Perfect Paddles SUP and Kayak Guide to: Orange County

In Location Info Guide by Daniel

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This is the Perfect Paddles SUP and Kayak Guide to Orange County — Everything you need to know about paddling in this beautiful part of California!

Orange County

SUP and kayaking in Orange County is an unforgettable experience. If you’re not sure where to go, or what to do on the days when the wind and weather don't cooperate, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to help! 

One of the best ways to get to know a new city, or even see the one you live in from a new perspective, is to see it from the water. This guide is for paddlers of every level with every preference from SUP yoga, to paddle surfing, and more.

Our goal is to make it easy for you to make the most of your time on the water and see Orange County from its best point of view.

Check out this ultimate SUP and kayak guide to Orange County where you will find the exact launch locations, additional activities, and other fun stuff to do there!

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Orange County is home to many of California’s most beautiful locations such as Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and Balboa Island, as well as being the birthplace of modern-day stand-up paddle boarding.

From San Clemente, Salt Creek, Dana Point, Newport Harbor, and beyond, this is a great place to experience what Southern California and SUP are all about. 

But with such an expanse of land to cover, it can be difficult to know where to go and what to do — whether you want to stay on or off the coast. 

The team at Perfect Paddles recognized this problem. And set out to fix it. 

Within this guide, you will find exactly where to go to experience some of the best places in the world for SUP. As well as an insider’s guide to the best attractions in the county. 

Much of the information that follows is built upon a foundation of what our local Paddling Pros suggest to experience while in the area. Places you won’t find in other generic guides about Orange County. 

Come along with us as we explore this exciting part of California. Use this as your map to create the best vacation in Orange County! 

How This Guide Works

This guide is built to be comprehensive. As such, it is full of important information about Orange County. We will cover launch locations, outfitter activities (lessons, rentals, trips, and tours), an event calendar with our must-see suggestions, skills to know before you go, and a ton more.

If you are looking for something specific, or if you'd like an insight into the contents of the article, you can do so with our table of contents. 

Simply click on the box located on the left-hand side that looks like this:

The table of contents will appear and you can skip ahead to any section.

This guide is built with you in mind. Whether you are a seasoned paddler with years of experience or a complete beginner who needs to rent a board for paddling, we have you covered. 

For iSUP owners, we’ll discuss where to head for the best beach locations, inland areas to explore on your SUP, and what you can do if the weather doesn’t cooperate. 

For short-term visitors who need to rent a board while you’re in town, we’ll go over where you can pick up a board, what types of boards are available, and where you can launch your board on calmer waters. 

Use this comprehensive guide as your key to the information you need to have the best possible time in Orange County — both on and off the water. 

Of course, if you have any questions about the area, you can always drop us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible! 

Orange County

Paddling Pro Contributors

First, we'd like to give a special thanks to our main Paddling Pro for contributing her local knowledge to this guide. You will see certain sections marked with "Local Info." These sections include inside information on the best places in Orange County.

Our featured Paddling Pro for this guide is:

Erin O'Malley of Sunset Stand Up Paddle in Laguna Beach, California

Thank you for sharing your years of experience, local insight, expert guidance, and knowledge!

-Perfect Paddles Travel Brief-

To have the best time possible in Orange County, it's important to be in contact with people who know the area. 

Before you decide to make any plans, we always recommend contacting a local Paddling Professional for any inside information, must-see activities, and locations, as well as any weather and seasonal updates. 

Conditions can change quickly when you're on the water especially on or near the Pacific Ocean so we recommend “up to the minute info” from a local expert.

Member Deals

Don’t forget to take advantage of our fantastic Member Deals for discounts! Participating shops and outfitters offer EXCLUSIVE deals and discounts for Perfect Paddles Members only on their services. 

To see other benefits of joining Perfect Paddles head HERE

For a list of every participating shop with Member Deals in Orange County click HERE.

Perfect Paddles Curated List of SUP Outfitters in the Area:

Goff Tours

Location: 154 Thalia St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Best Offering: A coastline tour — experience the beautiful rocky cliffs that line Laguna Beach from atop a SUP!

Member Deal: 15% off lessons and tours

_______________________________

Sunset Stand Up Paddle

Location: Laguna Beach

Best Offering: From Erin of Sunset Stand Up Paddle, “Our Paddles and Pints with Docent Brewing is not to be missed. Also, our coastline tour which combines a 101 of ocean paddling and a cruise along our coves is one of our most popular offerings.

Member Deal: 10% off services 

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Pirate Coast Paddle

Location: Newport Beach

Best Offering: Glow Tour with Pirate Coast Paddle Company! Experience paddling at night with LED lights lighting up your board in the water. 

