California. The Land of Milk and Honey bordering the Pacific Ocean. Everyone knows that stars are born and dreams are made in the Golden State, but California also boasts some of the most beautiful nature and waterways in the country.
And this state sure doesn’t fall short when it comes to places to paddle board. California has some of the best locations to SUP in the world. From lakes and reservoirs to bays and caves, paddle boarding adventures abound in California.
So if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in California and asking yourself: “what are the best places to paddle board near me?” We have done the research and compiled the ULTIMATE California Paddle Boarding Guide. Discover epic locations, explore famous waters, and paddle with diverse marine life. Here are the best places to get in the water and SUP California.
Places Covered in this Article
Southern California has got the world-famous weather and good vibes. Bask in glorious sunshine and stumble upon your next great spot for an aquatic adventure.
Choose from golden sand beaches or paradise coves. The possibilities are endless. You can divide SoCal into three main districts: Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County.
Where to Paddle Board in Los Angeles
The City of Los Angeles is one of the most famous destinations in the USA. Millions of tourists flock to the renowned Hollywood sign each year to soak up the rich cinematic air that resides over LA.
LA’s beaches stretch along the coast offering some excellent paddle boarding options. If you are a beginner paddler we recommend you check out Redondo Beach or Catalina Island which both offer gentle flat water paddling, perfect for getting a grip with the basics. Head over to one of these rental stores to grab your gear and get out on the water:
Be sure to check with individual rental stores in regards to their updated operating services in light of the Covid Pandemic.
In between exploring the awesome spots why not do a spot of sight-seeing or experience Universal Studios to relive some of cinema’s most loved moments.
Celebrity homes and breathtaking beaches. Malibu is the picture everyone thinks of when talking about California.
These beaches are often associated with surfing, however, there is plenty of space for paddle boarders as well. The swell is generally on the more mellow side of things with no more than 3-4ft in the summer, and weeks of flat water in the winter.
Start paddling from Escondido Beach and head north up to Paradise Cove. This offers you an easy launch over a kelp-filled sea bed, meaning the water tends to be calmer and safer - perfect for getting the basics down.
Why not give SUP surfing a go while you’re here? Latigo Point is the beach you need to get to with a more consistent wave forming. Just remember your surf etiquette while waiting in the line-up! Even on a flat day, this is a stunning location for some gentle paddling to soak up the sun.
Redondo Beach is a hugely popular place for SUP lovers to gather and share their passion. If you enjoy a social paddle with a crowd of like-minded people, then this is the spot for you.
The sea of people that are typically here makes this an excellent spot for beginners. Check out the information and maps provided on the beach that clearly marks the beginner-friendly zones, and areas that are best left to the more advanced paddler.
There are rental shops available to organize gear and lessons, if required.
If you are interested in SUP fitness classes, then Marina Del Rey is the perfect place to join in. Swap your yoga mat for the ocean and find your zen with SUP yoga in-between fishing boats and yachts.
YogAqua offers multiple classes per day for you to relax on the water. If you are lucky you may even have some dolphins and other local marine life joining your Vinyasa flow.
Strictly reserved for intermediate and advanced paddle boarders, Rancho Palos Verdes offers spectacular views and super clear waters that Southern California is greatly loved for.
Take off from Pelican Cove where the tide pools are bursting with marine life. From there head south for around one mile to explore Hudson’s Bluff Sea Cave at Terranea Beach. Be warned, this is an excursion for those looking to burn some calories and who are super comfortable on a SUP.
Depending on the time of year, you may even have the incredible opportunity to paddle alongside a pod of whales on their migration journey.
Venice (LA) is famous for being the muscle-beach of the world. But head more into the residential area and you will discover easy-paddling canals reminiscent of its Italian counterpart and namesake.
There are no rental shops or official tours, but it is still a great spot to explore at your own pace and take in the gorgeous historical homes. Simply launch into the canal directly from the sidewalk and take a gentle cruise on your paddle board, perfect for all ability levels.
Hop on a ferry and get over to paradise. Catalina Island is only a 1-hr fast ferry ride away. There is something for everyone on this island with a variety of SUP locations to choose from.
