Standup paddle boarding is a serene, sustainable way of exploring. You create no sound and you leave no impact, making this a wonderful way to get up close to birds, marine mammals, and scenic coastlines on your travels.
There are fantastic paddle boarding locations all over the world, in cool waters as well as warm, along city waterways, fjords, and around deserted tropical islands. All you need to start is calm water and a sense of adventure.
Here are 13 of the best places to paddle board in the world.
Sun-drenched Cozumel, protected by a coral reef, is a great place to try paddle boarding, with its limpid waters, clear sea, and abundant marine life. There are numerous spots from which to launch your board, with an easy start in the warm, shallow water.
Because you won’t, in an ideal world, be attracting attention by splashing or making noise, sea creatures may come right up to the board. Look out for turtles gliding through the shallows, and brilliantly colored tropical fish just under the surface.
If you do fall in, the water here is so warm and shallow, it won’t even matter. Wear polarizing sunglasses, which take the glare off the water and make it easier to spot marine life. And don’t forget that reef-safe sunblock.
Read: Best Beaches in Cozumel
Hawaii is where many believe paddle boarding as we know it today began. Outsiders first witnessed it in 1768, when Captain James Cook arrived to find locals paddling across the water on long boards, steering with a single-bladed oar.
Modern stand-up paddle boarding, or SUP, is believed to have originated with Hawaiian John Ah Choy, who, as he aged and was no longer comfortable getting up and down on his surfboard, would instead use a canoe paddle to propel himself out over the waves.
So where better to give the sport a try than lush, volcanic Maui? There are options here for every skill level, which makes it one of the best places to paddle board in the world.
Mākena Beach, for example, is the launch point for paddles to Turtle Town, a reef where you’re almost guaranteed to spot (but mustn’t touch) graceful sea turtles. Come here in winter and you could find you’ve got an incredible vantage point from which to view koholā, or humpback whales.
The sandy sweep of Kapalua Bay in the north is an easy, usually quiet spot from which to launch a board. Honolua Bay, meanwhile, is where you’ll see experts tackling big waves on their boards; a spectator sport, unless you’re very experienced.
Just over 40 minutes’ drive south of Marseille is the otherworldly Parc National des Calanques, a landscape of plunging limestone gullies, hidden sandy beaches, and water in an iridescent shade of turquoise.
The Calanques are popular in summer with hikers and boaters, who come for the scenery, the peace, and the tucked-away seafood restaurants. However, you can get closer to the cliffs and the shadowy underwater landscape from a paddle board.
Look out for wildlife along the way; you might spot peregrine falcons, the rare Bonelli’s eagle, gannets, wild boar, foxes, and bats.
Pearl Island, Bahamas
Pearl Island is a jewel-like speck off the east coast of New Providence Island in The Bahamas. This is the perfect place to kick back for the day, snooze under a palm tree, enjoy Bahamian cuisine, or take to the emerald-green waters on a paddle board.
The beaches here are sheltered and the water warm and shallow, so Pearl Island is the perfect spot for your maiden voyage—or for a foray further along the shore if you’re more experienced.
There’s plenty more to do in this idyllic spot, too, so take time to explore under the water with a snorkel and mask, and stroll along the sleepy island, enjoying the sea breezes.
Read: Best Beaches in & Around Nassau
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is famous for its network of canals and scenic boat cruises, but why not explore the city from a different perspective—on a paddle board?
Local SUP experts will take you through the quieter canals until you’ve gained confidence, but the real thrill of paddle boarding in Amsterdam is propelling yourself along iconic canals like Keizersgracht and Herengracht, passing elegant, gabled houses, houseboats, cafés, and low-slung bridges.
Being out on the water like this, you can smell, see, and hear the city in a completely different way, all your senses alert. And while it’s not ideal to take a dip in Amsterdam’s canals, you can always kneel down on your board for extra stability if a passing canal cruiser creates a little wake.
Read: Best Things to Do in Downtown Amsterdam (Centrum)
Key West, Florida
Laid-back, boho Key West is one of the best places to paddle board. Warm, shallow waters that fade into a deep blue sky, gentle trade winds, and scenery that includes peaceful channels through lush, backcountry mangrove creeks makes for the perfect setting.
You’ll almost certainly see colored sponges, crabs, and sea stars as you glide along, while manatees and stingrays may put in an appearance in the shallows.
Key West is famed for its birdlife, too, and a paddle board is a wonderfully unobtrusive way to get close to the birds. Look out for cormorants sunning themselves, herons like statues in the trees, and pelicans waiting for fish.
If you’re particularly confident, you could even take along a fishing line, sit on your board for a while, commune with nature, and see what bites. Alternatively, there are various operators in Key West offering SUP yoga classes, which adds a whole new dimension to balancing on the water.
