Best Places to Paddleboard in the United States – California

California Paddleboard Picture
Hello and welcome to our informative series where we list some of our favorite places to paddleboard throughout the United States! For the majority of paddlers, you’re going to have to drive or maybe even fly to find a solid lake, bay, or river to paddle on. Some paddlers want easy access to the water, some want pristine waters that do not allow motor vehicles, and some just want a place they can rent gear from or a combination of all of the above! As such, our series of the best places to paddleboard in the United States tries to take all of that into consideration as we list our top recommended water spots for paddleboarding in all fifty states. While we may not have personally been to all of these spots, the reviews and characteristics of each location, along with their popularity among paddleboarders, is why we feel confident in recommending them.

Today’s post: our top recommended paddleboard locations in California!

1: Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Paddleboard
Located on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is an absolute dream to SUP on given it’s truly crystal clear waters, and beautiful mountainous backdrops surrounding all of the lake. One of the largest and deepest alpine lakes in the world, you will always have something new to explore at Lake Tahoe as it is 191 square miles of beautiful glass water. Lake Tahoe is just a short drive away from Reno and Sacramento, making it easy to drive or fly into for out of state visitors, with multiple vendors ensuring that there’s always a SUP available to rent.

If you are looking for a family friendly, shallow portion of the lake that is easy to get to, you’ll want to check out Sand Harbor. Photographers who want to bring a camera with them and are interested in capturing some great shots of the mountain landscape, launch your SUP from Carnelian Bay. Alternatively, if you want privacy and don’t mind hiking a bit with your paddleboard, we highly recommend going to Emerald Bay for peace and quiet, the cobalt blue water soothing to paddle through and fun little islands great to rest and explore. Wherever you go, you’ll want to dress warmly given how cool the temperatures are year round, with some parts of the lake even getting frozen over during the winter. If you want to experience one of the cleanest lakes in the US and don’t mind the cold though, Lake Tahoe is the place to go for your next SUP adventure!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 249
Distance to Major Cities: 45 Minutes to Reno, 2 Hours to Sacramento
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

2: Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge Paddleboard
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most famous and beloved bridges in the world, a mile long suspension bridge that is truly one of humanity’s greatest engineering marvels. While you can pay to go on a tour or ferry ride around the bridge, why not use a paddleboard instead? You will have to follow specific paths and boundaries as set by the state of California, you can get a unique angle and perspective of the bridge from a SUP that you would never get by just riding a boat. Once you’ve had your fun examining the bridge, you can enjoy the waters or return to shore, cruising or touring the land around Kirby Cove to the North or Crissy Field to the South. Lest we forget surfers, you can start paddling out towards Farallon Islands to try your luck on the waves, though be warned that the San Francisco bay waters are colder compared to what you’ll find in the Los Angeles area. With paddleboard rentals available around Crissy Field, consider viewing the Golden Gate Bridge from the water with a SUP before you leave California!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 259
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to San Francisco
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Limited
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

3: Mission Bay

Mission Bay Paddleboard
The nation’s largest man-made water park, Mission Bay is a fantastic place to visit for several reasons. For those who are just starting to learn how to SUP or have younger paddlers with them, the large 4,200+ acre bay is very accommodating with its warm waters and largely flatwater perfect for helping new paddlers learn how to stand on the water. However, those who have a bit more experience will find Mission Bay well stocked with spotted bay bass, halibut and corvina, with leopard sharks the ultimate challenge for fishers in the area. If you go out a bit more, you can also have fun surfing with a longboard style SUP, or you can tour around and even reach the next destination on our list. Whatever your reason for coming out, there’s a whole lot that Mission Bay in San Diego has to offer!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 266
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to San Diego
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

