10 Epic SUP Destinations You Must See in Your Lifetime
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The next time you go stand-up paddleboarding, why not do it against a jaw-dropping backdrop? From snow-capped mountains, mangrove forests, and alpine lakes to lagoons, emerald-green rivers, and tropical beaches, the world’s best SUP destinations have it all!
Stand-up paddling is has been stealing the spotlight lately. One reason for this is that learning to ride a paddleboard is a breeze – almost anyone can do it 30 minutes after setting foot on it. Another is that it offers a lot of freedom – you are not restricted to certain water conditions, like surfing; the only limit is your imagination.
To help you find your next SUP oasis, we’ve put together a list of the world’s most epic stand-up paddleboarding destinations you absolutely need to see in your lifetime.
10. New Zealand
One of the most enchanting places in the world, culturally rich and boasting abundant wildlife and ecosystems, New Zealand is a bucket list destination. Its many lakes, rivers, beaches, and bays surrounded by rocky mountains have landed it a place on our list.
Northland’s Bay of Islands, with a subtropical climate and warm water all year round, is one of the best places for SUP in New Zealand. Not to mention that a pod or two of dolphins might tag along for the ride. Auckland and Raglan are well-known SUP hotspots, the latter being regarded as the quintessential New Zealand surf town. If you’re looking for a true sense of adventure, head to Lake Wanaka, New Zealand’s fourth-largest lake.
9. Oahu, Hawaii
You can never go wrong with the birthplace of stand-up paddleboarding – Hawaii. Sunset Beach on the north shore of Oahu is famous for its big wave surfing during winter. During summer, the waves are smaller and friendlier, just perfect for paddleboarding. Those seeking a bigger challenge can paddle from Sunset Beach all the way to Waimea Bay, a 4-mile (6.5 km) trip.
Sunny and warm Oahu has plenty of other SUP spots worth hitting, like Puaena Point, Haleiwa, and Lanikai Beach, which are favorites among stand-up paddling beginners. Water temperature in Oahu is usually a pleasant 80 °F (27 °C).
» Find out all you need to know to plan the perfect surf trip in Hawaii.
8. Florida Keys
With almost the entire state surrounded by water, it is no wonder that the SUP community in Florida is flourishing. The coral cay archipelago of Florida Keys off the southern coast of the state offers literally hundreds of spots to launch your paddleboard.
With a rich marine life that includes stingrays and manatees, mangrove forests, a diverse ecosystem, and Caribbean-like waters, Florida Keys is an island paradise that’s best explored on a kayak or SUP.
Paddleboarders can take advantage of the trade winds to cover long distances. When there’s no wind, the paddleboard can be used for fishing, SUP yoga, meditation or simply gliding at a slow, laid-back pace. Back on land, Florida’s Fort Lauderdale is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East.’ Its winding canals that empty in the Atlantic make it one of the most scenic SUP destinations in the USA.
With over 9,000 miles (14,500 km) of coastline, azure waters and sandy beaches, Mexico is one of the best surfing destinations on the planet. Quality surf awaits on both the Pacific coast and the Gulf of Mexico, and there’s always a cool wave to catch throughout the year.
Puerto Vallarta is a culturally rich city that offers excellent SUP opportunities for all levels. Here, Banderas Bay, with its warm and calm water, is a Pacific haven. Los Muertos Beach is the most popular and active when it comes to water sports, and you can expect to see sea turtles, dolphins and humpback whales while paddling here.
The small tropical town of Sayulita is considered the SUP capital of Mexico. Beginner and pros alike are guaranteed to have a good time, as a growing SUP community will welcome them. Cancun and Punta Mita are excellent locations too, great for the whole family.
» Wanna throw in some amazing wave surfing while here? Check out our guide to the best surf spots in Mexico.
A small country counting only two million inhabitants between the mighty Alps and the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia is one of the most water-rich countries in Europe. This can only mean one thing – a SUP paradise. Stand-up paddling is relatively new to Slovenia, but it has seen a rapid growth these past years thanks to the country’s pristine nature and numerous flat-water alpine lakes and gently flowing rivers.
In Slovenia, stand-up paddleboarding is as diverse as the country itself. There’s even urban SUP here. After all, what better way to explore the picturesque Old Town of the capital city of Ljubljana than by paddling your way through it?
