Top 8 Places For Beginner Stand-Up Paddle Boarding in North America

Stand-up paddle boarding is one of the hottest water sports in the United States, thanks to a growing popularity among surfers. But like any other sport, it can take a little time to get the hang of it. So, instead of heading out to just any body of water, stick with some of the best beginner SUP places while you’re still learning.

There are plenty of places in North America that are perfect for beginner SUP, but I’ve narrowed that long list down to just the top 8 best beginner SUP places in North America. You’ll find options on both coasts and in more than one country.

1. SUP in Lake Tahoe

SUP tahoe

Though cold water SUP spots are not for everyone, Lake Tahoe has a a secret – hot springs that warm the waters.  That makes it a popular spot for SUP as well as kayaking. The Brockway Hot Springs are a toasty 120 degrees and heat up the cold waters of the lake. So, paddle around the lake, check out Crystal Bay and spend a little time soaking up the warmth of the Brockway Hot Springs before calling it a day. Local outfitters rent gear if you don’t have any with you.

2. SUP in San Diego, California

Mission Bay, San Diego
Mission Bay, San Diego

Though the water is a little chilly in the winter, it feels great during the warmer months. If you’re looking for some fun on your SUP, then you will want to check out the SUP yoga groups that regularly head out into the waters if Mission Bay. Even if you’re not all that into yoga, it is great practice for balancing on your board. And don’t worry if you’re completely new to yoga – they will teach you all the moves. And if you want to skip the yoga, other top SUP spots in San Diego are San Diego Bay and Carlsbad Lagoon.

3. SUP in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta coastline
Puerto Vallarta coastline

My favorite thing about this popular Mexican tourist spot is that the water is warm all year long. It is the perfect winter escape location, but still a great choice in the summer as well. Plus, airfare from the United States is normally inexpensive. And if you take an inflatable SUP, then you will keep your baggage costs low as well. Or, rent a SUP from one of the local companies once you get to the beach. For the best time, get a boat to take you out to the protected wildlife sanctuary Las Islas Marietas, where you can find less crowds and do your paddling above a coral reef. Or, set your sights about 30 miles to the north and SUP in the calm waters by the village of Punta Mita.

4. SUP in Jamaica Bay, New York

SUP with NYC in the background
SUP with NYC in the background

When you SUP in Jamaica Bay, you get to take in great views of the New York City skyline while not having to deal with all the hustle and bustle of the city. If you’re coming from NYC, you the subway trip will take you about 90 minutes. The water is fairly calm and not packed with people. You’ll be able to see plenty of wildlife in addition to the city views.

5. SUP in Oahu, Hawaii

Pua'ena Point, Oahu
Pua’ena Point, Oahu

It goes without saying that Hawaii is a great place for water sports, but Oahu is probably the best place for SUP beginners. Skip the more popular Maui, which has good waves once you get the hang of stand-up paddle boarding, and head to Oahu’s Puaena Point at Hale’iwa Beach Park. You’ll find this calm, flat water spot on the Waimea Bay side of the Anahulu Bridge. And when your confidence gets up, head down to Waikiki where there are some small waves that you can test out before taking on larger ones on the North Shore or on the island of Maui.

6. SUP in the Florida Panhandle

Choctawhatchee Bay, Florida
Choctawhatchee Bay, Florida

The waters in the Florida Panhandle are great for first time SUPers who are looking to get a little experience out in the water. Stick with areas to the west of Panama City for the most forgiving waters, with South Walton being a good starting point. Choctawhatchee Bay and Morrison Springs are also good SUP spots in the area.

7. SUP in Whistler, Canada

Alta Lake, Whistler
Alta Lake, Whistler

While snow sports like spring to mind when Canada is mentioned, the cool waters of Whistler actually offer great SUP opportunities. Plus, you get to take in breathtaking views of the nearby mountains while you’re out on your paddle board. Alta Lake and Alpha Lake are the most popular SUP spots in Whistler, but any of the lakes offer great SUP experiences and those awesome mountain views.

8. SUP in Kona, Hawaii

Kona Hawaii SUP
If you find yourself visiting the Big Island of Hawaii and you want to get out in the water and have some fun, then you probably already know that there is no shortage of opportunities for you do so. Some of the things that you can do include some snorkeling where you can see an array of brightly colored fish and sea turtles, hitch a ride on a sail boat, or even rent yourself a stand up paddle board (unless you travel with a good inflatable stand up paddle board of your own).

Even if you have never been out on a SUP, I definitely suggest that you try it in Hawaii because the water is so amazingly clear and you’ll just have an awesome time. After recently visiting Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, my suggestion is to do your SUPing on the Big Island – specifically in Kona.

Why? Because you can rent your board for just $10 per hour! That is crazy cheap compared to some of the prices I’ve seen on the other islands.

Though I didn’t catch the name of the place offer the cheap SUP rentals in Kona, the shop is located on the little street directly behind the Scandinavian Shave Ice shop at 75-5699 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI. They also offered snorkel rentals and other gear if stand up paddle boarding isn’t your thing.

There are also some other places that offer SUP rental and lessons in Kona, so you don’t have to use this shop. Just do a quick search online and you’ll come across lots of businesses that offer this service like Kona Boys and HYPR Nalu Hawaii. (I’m not affiliated with any of these companies, do check reviews online before doing business with any of them for the best experience out there.)

And if you end up staying outside of the busy Alii Drive area (and I suggest that you do), then you can find lots of free parking at the Coconut Grove shopping center. It’s pretty much the only shopping center or strip mall area in Kona that doesn’t have tow-away signs posted in the parking lot. And, it’s just about a block away from the paid parking lot on Alii Drive! So, save yourself some cash and park for free.

image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Shawna Newman

Shawna currently lives in Las Vegas where she gets in lots of great hiking at Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire State Park. When she has time, she visits National Parks in a quest to visit each one in the U.S. Shawna’s favorite outdoors activity is hiking and her favorite National Park (so far) is Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

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