Those looking for a relaxing paddle should enjoy the scenery and marine life at Avalon Harbor. Over on the west coast of Catalina Island is an area perfect for a dose of adrenaline with waves rolling through that are ideal for SUP surfing.
Catalina Island is simply breathtaking and should be on everyone’s ‘must-visit’ lists.
Head south down the coast to discover more treasured gems Southern California has to offer. The OC has some of the best surf beaches in the world including “The Wedge”.
But it doesn’t stop there. Orange County also provides excellent SUP locations. With 40 miles of coastline you are guaranteed spectacular views, ‘movie-set’ beaches, and out of this world paddle boarding spots.
Beginners should head to Dana Point and find their sea legs on the calm harbor waters. Be sure to hit up these rental stores if you need to get your hands on some gear:
And don’t worry. If your arms get tired from all the paddling you can check out one of many incredible trails in the Californian backcountry, or even visit Disneyland for a day.
Back Bay provides the standard paddle boarding options. The beaches offer serene ocean coast connecting to a calm harbor which is perfect for beginners and those in search of a calmer session.
One thing that sets Back Bay apart from the other spots is the regular “Glow Night” paddle tours. Paddling out on an LED-lit SUP definitely is a bucket-list item in our books.
Just make note that there are some restricted areas around the Newport Bay State Marine Conservation Area.
Laguna is a playground both on and off the water. The pristine beaches and hordes of coves mean that you can have a real adventure on a stand up paddle board while feeling like you are part of The OC cast.
The water is typically calm in Laguna due to being protected by Catalina Island’s positions offshore. This means that it’s perfect for beginners to give it a try in between soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the trendy city.
Dana Point is popular with the tourists and also loved by the locals. Most famous for the whale watching tours, but also a great location for paddle boarding.
The harbor offers perfect conditions for all experience levels and is a real hub for fitness paddlers. Take a lesson or burn off some calories on your own while being out on some of the trendiest waters in the world.
From Dana Point on the coastline is Doheny Beach. Paddling between these two spots offers stunning scenic views to take in from your board. This is also a great place to try out SUP surfing for the first time with the gentle rolling waves coming through.
Why not make a trip out of it and pitch a tent at one of the camping grounds available nearby. Lifeguards do restrict the number of SUPs allowed in the water at each time, so we recommend you get there early to avoid disappointment
Where to Paddle Board in San Diego
San Diego’s year round glorious weather and calm waters make the city one of the best places to paddle board in California. Go get your daily dose of Vitamin D out on the water in the City In Motion. Be warned, you may never want to leave after paddle boarding San Diego!
There are plenty of options available for beginner paddlers to choose from:
Don’t have your own paddle boarding gear yet? Don’t stress. These rental stores are stocked to meet your needs throughout the city:
Make sure you take a break in between paddle adventures and check out some of the incredible local seafood. “Catch-of-the-day” meals are up for grabs from some world-class restaurants across the city.
La Jolla Cove is iconic of California with its picture-perfect postcard views. You’ll be sharing the waters with the locals in this protected ecological reserve. So keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles, sea lions, bat rays, jellies, and other unique aquatic creatures.
This cove is jaw-dropping and considered one of the ultimate locations to paddle board in the world, so be sure to take your action camera and other key marine accessories.
More experienced paddlers can venture into some of the famous caves, while beginners are recommended to follow the calmer kayaking routes for an easier experience. If you are in the Southern California area you must add La Jolla Cove to your itinerary, trust us.
Are you a doggy parent? Do you dream of paddle boarding with your dog and gliding off into the sunset? Well, then this is the spot for you.
Del Mar is one of few places in San Diego that is dog-friendly, which gave it the nickname, Dog Beach, back in the 1950s. It also offers both flatwater paddling and waves at the river mouth, meaning you get the best of both.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your pooch and go hit the waves for the ultimate bonding experience. The excellent Del Mar Surf Rentals located right on the beach to grab a SUP for the day in case you haven’t got yours with you.
