving and snorkeling as well as a variety of fun things to do on shore. Puerto Vallarta is a rich cultural city with an array from fantastic cuisine, from taco stands and beach vendors selling oysters on the half-shell to fine dining. Nightlife options include a hopping all-night club scene, cozy lounges and live theater.
Fiji is one of the most fantastic island destinations on the planet, and celebrity water sports enthusiast Dave Kalama calls Namotu Island one of the best. He’s been heading to this resort since its beginnings, famously noting, “If you have a bucket list and Namotu Island isn’t at the top of it, then put it there.” The gorgeous waters that surround Namotu are ideal for paddleboarding – conditions are perfect for flat water as well as down winder paddles. The resort is uniquely located fairly close to all of Fiji’s best breaks too, including the legendary Cloudbreak. Swimming Pools offers a more gentle experience for beginner to intermediate paddlers.
Seattle is surrounded by water – sandwiched between the saltwater Puget Sound, fed by the Pacific Ocean to the west, and freshwater Lake Washington to the east. Lake Union, Green Lake, Lake Washington, Elliot Bay and Shishole Bay are all popular places for paddling here. With the towering Cascade and Olympic Mountains as the backdrop, Seattle offers an especially scenic ride. Paddling on Lake Union near the city skyline with the world famous Space Needle, watching seaplanes come and go, is hard to beat. Start your day with a latte, spend the afternoon paddling and enjoy a tasty salmon dinner after dark. You can even participate in races which take place every weekend during paddleboarding season, from May 1 to the end of September, including the popular Round the Rock race, a 13-mile September event around Mercer Island on Lake Washington.
Portugal has been referred to as Europe’s paddleboarding capital for its incredible variety of waters in which to paddle, all within fairly easy distance of the capital. Luiz Saldanha Marine Park, about 31 miles south of Lisbon, sits at the base of the Arrabida Hills, sheltered from the prevailing North Easterly winds. Paddling here is like paddling in an aquarium, with water visibility up to 70 feet on a calm morning. You can even paddle along the turquoise waters with a permanent resident pod of bottlenose dolphins. When you want to take a break, there are a number of idyllic sandy coves to relax in too.
While there may be numerous spots for great paddleboarding in the Los Angeles area, many believe that Malibu stands out as the very best. Here you’ll enjoy magnificent views, miles of gorgeous beaches and lots of wildlife. While it may be crawling with surfers, by heading out just past the most popular breaks you can find uncrowded waters ideal for paddling. Rent a board and paddle up to Point Dume where you’ll discover picture-perfect beaches and wild coves, or take a two-hour guided tour with Malibu Surf Shack, paddling up the coast, past cliffs and kelp beds that are home to an abundance of sea lions and seals.
There’s a lot more to Africa than wildlife safaris, and with such a wide variety of waves and beautiful scenery, SUP is gaining in popularity in places like Cape Town, South Africa. There are lots of places to rent a board and to hire a guide as well as perfect spots for paddling in the flat water of canals or the ocean surf. Sunset Beach and Blouberg to the north of Table Mountain, and Muizenberg and Strand to the south area are considered the best. First-time paddlers may want to head to the calm waters of Langebaan Lagoon, located about an hour north of Cape.
You don’t need a passport to get to this unincorporated U.S. territory and Caribbean Island – Puerto Rico is also unique in that you’ll have excellent paddleboarding options right in the city of San Juan, particularly at Condado. The Condado Lagoon is a perfect spot for beginners since the water is generally flat and the wind is usually low. It offers picturesque views to both the Condado “city”, mangroves growing around the lagoon, and the ocean. You might even get lucky and see creatures like dolphins, turtles, manatees and sting rays swimming along beside you in the warm waters. SUP has become very popular in Puerto Rico, as it has in some many other places, so you’ll find a number of companies across the island that rent boards or do tours, even on the outlying islands of Vieques and Culebra.
The subtropical climate of New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, located near the northern tip of the North Island, make this destination ideal for exploring by paddleboard with its many sheltered coves, bays and inlets. The water is warm year-round, and you might even be joined by a pod of dolphins here too. Base yourself in the seaside town of Russell, with inlets that make it perfect for building an easy-to-follow route, as well as having a great post-paddling café culture. Kerikeri is another good option, home to lots of inlets and paddleboarding schools.
The Emerald Isle might be the last place you’d think of for paddleboarding, but the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland boasts a beautifully rugged coastline with lots of beach breaks and reefs. Portrush is a surfing capital, featuring two breaks, the East and West strand, within walking distance of town. In the winter, waves are massive, but summertime often brings calm, flatter waters perfect from paddling around the coast, exploring caves and inlets – it’s also close to the world renowned Giant’s Causeway, an amazing sight with about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. SUP lessons are available for beginners in Portballintrae Harbour.
San Diego offers some of the best paddling waters in the state. La Jolla Cove is a marine sanctuary where you’ll have the chance to encounter sea turtles, bat rays, leopard sharks and jellyfish as you paddle, not to mention the stunning scenery with beautiful cliffs, beaches and magnificent mansions. At Tidelands Park on Coronado Island, you can launch your board straight into the bay and paddle Coronado as well as the massive bridge while taking in spectacular views of the city skyline.
Myrtle Beach is an especially popular summer destination with its amusement and water parks, wide array of restaurants and accommodation options, live entertainment and nearly endless opportunities for water sports along an extensive stretch of silky white sands. Not only can you enjoy swimming, sunbathing, fishing, sailing and surfing, but excellent paddleboarding. There are numerous places to rent a board and take lessons, as well as group tours through the calm waters of salt marsh groves, filled with wildlife, as well as through the winding freshwater creeks of the black water river system, paddling under Spanish Moss-draped Cyprus trees in the Waccamaw River National Wildlife Refuge. The more adventurous and experienced might want to take a tour that includes launching through the surf, enjoying the beach from a different vantage point.
Fort Lauderdale is frequently referred to as the “Venice of the East,” with its winding Intercoastal waterway that empties out into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also at the heart of South Florida’s paddleboarding craze. Here, within the Intercoastal, waters are calm and boaters have reduced speed limits providing the chance for a more relaxing paddle. Glide past the mansions that line the shores and enjoy conversations with locals that are hanging out in their backyards. During the winter months, the waters are home to the Florida manatee, so you might even get an up close experience with the gentle giants.