Are you looking for somewhere to practice stand up paddle boarding in California? This water sport is fast growing in popularity thanks to its obvious mental and physical health benefits. Not only that, it’s great fun and a wonderful way to keep fit. With spots along the more than 1,000km of California’s coastline for every time of paddle boarder, it’s just about finding the right one for you.
In this post, we’ll look at 10 of the best paddle boarding beaches in California. Whether you want to SUP surf, watch wildlife, or just have a chilled out paddle, there’s sure to be one for you.
La Jolla Shores, San Diego
Often cited as one of the best places in the United States for stand up paddle boarding, La Jolla Shores in northern San Diego are a wonderful spot for wildlife watching. You can often see as far down as 30 feet into the clear waters, meaning that you’ll see tropical fish and stingrays. There are even leopard sharks – but don’t worry, they’re not harmful to humans!
There are so many great beaches for stand up paddle boarding in San Diego. As well as La Jolla Shores, you could hit up Coronado Island and paddle past huge US Navy ships. Beginners will enjoy the calm waters of the island’s east coast while SUP surfers can have a crack at the waves on the west side. Prefer to stay central? Enjoy a leisurely flatwater paddle in the largest man-made aquatic park in the US – Mission Bay.
Another great beach if you want to get up close and personal with California’s marine life is Laguna. With some of the prettiest and most pristine shoreline in all of the Golden State, it’s a bonus that the waters are calm. Take your board out and look for dolphins, sea lions, and many sea birds. If you’re really lucky, you might even see grey and blue whales if you’re paddling at the right time of year!
Monterey County, just south of San Francisco has some of the best paddle boarding in California. The best spots include Carmel Beach and Big Sur. Not only will you have azure waters, but you’ll be paddling from cove to cove and you may even get an entire beach to yourself. The best time to paddle in Monterey is between May and October, but do beware – it can get super busy at the height of summer. Be sure to book your campgrounds well in advance – you won’t want to miss out on those.
Just over 20 miles from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, Catalina Island is idyllic. Pack your SUP gear and leave from either Dana Point or Long Beach on the ferry to one of California’s 8 channel islands. Avalon Bay is the best spot to start your paddle boarding adventure, and from there you can head to several cool spots including Frog Rock and Two Harbors. Catalina is a great spot for snorkelling and scuba too, so if you have extra time you could try that out. Add in the awesome seafood restaurants on the island and your vacation pretty much plans itself!
Golden Gate Bridge
Many people enjoy the Golden Gate Bridge on foot or by bicycle. However, for a unique perspective on this iconic structure, take a paddle board out underneath it. Leaving from Horseshoe Bay (where there is free parking) paddle towards the Marin Headlands. Though this is an activity many want to tick off their bucket list, it’s probably best for more experienced paddlers. Winds, currents, and other water traffic can make the waters around the bridge very treacherous.
At the south end of Monterey Bay you have Monterey, and at the north there’s Santa Cruz. For the best paddle boarding spot in Santa Cruz, head straight for Cowells Beach. There are lots of convenient rental shops around and the smooth waters here make for a top place to begin stand up paddle boarding. There are some tricky waters further out that should satisfy more experienced paddlers too!
Malibu is one for the SUP surfers. In fact, it’s known as one of the best SUP surfing destinations in the world. The downside of that is that it’s not a great place to learn your trade – especially since surfers can be quite impatient with paddle boarders! Be sure to know your surfing etiquette before taking your place in the line-up.
Looking for a picturesque place to paddle board on your California adventures? Morro Bay is the place for you. The Morro Bay estuary is one of the easiest places to learn your trade on its flat waters. Not only that, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the most stunning scenery along the California coast. Hundred foot high sand dunes dot the edges of this marine and bird preserve, at which Morro Rock is the centre of.
Another great place for beginners to start paddling: Redondo Beach. Thanks to the marina rock jetty, the waters here are calm and it’s a safe and easy place to begin your stand up paddle boarding adventure! The only downside of such a lovely place to paddle is that understandably it does get quite busy. However, if you want to make friends and join the area’s SUP community, that can only be a good thing!
Last but not least in this list of the best SUP beaches in California is good news if you live in LA. Newport Beach is a wonderful place for several water sports, including swimming, snorkelling, and kayaking. One of the best things about Newport Beach’s SUP scene is that there’s a Glow Night Tour from Back Bay. This sees you taking boards out which are lit by LEDs. A truly magical experience!