The unbelievably picturesque Lake Bled is on top of everyone’s list, an alpine lake that is home to Slovenia’s only island. So are paddling down the emerald-green Soča River and Savica River and on Lake Cerknica.
5. British Columbia, Canada
It may not be the first destination that springs to mind when thinking about SUP, but British Columbia (B.C.) is a hidden gem with plenty of surprises in store. After all, it is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and a popular destination for kayakers and canoe trippers. Why should stand-up paddleboarding fall behind?
With lakes, rivers, a maze of waterways along the rugged central coast, no wonder B.C. has a thriving SUP community. There are so many amazing spots to paddle it would be tough to list them all. So we’ll just mention what we believe are the best – the coastal waters of Tofino, Kalamalka Lake in Vernon, Muncho Lake, Emerald Lake, Whistler and the west side of Vancouver are the places to start for a scenic SUP adventure.
4. Turks and Caicos Islands
An archipelago of 40 coral islands surrounded by turquoise waters, the Turks and Caicos Islands are a paddleboarding haven. Explore the mangrove swamps and reefs abounding in sea turtles and schools of colorful fish, all the while watching herons and nurse sharks swimming underneath your board.
Turks and Caicos Islands have an average water temperature of 80 °F (27 °C) and see the most tourists between December and March. There’s no better way to explore the pristine wetlands and hidden turquoise waterways of the islands than on a SUP. The calm waters and white sand beaches make Grace Bay a paddleboarding paradise. Chalk Sound National Park and its landlocked lagoon is another picturesque spot to paddle.
Image credit: Sygma SUP School
Often referred to as the stand-up paddleboarding capital of Europe, Portugal does indeed offer a wide variety of waters. With 1,115 miles (1,794 km) of coastline, there’s a huge potential for surfing, SUP, and other watersports. Even better, there are plenty of top-notch SUP spots within striking distance from the country’s capital. One of them is the popular seaside resort of Ericeira.
Paddle the majestic Rio Tejo, which empties into the Atlantic at Lisbon – there aren’t many places in the world where you can SUP round an 800-year-old Knights Templar Castle.
South of Lisbon, Luiz Saldanha Marine Park offers a unique experience – it is like paddling in an aquarium with more than 1,000 species, with astounding visibility of up to 70 feet (21 m). The turquoise waters here have quite a few bottlenose dolphins as permanent residents. For a change of scenery, take a SUP ride inside the Benagil Cave in the Algarve.
» Plan an unforgettable trip with the help of our comprehensive Portugal surf guide.
2. Costa Rica
Image credit: Bob Marley Jaco Surf School
There’s no doubt that Costa Rica is a surfing mecca that’s on everyone’s bucket list. But I’m here to tell you that stand-up paddleboarding is gaining serious ground on the tropical country’s coasts too. Tourists who do not fancy the idea of spending days in a row learning to catch a wave now have the perfect alternative – SUP.
Playa Danta in the Guanacaste region is a secluded, off-the-beaten-path flat-water bay abounding in exotic sea life. It is also one of the country’s premier SUP spots.
There’s more to Playa Danta than surfing and paddleboarding. Adventure lovers can try the zip lines and ATV rides through the surrounding jungles. And please make sure you bring your snorkeling gear along. With water temperatures ranging around 86 °F (30 °C) all year, Costa Rica truly is a paradise found.
Heading to the country of Pura Vida? Here’s all you need to know to plan your surf trip to Costa Rica.
1. Lake Tahoe, California
North America’s largest alpine lake is perhaps the most photographed SUP location in the world. And with good reason – its mesmerizing blue water, 72 miles (115 km) of shoreline covered in coniferous trees and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background make it a dream destination for a variety of recreational activities. What better way to enjoy this natural beauty than on a laid-back paddleboarding session?
The crystal-clear waters of Lake Tahoe offer astounding visibility of up to 70 feet (21 m) down on a good morning. Conditions are great from late spring until early fall, and the best time of day to paddle is in the morning or early evening. That’s when the surface is calmer and the winds are gentle, ensuring an intimate experience. These conditions are also ideal if you’re a beginner.
Lake Tahoe is the venue of the annual Tahoe SUP & Paddleboard Race Series, an annual event worth attending if not even participating in.
» Ride the legendary waves that have written surfing history. Read our guide to the best surf spots in California.
Would you like to take your stand-up paddleboard around the world? Now you know where to go for an unforgettable SUP holiday!