Paddleboarding is an excellent full body workout. It engages your upper body and core in the paddling motion while your lower body works on maintaining your balance on the board. But it’s also a great way to get out and experience nature, whether you’re on vacation or just looking for a new way to get outside close to home.
The sport that traces its modern history back to the Hawaiian Islands and its origins back to many island-dwelling civilizations has grown vastly in popularity over the last decade plus. Although it’s always better to go out for a paddle than to pass up the opportunity, there are several locations that are worth going a bit out of your way for. These are our top five SUP destinations in the US.
Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe is a paddler’s paradise. Even though the water can be a bit on the colder side, there are few places around the world, not to mention across the US, that can rival the beauty and water clarity of Lake Tahoe. There are a wide variety of places you can launch from around the lake, and your experience can be vastly different whether you choose South Lake Tahoe or one of the towns on the lake’s northern edge.
For our money, the northern and eastern shores of the lake offer the best paddling available in this region. Sand Harbor State Park is an iconic paddling location and offers easy access to the lake’s less-inhabited eastern shore. If you’re looking for a company to rent from, or to take you out on a guided SUP adventure, Tahoe Adventure Company is one of the longest-standing outfitters in the area.
Crater Lake, Oregon
Topping Lake Tahoe on the list of deepest lakes in the US is Crater Lake. With a total depth surpassing 1,900 feet, this volcanically formed lake lies in the southern part of Oregon just north of the town of Klamath Falls. The lake is inside of Crater Lake National Park, which offers northern and southern entrances (although the northern entrance is typically close in winter).
Paddleboarding at Crater Lake is a DIY experience. You’ll probably want an inflatable paddle board to make getting from the trailhead down to the water’s edge easier. But once you’re out on the water, paddling on this lake offers views of towering cliffs, the lake’s only island, a spiritual site, and much more. It’s also hard to beat the lake’s stunning clarity and the knowledge that you’re paddling in a volcanic caldera that was formed more than 7,700 years ago!
Hanalei River, Kauai, Hawaii
Moving to a much warmer location, if you’re visiting the Hawaiian island of Kauai, you have to take some time to paddle the Hanalei River. The river flows more than 15 miles from the eastern slopes of Mount Wai’ale’ale to the Pacific Ocean at Hanalei Bay. It’s a year-round paddling destination and is proudly Hawaii’s only American Heritage River, which pays tribute to community efforts to protect the river’s environmental, economic, cultural, and historic value.
There are many local companies to choose from if you want to get out for a day of paddling on the Hanalei River. Kayak Hanalei, Hanalei Surf School, and Hawaiian Surfing Adventures all offer SUP lessons and guiding paddling tours on the river. If you’re an experienced paddler, you can also rent equipment in Hanalei town and explore at your own pace.
Lake Powell, Arizona
Lake Powell actually winds through both Utah and Arizona. Created by the formation of the Glen Canyon Dam and subsequent flooding of Glen Canyon, the waters of the Colorado River that fill this reservoir offer warm, breathtaking SUP opportunities. The lake is actually the second largest man-made reservoir in the US behind only Lake Mead.
Lake Powell offers many side canyons to get lost in and rock formations created over millions of years to gaze upon. Many folks opt to create their own adventure on the lake, but if you don’t have equipment or experience with where to go, Lake Powell Paddleboards will help you get started. They offer board rentals and tours that run from March 1stto September 30thevery year.
Florida Keys, Florida
Another warm SUP destination is the tropical mangrove forests in the Florida Keys. The mangrove forests in the southernmost regions of Florida cover more than 500,000 acres, but one of the most popular SUP destinations is Cowkey Channel. This area offers plenty of opportunities to paddle through a stunning mangrove forest and see the wildlife that calls those forests home.
One of the most interesting creatures you can see on a SUP trip in the Florida Keys is the manatee. Sometimes called “sea cows,” these creatures are large, herbivorous marine mammals that are often found in shallow coastal areas and rivers. If you’re looking for a company to get you on the water in Cowkey Channel, check out Lazy Dog. They offer tours, rentals, lessons, SUP yoga, and SUP fitness classes.
If you’ve never tried to stand up on a paddleboard, don’t worry! It’s easier than it looks and with the right instruction, you’ll learn quickly and build comfort fast. If you’re planning to visit any of these destinations in the near future, make sure you take some time to get out on the water on a paddleboard. Where are some of your favorite paddleboard spots?