Paddle boarding – a water sport loved by many, far and wide. Not only is it a perfect activity to build strength and endurance, but it is also great for those who wish to explore the magnificent bodies of water and scenery spread out throughout the United States.
Whether you’re looking to push the limits and use paddle boarding as the ideal fitness activity, or to just simply chill out and relax in nature, your location should never be short of gorgeous. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-timer out on the water, or an experienced paddler, we’ve got something for all the adventure seekers out there… categorized by region, and then by ocean/lake/river. Keep reading to see our top picks for the best stand-up paddle boarding destinations across the U.S.!
What Makes A Good SUP Destination?
You may be wondering how to determine what a good stand up paddle boarding destination looks like. It all comes down to personal preference (and what kind of paddling you want to do). If you’re in a new location, it is always beneficial to read up on it and know what to expect before you get on the water.
If you’re not really sure where to start, here are a list of questions to ask when on the hunt for the perfect location:
- What kind of climate does the location have?
- How do you access the body of water?
- Are there paddle boards to rent?
- Does the location provide a more relaxing experience, or a fast-paced one? (AKA flatwater, moving water, or whitewater?)
- What kind of wildlife is in the area?
- Do you need a permit?
- Is it a busy or remote location?
Luckily, in this article, we will answer a lot of those questions for you concerning the locations we’ve listed. But, if you happen to be trying out a location not on our list, those are some good topics to research before you get out there.
And now that we’ve covered some of the basics, we can finally tell you about our favorite places to stand up paddle board in the U.S.!
Western United States
San Diego, California
Sunny Southern California… the ideal place to participate in watersports year round. Even in the winter months, it is not at all uncommon to see people partaking in paddle boarding, kayaking, jet skiing, and even just relaxing on the beach. Summers are hot, sunny, and absolutely perfect for paddle boarding, especially when you get too sweaty and need a quick dip in the water to refresh yourself. But should you happen to come in the winter months, don’t fret, as the weather is typically still warm enough during the daylight hours (bring a light sweater just in case!).
Mission Bay, the most popular spot for watersports in the San Diego area, is the perfect setting for those who want everything within reach. With the calm waters and low winds, beginner paddlers thrive on the man-made bay area of San Diego. Should you happen to not bring your own paddleboard, don’t worry, because there are more than enough paddleboard rental shops stationed on the bay. If you’re looking for a place to launch your paddleboard, try Bonita Cove, a family friendly beach area with lots of shoreline, easily accessible from Mission Bay Drive.
La Jolla Cove is another popular paddle boarding location within San Diego. The beautiful sandy cliffs and jewel colored waters make for quite the photo worthy scene. Not only that, but if you head out past the wave crests, you’re likely to catch a glimpse of all kinds of wildlife, such as sea lions, otters, and even sea turtles! Launch your paddle board off of Avenida De La Playa, at the La Jolla Shores Boat Launch, a beachfront location where boats and other watercraft are welcome to head out from. Another plus – there are paddle board rentals!
All this and more make San Diego one of the best paddle boarding locations in the U.S. Another pro… no permits are required. If you love the vibes and climate of Southern California, make this your next SUP adventure!
Puget Sound, Washington
The Pacific Northwest is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. There is no shortage of places to hike, bike, climb, camp, and of course, paddleboard. The Puget Sound, an inlet part of the Pacific Ocean, is home to a multitude of wildlife, including orcas, sea lions, sea otters, and more. While the areas in and around Seattle can get quite busy, it is still easily one of the most gorgeous spots to paddle board.
Ideal times of the year to head out on the water are between May and September, with the winter months being cold, rainy, and overcast. In the summertime, particularly in June and July, temperatures can get up to 90 degrees fahrenheit with beautiful clear skies.
If you’re looking for a place to launch off and get going out on the water, try Alki Beach, a family friendly spot with views of the Seattle skyline. They also have paddle board rentals, so if you don’t bring your own, have no fear, rentals are located at the Seacrest Boathouse! Be careful and watch out for boats and ferries, and be sure to yield to them as needed. Take all safety precautions, and keep in mind that even on warmer days, the water of the Sound can remain as cold as 45 degrees fahrenheit. Wear a life jacket and have a stable paddle board to prevent toppling over into the water. Another good piece of information: in the state of Washington, paddle boards are considered “vessels”, and must abide by boating laws, so do your research to make sure you’re following proper safety rules and regulations.