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Bliss Paddle Yoga (Member Deal)

Location: Newport Beach and Laguna Beach

Best Offering: As the name suggests - SUP Yoga is their specialty. This is the place to go if you are looking for a fun way to enjoy the water and expand your yoga practice. Enjoy a Member Discount on one of their classes by signing up on Perfect Paddles today!

Member Deal: 10% off services including SUP yoga classes

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SUP to You

Location: They deliver to Newport and Laguna Beach areas.

Best Offering: SUP rentals delivered right to your location! As well as a demo program where you can test drive multiple boards before you buy!

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McKinnon SUP and Surf Lessons

Location: Huntington Beach

Best Offering: SUP Surf lessons — If you’re ready to take your flat water skills to the ocean, you’re likely to find success with a private lesson from Rocky McKinnon. Understand everything there is to know about SUP surfing here!

For a comprehensive list of every outfitter in Orange County refer to our Perfect Paddles SUP Search map by clicking HERE.

SUP Equipment Available to Rent

Pretty much all the shops in the comprehensive list - click the link directly above - offer rentals but if you're looking for specialty boards like high-quality inflatable boards from Red Paddle Co. head to Sunset Stand Up Paddle. 

If you’re looking for more than just SUP boards — boogie boards, surfboards, masks + snorkel combos, then Goff Tours is the place to go.

SUP 2 You offer the best rental opportunities — they bring the boards to your location! In addition, they run a SUP Test Drive Program where you can test multiple stand-up paddle boards that you are interested in side by side! 

And Pirate Coast Paddle Company also offers kayaks. 

Best Time of Year to Visit: 

The best time to visit many places in Orange County is from April to May or from September to October. Both the spring and the fall bring far fewer visitors to the area than the summer months and travelers can still enjoy average daytime temps of 70 degrees or higher. 

With that said, you can’t go wrong with a summer trip. The temperatures peak around 80 degrees in many parts of Orange County — especially along the coasts. This is the perfect time to head to the beach though it may be more crowded than during the offseasons. (travel.usnews.com)

Average Temperature/Seasons: 

(source)

Average Water Temperatures:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Min °C 13.6 13.8 13.1 13.9 15 16.2 18.1 18.6 17.7 16.6 15.8 14.6

Max°C 16.8 15.8 15.9 16.4 16.8 18.6 20.5 21.6 21.1 21 19.7 18.1

Min °F 57.4 57.6 56.9 58.1 60.4 62.8 65.9 66.4 65.1 63.1 61.3 59.2

Max °F 59.6 59.7 60.2 61 64 67.1 69.4 68.9 68.4 66.2 63.6 61.4

(source)

SUP Environments to Paddle In

  • Pacific Ocean 
  • Bay
  • Lakes
  • Rivers

Potential Water Hazards

Many of the launch locations for Orange County SUP and kayaking involve tides, currents, marina traffic, and of course, the wind. 

If you plan on paddling in the ocean, make sure you have experience in this environment. It can be difficult to stand, let alone paddle, on the wide-open ocean. If you are inexperienced, you can be in for a long, and potentially challenging, time. Before you head out, take a lesson with one of our Perfect Paddles outfitters listed in this guide. They will be able to get you prepared for the challenge and most offer first-timers, beginners, and technique lessons.

In addition, most of the flat water conditions are tide-dependent. As well as wind-dependent. Before you head out, always check the weather. If there are plans for a storm, it is best to wait for a different day. You can also check the wind direction and strength through wind apps like the windy. app. 

While paddle boarding in Orange County you are likely to see leopard sharks, bat rays, sea turtles, jellyfish, and possibly dolphins and even whales. They are all very cool to look at but do not try to interact with them. They are wild animals and it is always best to avoid them while on the water. 

SUP Skills You Need to Have Before You Head Out

No matter where you plan to paddle you should always have a basic understanding of the SUP fundamentals. This includes how to stand, the proper paddling technique, and how to get back on your board if you should fall off. 

This is especially true in the ocean. When paddling here, you need to understand the wind, the tides, and the currents. As well as how to paddle past the whitewater. 

Specific skills you will need for paddling in Orange County include: Navigating busy waterways with heavy boat traffic and launching in and out of a surf zone.

When it comes to paddling in boat traffic, situational awareness is key. You want to know where every boat is around you at all times. Never cross in front of a moving boat. Or try to paddle directly across the marina. Always stick to the sides of the waterway and follow the way of the boat traffic. Most accidents on a SUP occur in tight areas like marinas. Respect every moving watercraft and you will remain safe!

To get a basic understanding of the techniques you need to paddle in Orange County,  if you’re ready to take your skills to the ocean,  and how to launch in and out of the surf, refer to our previous articles:

Wind and Weather and Where/When to Paddle

Southern California’s winds can vary. To avoid any high winds, it’s always best to SUP in the early morning hours or late afternoon. In addition, Orange County can be affected by the Santa Ana Winds. 

