By Andrew Iida l Head Writer & Resident EMT
Across the nation, stand up paddle boarding is one of the most popular and fastest-growing outdoor recreational activities. In California, the rise of paddle boarding has been explosive, and it’s now a daily occurrence to see large groups of paddle boarders enjoying a day on the San Diego water. Paddle boarding rental shops are popping up wherever there’s water, and you don’t have to look hard to find a guided experience like a tour, lesson, or even a SUP yoga class. There’s no better time than now to get started in this sport, but there are definitely some beaches that are better than others. If you’re looking for the best locations for paddle boarding, you’re not going to be disappointed with these ones.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon (Carlsbad Lagoon)
If you’ve driven through Carlsbad on the interstate 5 during the day and looked to the East, you’ve probably noticed a body of water with small boats, paddle boards, and jet skis. This is the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, known to locals as the Carlsbad Lagoon, and is a popular spot in North County San Diego for hiking, fishing, boating, and paddle boarding. The name translates to “Smelly Water” in Spanish, but don’t let that scare you off! Until the 1950’s, the Carlsbad lagoon was not connected to the ocean, so it was filled with foul-smelling, stagnant water that fit the name perfectly, but today it is regularly dredged and maintained with a good flow of water.Why it’s awesome for paddle boarding
- The waters in the lagoon are normally calm and flat. However, wake from jet skis and power boats can make the water a bit choppy.
- There is usually plenty of free parking.
- There are a lot of water sports available in the lagoon, including fishing, water-skiing, windsurfing, and boating.
- The lagoon’s discovery center hosts events, yoga classes, and activities for kids.
North Beach in Del Mar (Dog Beach)
North Beach is the only beach in Del Mar that allows dogs off leash, which is why locals call it Dog Beach. Except for in the summer (June 15th to Labor Day), dogs are free to roam the beach, play in the surf, and join their owners on a paddle boarding adventure. In September, you can even see dogs catching waves by themselves in the annual Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon. Dog Beach is next to the famous Del Mar Fairgrounds, which hosts horse races, sporting events, concerts, and conventions throughout the year.Why it’s awesome for paddle boarding
- You can bring your dog!
- There is a lagoon with very calm water for an easy laid back paddling experience, or you can try to venture out into the waves for some stand up paddle surfing.
- This is a great place to hang out at the beach. It's clean, rarely crowded, and usually has volleyball nets set up.
Mission Bay was literally designed for fun on the water. It was once an area full of wetland habitats, but in the 1940’s the marshes were dredged to create a man-made bay for water recreation. With SeaWorld to the south, Mission Beach to the west, pacific beach to the north, and water sports available everywhere in between, you’re not going to run out of things to do here.Why it's awesome for paddle boarding
- Mission Bay paddle boarding is appropriate for all skill levels because the water is almost always calm and flat, even on a windy day. Because of the great conditions, Mission Bay is a popular spot for paddle board yoga.
- Mission bay is filled with resorts, restaurants, bars, and amusement parks.
- If you paddle board with a dog, you can take them to the off-leash dog area on Fiesta Island in the east side of the bay.
- Perez cove is a great location for bird watching, and is one of the only known great blue heron nesting sites in San Diego.
Tidelands Park in Coronado
Coronado was an empty island until the late 19th century, when it was purchased to create a resort city in San Diego, and it’s been a popular luxury vacation destination ever since. Coronado is home to the world-famous Hotel Del Coronado, which has been visited by actors, actresses, heads of state, and 16 U.S. presidents. Tidelands is the largest park in Coronado, and includes a skate park, bike path, and playground. If you want to paddle board in Coronado, you’re not going to find a better spot than this one.Why it’s awesome for paddle boarding
- Tidelands park has one of the best views of the San Diego city skyline, which is particularly spectacular at night.
- During the week, there is plenty of free parking, and the water isn’t very crowded. Weekends can get very busy here.
- Because it is in the San Diego Bay, the water is almost always very calm and suitable for all experience levels.
There really isn’t a better place to go paddle boarding in all of San Diego. La Jolla is a coastal community in San Diego with beautiful public beaches, including the famous La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores. A large portion of La Jolla’s oceans are designated as an ecological reserve, which protects a thriving population of marine life. Just a short distance from downtown San Diego, La Jolla has some of the best shopping, dining, and recreation around.Why it’s awesome for paddle boarding
- Because it is a marine protected area, La Jolla paddle boarding offers some of the best chances for viewing marine life. You might see birds, fish, seals, sea lions, harmless leopard sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, and even whales.
- In the winter, you might see gray whales during their annual migration, or baby seals swimming with their mothers. In the summer, hundreds of leopard sharks come close to the shore for their breeding season.
- The water is usually very calm, so it’s great for beginners, and the visibility often reaches 30 or more feet.
- The marine protected area has four distinct micro-habitats, each with their own unique characteristics and animal populations. You’ll be able to paddle through the rocky reef, sandy flats, kelp forest, and submarine canyon.
- La Jolla has the coolest people in the city—the staff of Everyday California! Stop by before you head out in the water, and we will pull up a full map of the area and show you our favorite spots. If you're new to the sport, our stand up paddle board lessons will teach you everything you need to know to start paddle boarding on your own. And if you don’t want to haul your gear all over San Diego, paddle board rentals are available every day of the week.