Also, keep in mind that parts of the Puget Sound are better suited for more experienced paddlers. In the bay area, waters remain calm and flat, but in other parts of the Sound, there are faster moving waters and/or whitewater.
If you’re looking for a stand up paddle boarding destination that has the mountains, trees, and a breathtaking city skyline, then the Puget Sound should be your next SUP adventure.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
For the brave adventurers who want to experience the magic of an arctic wonderland, check out Glacier Bay, Alaska. A range covered in ice caps, islands, and glaciers, it makes for one of the most breathtaking paddle boarding spots we’ve ever seen. Located just inland of the Pacific Ocean, this wintery location is filled to the brim with adventure, and is sure to make for the ultimate story to tell your friends and family when you return. Reservations and permits are required, so be sure to purchase one in advance before setting out into the park. Read more about operating standards concerning paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes here.
Getting into Glacier Bay is a tad bit more complicated compared to our other locations, but absolutely is worth it for those willing to make the journey. It is usually best to fly into Juneau, Alaska, and then take either an air taxi or ferry to the National Park.
Unfortunately, there are no paddle board rentals available in Glacier Bay, so either bring your own or rent from a nearby town/city, such as Juneau. Check out one of our picks for paddleboard rentals in Juneau here. However, there are tours available for those who want to experience the beauty of Glacier Bay with the knowledge that a guide can give. It can be difficult to navigate the twists and turns of the waters on your own, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area! Before heading out on the water, remember to dress very warmly, preferably in a drysuit, which will keep body heat trapped inside, and water out. The temperatures are extremely cold, with the water being just above freezing. You definitely don’t want to fall in!
While the prospect of paddling in Glacier Bay may seem a bit daunting to some, for those up to the challenge, it is more than worth it. Experience the surreal views of the Alaskan glaciers, take the chance at seeing some local wildlife, and come back home to tell the story of the best SUP trip yet!
Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is one of the most dreamiest places to visit, especially for the outdoor enthusiast (which is, of course, why we added it to our list). With its crystal clear, sapphire and emerald waters and mountain ranges, it is easily one of the most picturesque places in the U.S. Lake Tahoe is also super accessible, and since it lies on the California and Nevada borders, it is easy to fly into either Reno or Sacramento, and make the short drive to the lake.
While you don’t need a permit to paddleboard in Lake Tahoe, several established recreation areas will require a screening of your watercraft (if you bring your own). This is due to the prevention of aquatic invasive species in Lake Tahoe, but don’t worry, it’s free!
Being that it is one of the largest alpine lakes in the United States, there are several different places around the lake where you can head into the water on your paddle boarding adventure. On the Northeastern edge, you’ll find Sand Harbor, a shallow beach area perfect for families or those looking for an easier spot for a send-off. The Southwestern edge of the lake will be where you find Emerald Bay, the ideal spot for those who desire a more peaceful, private paddle boarding experience (as long as you don’t mind a short hike). On the Northwestern edge of Lake Tahoe, you’ll find Carnelian Bay, which is close to several stores, cafes, and lodging, and the Southeastern edge of the lake will be where you find El Dorado Beach, perfect for beginner paddle boarders.
Now, Lake Tahoe’s temperatures can certainly get pretty cold, so make sure to dress warm when you visit. July is the only month of the year here where temperatures rise to up to 80 degrees fahrenheit. So if you’re more of a cool weather person, Lake Tahoe is perfect for you, but if not, bundle up!
That being said, if you aren’t afraid of colder weather, and are looking for that beautiful alpine setting, Lake Tahoe is most certainly the way to go for your next SUP adventure.
Lake Powell, Arizona
There is nothing more magical than paddling deep into the red rock slot canyons and turquoise waters of Lake Powell, Arizona. Despite its being a man-made lake, it remains to be one of the most popular and breathtaking spots Arizona has to offer. With over 160,000 square acres of ground (or water, rather) to cover, it can be difficult to explore every inch and crevice of this beautiful lake. But no matter what, every second you spend here will be nothing short of blissful.
With the warm climate of Arizona making this lake a go-to, especially in the summer months, many come from all around for kayaking, boating, paddle boarding, and more. Being able to enjoy the sun and maybe get a tan is a huge plus side to this SUP location. As for rental options, a downside is that paddle board rentals are available only in Page, Arizona, about 15 minutes from Lake Powell, so make sure you have a means of transportation to get your paddleboards to and from the lake!
