This is the Perfect Paddles SUP and Kayak Guide to San Diego County — Everything you need to know about paddling here!
Do you want to experience San Diego SUP and kayak? Not sure where to go? Or what to do on the days when the wind and weather don't cooperate?
Then check out this comprehensive SUP and kayak guide to San Diego where you will find the exact launch locations, additional activities, and other fun stuff to do in San Diego!
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, to paddling with your pups.
Our goal is to make it easy for you to make the most of your time on the water and see San Diego from its best point of view.
San Diego has a vibe of its own. The palm tree-lined cities evoke feelings of laid-back summer vibes, wrapped in bustling streets full of people heading to work or the beach.
For most of the year, San Diego enjoys beautiful weather perfect for almost every outdoor activity - especially SUP, surf, and kayaking. Many of its inhabitants take full advantage.
Due to this perfect location for wind, weather, and waves, San Diego has become a hotspot for vacationers to visit every year.
Most visitors will head straight to the beach, maybe a bar or restaurant, and back to their hotel, without ever getting a local’s view of what makes San Diego great.
The team at Perfect Paddles knows this. And we set out to fix the problem.
To understand where, when, and what you should expect from a locals perspective in this beautiful Southern California county, check out this Perfect Paddles Guide to San Diego!
A preview of the area we're going to cover:
How This Guide Works
This guide is built to be comprehensive. As such, it is full of important information about San Diego. We will cover launch locations, outfitter activities with our must-see suggestions, skills to know before you, 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 San Diego — 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!
Paddling Pro Contributors
First, we'd like to give a special thanks to a couple of Paddling Pros for contributing their local knowledge to this guide. You will see certain sections marked with "Local Info." These sections include inside information on the best places in San Diego.
The two main contributors to our Perfect Paddle SUP and Kayak Guide to San Diego include:
Ask Adam to take you on a coastal foraging paddle, or a spearfishing lesson on your paddle board!
Jason's sunrise paddles are epic and a great way to get your day started and see San Diego before the city wakes up
Thank you both for sharing your years of experience, local insight, expert guidance, and knowledge!
-Perfect Paddles Travel Brief-
To have the best time possible in San Diego, 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 highly suggest up-to-the-minute info from a local expert.
Check out a few outfitters in San Diego County below!
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 around San Diego click HERE.
SUP Outfitters in San Diego County:
Location: Encinitas, California 92007
Best Offering: San Diego SUP Spear Fishing. Learn the ins and outs of how to spearfish using your paddle board. Adam Uribe from Spirit SUP also offers a coastal foraging class. He'll take you on a guided SUP tour with stops along the shoreline to forage for wild edibles. Very cool and unique classes!
Member Deal: 10% off services including lessons, rentals, and tours
Location: 2592 Laning Rd, San Diego, CA 92106
Best Offering: Affiliated with the West Coast Paddle Sports, SUP Pups will have you paddling with your dog in no time. Enjoy an afternoon with your favorite furry friend on the water and you’re both guided on how to successfully stand on your board.
Member Deal: 10% off services including lessons and rentals
Location: 4000 Fanuel St, San Diego, CA 92109
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
Location: San Diego, CA
Best Offering: Tours - Wandersurf offers many different ways to enjoy time on the water. From sunrise paddles to sunset paddles, whatever you’re looking for, there’s a good chance Wandersurf offers it.
Member Deal: 10% off services including rentals, lessons, and tours
Location: Located on the waterfront of the Courtyard Marriott Liberty Station at 2592 Laning Road San Diego, CA 92106
Best Offering: SUP Rentals - if you are looking for a board you can rent for multiple hours - or a specialty board like a race board or a Megaladon board (a large inflatable board for multiple paddlers), then West Coast Paddle Sports is the place to go.
Member Deal: 20% off West Coast Paddle Board Rentals
For a comprehensive list of every outfitter in San Diego County (not just in the city of San Diego) 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 race boards, SUP surfboards, or oversized inflatable boards, head to West Coast Paddle Sports.