They are described as, “Strong, extremely dry downslope winds that originate inland and affect coastal Southern California and northern Baja California. The winds originate from cool, dry high-pressure air masses in the Great Basin.”

The Santa Ana winds can have a dramatic effect on paddling conditions. If you are a beginner, always check the wind strength before heading out. If the wind is strong, stick to the bay areas to paddle. These areas can offer extra protection from strong winds. 

If you are an experienced paddler, you may be able to use the winds to your advantage with a downwind run. Just make sure to see what direction the winds are heading before you create a plan. Or contact a local Paddling Professional either on Perfect Paddles or one of the outfitters listed in the article for advice on the best way to proceed. 

Local Wildlife Info from Paddling Pros

Erin from Sunset Stand Up Paddle states, “Laguna Beach (one of the many beaches in Orange County) is one of the most pristine and picturesque areas of the Southern California coast. Laguna is a designated Marine Protected area where whales, dolphins, sea lions and more are common to see during a paddle along the stunning coves and cliffs.

The ecosystem of Laguna is unique because there is no collection of marine life within the city beach/ocean limits. Therefore, our coves and reefs are full of pacific fish and marine life. We have two seasons of whale migration and during that time it is common to see humpbacks and great whales.

Additional Wildlife Activities:

1. Whale-Watching Cruise from Newport Beach

2–3 hours
Cruise off the coast of Orange County in search of whales on this excursion from Newport Beach. Watch the rugged, beautiful scenery of the Pacific Coast glide by as you listen to interesting commentary from your crew about the native California marine life. Watch for blows and tail slaps; these signal that humpback, minke, grey, finback or giant blue whales are near. Dolphins and other marine life are also in abundance during this family-friendly, year-round whale watching tour.

2. Whale Watching Excursion in Dana Point

2 hours
A scenic harbor in Southern California known as the “Whale Capital of the West,” Dana Point makes an ideal spot for spotting majestic marine animals. On a boat designed specifically for whale watching, come face-to-face with the gentle giants on this exciting cruise off the coast. Listen to fascinating commentary from your captain, and keep an eye out for sea lions and dolphins.

3. Catalina Island Day Trip from Anaheim hotels with Optional Upgrades

6+ hours
Spend the day exploring Catalina Island via zipline. During this full-day tour from Anaheim, ride a ferry to the quaint island. You also have the option to upgrade to a variety of different adventures to ensure your day in Avalon is packed full of fun! Round-trip transportation from select hotels in Anaheim is included.

4. Private Dolphin and Whale Watching Tour in Newport Beach

2–3 hours
Get a chance to spot whales and dolphins during this private boat tour in Newport Beach, led by a certified marine biologist. Listen to live narration on marine mammals as you travel comfortably in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat. Enjoy a scenic and fast-paced ride through Newport, Laguna Beach, and Dana Point in search of wildlife.

For a complete list of wildlife tours in Orange County click HERE.

Orange County

SUP Activity Highlights

While you're in town here are a few suggestions for SUP activities to get you started! There is a complete list below and you'll find ongoing paddle activities in the calendar section of the sidebar. Those listed in our highlight section represent the spectrum of paddle activities available in a paddle area like Orange County.

SUP Yoga

Bliss Paddle Yoga — Enjoy a relaxing yoga paddle session in beautiful Mission Beach. This class starts with a lesson on the beach to teach you paddle technique, launching, paddling and turning. Then, we paddle to a calm cove and anchor down the boards before moving through an hour of yoga asana on the boards. After breathing and stretching into all parts of the body, we enjoy a blissful aqua savasana, with gentle waves lapping at your board.

SUP Surfing 

Mckinnon SUP and Surf Lessons — Founded by Professional Surfer/Shaper Rocky McKinnon. Rocky is an accomplished waterman who has gained success and notoriety throughout the years by, at one time, being ranked one of the top 10 longboarders in the nation to multiple magazine cover shots. He has also been featured in television interviews and commercials as well as surf videos. If you want to learn how to SUP surf - go with Rocky!

SUP Glow Tours

Pirate Coast Paddle Company — Experience the Ultimate Glowing paddle adventure with our SUP Glow. This is our most popular tour that is truly an experience you shouldn’t miss. Each board is equipped with waterproof LED lighting that makes for a glowing spectacle of awesomeness. This is a guided night tour through calm waters, with an illuminated experience allowing you to enjoy paddling in a whole new thrilling way!

SUP Coastline Tours

Goff Tours — If you want to see the magical cliffs that surround Laguna Beach from the ocean, then you need to take a coastline tour with Goff Tours. From the ocean you’ll be able to see the magnificent cliffs full of houses and a bustling downtown street. It’s a view you’ll never forget. 

