The Best Places to Paddleboard in the US

The Best Places to Paddleboard in the US

Overlooks and hiking trails are nice and all, but there’s nothing like viewing the world from the water. And stand-up paddling boarding–for its comfort, maneuverability, and easy access–may be the best vessel for exploring some of the most beautiful places on the planet.

The United States abounds with amazing SUP spots, and with so many options for rentals and guided tours, you can paddle across the country without owning a board!

As always, your interests and skill level determine how to prepare and what you’ll most enjoy, but–whether novice or pro–here’s your “need-to-know” on the best places to paddleboard in the US:

Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

Rentals: Yes (starting as low as $30/hr.)

Board Preference: Touring

Lake Tahoe’s water purity rating is only .04% lower than bottled water. A shared drinking source by California and Nevada, its glassy waters are a convenient 45 minute drive from Reno, NV or two hours from Sacramento, CA.

Enjoy consistently clear weather and calm water along the entire shoreline in the 600ft. no-wake zone, plus the respect of boaters who must maintain 5mph within 100ft. of any paddlers. On the open water, you can take in the surrounding views of Genoa, Diamond, Dicks, and Monument Peaks, or in the shallows, look all the way down at the boulders below.

All-around boards may help navigate the abundant shoreline rock formations, but a touring board is your best bet if you want to see as much of its roughly 192-square mile span as you can.

Hawaii

Rentals: Yes

Board Preference: Any


A trip to Hawaii for paddleboarding is a journey to the mecca. But unless you’re Kai Lenny–or want to witness incredible big-wave boarding–we recommend you visit in the summer when the waves are mild.

Surfing, touring, yoga, and leisurely play (i.e. snorkeling, sea-turtle, manta-ray, and dolphin spotting) are all at your fingertips on Hawaii’s 3 main islands.

With rentals and pristine waters just about anywhere you go, you can run the gamut of paddle boarding urges.

Each island has unique possibilities, but here are a few unforgettable options:

Oahu:

  • Ala Moana Beach Park – Clean, urban beach on Honolulu’s coast for an easy afternoon on the water between meetings.
  • Puaena Point
  • Lanikai Islands
  • Sunset Beach and Waimea bay – Four miles of touring possibilities

between them; not for beginners.

Maui:

  • Kapalua Bay – All-around boards recommended for laid back paddling and viewing underwater life.

Kona: Touring boards recommended for sightseeing and cove hopping.

  • Kealakekua Bay
  • Keauhou Bay

Page, AZ – Colorado River Float, Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry

Rentals: Yes

Board Preference: Touring

Shuttles: Yes (starting at $80)

A hidden gem (for now), this 16-mile float tour down the Colorado River between the

sun-soaked, red cliffs of Glen Canyon and around the famous “Horseshoe Curve” to Lee’s Ferry in Marble Canyon, AZ is as memorable as it sounds.

Paddling well, this float can be done in one, 7-8 hour, day. Or, pack for a more leisurely overnight tour and camp along the banks of the Colorado at multiple, free, first-come-first-serve campsites. A shuttle boat drops you off upriver within earshot of the Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell, then paddle with the current at a pleasant pace–enjoying paddle board-friendly rapids and occasional motorboat wakes–to your eventual landing back at Lee’s Ferry.

Expect heat and little shade. Lots of water or a water filter are crucial. The earlier you start, the better conditions are likely to be. You might miss the annoying afternoon headwinds, and you’ll have more time to take a dip or stop to see the Ancient Anasazi Petroglyphs–a quick hike off the riverbank about halfway through the trip. There’s a lot to love about this.

San Diego, CA – Mission Bay

Rentals: Yes  (starting at $25/ hour)

Board Preference: All-Around

Considered by some as the paddle board capital of the continental US, San Diego’s near

flawless weather and long list of put-in locations make it one of the best SUP cities in the world.

Mission Bay–an urban beach ten minutes from downtown San Diego and fifteen from

the airport–claims fame as one of the world’s largest man-made saltwater bays. Lined with 19 miles of sand beaches, there are endless areas to launch, but one popular park is Bonita Cove.

The minimal wind, calm water, and easy rental availability are all reasons it has become the city’s go-to destination for stillwater SUP sports like fishing and yoga. With its enthusiastic boarding community and close proximity to the city (population 1.4 million), groups traveling together will find there’s something here for everyone.

Florida Keys, FL – Mangroves

Rentals: Yes

Board Preference: Touring

If you arrived in Miami, Fl and decided to take your board no further, you wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s one of the United States’ top paddle boarding cities. But drive about an hour and a half farther south to the Florida Keys, and somehow things get even better.

Mangroves–tidal swamps made of tropical vegetation by the same name–populate vast areas of Florida Keys coastline, creating other-worldly paddle boarding playgrounds. The density of these shady lanes provides protection from the harsh Florida sun and heat for you and thousands of birds and aquatic species like barracuda, octopuses, and manatees.

Despite the humid conditions, the glassy water limits the need for exhaustive

paddling. And for first-timers, many tours are available to help find and navigate the potentially tricky pathways.

