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7 Places to Stand-Up Paddleboard

Soak in the SoCal vibe on a paddleboard

Beautiful coastlines, pristine beaches and serene bays make San Diego an ideal aquatic destination. Locals and visitors can explore the shore via a wide and exciting range of water activities. One of the most popular is stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), a pursuit that has become a San Diego lifestyle. It's a fun way to play on the water while soaking in the SoCal vibe, and it's perfect for all skill levels. And with an abundance of paddleboard rental shops, all you need to bring is sunscreen and a smile.

From SUP yoga to SUP surfing and SUPing with your pup, here are seven places to paddleboard in San Diego.

1. Mission Bay

Mission Bay is an aquatic wonderland lined with 19 miles of sandy beaches, waterways, inlets and islets. This man-made saltwater bay, the largest in the nation, is San Diego's prime destination for paddleboarding. Calm waters, moderate wind and lots of water-sport rental options make it ideal for beginners. A popular area is Bonita Cove, a beautiful waterfront park with parking and picnic tables. You can do SUP yoga, SUP fishing and even spot a SUP wedding in the distance. If you don't have your own paddleboard, rent or buy one own at Aqua Adventures. For families, the cove by the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa is a great location. Action Sport Rentals and Cheap Rentals have you covered with SUP equipment, life jackets and other family-friendly gear.

2. La Jolla Shores

The Jewel of San Diego is home to La Jolla Shores, a mile-long sandy crescent beloved by active beachgoers. Views of majestic cliffs and a rich ecological reserve make this one of the most scenic San Diego beaches for SUPing. After getting past the break, expect to see seals, birds and sea turtles. Experts can venture inside the sea caves that line the shore to the south near La Jolla Cove. Up the street from the Shores, Avenida De La Playa shows off the SoCal vibe with beach shops, boutiques and restaurants. Here, you'll find sports rental shops like Surf Diva and Everyday California and delicious pre- or post-paddle food at Sandpiper Wood Fired Grill & Oysters.

3. Liberty Station

Liberty Station on the Point Loma Peninsula is the former Naval Training Center now transformed into a buzzing culinary and arts destination. You can spend the day dining, exploring art galleries or biking, as well as paddleboarding on San Diego Bay. But don't be surprised if you see dogs joining in the fun. West Coast Paddle Board Rentals offers a one-hour class with your pooch through SUP Pups. Sessions launch from a sandy beach and include human and dog vests as well as SUP instruction. Afterward, relax with a cold beer at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens or grab a meal at Liberty Public Market.

4. Coronado

Across from downtown San Diego, Coronado Island is a destination within a destination. Its resort-town atmosphere, sparkling sand and striking beaches are part of its charm. The "Crown City" also features countless areas for outdoor and water activities. For remarkable views of San Diego's skyline, paddleboarders prefer Tidelands Park. This small beach with recreational fields offers the unique opportunity to glide under the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge. To strengthen your core, head to Coronado Ferry Landing and book a SUP yoga class at Bike & Kayak Tours. Afterward, take a stroll and enjoy the diverse waterfront dining and shopping options. Or head for the sands of Silver Strand State Beach, a 7-mile stretch favored by campers. The nearby Loews Coronado Bay Resort has you covered with paddleboard rentals.

5. Carlsbad Lagoon and Cardiff Reef

As you drive along the I-5 freeway near Carlsbad, you'll pass through scenic coastal wetlands. Among the estuaries is the 400-acre Agua Hedionda Lagoon, which offers a discovery center and numerous recreational opportunities. Take in nature's beauty while catching a sunset SUP yoga class with Floating Yogis, or make a day of it and rent a deck or private lounging area. Just south in Encinitas, the series of surf breaks at Cardiff Reef have become a go-to spot for SUP wave-riders, with rentals available at several nearby locations.

6. Oceanside Harbor

With a distinguished surf culture, wide beaches and a historic wooden pier, Oceanside embodies the classic California beach town. This hidden gem is a must-stop for road trippers driving down from Los Angeles to San Diego. Along the coastline, you'll find a colorful New England-style harbor with a marina, restaurants and a shopping village. Oceanside Harbor offers many locations to launch your board, as well as water-sport rental shops. The inner harbor's calm waters are ideal for beginners who prefer to glide among seals and sailboats. Experienced paddleboarders looking for waves tend to paddle from the outer jetty. From December through April, whales swimming down to Baja can be spotted from your SUP — a unique experience to add to your bucket list.

7. Lake Hodges

Thirty miles north of downtown San Diego, Lake Hodges offers a striking change of scenery. With 27 miles of shoreline, this reservoir is great for picnics, fishing and canoeing. In 2019 the city began allowing stand-up paddleboarding as well. A $7 permit lets you paddle (or sailboard) on the calm waters while enjoying beautiful mountain views. You can paddleboard from February through October on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays (although Hodges is closed the third Wednesday of each month). There's a small rental shop on site, but it's recommended that you bring your own equipment.

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