Orange County SUP Meetup Groups in the Area

Kayak /SUP Back Bay — Newport Beach!

The back bay of Newport Beach! It's an amazing place with calm waters, plenty of jumping fish and stingrays about! You can rent a kayak if you don't have one or want to bring one. It will be fun with our group.

For kayaking, the water is calm, serene, and even leaping fish are seen at times. We have seen turtles, Blue herons, and stingrays swimming below our feet. The Back bay is a protected wildlife area and many types of birds and other wildlife can be seen. Also, it is easy to kayak or paddleboard to other great views in the canals and all of Newport if you desire. Rates for kayaks are around $15/ hour at Southwind. SUP around $20 but you can bring your own board or Kayak and we can paddle on together! Parking is just under the bridge at PCH and Bayside drive.

Kayak or SUP in the Upper Newport Back Bay

We'll kayak or SUP in the beautiful Upper Back Bay from North Star Beach. This coastal wetland, one of the largest in Southern California, is renowned as one of the finest bird watching sites in North America. It is home to six rare or endangered species: Light Footed Clapper Rail, Brown Pelican, Belding's Savannah Sparrow, Black Rail, Peregrine Falcon and California Least Tern. Considered a "critical estuary" habitat - Upper Newport Bay is one of the most pristine remaining estuaries in Southern California.

Kayak or SUP in Huntington Harbor

We kayak at OEX in Huntington Beach once a month on a Friday, so be on the lookout for the exact dates. Your choice whether you want to kayak or stand up paddle. (This kayaking event alternates every other week with another one we have at Kayaks on the Water in Long Beach (near Ocean & 54th.) For those of us wanting to improve our skills and stamina -- and maybe embark on a full weekend of kayaking and hiking -- twice a month makes sense.

For a complete rundown of SUP Meetup Groups in Orange County click HERE and search!

Top SUP Launch Locations in Orange County

Orange County is home to some of the most beautiful places on planet Earth to enjoy time on a SUP. For our purposes, we will mostly be concentrating on the coastal regions in areas stretching from San Clemente, Laguna Beach, and Huntington to a few back bay locations located inland.

Within any of these launch locations, you will be able to find picturesque views and warm sunshine. As well as some of the best places to eat in California. Let’s get to it! 

Upper Newport Back Bay

Upper Newport Back Bay is a hidden natural estuary, and protected wetland, that is a fantastic place to experience on the water for all types of paddlers from SUP, canoes, to kayaks. Beginner paddlers might find this location to be the best one in Orange County as it’s mostly protected from the elements like the wind and features an ecological reserve that provides stunning views and chances to interact with local wildlife. 

The bay itself is home to some 80 species of fish as well as being a resting spot for migratory birds from Alaska and Canada. This includes species like the light-footed clapper rail, the Belding’s Savannah sparrow, and the California least tern. Even if these species don’t sound familiar to you, they’re worth keeping an eye out for while you paddle this scenic location!  

Orange County

Balboa Island

Balboa Island and the nearby Newport Harbor couple together to create the perfect beginner location for SUP. 

Why?

Calm water and easy access. 

There are plenty of beach launch locations to drop your board in. Once there, paddle around the calm water where you can take in the beautiful scenery of houses and boats. 

This is one of the easiest places to SUP in Orange County so if you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon on the water, check out Balboa Island and Newport Harbor. 

Of course, as it is a canal system full of houses and personal boats, you will need to keep a watchful eye on any traffic while on the water. It’s a good time to practice your situational awareness as you make your way around the island. 

Always stick to the sides of the canal, never cross in front of a moving boat, and always remain visible to the captains. If you can do that, you’ll have fun, and more importantly, a safe time on the water! 

Orange County

Laguna Beach 

The entire coastline of Laguna Beach is an immediate reminder why paddle boarding California is a “must-do” activity during your visit. The sheer cliffs. The beautiful palm trees. The spectacular homes. And the fun downtown area full of world-class restaurants all combine to make Laguna one of the places you won’t forget while in Orange County. 

In addition, it’s home to many coves and wonderful rock formations which make for a beautiful setting for your paddle. The surf here is typically smaller so launching from the beach is a breeze. Just make sure to check the swell report before you decide to paddle on any given day. You can also enjoy snorkeling right off your board if it is an activity that interests you. 

While on the water, paddlers can expect to see dolphins, fur seals, cormorants, sea lions, and if the timing is just right, maybe even a blue or gray whale as it passes close to the shoreline. Always keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife in California, and of course, stay safe and never try to interact with any of them.

Often the best thing to do is combine your stay with a SUP tour with Goff Tours located right on the beach, and you’ll receive a first-class view of this beautiful coastal town with inside information on where to go after you’re off the water. 

If there was one stretch of coast we think you have to see for yourself, it might be Laguna Beach. 