Seward, AK – Bear Glacier Lagoon

Rentals: Yes

Board Preference: Touring

Shuttles: Yes

It’s natural for most SUPers to have a “swimsuits and suntans” mindset, but navigating the icebergs of Bear Glacier will provide you with a brand new outlook.

Glaciers shaped the geography of Seward, Alaska–a 2.5-hour drive south of 

Anchorage. And Bear Glacier, in Kenai Fjords National Park, is the largest in the area. Only accessible by Helicopter or water taxi, the gentle waters of this saltwater lagoon are protected from waves by the 12-mile ice tongue. Wildlife includes sea lions, brown bears, goats, Humpback and Orca whales, and puffins, among many others.

This trip is for advanced borders, and it’s recommended you take a guided tour. Regardless of the air temperature, which varies depending on the season, the glacial waters remain ice cold year-round and make drysuits essential. Fortunately, many tours provide these, too.

Acadia National Park, ME

Rentals: Yes (Starting at $36)

Board Preference: All-arounds for Sand Beach and Harbors, Touring for Lakes

and Bays

Shuttles: Yes

Honoring the final of all four corners of the United States, complete your journey with a summertime stop in Acadia National Park. Local and state governments have done a remarkable job preserving its natural wonders while creating a welcoming and vibrant tourism culture.

There is camping and/or lodging available at all three of the park’s harbor towns, ferry boats with ample sightseeing (Harbor porpoise, Harbor seals, and Bald eagles) connecting them across the Mt. Desert Narrows, and a free shuttle bus to all of the various beaches.

Bring your board virtually anywhere–there are tours and independent launches for each adventure you choose. Tour the coastal rocks and cliffs on the colder harbors, bays, and beaches, or go inland on the much warmer lakes to be surrounded by the dense pine forests. Build a hunger, then satisfy it with fresh Maine blueberries and lobster tail.

Willow Beach, AZ – Emerald Cove

Rentals: Yes

Board Preference: Touring

Aptly named, Emerald Cove has strikingly bright, emerald green water.

A short paddle up a calm stretch of the Colorado River from the Willow Beach campground and marina, the cove has become such a popular sight that you might have to wait in line for other paddlers to work their way in and out–so bring some refreshments. You’ll also want a headlamp and flash on your camera phone, as the cove itself–a blacked-out cave–requires artificial light to appreciate its color.

As usual, board rentals and tours are available at the Willow Beach Marina, which is just under an hour drive from Las Vegas, NV. Expect clear skies, with temperatures shifting about 20-30 degrees between day and night.

Uncertain, TX – Caddo Lake a.k.a. “Uncertain Swamp”

Rentals: Yes

Board Preference: Touring

There aren’t many natural lakes in Texas, so it follows that Caddo Lake–one of the few that is–should be extraordinary. The “Uncertain Swamp” should be a SUP bucket list item because, simply, there is nowhere else like it.

Swamp creatures (otters, owls, occasional alligators, and frequent Bigfoot sightings) and vegetation–specifically the Spanish moss festooning all the cypress trees–create the feeling you’re ducking your way through the muck of an alternative universe in an episode of Stranger Things. This lake leads to 10 other paddling trails, amounting to over 50 miles of touring available.

The weather is generally clear, but expect to deal with bayou heat and humidity. Camping is available nearby, and Shreveport, LA is a 45-minute drive away. Easily accessible as a part of Caddo Lake State Park, rentals are available privately and at park headquarters.

Salt Lake City, UT – The Great Salt Lake

Rentals: Yes

Board Preference: Any

Underrepresented as a paddle boarding destination, SUPing Utah’s Great Salt Lake is a beautiful experience worth doing before it’s too late. The largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere is a stone’s throw (25-minute drive) from booming Salt Lake City, Utah, and is now in danger of drying out due to drought and overuse.

Breezes sweep over its surface between the surrounding Rocky Mountain peaks, but the shallow water (avg. 13 feet deep) remains generally calm, making it easy to relax, develop your skills, do yoga, tour the coast, or paddle out to Antelope Island for a sunset picnic with native bison and antelope.

The dense salt content is known to reflect light with unique vibrance, so look out for this feature as well. The summer heat can be rough, but winters are more mild and less crowded as people head for the mountains to ski. So this may be a good opportunity to don your dry suit and cherish the lake to yourself.

FAQ

Frequently asked questions

What should I take touring on a paddle board?

The best paddle board accessories for touring include a personal floatation device (PFD); Camelback, water filter, or another space-efficient water source; a camera phone with a waterproof case; and a dry bag with high-density snacks, patch kit (for inflatables) and other key camp supplies depending on the length of your tour (knife, floating flashlight or headlamp w/ batteries for cave exploration, waterproof matches, nesting pots/cookware, paracord, etc).

What’s the best city for paddle boarding?

For the highest numbers of easy-access, beautiful paddleboarding opportunities close to town, Miami, FL; San Diego, CA; Oahu, HI; and Seattle, WA are the best cities for paddle boarding.

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