4: La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove Paddleboard
La Jolla Cove is just about twenty minutes away from Mission Bay by car, but is perfectly reachable by paddleboard with those who have the stamina. However, while a bit farther away and harder to access, this Cove offers some fantastic sights and views that make it worth visiting, especially those already planning on paying Mission Bay a visit. Unlike the man-made Mission Bay, La Jolla Cove retains much of its natural splendor and beauty, being a bit more wild for it and offering greater challenges and adventure to those who visit. For fishers, you’ll find your friendly leopard sharks swimming out here too, but you’ll also encounter fish like Garibaldi (the state fish of California), stingrays, yellowtail, and other larger fish you might not see as often at Mission Bay. As a cove, photographers and those who want to see majestic sights will have fun zipping through crevices and alcoves, water access allowing paddlers to SUP beneath the massive stone arches that litter the beach. The waves are more intense, providing greater challenges for those who want to cruise the waters and longer rides for those who want to surf. As such, we highly recommend visiting La Jolla Cove along with Mission Bay, and to even go from one to the other for a grand adventure if you have a touring board!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 266
Distance to Major Cities: Direct access to San Diego
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available:No

5: Coronado Island/Glorietta Bay

Coronado Island Paddleboard
If you’re coming out to California, you’re coming out in part because you want to relax, get some sun, and enjoy some great beaches. If that’s the case, you want to head out to Coronado Island! Located in Glorietta Bay, this destination offers fantastic beaches with soft, loose sand that will help you warm up before you head out to the friendly waters to cool off when you need to. These waters are very calm most of the year, making it very beginner friendly, or perfect for the guided touring adventures or group yoga sessions that you can undergo from the local vendors. If you want to see something new or interesting, you can paddle around and inspect the Coronado bridge, or just out the local docks to see all sorts of boats, ranging from small fishing skiffs to movie-like yachts to even grand ocean liners. Stick around long enough, and you’ll even get the chance to watch a ship from the US Navy pass through the bay! By paddling out, you’ll also be paddling right into the greater San Diego Bay, offering a ton of water to spread out on and explore. If you need an easy to reach place to get some sun and to relax with the family, we would definitely recommend checking out Coronado Island and Glorietta Bay!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 266
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to San Diego
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

6: Catalina Island

Catalina Island Paddleboard
When people think about the places associated with California, there are several popular names that come up: Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Hollywood, and so forth. However, a less common but just as majestic and beautiful place to visit, especially with a paddleboard, is Catalina Island. You will have to take a ferry to reach it, but once you’re there you’ll be able to paddle around warm, clear ocean water for an experience that you can’t replicate in many other parts of the world. Even better, Catalina Island now has several local vendors that will rent out paddleboards, ensuring you don’t have to bring your own with you, while providing guided tour experiences. Explore the island while listening and learning about the history of the city of Avalon, or take a lesson and try to surf with others once you paddle away from the white sand beaches. If you can get on the ferry and plan out your day properly, Catalina Island is a wonderful, unforgettable location to visit that will truly make your trip the SUP adventure of a lifetime!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 284
Distance to Major Cities: 1 hour to Los Angeles (by Ferry)
Motor Vehicles Allowed: No
Paddleboard Rentals Available: No

7: Huntington Beach State Park

Huntington Beach Paddleboard
There are many places to paddleboard in and around Los Angeles, but one of the most popular is the Huntington Beach State Park. Stretching over two miles long, Huntington is a blast in and off the water, with volleyball and basketball courts, along with other fun activities, that you can engage in when you need a break from paddling. However, once you are ready to get out there on your board, the whole gamut of SUP sports will be available to you. The moderate to good surf, depending on the day, accommodates more experienced paddlers looking for excitement, while sticking near the shore will provide calm, clean water that’s fun to tour and cruise on. Whether you bring your own equipment or rely on the local vendors, you can also get some fishing done as well, or you can have a private paddleboarding lesson to improve your skills. So, if you find yourself in the southern portion of the city, Huntington Beach State Park is definitely worth a trip!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 284
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Los Angeles
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

8: Doheny Beach

Doheny Beach Paddleboard
While Doheny Beach isn’t a great spot for sunbathing or swimming due to water pollution, it is one of the best beaches in California to visit for those who want to get some serious surfing in. Featured in famous songs like “Surfin’ Safari”, “Surfin’ U.S.A..” and “Surfer Joe”, Doheny Beach is on the list for many surfers, paddlers, and other visitors with over 850,000 visitors a year. For those who might not be as interested in surfing, Doheny Beach also has a wide variety of sea like, ranging from friendly octopuses and dolphins to stingrays and the occasional Great White Shark. While you can get a yoga tour in, Doheny State Beach also offers guides that will detail the local wildlife, including birds and fish, with instructors also providing tours while discussing subjects like California state and Native American history. The location is a bit lower on our paddleboard list because the water isn’t as great to swim in, but from the waves to the locals, be it the animals or the people, Doheny Beach is one of California’s most popular beaches for a reason!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 284
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Los Angeles
Motor Vehicles Allowed: In Parts
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