If you are wanting to avoid the crowds then Agua Hedionda Lagoon is the best spot for you to enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
The tranquil lagoon will invite you with its peaceful waters to unwind, let go, and leave the world behind you for a moment. Take your zen to the next level and sign up for one of the daily SUP yoga classes organized by Floating Yogi’s.
Beginner paddler? These smooth waters are perfect for giving paddle boarding a go for the first time or wanting to work on their technique.
Shelter Island Shoreline Park has the best of both worlds with its central location between the city and the ocean. If you can’t make up your mind of cityscape or ocean views then this is the best spot to cruise along as you have them both.
We recommend you time your paddle for either sunrise or sunset here for something truly special. Remember to take your camera to snap an Insta-worthy photo for the feed.
Lake San Marcos is special. It is the only lake in the county that allows stand up paddle boarding.
The Marina is spotted with fabulous restaurants along the shore that are perfect for a post-paddle lunch. These waters are perfectly calm and don’t often draw a crowd. What more can you ask for in flatwater paddling?
As the name suggests, Oceanside Harbor is exposed to the elements. Swell, wind, and waves dominate the waters here making this a spot for the more experienced paddlers.
This is another epic location where you can be blessed to spot a whale breaching from your paddle board. This really does make San Diego paddle boarding unique.
For more serious SUP surfers, make sure you hit the Northern Pacific Beach shoreline for some mild waves. The crowds can get heavy, but it’s generally a friendly spot to mingle into.
Mission Bay is one of San Diego’s most treasured locations. Only 10 minutes away from downtown and 15 minutes away from the airport makes it a super convenient spot to test the waters.
If you are in the mood for exploring, then paddle round to Santa Barbara Cove and discover some secret beauties along the way. Otherwise make the most of the massive bay area. The minimal wind and calm waters make this an excellent choice for SUP fishing, SUP yoga, and SUP touring.
Mission Bay can get busy so make sure you hit the water early to make the most of it.
Last but not least for the best places to SUP in San Diego is Coronado Island. This little island is a great escape from the city that offers a great variety of paddle board options.
It's perfect for families and groups, so bring the kids along. However, this does mean the crowds embark on the island for holidays and weekends, so check the dates before setting sail.
Make the most of the west coast waves and catch a couple of peaky waves on your SUP. Or simply cruise through the heart of the city and be in awe of the skyline. You’ll have spectacular views of the baseball stadium, Coronado Bridge, and the famous Hotel del Coronado.
The Central Californian region has some unbelievably stunning locations for paddle boarding. If you are on the search for somewhere new to explore, then make sure you consider some of these awesome spots when paddle boarding California.
Where to Paddle Board in Central California
The spotlight for Central California has to be on Big Sur and the rugged isolated coastline. This area is fantastic for off-the-beaten-track road trips, camping adventures, and spotting some wildlife along the way.
Whales pass this coast twice a year on their migration routes. Lucky paddlers can get an even closer viewpoint from the water at most of the paddle boarding locations listed below.
If you are looking for a more rugged experience and want to add variety to your SUP weekend away, be sure to check out some of the excellent outdoor hikes in the area. Sunrise is a highly recommended time to either hit the water or a trail for some breathtaking views. Temperatures are not as scorching as SoCal but still tend to be decent all year round. Prepare a wetsuit as you head further north as the Pacific chill starts to kick in.
SUP beginners should head to Santa Barbara Harbor or Avila Beach to find their balance and learn the art of walking on water. Both locations have board rentals ready to gear you up and even provide lessons to those who need a helping hand. Check out:
Santa Barbara Harbor is the perfect choice for all experience levels of paddlers. The harbor water provides calm conditions with the occasional wake from a boat or wave to handle, ideal for a relaxing paddle with enough to keep you on your toes.
There are plenty of rental shops around for you to organize equipment, SUP lessons, guided tours, and other water sport activities.
Big Sur is possibly the greatest treasure of California. The 90 mile long coastline is home to some of the most isolated scenery, making it a dream location for naturalists and outdoor lovers. The giant redwoods and dramatic coastline makes this a truly special place.
