California's coastline is famous for a reason. Take a drive along the famed Pacific Coast Highway and you'll be treated to stunning scenery, peeling waves, delicious dinners, and endless places to pull off for a quick paddle. Here are five of our top picks.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. Here are the hands-down best spots to paddle board in California.
The best places to paddle board in California
1. La Jolla Cove
- La Jolla Cove, San Diego
- Lake Tahoe
- Catalina Island
- Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
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.
Stand up paddle boarding is the fastest growing water sport in the world and there’s no better place to get your feet wet than sunny San Diego, where the weather is perfect and the views are incredible. La Jolla’s Ecological reserve offers many treasures to find and explore.Be sure to say hello to the sea lions, leopard sharks, garibaldi and other marine inhabitants from up above!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.
Lake Tahoe is one of the clearest, largest, and deepest alpine lakes in the entire world. The cold winters and cool water temperatures keep the lake’s clarity extremely high. This clarity and the famed blue color of the lake, make Tahoe the perfect place to paddleboard. With one of the heaviest winters on record coming to an end, the lake is full to the brim of fresh, cold, glassy water, waiting for you! Throw in a pine tree-rimmed shoreline and a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, and Lake Tahoe stands apart as one of the most unique paddleboard destinations in the world.The best places to paddle board in Tahoe South
3. Catalina Island, Southern California
- D.L. Bliss State Park:
- Emerald Bay
- Kiva Beach
- Cave Rock
- Lakeview Commons
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.
Parking: Unfortunately, you can’t drive to Catalina. You can either take a short ferry ride from Dana Point or Long Beach, California.
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.Kayaking is a fun and easy way to experience the natural beauty of Santa Catalina Island. Enjoy the otherwise inaccessible coastline by kayaking from Avalon along magnificent cliffs and into secluded coves. Make a reservation and you can kayak to your secluded boat-in campground.The best places to paddle board in Catalina
4. Monterey, Central California
- 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
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.The 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.
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