9: Pelican Cove/Rancho Palos Verdes

Pelican Cove Paddleboard
Paddling around the LA area but are sick of the crowds? Or maybe you’re just looking for something more advanced, something that will test your skill as a paddleboarder and take you off the unbeaten path? Whatever your reason, we suggest taking a day to launch from Pelican Cove to explore the coast of Rancho Palos Verdes! Pelican Cove is one of the easier beaches to launch from, while also requiring a bit of a hike in order to dissuade all but dedicated surfers and paddlers. Once you’re there, you can explore the area and see all sorts of marine wonders thanks to the local ‘no-take’ fishing restrictions. If you’re a touring enthusiast, you can head up north and hit the Redondo Beach, another great spot on our list, or eventually visit Abalone Cove Beach to the east for a great place to relax and do some whale watching. You won’t find any paddleboard rental options at Pelican Cove itself, but if you can hike in with your own gear you won’t find many other paddleboarders, or boats even, to disrupt a yoga session either. It’s a bit more out of the ways, but if you want something more unique we definitely suggest heading to Rancho Palos Verdes for a more isolated and private paddling experience.

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 284
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Los Angeles
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

10: Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve

Laguna Beach Paddleboard

The Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve is the ultimate beach to visit for those fascinated by the fish and other marine life that fills our oceans. Dolphins, fur seals, cormorants, whales, sharks, and California’s famous sea lions all live around the area in abundance, giving you something new to look at and discover no matter how often you visit. Once you tire of the marine reserve though, there are a number of smaller nearby beaches that are worth paddling out to for a varied experience. Main Beach sports tide pools and a boardwalk full of restaurants and fun visitor shops for those with money to spend, while Aliso Beach Park is for surf enthusiasts hoping to catch some waves. If you are interested in exploring caves, coves, and caverns, you can navigate over to the Crystal Cove State Park or Laguna Coast Wilderness Park for some truly special sights. It’s a bit spread out, but if you want to stick in one place and get a sample of the beauty of California, Laguna Beach and the State Marine Reserve are definitely worth considering paying a visit to!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 284
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Los Angeles
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

11: Newport Back Bay

Newport Beach Paddleboard
Newport Beach shows off much of the glitz and glamor of California, and with soft sands and great views out into the ocean and of the greater Los Angeles area, there’s not a spot you can go wrong as you paddleboard around it. However, if you want a specific spot you can hit that won’t have you competing with too many paddlers, Newport Back Bay is a more private yet just as beautiful beach that’s worth visiting. There are more than 90 different species of fish that fill the bay, but many visitors check out the bay as several species of migratory birds, flying all the way from Alaska and Canada, tend to rest at Newport Back Bay. With SUP rental options nearby, and other fun diversions and boardwalks easily accessible by paddleboard, there is a ton to explore at Newport Beach for the adventurous paddleboarder!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 284
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Los Angeles
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

12: Redondo Beach

Redondo Beach Paddleboard
Redondo Beach is another paddleboarding bay you can visit while you’re in Los Angeles, but what sets itself apart is the presence of paddleboard experts. If you are truly looking to get professional help improving your SUP ability, or are looking to test paddle some of the best SUP brands in the world, Redondo Beach is the place to visit to become a better paddler. Redondo Beach is also unique in that, between the SUPs themselves and the bright lights of the busy shoreline, it’s just as fun to go out paddling at night as it is during the day. For those who live in California and own epoxy hardboards, multiple vendors in the area even offer long term paddleboard storage, keeping your equipment safe and ready for when you hit the beach. While there aren’t too many memorable sights at Redondo Beach, this is a place brimming with paddleboarders and SUP companies that will help you reach the next level!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 284
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Los Angeles
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