Paddle boarding Big Sur is not for the faint hearted. An excursion here takes a lot of pre-planning and a decent level of experience from the rider. So only tackle this spot if you are of an advanced skill level.
Some noteworthy sights and things to see while paddling Big Sur include:
If you are fortunate enough to do an extended SUP tour overnight and camp, then be sure to stargaze. The remote isolation of Big Sur means there is very little light pollution. The night sky is unreal!
SLO is an idyllic small California town and a bit more off the beaten track. The city is famous for its tasty food, farmers markets, epic road trip routes, and access to some of the best beaches and coastline in Central California. From SLO, you can easily access these excellent landmarks and aquatic adventures:
Avila Beach is a generally easy spot and a great place for beginners and families to give stand up paddle boarding a try. For the most part, there is little wind and often mellow waves. The tides are not fast in changing making this a super friendly spot to SUP.
If you don’t have your own gear, head over to Avila Beach Paddlesports who are located right on the beach and have highly competitive rental rates on boards.
Morro Bay’s scenery is breathtaking. The bay conditions allow for calm waters with certain areas that catch the swell in a direction to give surfable waves, depending on the season.
Bird and marine life is thriving in this State Park with seals, sea lions, rays, various fish, leopard sharks, and so on. However, the most notable feature of Morro Bay is the prominent Morro Rock landmarked which is almost always found on postcards from the area.
Lopez Lake is Central California’s tucked away secret. This is a great option if you want to get off the ocean swells for something a touch different. Winds do tend to pick up more in the afternoon over the lake, so plan to get on the water earlier if you want something more chilled.
This is the perfect spot for SUP fishing and weekend getaways. Check out some of the awesome campsites around Lopez Lake and gather your friends for this one.
Further north on the coast you will find Monterey Bay which is perfect for wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers. There are opportunities to see otters and seals in the day, and some beautiful bioluminescence at night. Discover more of nature’s beauty from the water and fall more in love with California.
You can also launch from a nearby spot called “Lover’s Cove” for a more intimate and scenic experience. Keep your eyes peeled for grey whales on the horizon just beyond the lighthouse.
Head to Adventures By The Sea for board rentals, lessons, and guided tours of this stunning area.
Santa Cruz is iconic. It’s trendy. And it’s an excellent place for all experience levels on a paddleboard. The waters tend to get a bit cooler here as you are further up the coast, so prepare wetsuits for your trip just in case you take a topple over board.
There are several different areas to choose from depending on your level. The Santa Cruz Harbor is a great spot for beginners to learn the basics and get comfortable on the water. More experienced paddlers might want to explore further afield and head out to sea. You can also check out the Wharf near Cowell’s Bay which is the place to see the otters holding hands.
Where to Paddle Board in Northern California
Northern California provides some of the more dramatic scenes in the Golden State. Here you will find giant redwoods, national parks, incredible vistas, and, of course, unreal paddle boarding locations. Some of the more famous spots include Sacramento Region, Lake Tahoe, and San Francisco.
NorCal as a whole has cooler temperatures and you will need to consider using a wetsuit to hit the ocean and for the winter months.
Quite possibly the most loved and well known spots for paddle boarding California, Lake Tahoe is a must-see location. This inland lake provides picturesque clear waters, perfectly smooth surfaces, and jaw-dropping views.
Due to its popularity, there are an abundance of places to rent gear from around Lake Tahoe. There are also plenty of campsites to call home for the night and make your trip into weekend getaway with several hiking, biking, and other sport options available.
Part of the Tahoe National Forest region, Scotts Flat Reservoir is an artificial lake that is perfect for paddle boarding. Both SUP touring and SUP fishing boards will fit right in on this flat water spot.
There are several campgrounds in the area that are open all year round, making this an ideal holiday destination.
Another lake nestled among the mountains, trees, and wildlife of Yosemite National Park. The Mammoth Lakes are sensational and breathtaking. There are three main spots here you should be ticking off the list:
Each lake provides excellent conditions for every paddle boarder no matter their experience level. The mornings tend to be super glassy and clear before the afternoon winds pick up.