How do you get to Lake Powell? This is a common question asked of those looking to travel here. Many people, especially Arizona natives, just make the drive from wherever they live. Others in surrounding areas may also do the same. Those who are traveling from farther away, however, usually fly into the airport located just 1 mile outside Page, which has flights going to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
The best place for paddlers to launch their paddle boards is at Antelope Point Marina, where you can then head deeper into the slot canyons for a more remote, quiet experience. Areas around the marina typically are a bit more crowded and noisy due to the abundance of boats and other watercraft. Before launching though, be sure to purchase the one-week vehicle permit to enter the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (only $30), which takes care of parking, camping, and launching within the park boundaries.
If you love the wild serenity of the Southwest, and are looking for the perfect spot within the desert to bask in the sunlight while still staying cool, look no further and head out to Lake Powell for your next SUP adventure!
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park is home to more than 100 lakes that are accessible for paddleboarders. Arguably one of the most beautiful national parks America has to offer, the snow capped mountain ranges and western feel of the Grand Tetons make this a location you won’t soon forget. Paddle through one of the many lakes throughout the park and experience the freedom of the west in its true form.
Jackson Lake, one of the biggest lakes in the national park, is perfect for stand up paddle boarders who want to try windsurfing. If you’re from out of state or don’t have your own paddle boards, check out Half Moon Bay for paddle board rentals and tours! For those who want a softer, smoother experience, Two Ocean Lake is a top pick, but don’t let these suggestions stop you from exploring the lakes of the Grand Tetons and finding your own place to play. All lakes in the park are accessible to paddle boarders, and a permit isn’t required. Just pay your entrance fee to the park and you’re good to go!
If you’re wondering when to visit, the best time of year in the Grand Tetons is from mid-May to late September, as in the winter months, many roads are blocked off due to snow and ice. Winters get cold, so go when summer is at its peak and you’ll have the best time of your life! Also keep in mind that the nearest major airport is two hours away, but should you need lodging, there are multitudes of places to camp and stay within the park.
We didn’t add this location to our list for nothing! The stunning backdrop of the Grand Teton mountain range is nothing short of magnificent. Go find your inner cowboy (or cowgirl) and ride the waves on the lakes in this beautifully majestic national park.
Hanalei River, Hawaii
While Hawaii is a place fit for all the paddle board lovers out there, we have to say, one of the best places to paddle board is up the Hanalei River, located on the island of Kauai. The calm waters of the river make it the best choice for beginner paddlers, and we can promise it will be nothing short of amazing, surrounded by lush green foliage, exotic flowers, and wildlife.
Several different paddle board rental shops are available along Kuhio Highway, right off the Hanalei River. You can launch paddle boards from Kayak Hanalei, a shop located very conveniently on the river itself, making it easy to head right into the water. Permits are required for SUP instruction, not for recreational use, however, it may be beneficial to double check with locals to ensure permits are not required for when you decide to go. And don’t forget, when utilizing these areas, be respectful of locals and take care of the land. Leave it better!
As for Hawaii temperatures, they stay relatively the same all year, with highs in the 70’s and lows in the high 50’s, low 60’s. The tropical climate of the Hawaiian islands makes it one of the most ideal locations for year-round outdoor activities, especially paddle boarding.
For those on the hunt for a calm, serene paddle boarding location, we highly suggest checking out the Hanalei River. With its stunning tropical forests and smooth moving waters, there is nothing that a paddle boarder wouldn’t love. Delve into the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands and cross this location off your SUP destination list!
Southern/Eastern United States
Outer Banks, South Carolina
The Outer Banks, paradise on earth. As the setting for a popular Netflix Original TV Show, the Outer Banks of North Carolina have taken the United States by storm, growing in popularity. Stand up paddle boarding has become one of the hottest new trends on the islands, and rental shops and instructors are available throughout.
Whether you want a calm, relaxing experience just paddling through the marshes at sunset, or a challenge, catching the waves at midday, the Outer Banks has it all. Getting to the islands is easy, just catch a flight (or drive) into Raleigh, and drive across a few short bridges to get to the islands. If you don’t want to drive, you can catch a ferry from a city along the coastline, and head to the islands through those means.
