Stand-up paddleboarding (aka SUP) is one of the most popular water sports in San Diego. A mixture of perfect temps, smooth waves, and accessibility of equipment make for ideal conditions to stand up and glide around the waters of America's Finest City (and county).
While kayaking is king in Mission Bay and La Jolla and surfing reigns supreme in spots from Pacific Beach to Oceanside, the opportunities to go paddleboarding along San Diego’s 70 miles of coastline are plentiful. And beyond the beaches, there is paddleboarding to be done on San Diego’s lakes too.
If you want to try water sports in San Diego, you won’t want to miss out on a chance to try SUP. Whether you’re paddleboarding to try on-water yoga, enjoy ocean views, get close to resident marine life, or just to have some fun out on the water, you're in for a grand aqua adventure.
When to Go Paddleboarding in San Diego
Paddleboarding is a year-round pursuit in San Diego thanks to the consistently good weather and variety of water conditions, ranging from calm lagoons for beginners to active swells for advanced boarders.
For the warmest temps and the longest days, the ideal time to paddleboard in San Diego is May through August. Air temperatures during this period average around 72 degrees, and water temps reach the upper 60s and low 70s. If you're planning a San Diego paddleboarding experience, it's best to check the weather and surfing conditions (wind speed, water temps, sunrise/sunset) in advance.
Paddleboarding in San Diego: Where to Go
Launch areas, calm waters, equipment rentals, and lessons abound in this San Diego water-sports hotspot. But because of these wonderfully ideal conditions (and convenient location just a short ride from downtown), Mission Bay waters do tend to get busy. If you don't want to deal with crowds, the best time to go is as early in the morning as possible.
Lessons and Rentals: In Mission Bay, you can easily rent equipment and book lessons, classes, and SUP tours at outfitters such as Mission Bay Stand-Up Paddle, Bliss Paddle Yoga, Mission Bay Aquatic Center, and Wanders Surfboard Company.
La Jolla Cove
The serene waters and rugged beauty of La Jolla Cove have historically made it a popular destination for kayakers, but it also offers some of the best paddleboarding experiences in San Diego. Paddleboarders can enjoy the view gliding along the main waters of inlet surrounded by picturesque sandstone cliffs or follow the natural kayaking routes through the cove's network of caves.
If you're lucky, you'll spot some of the adorable inhabitants of this ecological reserve, including sea lions and sea turtles. Don't forget your camera or smartphone because you'll want to take photos from your board.
Lessons and Rentals: Head to places like the Everyday California shop, Surf Diva, and Bike & Kayak Tours.
There are myriad reasons to visit Coronado, but the views of downtown San Diego from a paddleboard alone are worth the five-minute journey across the bridge from the city center. Launch from Tidelands Park, where the calm waters make it a particularly family-friendly spot to paddleboard.
Lessons and Rentals: Visit SUP Coronado, San Diego Bay Adventures, or Bike & Kayak Tours to secure equipment rentals, lessons, tours, and classes. Many lodgings and resorts on the idyllic island also offer these services. If you're staying at the historic Hotel del Coronado, don't miss its weekly Wednesday paddleboard yoga class.
You can spend an entire day at this former naval base-turned cultural hub in Point Loma—and it’s also a hidden gem of a paddleboarding spot. Wander through thought-provoking public art installations, browse goods from local artisans, and enjoy a delicious meal and a local brew or cocktail at the Liberty Public Market before or after you launch on the water.
Lessons and Rentals: When paddleboarding enthusiasts say it's an activity the whole family can enjoy, in Point Loma they literally mean everyone—even your dog. West Coast Paddleboard Rentals offers a class for paddleboarding pups!
The combination of inner harbor calmness and shred-worthy waves further out make Oceanside a choice destination for paddleboarders of all abilities. It's also a great spot for catching glimpses of seals and other marine life from your board. If you time your visit for winter or spring, you might even spy a migrating whale.
Lessons and Rentals: Visitors can grab some gear at UP Sports or Pure Watersports. SUP lessons are scarce in Oceanside, with shops and schools focused primarily on surfing. Oceanside is, however, home to the Stoke for Life Foundation, which offers guided adaptive paddleboarding experiences for individuals with disabilities.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon
A stretch of wetlands on the coast in Carlsbad is home to a quiet lagoon that qualifies as a paddleboarder's paradise. Minimal crowds and flat, calm waters make for a serene experience on the board, and you’re surrounded by the flora and fauna of the 400-acre ecological reserve. Before you go, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the city of Carlsbad's regulations for using the lagoon—paddleboarding is only allowed in a specific area of the inner lagoon.
Lessons and Rentals: You can pick up paddleboarding gear (and a whole lot of other water sports equipment, including boats) on the north end of the lagoon at California Water Sports. And don't miss the chance to take a sunset SUP yoga class or a full-moon paddle and meditation with Floating Yogis.
Del Mar Dog Beach
One of the only dog-friendly beaches in San Diego is also a great spot for paddleboarders of all levels (and species). It lies at the mouth of a river, which creates distinct areas of smooth, calm waters for beginners and those seeking a more meditative experience, and fast-moving waves for surfers and advanced paddleboarders. It's a common sight at this beach for dogs to hop on boards with their humans to enjoy a ride.
Lessons and Rentals: Pick up a board and paddle at Rusty Del Mar Surf Shop. Lessons are scarce in Del Mar too, with water-sports schools focused mostly on surfing.
Lake San Marcos
SUP in San Diego is not just an ocean water sport. About a 25-minute drive east of Carlsbad, halfway to Escondido, you’ll find this hidden-gem freshwater paddleboarding experience. It's an idyllic but private lake (there's a fee to go out on the water), and there is a “no wake” rule for boaters—which keeps the waters calm and smooth for paddling. All paddleboards must be inspected and launched at the Lakehouse Hotel and Resort marina before entering the lake to prevent the spread of invasive species that could threaten the lake waters.
Lessons and Rentals: The Lakehouse Hotel and Resort offers SUP rentals at its marina. Lessons are not offered, but visitors say the marina staff is very helpful in setting up beginners with the basics before they head out on the lake.
The San Diego SUP scene has grown rapidly in the last few years, and the opportunities to try the water sport are abundant and accessible throughout the county. The combination of the great workout and meditative qualities it provides make it a memorable and healthy way to spend a day (or more) in San Diego.
Check out other ways to play on the water in San Diego, from surfing and kayaking to hydrobiking and parasailing.