It is worth taking a couple of days here to really make the most of this escape into the wilderness. With every paddle stroke you will be in awe of the stunning scenery. Remember to bring the camera!
Located in the far north of the region, Klamath River offers something a bit different to the other locations you can find. This spot provides some challenges for the more adventurous and experienced paddle boarder, giving you a dose of adrenaline along the way.
This is a SUP adventure waiting to be taken. Choose between finding a hidden clearing to tie up to and relax the afternoon away, or go touring down the river and make a multi-day trip out of it.
Some parts of the river can be challenging with rapids to maneuver. If you need a change from sandy beaches and peaceful lakes, then this is the spot for you.
Point Reyes is one of the most popular SUP spots just north of the San Francisco bay area, and there is no question as to why. While the serenity and wildlife is of the standard high level for California, this spot also offers something truly unique.
Nighttime paddling! Here you can explore the fascinating waterways without any moon and take in the incredible discovery of bioluminescent marine life. These tiny creatures magically glow under the surface of the water.
Where to Paddle Board in San Francisco
SF is one of America’s most loved cities. It’s famous for setting the bar for food trends, having cable cars through the city, and of course, The Golden Gate Bridge.
Alcatraz Island lies just over a mile off the coast which is globally known for the now-closed prison. Now, you can take guided tours to learn more about the dark history after discovering one of the many incredible paddle board locations.
San Francisco Bay is loaded with some amazing spots for stand up paddle boarding.
If you are new to the sport, we recommend you head over to McCovey Cove for a gentle intro to paddle boarding. Here you can rent gear from Adventure Out or City Kayak at competitive rates, or even grab a lesson while you are at it.
More experienced? Check out Horseshoe Bay for something super special to make your San Francisco SUP experience one to remember.
Anyone in the San Francisco Bay area should have “SUP The Gate” on their bucket list. You can paddle right underneath the city’s most iconic sight and have a true experience that will last a lifetime.
The currents can be strong and conditions can get rough, so it is recommended that the paddler has some experience under their belt. Start off from Horseshoe Bay and make sure you hug the coast all the way to Marin Headlands before heading back.
If you are in need of some gear or fancy taking a SUP tour, then check out Sea Trek.
Sea Trek is also in the perfect location for checking out Richardson Bay. This is a tidal estuary filled with wildlife and birds. Here beginner paddlers can experience the real beauty of paddle boarding while remaining in a safe environment.
McCovey Cove is famous for being just outside of the San Francisco Giants ballpark. You can hit the water here and soak up all the atmosphere. Maybe you will even catch a home run and get on national television! This is definitely one of the lesser known spots to SUP in The Bay so be sure you don’t miss out.
The calm waters make this an ideal location for beginners to pick up a board and give the sport a go. Check out either Adventure Out or City Kayak to organize rentals and lessons.
Just half an hour north of San Francisco is the raw wilderness of Tomales Bay. This remote spot provides dramatic views and sensational paddling for all levels of paddlers. There is plenty of wildlife for you to see while exploring this area by SUP.
Hit up Blue Waters Kayaking for local half day or full day tours and gear rental.
South of the city on the way to San Jose is a fantastic spot for families, groups, SUP yogi’s, and beginners to hit the water. Shoreline Lake offers peaceful conditions along with a whole range of other facilities and activities.
Fancy giving SUP yoga a try? Seasoned pro or a complete beginner, check out the classes organized by Shoreline Lake.
Where to Paddle Board in Sacrament
While Sacramento is not as popular as other cities, like San Diego, it is actually the capital city of California. It is famous for keeping up with trends and having a contemporary culture, making it the most “hipster city” in the state.
So of course, the indifferently cool city has taken the trendiest water sport well under its wing. Some of the best places to paddle board away from the ocean can be found in this inland city.
Beginner paddle boarders should probably stick to Lake Natoma or Jenkinson Lake and leave Sacramento River to the more adventurous and advanced paddlers.
Folsom Lake is the perfect place for SUP touring. The flat water offers a highly enjoyable spot for cutting through the water and burning some calories.