Best Time of Year to Visit:
The best times to visit San Diego are March through May and September through November. You can find some great deals on travel rates during the low seasons in comparison to the peak summer season. However, because of the warm weather, which averages about 60 to 70 degrees year-round, there's never really a terrible time to visit. But that doesn't necessarily mean sunny days abound as well. During May and June, overcast days can occur, so much so that locals designate the months as "May Gray" and "June Gloom." And when it comes to rain, San Diego sees the most rainfall during the winter months, so a day at the beach is out of the question during this time (not to mention the ocean's waters are way too cold for swimming). (travel.usnews.com)
San Diego is known to have a very temperate climate for most of the year. You can expect average temperature ranges anywhere from 66F in January and December with lows in the 50F range. Highs during the summer tend to hover around 80F with lows in the 70s. Much of San Diego’s temperatures are contingent on the local wind currents offshore. Most of the time, it is a pleasant temperature year-round.
Average Water Temperatures
The average water temperatures from January to December in San Diego are as follows (source):
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Min °F 58.1 58 58.1 59.8 60.7 62.8 65.4 66.2 65.2 63.5 61.8 59.2
Max °F 60.3 59.7 60.7 61.5 64.5 66.4 68.5 69 68.3 66.4 63.9 61.7
SUP Environments to Paddle In
- Pacific Ocean
Potential Water Hazards
Many of the launch locations for San Diego SUP and kayaks 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 windy.app.
While paddle boarding in San Diego 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 San Diego 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 San Diego, 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:
- Beginner's Guide to SUP: Everything You Need to Know Before You Get on the Water
- Comprehensive Guide: Intro to SUP Surfing
- What to Know About the California Current and How it Can Affect Your Paddling
- SUP FAQ for Beginners
- How to Stay Safe and Test Your Paddling Skills
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, San Diego 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
Adam at Uribe SUP in Encinitas, CA
"Whales migrate south starting in January. We also have dolphins, pelicans, kingfishers, kelp beds, and great fishing. The natural environment is always changing daily, monthly and seasonal depending on the time of paddle."
Jason from Wandersurf in San Diego
"May - October we have a better chance of seeing bat rays, stingrays and sea lions - just more of them around. Towards the winter months, they are still there but not as many. Be sure to shuffle your feet. Stingrays are hard to spot but shuffling will scare them away before you step on one and get stung. If you do get stung hurry to the nearest lifeguard. They will submerge your foot in hot water."
For additional encounters with sea life:
La Holla Seals and Sea Lions
If you are kayaking or snorkeling in the La Jolla Underwater Park, you may find yourself in the water next to either one.
Children’s Pool Beach is a rare urban seal rookery where harbor seals rest on the sand and give birth during the pupping season, which is between December 15–May 15. During pupping season, the beach closes to humans. In the summer, when people can sunbathe and swim in the ocean here, our seals tend to vacate early in the morning and return near sundown. Needless to say, if you time your visit right, you’re likely to catch a glimpse of seals flopping around or sleeping on the beach. (source)
La Jolla Leopard Sharks
La Jolla leopard sharks begin to arrive at La Jolla Shores Beach in June. They stay in the area as late as December and numbers usually peak in August and September. So, if you’re going out of your way to see them, these are the two best months to visit. (source). Leopard sharks are very beautiful to look at and equally shy. Quiet, gentle paddle strokes are best to keep them from swimming away.
San Diego Tide Pools
A great opportunity to see naturally-occurring wildlife in San Diego is winter tide pooling. Check the tide calendars for daytime minus tides and then head out to our San Diego tide pools. In these habitats, you’re likely to see hermit crabs, sea slugs, sea anemones, small fish, two-spot octopus (rare), snails, and more.
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 town like San Diego
Stand Up Paddle Board with your Pup
SUP Pups California — At SUP Pups we provide you with the Ultimate Adventure with your Pup. A one-of-a-kind Stand Up Paddle Board Lesson learning the basics, safety and technique of the FUN sport while giving you tips and tricks to help your dog fall in LOVE to!