Orange County

Dana Point Harbor

Dana Point Harbor is another launch location that is perfect for the beginner SUP enthusiast. At this location there is free and paid parking. If you get there early, you’re more likely to snag some free parking. 

The launch spot is a sandy beach which means you can easily launch your board with no issues. In addition, the location is flat water, especially if you want to stay inside the harbor. And you’re likely to see plenty of other paddle boarders on the water so you can enjoy time under the sun together — and maybe, even make a few new friends! 

One word of caution — this is a harbor. That means you are likely to run into plenty of boat traffic. Always stick to the side of the canals when paddling. Never cross in front of a moving boat. And make sure you remain visible to the captains at all times on the water. Most accidents on a SUP come from being around boats inside a closed area. Keep your eyes open and always be aware of your surroundings. Do this, and you’ll have a great time on the water in Dana Point Harbor! 

If you do decide to head out of the harbor, you can make your way around Dana Point. The paddle to get outside of the harbor might be too difficult for beginner paddlers, but the views are gorgeous! 

Orange County

Huntington Harbor

Huntington Harbor might be a spot you should check out if you’re looking for a calm place to paddle that is usually not crowded with additional paddlers on the water for Orange County SUP.

There are several convenient places to launch here as well as ample parking within the marina. But the best part about paddling here is the chance to spot big yachts and beautiful homes right from the harbor’s waters. 

After you launch your board, you can paddle through any of the numerous canals to see big yachts and the beautiful homes that accompany them, first hand! 

Unfortunately you are not allowed to access the open ocean from Huntington Harbor when you are paddling a SUP, kayak, or other personal watercraft. The access to the open ocean passes through the Naval Weapons Center. But, as Huntington Beach can get big surf, you’re better off sticking to the harbor anyway! 

Head here if you’re looking for a relaxing flat water paddle with low stakes and plenty to see! 

Orange County

Crystal Cove State Park

Do you want to escape the crowds and reconnect with nature during your stay in Orange County, all while not having to drive several hours to do so?

If so, your best option might be Crystal Cove State Park.

The park is located at the southernmost end of Newport Beach and on the northern border of Laguna Beach. It’s a rustic wilderness oasis consisting of sandy beach and rocky tide pools. It also features 18 miles of cliff trails so if you are into hiking as well as paddle boarding, Crystal Cove offers the best of both worlds. 

There are three main beaches to paddle here: Moro Beach, Reef Point Beach, and Los Trancos Beach. 

SUP to You, one of our featured SUP outfitters writes about each location on their website. 

Local Info

Their local info states, “Moro Beach is the southernmost beach in the park and closest to the N Coast Highway. Campgrounds and hiking trails are located on the other side of the highway, as is the parking lot which has beach access via a tunnel. The southern end of the beach has a nice left break if you’re into SUP surfing, and I’ve heard that it can get pretty big during hurricanes. 

The next beach up is Reef Point Beach, which is accessible from a large day-use parking area only by stairs. It’s known for its many tide pools and kelp forests off the rocky shores, so it would be a great spot to paddle board off-shore for some exploring and snorkeling.

Los Trancos Beach is the third beach up northward and is the Historic District area of the park where you can find the Crystal Cove Beach Cottages, which are vintage beach homes that can be rented (plan about a year in advance because they get snatched up quickly). You can also find Crystal Cove Shake Shack and The Beachcomber Café, serving an array of American style comfort foods (they also provide parking validation). The parking lot is a pretty long walk from the beach, so if you plan to do a day trip from here with your paddleboard, plan on dropping off your stuff and crew next to the Historic District entrance. If you’re paddling up and down the Crystal Cove coastline on your SUP for the day, this would be a great spot to break for a nice lunch and take a leisurely stroll through the Historic District.”

Quick note: There is a fee for entry as it is a state park and you will need to hike a bit to reach the water with your SUP. Your best option here might be to bring along your own iSUP or arrange for a rental delivery from SUP to You at this location for Orange County SUP! 

Orange County

SUP Surfing Information 

If you are a true beginner in SUP surfing, we recommend you take a lesson (or two, or three) before you give this activity a try. 

Locals can be territorial when it comes to their breaks, so you don’t want to cause any problems while on the water. In addition, SUP boards are big and they are heavy compared to their much smaller surfboard counterparts. If you are inexperienced, you can easily lose control of your board, or your paddle, and put surfers in immediate danger. 

With that said, if you’re a seasoned surfer with plenty of experience underneath your belt - these are the best longboard and SUP surfing waves to check out while in Orange County! 

Bonus: We've linked surf cams and surf reports underneath each location when possible. Hit the link and check on the surf before you head out!

Top SUP Surfing Locations in Orange County

San Onofre (Old Man’s)

The best longboard and SUP surfboard wave in Orange County has to be at San Onofre at the break affectionately known as Old Man’s. 