Access to the lake could not be easier with camping sites, parking lots, and multiple vantage points for great photo opportunities. The drive over is relatively short from Sacramento center. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled on the way for the local wildlife including mountain lions, bobcats, rattlesnakes and other iconic animals of Northern California.
We recommend that you get your paddle in during the morning. The afternoons tend to have winds pick up and is less favorable for SUP sessions.
Be warned, this spot can get a bit crowded in the summer. So perhaps save your trip for late summer or fall to avoid the crowds. There is something special about paddling out across Lake Natoma with the crisp chilled air around you.
This spot is great for beginners as there are restrictions on motorboat speeds, making this a fun favorite for rookies. Various wildlife is around for you to spot including osprey, herons, and even eagles.
If you don’t have your own gear with you head over to Sacramento State Aquatic Center who provide excellent SUP rental rates and even give students a discount.
Paddling Sacramento River offers an alternative experience with spectacular views all along the stretch. A popular route begins at Redding and ends at Chico, with a great pit stop location at the Sundial Bridge.
True SUP enthusiasts flock here each year to take part in the immense paddle board race, California 100. The race takes place over 100-miles in one day down the Sacramento River! This is one epic event not to miss if you are in the area.
If you are a beginner paddler or just looking for a relaxing spot, then Slab Creek Reservoir is perfect for you. The remote serenity will amaze you and wash all your woes away. The surrounding forests are pretty idyllic mirrored in the perfectly calm waters.
This is the place to go for a complete switch off from the world and have your moment of peace in nature.
Also known as Sly Park Park, this spot is super popular for SUP and water enthusiastic crowds. You will find many other like minded people here along with kayakers, fishers, hikers, bikers, and so on.
This is THE outdoor spot to head to in the Sacramento area.
Still asking “where to go paddle boarding near me?” If we have missed off your favorite spot from our Ultimate Paddle Boarding California Guide then get in touch and tell us about it!
There are many unique places to paddle board in Northern California, including San Francisco and the Sacramento region. Lake Tahoe is one of the most famous paddle boarding locations in the world and a firm favorite for NorCal locals. The picturesque landscape is mesmerizing and a dream to explore by SUP. Other popular destinations to paddle board in Northern California include:
Note: the climate in Northern California is cooler than down South. You will need a wetsuit for coastal regions and through Fall and Winter months. But, the crisp air is refreshing and invigorating! Get out there!
SoCal is one of the most lust-worthy destinations on the planet. With palm trees and golden shores, paddle boarding in Southern California is a dream come true for many. Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County are just three of the many beautiful regions to SUP.
The best places in LA for paddle boarding are:
Paddle boarding in California does not require you to register your SUP or obtain a permit. California State regulates “vessels propelled solely by oars or paddles do not have to be registered.” However, some National Parks may require you to do so as a control measure. Check directly with the National Park and their procedures.
There are life jacket regulations to abide by when paddle boarding in California that are in line with other boating activities. Adults must have a PFD each onboard the SUP, while children under 12 years old must be wearing a lifejacket at all times.
PFDs must be USCG approved and either Type I, II, or III in the state of California. For more information on life jackets, read our in-depth article about life jacket requirements and regulations.
Beginner paddle boarders have a great selection of SUP locations in California to choose from. Redondo Beach and Catalina Island are both ideal spots for new starters in the Los Angeles area. Both have designated areas with lifeguards watching over the calm oceans. If you are in Orange County, head over to Dana Point or Laguna Beach for flat water and a good amount of rental stores.
Want to learn how to paddle board in Central or Northern California? Check out these places:
California offers year-round paddle boarding opportunities. Southern California is typically warm all year, so you can enjoy boardshorts and swimsuits while soaking up some winter sun. Northern California is a slightly different experience – you will need a wetsuit come Fall to stay warm while out on the ocean.
Do some research into the area you are interested in paddle boarding. Some locations offer the best views for sunset sessions while others may be epic at sunrise for a dawnie. Get out there and explore somewhere beautiful in California by SUP!
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