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.
Got your own board? Here are some suggested locations where you can find some calm water to practice SUP yoga on your own:
- Mission Bay
- Agua Hedionda Lagoon
- Lake San Marcos
- Liberty Station
In a town where there are many world-class surf spots to check out (and we hope you get to drop in at each one) one of the best places to SUP surf in San Diego is the small island off the coast on Coronado. This launch location gets the best peelers and is open to SUP surfers. Just make sure you have some experience in the waves if you plan on surfing. You do not want to get on the locals' bad side. Keep reading or use the table of contents (blue box on your left) to jump down and see a complete list of recommended spots for paddle surfers.
SUP Sunrise and Sunset Tours
Wandersurf Board Company — If you are an early riser or an afternoon enjoyer, Wandersurf has you covered. Enjoy a Sunrise Paddle with some amazing views on the water or watch the sunset in the west from atop a paddle board. No matter your taste, head to Wandersurf for a tour you won’t forget.
San Diego SUP Meetup Groups in the Area
SUP Stand Up Paddle Boarding: This is a stand up paddle boarding group. All levels are welcome. Everyone is welcome! This is a free group. There is no expert leading it or charging you. The purpose of this group is to get out on the water to enjoy a paddle with company! If you are looking for others to paddle board with or build motivation to take out your board more frequently, this group is for you! BYOPB (bring your own paddle board).
Paddle Board Surfing: This group is for anyone that wants to get together for a paddle board surf session in the San Diego area. You can be a beginner or advanced. Happy to help any beginners improve or help you get started all together. I have access to a few demo boards and rentals if you don't have your own equipment.
Typically will meet up in Mission Beach just south of the roller coaster or in Ocean Beach by dog beach which is another good SUP surfing wave. Lots of waves around there without the crowds. If the weather and waves don't cooperate we can meet at the Bahia and work on paddle and board handling techniques that will help you in the surf.
Paddle Boarding and Yoga Around Mission Bay: To inspire connection and conversation among the paddle community in San Diego! We will host a variety of classes combining paddle boarding and yoga (both on the board or when it's too cold out we will paddle to a park and host class on land). We hope to combine fitness and recreation at our events and sometimes good food and beverages!
As San Diego sits on the Pacific Ocean, it is only natural for such a spot to have many places to drop a SUP in the water and paddle out. To narrow it down, we've chosen the best SUP launch locations in and around the beautiful city of San Diego.
Our first location for San Diego SUP and kayak happens to be the spot to visit if you want to be in the center of the action. Mission Bay is a huge man-made saltwater bay. This water environment is relatively calm on most days with minimal wind and plenty of spots to drop into the water.
It’s ideal for flat water paddling, SUP fishing, SUP yoga, or touring in order to become familiar with the San Diego scene.
In addition, it’s just a 10 minute drive from downtown San Diego and 15 minutes from the airport. This makes it very convenient for paddlers who want to get on the water right away.
Once there, you’ll be surrounded by wide open blue skies, beautiful waterfront homes, and a few palm trees dotting the shore. If you had time for only one place to explore on a SUP while in San Diego, we would have to recommend Mission Bay. You can rent a board at Bliss Paddle Yoga, take a SUP yoga class, and take advantage of some savings with our Member Deal with them!
One word of warning though — it does get crowded! If you’re not a people-person, head to Mission Bay early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Local info from Jason at Wandersurf Board Company: "Mission Bay Crown Point Park area is a great place to see the sunrise! Sunset paddles with lights under the board and on top are best in Bonita Cove, also in Mission bay, but down towards the ocean side - less boat traffic, and great for seeing bat rays, and sea lions. Both paddles are about 2.5 miles."
Coronado Island - Tidelands Park
Coronado is an island that sits just off the edge of San Diego. From downtown San Diego, it’s just a 5 minute drive over the famous Coronado Bridge.
If you want to see the city of San Diego in a whole new way, we suggest heading to Coronado Island. And more specifically, in Tidelands Park.
