The Best Paddleboard Spots in Southern California

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The Best Paddleboard Spots in Southern California

California has long been celebrated for its music, food and laid-back culture. Closely tied to all these elements are the state’s hundreds of miles of gorgeous coastline, presenting a seemingly endless array of beach experiences.

While the saltwater gets most the love, California is also home to thousands of freshwater lakes and reservoirs. Some are small mountain gems, while others sprawl for miles through historic river gorges.

The common denominator for these ocean hotspots and their lesser-known freshwater cousins is that they are great for paddleboarding. And many of the state’s best SUP destinations are in the southern half of the state, where the sun shines brightest (allowing for year-round paddling) and time moves the slowest.

Here’s a quick look at some of the greatest SUP destinations that Southern California has to offer.

Paddleboarding Near San Diego

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove

This cove is truly a wonder, combining impressive cliffs, hidden caves and gorgeous water. And you’ll find lots of businesses in town that rent boards if you don’t bring your own, so it’s never difficult to get out on the water and take it all in.

What really sets this place apart is the abundant sea life. You’ll likely see seals along the shore, as well as turtles, jellyfish, rays and sharks. Best of all, the clear water makes it easy to enjoy this outdoor aquarium.

Mission Bay

Mission Bay, California, SUP spot

This man-made saltwater bay, one of the largest of its kind in the world, is the perfect place to relax. It may not match the ruggedness of La Jolla Cove or Big Bear Lake, but it offers a protected cove that’s perfect for on-board yoga and other technical pursuits that are difficult on unpredictable water.

The bay is also full of fish, making it a perfect spot to catch dinner from your board. If you’re lucky, you may spot a passing whale. Even on the windiest of days, Mission Bay is a calm oasis that epitomizes the laid-back culture of Southern California.

Other Spots in Southern California

Dana Point

Dana Point, California, Sunset

If the sea life of La Jolla Cove sounds appealing, you may also want to check out Dana Point. This fishing hotspot is one of the best whale watching locations in the area. From fall to spring, you can see gray whales on their way to northern waters. In the summer, they’ll pass through again as they migrate south. And from June to October, you may get lucky and see a mighty Blue Whale.

The whales of Dana Point aren’t afraid of paddle boards, so don’t be surprised if they come quite near to you. At these times, it’s best to keep your cool and simply appreciate the amazing opportunity to see them up close and personal.

RELATED: See our collection of SUP Paddles

Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake, California

If you want mountain solitude, you can’t beat Big Bear Lake. Surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest, it’s the largest freshwater lake in the area and offers pleasantly flat water and stunning scenery.

With more than 20 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty to explore at Big Bear. With its varied terrain, your route could take you past scenic beaches, jagged cliffs and seldom-visited coves. Along the way, you might also encounter some of the forest creatures that frequent the area.

What are you favorite spots? Comment below or let us know on Facebook!


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