The best spots to SUP in California
That’s right – we just did all the dirty work for you. We found the 5 best spots in California for you to paddle board. You will now get to spend less time researching and more time planning your next California SUP excursion. You can thank us later. Here are the hands-down best spots to paddle board in California.
The best places to paddle board in California
- La Jolla Cove, San Diego
- Lake Tahoe
- Catalina Island
- Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
1. La Jolla Cove
Best time to visit: June-November is best for water clarity, flourishing marine life and perfect weather
Crowd factor: The summer will be packed with kayak, SUP, snorkel and scuba tours. Early fall is going to be your best bet for empty waters.
Parking: Easy access. Park at La Jolla Shores, it has a massive free parking lot.
San Diego is home to many of California’s top paddle board spots, but La Jolla Cove holds the crown for being the very best. La Jolla Cove has the complete package: beautiful scenery, water clarity over 30 feet deep and frequent sightings of diverse marine life. You can view vibrant Garibaldi (California’s state fish), leopard sharks (August is peak viewing season), stingrays, yellowtail and other friendly fishes year round. Keep your eyes peeled for a whole crowd of sea lions and seals on the cliffs of the cove. You can’t miss them because they like to yell a lot.
2. Lake Tahoe, Northern California
Best time to visit: April-May and September-November
Crowd factor: July- early September is packed with beach goers. April -May and late September- November is prime time for less crowds.
Parking: Depends on where you paddle, the lake is huge! Most spots have easy parking & launch spots.
Located on the border of Northern California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is arguably one of the most beautiful spots to paddle board in California. The water clarity of Lake Tahoe is unreal – similar to a remote Caribbean island, but surrounded by tall forest green trees, mountains and giant boulders. If you want to wow your friends and family with paddle board photos, this is one of the best places to do so.
Best places to paddle board in Lake Tahoe
- Crystal Bay
- Sugar Pine Point State Park
- L Bliss State Park
- Emerald Bay
- Timber Cove Pier
- Tahoe City
3. Catalina Island, Southern California
Best time to visit: April – May and July – October
Crowd factor: Visiting in the early spring and late fall will help you escape the summer crowds.
Once you step off the ferry, you will be amazed that such a gorgeous island is so close to California’s shoreline. This 22-mile archipelago (1 of 8 Channel Islands) is a paddle boarding mecca. Catalina is nothing short of amazing views, crystal clear waters and a captivating history. There are many fun coves and harbors to discover while paddle boarding. Be sure to book a few nights in Avalon to experience Catalina in its truest form.
Best places to paddle board in Catalina
- Avalon Bay to White Rock – 1 mile
- Avalon Bay to Frog Rock – 1.5 miles
- Avalon Bay to Toyon Bay/Willow Cove – 3 miles
- Avalon Bay to Two Harbors – 12 miles
4. Monterey, Central California
Best time to visit: May – October
Crowd factor: Summers are packed. Sneak a visit right before and after the summer begins to score empty waters.
Parking: Depends on where you paddle, the Monterey region is jam packed with jaw dropping SUP locations. Most places have easy parking & launch spots.
Monterey is the central coast gem of paddle boarding in California. It’s near some of the most magnificent seascapes in all of California – Big Sur, Carmel and Santa Cruz just to name a few. The drive around this region will be just as breathtaking as the paddle. Grab all your camping gear and inflatables because this sector of California offers some of the best campgrounds in the United States.
Best spots to paddle board in Monterrey
- Carmel Beach
- Big Sur
- Monterrey Wharf
- Santa Cruz
5. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Best time to visit: July – October
Crowd factor: August will be the busiest and fall will be the most mellow.
Parking: There is free parking at Horseshoe Bay (located right near the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge) at Golden Gate Recreational Area. There’s a ramp for a simple launch.
To view the Golden Gate Bridge from your paddle board is quite the treat. You get the chance to view northern California’s rugged coastline with the backdrop of San Francisco’s skyline.
There is one main area to paddle the bay, which is at Horseshoe Cove next to Fort Baker. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can paddle north from the bay to Marin Headlands where there are secluded beaches to stop and enjoy lunch and take in the views. Please keep in mind that the water moving around the bridge can be extremely dangerous some days so its important to take note of the winds and currents. Also, always be conscious of boats, kite surfer’s, kayaks, etc. This place can get busy on those beautiful sunny days.