Each beach has a different requirement for permits and such, so be sure to do your research beforehand before heading out with your paddle boards. You don’t want to get an unnecessary ticket! Also, when out on the water, beware of alligators and Great White sharks, as they tend to be found often around the warmer waters off the North Carolina coast. There is a lot of different wildlife in the Outer Banks, so practice safety when in the presence of these animals, and leave their habitat as you found it!
Boat ramps in Corolla, Kitty Hawk Village, and Duck are all popular launching destinations for paddle boarders, as well as the Carova 4×4 beaches, right off the Atlantic Ocean. Temperatures in the Outer Banks can get as low as 50 degrees fahrenheit for a high, and as high as 86 degrees fahrenheit in the summer months. Water temperatures fluctuate between 48 and 80 degrees fahrenheit depending on the time of year, so be mindful of when you are going paddling, and be sure to wear the proper attire.
The Southern island charm of the Outer Banks makes it a delightful place to embark on a paddle boarding adventure, for those of all skill levels. We highly suggest crossing this one off your bucket list!
Florida Keys, Florida
Looking for a tropical wonderland with miles upon miles of sandy beaches and the most crystal clear, turquoise waters found in Southern Florida? Look no further, because we’ve added the Florida Keys to our list of top places to stand up paddle board.
The Keys are easily accessible, with just a one and a half hour drive from Miami, with lodging up and down the archipelago. As the Florida Keys is one of the most popular SUP locations in the U.S., there are a multitude of paddle board rental shops from the Northern end to the southernmost end. People from all over the world come to the Keys to experience the tropical beauty of this part of America, and for good reason. Year-round tropical temperatures and gorgeous sunny days don’t have anyone leaving from the southernmost tip of the east coast unsatisfied.
Try heading out to SUP in Bahia Honda State Park, a very popular spot for paddle boarding in the Florida Keys, or Stock Island, a picturesque destination where you can paddle through mangroves and hopefully glimpse some local wildlife.
By the way, paddle boards are considered “vessels” by the U.S. Coast Guard, so life vests are to be worn at all times, and a sound device such as a whistle is required when using a paddle board. Be safe and follow the safety guidelines and rules to have the best SUP experience out there!
Perfect for those looking to find their inner pirate, the Florida Keys make for the hottest SUP destination in the continental U.S. If you want to cross “coastal paddle boarding” off your SUP bucket list, this is most definitely your next SUP destination!
Caddo Lake, Texas
If you aren’t afraid of the occasional alligator (or Bigfoot), Caddo Lake is a sight worth seeing, located on the Texas and Louisiana border. The muddy and vegetation filled waters of the bayou make for both an eerie and gorgeous destination, with cypress trees hanging with spanish moss towering over you as you paddle along. This destination is popular for hunters, especially those who hunt mythical creatures such as Bigfoot, with several reports even claiming to have seen Bigfoot! But besides the occasional “creatures” wandering about, there is an abundance of other wildlife that lives in and around Caddo lake, including beavers, owls, bobcats, otters, and a few alligators here and there.
Temperatures in Caddo Lake get as high as 95 degrees fahrenheit, with up to 80% humidity. In the winter months, temperatures can get as low as 35 degrees fahrenheit, with up to 76% humidity. For some, the humidity is one major con to the Southern states, but it is worth it to endure the stickiness and delve deep into the bayou to have the experience of a lifetime. It’s something everyone should cross off their bucket list!
Luckily, Caddo Lake is only 30 minutes from Shreveport, Louisiana, and about 3 hours from Dallas, Texas, making it not super difficult to get to. Before you arrive, make sure to have purchased a recreation permit, as the Caddo Lake Wildlife Management does require them. There are two types of permits available, the Annual Public Hunting Permit, and the Limited Public Use permit, which you can purchase here.
When you arrive, you can launch your paddle board from the Canoe/Kayak Launch, located on the Northwestern edge of the lake. Unfortunately, paddle board rentals are not available, but canoe and kayak rentals are. When around the water, always be sure to keep an eye out for alligators and other wildlife, and practice proper safety precautions to avoid accidents. Remember, this is their habitat, so keep a safe distance away and be respectful of their space!
If you aren’t afraid to brave the eerie waters of Caddo Lake, and are looking to get the ultimate experience paddling in one of the few bayous in the Southern U.S., be sure to make this your next SUP adventure, and cross it off your bucket list!