It received this nickname for a reason. The long, slow, and smaller waves are perfect for old men, whether they’re on longboards or a SUP surfboard. 

But fear not! It’s not just for old guys. It’s the perfect, gentle wave to have a complete days worth of fun under the sun catching some of the best waves in Southern California. 

At this break you won’t find any territorial short boarders. Instead, you’ll find a ton of people having fun catching rideable waves together.

This spot features classic Southern California vibes as is the perfect place to bust out your SUP surfboard and carve up a wave or two. 

Old Man's Surf Report

Address: Old Pacific Highway and Beach Club Road San Clemente, CA 92672

Orange County

Doheny Beach

If you’re still new to SUP surfing, and you can’t find a spot at Old Man’s, your next best location would probably be at Doheny. This family-friendly beach is full of gentle rolling waves, a positive and supportive crowd, as well as camping options for recreational vehicles. 

The waves here are often perfect for a SUP surfboard. They’re generally on the smaller side. And they break clean and easy. You’ll be having a ton of fun surfing here with the rest of the local crew! 

One side note: Longboards and shortboards are allowed anywhere on the beach. But if it gets crowded (and it usually does) life guards will restrict SUP surfboards to certain areas of the beach to keep everyone safe. Always take note about where you’re allowed to enter the water before you head in and you’ll be okay! Typically you will have to head south to The Hammer at San Juan Creek. 

Doheny Beach Surf Report

Address: 25300 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629

Orange County

Churches, San Clemente 

Churches is a fun right-hand breaking wave that seems to go on forever. However, the waves here can get bigger and more hollow compared to our previous locations. As such, it should really only be conquered by experienced SUP surfers. 

If you are experienced though, this might be the most action-packed wave on the list! Expect a faster ride with plenty of time to maneuver at the top. Bust off the lip, come back down, and ride the right hand wave until you’re satisfied. 

Due to being a more experienced wave, the crowds can get territorial, but you should be okay as long as you practice proper surf etiquette. 

Churches Surf Report

Address: Del Mar Street, San Clemente, CA 92672

Bolsa Chica State Beach

Inside Bolsa Chica State Beach you are likely to find 2-4ft waves  gentle breakers perfect for longboards and SUP surfboards. 

In addition, because it is inside a state beach, the crowds might be a little sparse compared to the more popular surf breaks on our list. This might be due to the $15 entry fee that local surfers most likely don’t want (or need) to pay! 

We can’t stay this should be your first option to check, but it should definitely be on your list if the rest of the areas fail to produce the space and the waves you’re looking for. 

Bolsa Chica Surf Report

Address: The beach extends from Pacific Coast Highway at Golden West to Pacific Coast Highway at Warner Ave.

Orange County

Top Restaurants in Orange County (source):

Local Choices from Erin:

The Deck

Come here for the views alone! Grab a table right on “the deck” and watch the sun drift along the coast as it sets right in front of your dinner table. The Deck serves fresh local seafood is you enjoy a great fish dinner. 

Carmelita's

Opened in 2009, Carmelita's Kitchen has been wowing diners ever since. This lakeside, Mexican restaurant is decked by works of Mexican artists and has a vibrancy to it. Their robust cuisine is also packed with flavors.

La Sirena Grill

Located in a rather charmless shack, the bustling scene and aroma are enough to draw people into La Sirena Grill. As you walk through the outdoor dining area, you'll notice this is a neighborhood hangout place; patrons talk across tables and converse with the staff as if they were neighbors. Organic is the theme, and vegetarians are also in for a treat. 

Docent Brewery

If a tasty craft brew is your choice of drink, head to the Docent Brewery for a great glass of beer in a fun atmosphere. 

Additional Top Local Restaurants (source):

Check out Orange County's top 38 restaurants! 

Some featured spots on the list:

Haute Cakes Cafe (Newport)

Great place for breakfast or lunch! Pro tip: Don’t leave without trying one of their brown butter cookies!

Outpost Kitchen

With a couple of locations in Orange County, Outpost Kitchen is one of the best go-to breakfast (and lunch!) spots! They have great bowls, salads, and smoothies that are perfect for a quick and healthy meal.

Sidecar Doughnuts (Santa Monica)

Their doughnuts are freshly made every day and they’re always rotating in new flavors, so there’s always an excuse to stop by.

Zinc Cafe 

Head here if you’re in Laguna Beach! They have great breakfast and lunch options, as well as the best iced tea in OC.

Additional Attractions if the Wind and Weather Don’t Cooperate for Orange County SUP (Click on the links for additional information on each location):

Local info from Erin:

Besides a great recommendation to surf one of the famous breaks around Orange County, Erin also recommends,” hiking along the El Morro and Crystal Cove wilderness areas.” Especially if you enjoy the outdoors whether you’re on the water or off of it!  