From here you’ll be able to take in images of the skyline - Petco Park where the Padres play, the skyscrapers of downtown, and the famous Coronado Hotel.
The park itself is full of wide-open grassy fields with plenty of places to drop your SUP in the water and paddle around. Afterwards, relax under the sun on the shore or head back into downtown San Diego for food and drinks!
La Jolla has been called the Jewel of the California Coast. Or, if it hasn’t been called that, it definitely should be!
This launch location for San Diego SUP and kayak might be the most beautiful spot on our list. And for good reason.
As you make your way onto the water you’ll be surrounded by staggering cliffs and an abundance of wildlife you can interact with. Once there, you’ll be able to see seals sunbathe on the rocks, birds flying through the air, and maybe a bat ray, leopard shark, sea turtle, or jellyfish floating by underneath your feet.
In addition, you’ll be able to see the tremendous beach coves and sea caves that line the shore.
For the views alone, we had to include La Jolla on our list.
Del Mar - Dog Beach
Thanks to the friendly atmosphere welcoming our best furry friends, Del Mar has become affectionately known as Dog Beach.
It has maintained its reputation as being dog friendly because it's one of two locations to allow dogs onto the beach (a part of Ocean Beach also allows dogs). And they’ve been doing it since 1959!
This beach launch location is the farthest north location for San Diego SUP and kayaking on our list and is a great spot for both flatwater paddling and SUP surfing as it has a river mouth location for the activity if that is your preference. The beach is located north of 29th street and stretches for nearly one half mile — so you’re guaranteed to find a spot to your liking.
The second beach that features a dog-friendly atmosphere for San Diego SUP and kayak is Ocean Beach. But beyond that, this section of San Diego is also the most laid back.
Locals here head down to the beach to watch the sunset. Play guitar. Make new friends. Build a bonfire. And just give off a solid chill vibe.
It’s easy to launch your board right from the beach. And due to its large stretch, you can most often find a spot to yourself.
However, the waves can get big here. If you are not experienced in the ocean, or the conditions are too extreme, we recommend you head to one of our other launch locations listed here.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon
Are crowds not your thing? Do you feel the same way about waves and the ocean?
Then Agua Hedionda Lagoon is the place for you. This three-mile wild wetland delivers calm waters to paddle on if flatwater is your taste. And a beautiful natural environment to enjoy a relaxing paddle from your SUP.
Head here for San Diego SUP and kayaking if you’re tired of the big-city vibes, crowded beaches, and just want an afternoon to yourself.
Shelter Island Shoreline Park
Do you want a slice of the city-life and a laid-back nature vibe? Shelter Island Shoreline Park is the perfect balance between the two. It’s conveniently located between the city and the ocean. As you paddle here for San Diego SUP and kayak you can gaze at both from atop your board.
The calm waters found at this launch location are ideal for the beginning paddler who just wants a place to practice away from the crowds and boat traffic.
Bonus: Don’t forget your cell phone or camera for a perfect spot to take pictures of the setting sun. You won’t regret it!
Lake San Marcos
A hidden gem? Calm waters? A convenient location for San Diego SUP and kayak?
You can have it all at Lake San Marcos. This launch location might be the least-crowded on our list and on certain days, offers the calmest waters.
While it doesn’t have the exciting views, the bright lights of the city, or the energy of a crowd, it does offer a great place for an afternoon getaway with friends.
And once you’re done paddling, you can head to one of the many world-class restaurants that line the shore.
If you plan on staying in the harbor, this spot is excellent for beginners. It's relatively sheltered from the elements and can provide a calm place to have fun. Just remember to exercise situational awareness here. Most accidents on a SUP come inside harbors. The boat traffic can make it dangerous for beginners who don't know the rules of the road — so to speak.
Always stick to the edges of the harbor when paddling. Never cross in front of a moving boat. And always have situational awareness the entire time you're on the water.
Outside of Oceanside Harbor is mostly for experienced paddlers only. This is because of the rough wind swells and large ocean waves that can make it a difficult and dangerous endeavor for the beginner to get out of the harbor.