The rugged mountains of St. Kitts are a scenic backdrop to your paddle boarding adventure. There are various spots where you can take to the water, but local companies know the calmest and best places to try.
A one-way paddle with the wind behind you from Whitehouse Bay, for example, ends at Carambola Beach Club on South Friars Beach, where you can reward your efforts with lunch and some time lounging on the beach, rum punch in hand.
Along the way, admire the rocky shoreline and hilly scenery, and look out in the shallows beneath you for turtles and stingrays.
Read: Best Beaches in St. Kitts & Nevis
Bay of Islands, New Zealand
New Zealand’s sub-tropical Bay of Islands is a thrilling place to try paddle boarding. Here, some 144 wooded islands are scattered across a turquoise sea, fringed with golden sandy beaches.
There’s always something to look at, from the dazzling scenery to passing whales and dolphins, mangrove forests, and colonies of seabirds.
Join a guided paddle boarding tour that takes you through the green shade of the mangroves and into a meandering river, right up to where a foaming waterfall plunges over a cliff.
If the idea of navigating up towards the white water is too much, you can always retreat to the comfort of the tour boat and enjoy the spectacle from there.
Mystery Island, Vanuatu
The scenery around Vanuatu’s tiny, uninhabited Mystery Island has an almost indescribable beauty: the whitest of beaches fringed with lush, bottle-green rainforest, and the sea a shimmering shade of turquoise.
This is one of the South Pacific’s best places for paddle boarding, thanks to the shallow, warm water and dazzling views.
Typically, tours will whisk you across the water to the bigger island of Aneityum, and you’ll paddle at a leisurely pace back to Mystery Island, stopping for a rewarding dip in the crystal-clear water.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Sunny Puerto Vallarta is a paddle boarder’s dream, sheltered by the warm, calm waters of vast Banderas Bay.
Rent a board from one of the outlets on the beach in front of the Malecon and hone your skills, keeping one eye on the bustle of the beach and the other on the bay itself, where dolphins and humpback whales are a common sight.
You could also take an escorted tour along the shore, during which the guide will point out the architectural highlights of the town from the water, giving a completely different perspective on the skyline and the historic buildings.
You can paddle board in any temperature if you’re properly equipped. And what could be more dazzling than gliding slowly across a glassy fjord in Norway, surrounded by towering, snow-capped mountains on all sides?
Several of the Norwegian fjords offer paddle boarding opportunities. You could join a tour from the bucolic village of Flåm, for example.
Flåm perches at the end of the tranquil Aurlandsfjord, where lush farmland gives way to cliff faces and cascading waterfalls. Locals set off from the beach here, paddling gently across the water on the lookout for seals.
Long and skinny Naerøyfjord is even more dramatic; in places, it’s only 820 feet wide, so you get a real sense from the water of the grandeur of the scenery, where ribbons of water tumble over sheer cliff faces.
Naerøyfjord is particularly calm, which makes it a great spot for beginners. You’ll need a wetsuit for safety in Norway as taking a dip could be chilly—but with a big, stable, beginner-level board, there’s very little chance of getting wet.
Lisbon’s hilly urban area, colorful buildings, and bustling waterfront on the mouth of the Tagus River might not be the first thing you’d associate with the peaceful activity of paddle boarding.
But SUP fans in the know head straight for the Arrabida Natural Park, some 40 minutes’ drive to the south of the Portuguese capital. Here, you’ll find a landscape of towering limestone cliffs, peaceful sandy coves, and water with astonishing visibility of up to 70 feet.
As the coastline here is sheltered from the Atlantic winds, it’s a great spot for beginners to try the sport. An added bonus is the resident pod of bottlenose dolphins that may well come and check you out.
Read: Best Beaches in Lisbon
There are blazing summer days in Kotor when it’s just too hot to climb up the chunky ramparts or even wander around the old town. Take to the sparkling waters of the Bay of Kotor instead.
Enjoy a completely different perspective of this deep, fjord-like inlet, hemmed in by barren mountains, with tiny, red-roofed towns scattered along the shoreline.
Because you’re some distance from the Adriatic here—Kotor, at the head of the bay is 18 miles from the sea—the water is usually smooth and sheltered.
But a day out here isn’t just about paddling; local guides will take you from Kotor itself to Dobrota, a town famed for its baroque churches, and across the bay, the village of Prcanj. With swimming and refreshment stops along the way, you’ll have a full day of sightseeing—and a fantastic workout, too.
Read: Best Things to Do in Kotor, Montenegro
Are you ready to launch your board and enjoy the sensation of standing on water? Browse Celebrity’s itineraries for the world’s best places for paddle boarding and book your adventure today.