Additional Attractions and Activities:

Drive Down Pacific Coast Highway

This one might be a necessity as it is, but if you haven’t experienced a drive down the Pacific Coast, then you’re missing out! This short road trip is FULL of beautiful sites, sweeping landscapes, and beautiful beachside stops you have to experience at least once in your life. Do this on a day you can’t get on the water. 

ZOOMARS Petting Zoo

A fun, small, and intimate petting zoo perfect for young kids. They have a wide array of animals you can pet and feed. It’s not as magnificent as the big zoos in California, but it’s a fun (and less crowded) option. 

Pageant of the Masters

This attraction sounds weird, but it’s worth it for the novelty alone! Featuring “living art pieces”, performers recreate famous paintings and literally make them come alive! It’s a surprisingly fun and entertaining activity to enjoy. 

Rent Bikes at Newport Pier

If you still want to spend time exercising but want to do it in a lively setting, renting bikes at the Newport Pier should be your go-to option. It’s a fun way to see all of Newport in an afternoon. 

Newport Back Bay Loop Trail

A fun hiking trail that immerses you in the back bay of Newport! 

San Clemente Beach Trail

Hugging one of the most picturesque shorelines in Southern California, the San Clemente Beach Trail is one of the premier rail-trails in the area. The trail itself is technically a rail-with-trail, as it shares the corridor with an active Amtrak line with service between Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as Metrolink trains that are part of the L.A. commuter rail system. Whereas most communities surrounding L.A. have fallen victim to rampant development, surfside San Clemente has preserved its small town identity and spirit. The trail enhances these qualities. Enjoy a fun hike here!  

Discovery Cube

If you have young kids with you, an afternoon at the Discovery Cube will satisfy their attention and curiosity. Let them explore over 100+ hands-on exhibits for a fun afternoon inside. 

Disney Land

Everyone has heard of Disneyland but it's worth a mention on our list if only because of how famous it is. If you're a fan of the famous Disney characters or if your kids are, then a trip to experience Disneyland in Southern California is a must.

Balboa Island

As we've already mentioned, Balboa Island is a great place to drop a SUP into the water and explore. But it can also be done on land as well – in the form of bike rentals for the day. There is plenty to see, do, explore, and eat on Balboa Island. We recommend spending an entire day here to take it all in!

San Juan Capistrano

San Juan Capistrano is a small community located in south Orange County. It is located roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. It is known locally as the “birthplace of Orange County,” and is a town of historical significance in California. One of the highlights is exploring the Mission San Juan Capistrano. It's a must-do activity in this beautiful, SoCal town!

Hotels/Price Ranges

There are numerous (countless) places to stay for Orange County SUP. We always suggest you do research before heading into the area. But to give you an idea of price, we’ve listed a few local hotels in the Laguna Beach and Newport Beach areas. 

Laguna Beach Hotels

Pacific Edge Hotel on Laguna Beach $228.60/night

Capri Laguna on the Beach  $309/per night

14 West Laguna Beach  $229/per night

La Casa Del Camino  $201/night

Newport Beach Hotels

Renaissance Newport Beach Hotel  $152/per night

Newport Beach Marriott Bayview $259/ per night

Hyatt Regency John Wayne Airport Newport Beach $167.44/per night

Camping Areas

Orange County has some amazing camping opportunities right on the beach. In fact, many of our previously mentioned SUP surf spots offer camping right in the park. Check out a few options below:

(source)

Bolsa Chica State Beach

17851 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA 92649 

Features & Amenities

  • Family Campsites
  • RV sites, hookups, and dump station
  • Bike trails
  • Hiking Trails
  • Picnic area
  • Visitor Centers
  • Environmental Education
  • Interpretive Exhibits
  • Fishing
  • Beach Access
  • Swimming, surfing, windsurfing
  • Family Programs
  • Geocaching
  • Food Service
  • Parking
  • Restrooms
  • Showers
  • Potable Water
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Beach Wheelchair available for use

Caspers Wilderness Park

33401 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 

Features & Amenities

  • Amphitheater
  • Barbeques/Fire Rings
  • Bicycling/Bike Trails
  • Camping-Family Group: RV electrical hookups available
  • Dump Station
  • Equestrian Camping
  • Equestrian Trails
  • Family Picnic Area
  • Hiking Trails
  • Interpretive Center: Open Saturday & Sundays only, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Interpretive Programs
  • Playground/Tot Lot
  • Restrooms
  • Scenic Overlook
  • Showers