13: Venice Canal Historic District

Venice Canal Paddleboard

There aren’t too many places in America that will let you paddle through neighborhoods and retail locations, but if you want to replicate the truly Italian experience, the Venice Canal Historic District in Los Angeles is the place to do it. There isn’t a paddleboard rental shop right on the water, so you’ll either have to drive a couple miles or bring your own, but once you do have a SUP you can just drop it down into the water almost anywhere and start exploring. The canal waters are perfectly calm most days, but as they are a tad narrow you’ll want to stick with easy to maneuver but stable cruiser boards as you navigate the canals. The Venice Canal Historic district was built back in 1905, with some of the buildings from over a hundred years ago preserved, making them great sights to see for paddlers visiting the historical district. While you might not be able to do much else outside of cruising, it is a unique opportunity to paddle through historic neighborhoods and shopping districts by visiting the Venice Canal Historic District!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 284
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Los Angeles
Motor Vehicles Allowed: No
Paddleboard Rentals Available: No (There are rental options several miles away)

14: Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Malibu Lagoon Paddleboard

Once you’re ready to leave Los Angeles and explore other parts of the state, it’s less than an hour away to drive from the heart of LA to the west to find the Malibu Lagoon State Beach. If you’re a touring enthusiast, the entire coastline of Malibu offers stellar sights of the California ridges and cliffs. Sea Lions often frequent these parts as well, with other cool sites such as pelicans or, if you’re real lucky, blue whales, gray whales, humpback whales, and killer whales! For surfing enthusiasts, the beaches and coastline of Malibu is where world renowned surfer Laird Hamilton made a name for himself, and can still be found surfing to this day! Malibu Lagoon State Beach is the friendly place to launch from, but you’ll find plenty of other great options as you paddle off of the Malibu coastline!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 281
Distance to Major Cities: 1 Hour to Los Angeles
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

15: Santa Barbara Harbor

Santa Barbara Beach Paddleboard

The final location on our list, Santa Barbara Harbor is largely protected by a rock barrier that allows you to have glassy smooth water near the docks, with waves and more intense paddling on the other side of the barrier. Santa Barbara Harbor is one of the best places to take children paddling due to the availability of rentals, the shallow depths near the docks, and an abundance of sea lions you can paddle near. For those who do need a bit more of a challenge, you can paddle past the barrier and get out into the ocean for a more thrilling paddling experience, from touring along Stearns Wharf to catching some waves out at sea. Depending on the traffic, it is a couple hour drive from Los Angeles to get to Santa Barbara if you don’t fly directly to the small city. However, if getting out of the big city is your goal while still experiencing the warm, friendly California ocean, the Santa Barbara Harbor and coastline are a suggestion to keep in mind!

Average Clear Weather Days per Year: 284
Distance to Major Cities: Direct Access to Santa Barbara, 2 hours to Los Angeles
Motor Vehicles Allowed: Yes
Paddleboard Rentals Available: Yes

Conclusion: Plan Your Paddle Board Trip and Have Fun!

Thank you for visiting our top recommended SUPing destinations and beaches in California! As part of our top recommended paddle board destination series, you can look forward to Colorado and other states soon. While we’ve had the chance to visit a few of the locations we’ve recommended, there are many places we suggest based on other paddlers feedback. As such, if you have a favorite place to paddleboard in your state, whether it be in California or in other parts of the US, be sure to leave a comment below or send us an email with your thoughts! Furthermore, if you have a question about paddleboarding in general, from the equipment you should be using to how to improve your skill and technique, we are happy to discuss those topics as well. Lastly, if you want to visit some of the best paddleboarding locations in the whole of the US, be sure to visit our top fifteen paddleboard locations in the United States list!

Otherwise, we want to thank you again for reading! We hope you stay safe, have fun, and enjoy the water on your next paddleboarding adventure!

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SupBoardGuide

Heyo! At SupBoardGuide.com we are a team who love the water, the outdoors, and are more than grateful that our full-time job allows us to review stand up paddle boards. We paddle year round (it helps that we are just about 2 hours outside of Las Vegas), and we bring in a wide range of paddlers with the goal of providing our readers with the best, most in-depth, and accurate stand up paddle board reviews.

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