Everglades National Park, Florida
The largest tropical wilderness in the nation, the Everglades is a true treat for the dedicated paddle boarders out there. The plethora of mangrove tunnels, bays, creeks, rivers, and open water makes it a paddler’s paradise (and you can quote us on that).
Definitely bring your own board, as rental shops in the area rent out kayaks and canoes, but paddle board rentals are typically hard to come by. And while permits are not required for paddle boarders, there is an entrance fee you must pay to enter the national park. From there, there are more than enough canoe and kayak trails spread throughout the park, where you can launch your paddle board from. The Flamingo Marina is an easy access point to launch from to get to the Flamingo Paddling Trails, while the Gulf Coast Visitor Center is a launch point perfect for those working their way to the Gulf Coast Paddling Trails. Check with a park ranger to see where the best trails are for your needs, and they can surely help you in the direction you’re seeking, and give you any other information that is important to know. There is no shortage of beautiful foliage and wildlife to see in the Everglades, so take it all in and enjoy every blissful moment. Weather does change very quickly though, however, so make note of the skies throughout the day and be sure to check weather predictions before heading out on the water.
The Everglades has one of the most diverse ecosystems in the United States, and is most definitely one of the most picturesque, unique SUP destinations you can find. Be sure to add this one to your list (we did)!
Manhattan, New York
The Big Apple is probably the last place you would think to do any sort of outdoor activity, but Manhattan (or more specifically, the Hudson River) is one of the most popular places in the country to SUP. Maybe it’s the promise of a bustling city filled with diverse food selections and art museums waiting just on land, perfect for an after SUP adventure, or that magnificent New York City skyline, but we had to add this one to our list.
Temperatures get super cold in the winter months, so it is definitely best to head out on the water in the spring and summer when it is much warmer. The water remains fairly cold year round though, so be wary of that as you set out on your adventure. Not only is it super easy to access the river from a multitude of beaches around Manhattan and other boroughs, but there are also paddle board rentals as well. Which is probably good, when you think about it, because New York apartments probably don’t have much space for an entire paddle board. Paddle boarders are also required to have a permit before heading out on the water, so be sure to purchase one beforehand to avoid any complications.
The Hudson River is a very smooth moving river, but should you want a little bit more of a challenge, head to the Manhattan Community Boathouse to try your hand at some rapids. There are even SUP yoga classes you can take, and museum boats that you can maybe get a glimpse at as you paddle by. And while you’re in the city, be sure to paddle underneath the Brooklyn Bridge to really make your SUP adventure something special. Give us the benefit of the doubt, paddle boarding through Manhattan is one experience you’re not going to want to leave unchecked.
Columbia River, Oregon
Despite the cold weather and rainy conditions, this location is pure beauty. Accessible from Vancouver, Washington or Portland, Oregon, if you’re a fisher and are looking to try your hand at SUP fishing, definitely set sail and get paddling on the Columbia River!
Great Lakes, Minnesota/Michigan/Illinois/Ohio
They aren’t called the Great Lakes for nothing, let us tell you that. With miles and miles of water, and islands in between, these lakes make for nothing short of a surreal SUP experience. Whether you’re a midwest local, or an out of state traveler, there’s something for everyone, so head out there and cross this one off your bucket list!
Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park, Colorado
For the thrill seekers, head out to Glenwood Springs for the whitewater SUP experience of your dreams! Easily accessible for paddle boarders and kayakers alike, this location is exactly what you adrenaline junkies are looking for. With the Colorado River spanning over 1,400 miles, there really is no end in sight!
The United States is home to some of the most magnificent and surreal places out there, and we wanted to share some of them with you. Thank you for reading about our top destinations, and we more than hope that one of them speaks to you and you get out there and go enjoy what nature has to offer. If you have any tips, tricks, or info for any of these locations, or have a place you’d like to see on a future list, don’t hesitate to send us an email or comment down below. We love to hear from you!
Again, thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for future articles like this one!
And don’t forget – follow proper safety precautions and always do your research before setting out to explore a new location. Happy exploring!
Lily Macnab is a fierce lover of the outdoors, as well as photography, reading, and writing. She spends her time traveling in her van part-time, spending the other half of her days attending school, on the path to receiving a bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is a dedicated writer and photographer, taking immense pride in her work, and enjoys learning and growing in her crafts. Winner of several awards for her photography and academics, she hopes to continue to incorporate her passions and talents more and more as she delves deeper into the world of the outdoors and its community.