Crystal Cove State Park

8471 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, California 92651

Features & Amenities

  • Boating
  • Environmental Campsites
  • Family and Primitive Camping
  • Lodging
  • RV campsites with hookups
  • Dump station
  • Biking and Hiking Trails
  • Horseback riding
  • Historical sites
  • Picnic tables
  • Environments exhibits 
  • Fishing
  • Docent-led tours
  • Scuba Diving and snorkeling
  • Beach access
  • Nature & Wildlife Viewing
  • Windsurfing
  • Surfing
  • Family Programming
  • Geocaching
  • Food Service
  • Restrooms and showers
  • Drinking Water 
  • Wheelchair Accessible

Doheny State Beach

25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive Dana Point, CA 92629

Features & Amenities

  • Campsites
  • Dump station
  • RV access
  • Hiking and biking trails
  • Historical and cultural site
  • Picnic areas
  • Visitor center with informational exhibits
  • Educational programs
  • Fishing
  • Beach area
  • Swimming
  • Nature area & wildlife viewing
  • Windsurfing
  • Surfing
  • Geocaching
  • Food services
  • Parking
  • Restrooms and showers
  • Potable water 
  • Wheelchair accessible

O’Neill Regional Park

30892 Trabuco Canyon Road Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678

Features & Amenities

  • Amphitheater
  • BBQs and fire rings
  • Hiking, biking, and equestrian trails
  • Individual, equestrian, and group campsites
  • Conference room
  • Dogs permitted on-leash in campground and on all paved trails.
  • Dump Station
  • Equestrian arena and pens
  • Picnic areas
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Interpretive center & programs
  • Playground
  • Restrooms and showers
  • Covered picnic shelter with tables

San Clemente State Beach

225W. Calafia Ave San Clemente, CA 92672

Features & Amenities

  • Group & family campsites
  • RV access with hookups and dump station on site
  • Hiking and biking trails
  • Historical/cultural site
  • Picnic areas
  • Interpretive center with exhibits and programs
  • Fishing
  • Scuba Diving and snorkeling
  • Beach access
  • Swimming, surfing, and windsurfing
  • Nature and wildlife viewing
  • Geocaching
  • Parking
  • Restrooms and outdoor showers
  • Drinking Water

San Onofre State Beach

Bluffs: 5200 S. Pacific Coast Hwy, San Clemente, CA 92672 

San Mateo Campground: 830 Cristianitos, San Clemente CA, 92672

Features & Amenities

  • Family & group campsites
  • Primitive Camping
  • RV Sites, hookups, dump station
  • Hiking and biking trails
  • Picnic areas
  • Interpretive exhibits and programs
  • Fishing
  • Scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, and surfing
  • Beach access
  • Nature and wildlife viewing
  • Geocaching
  • Parking
  • Restrooms and showers
  • Drinking water
  • Wheelchair accessible

Fun Orange County Area Info (source):

  1. Nicolas Cage once awoke to a naked man wearing a leather jacket eating a Fudgesicle in front of his bed, in his Orange County house. Cage couldn't live in that house again and moved to the Bahamas.
  2. The Orange County, FL School District, that had previously allowed outside religious groups to hand out Bibles to school kids, completely reversed that policy after the Satanic Temple requested the right to hand out copies of "The Satanic Children's Big Book of Activities" under the same policy
  3. There was a child born in Orange County, known as 'Ghost Baby', with almost no blood, survived. The only known case of similar "ghost white baby" surviving at birth occurred in the U.K. in 2012.
  4. Disneyland located in Southern California and Disney World located in Florida are both located in Orange County
  5. The battle occurred in Spotsylvania and Orange Counties in Virginia.
  6. Hello Kitty cafes have opened in Australia and in South Korea and rumor states another one will open in Orange County in California.
  7. 3 Orange County Inmates who broke out of jail, filmed their own escape and one of them tried to turn themselves in for the reward money.
  8. Los Angeles and Orange County have over 25 "pay-to-stay" jails that charge wealthier criminals up to $100 a night to avoid regular jails
  9. Former prime minister of Vietnam moved to Orange County after the war, where he opened and ran a liquor store.
  10. The first PEZ dispensers made to look like living people were not produced until 2006 -- the set featured the Teutul family of TV show "Orange County Choppers"

Orange County

The California Adventure Continues…

We hope you enjoyed our Perfect Paddles Guide to Orange County SUP and kayak. This bustling beachside city is known for its amazing cliffside views and beautiful sunsets. 

Here you can paddle seemingly endless amounts of shoreline perfect for advanced paddlers and beginners alike. With so many locations to drop in and paddle around, you must put at least one of these Orange County launch spots on your paddling list.

Looking for a location outside of Orange County? Then check out the rest of our California resources by clicking on our SUP Search section on Perfect Paddles! The fun in California never ends and we hope to help guide you in creating the perfect trip down south! 

About the Author
Daniel

Daniel

Daniel is a travelling author with a passion for exploring new waterways and sharing his experiences with the world.

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