If you can time it right, and get a little lucky, you might be able to spot a whale or two from your paddle board! If that sounds like it’s worth the risk — then you’d be correct.
There are only a few places around the world with a chance to see a whale while on the water — and Oceanside Harbor is one of them.
Before you go, we recommend you check the wind and the waves. If the conditions are too rough, opt for a different location for San Diego SUP and kayaking. And of course, always wear a strong leash and working PFD.
If you are in need of a SUP rental at a location perfect for beginners, then Liberty Station should be your number one spot. West Coast Paddle Sports' sister company West Coast Paddle Rentals has a convenient spot right on the beach for San Diego SUP and kayak. They'll guide you through a quick lesson if you need one. Then, you're free to hit the water!
The paddling here is light and easy. Much of this area is protected from the elements so you are likely to find a perfect flat water location for a fun afternoon of paddling. Afterwards, you can hang around the park for some extra fun.
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 San Diego!
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!
Cardiff Reef is a favorite with local long boarders. While technically a reef, it is also a mix of rock and sand bottom to the hazards are minimal.
This wave is long, slow breaking, and peels in both directions. Perfect for long boarders and SUP surfers to catch their own peak and cruise down the line. In addition, Cardiff Reef has a large parking lot with plenty of places to park for the day. And it’s conveniently located a short walk to the water — no need to wear your arms out carrying your SUP board before you hit the water!
If there was one place we would check first for SUP surf in San Diego it would be Cardiff Reef!
San Elijo State Beach
San Elijo is located just north of Cardiff Reef. So, if Cardiff isn’t looking great, or if it’s too crowded, you can check San Elijo next. Or simply just paddle there from Cardiff!
In fact, this might be the best way to access San Elijo. If you head to the launch location, you have to walk down a long hill. This is usually pretty easy with a surfboard in your hand but with a SUP, it can be a bit of a hassle.
Once you drop in at Cardiff, you can paddle to San Elijo to see a similar wave break. If it's good, hit some sets and have a blast. If not, keep heading that way! It’s a great way to see multiple breaks along the coast. Plus the paddling here is gorgeous. Take your time, find the perfect wave for you, and enjoy being in the water. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Address: San Elijo State Beach extends along Coast Highway 101, 3/4 mile north from San Elijo Lagoon's entrance channel, near the community of Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Exit Interstate 5 at Encinitas Blvd., head WEST. Turn LEFT on So. Coast Hwy. Follow the Coast Hwy. south, about 2 miles. GPS pin.
For anyone who longboards, it’s well-known that Tourmaline is a popular spot in San Diego. And of course, longboarding waves share a ton of characteristics with the perfect SUP surfing wave.
Wide open. Slow peeling. Mellow. And a sand bottom.
If that sounds like SUP surfing heaven to you — you’d probably be right.
There is one downside. And it’s one that is difficult to escape these days. Tourmaline can get crowded. At this break you will have to be patient and wait your turn. But with such a perfect wave for a SUP surf, it’s worth it!
Address: GPS pin
Torrey Pines State Beach
Yet another great spot for SUP surfing in San Diego has to be Torrey Pines State Beach. There are a few access points to get to the break.
Your first option is to park along the street. From there you can walk your gear to the beach. Or you can park in the Torrey Pine State lot on the South side. Both are relatively convenient. The third option is to head to the north lot inside the park that has a large parking lot. This spot has easy beach access.
However you get there, once you make it to the water, you’ll be greeted with a decent SUP surfing wave to catch mellow lefts and rights all day long. In addition, you can paddle to Del Mar to the north or Blacks Beach to the south if you want to get some paddling in between multiple beach breaks.
Sunset Cliffs might be the most scenic surf location out of the previous ones we've already mentioned. The paddle out can be long so be prepared. Make sure you stretch before heading out. And if the waves are too big, check on a different day.
Once in the water, you will get a panoramic views of the lagoons, bluffs, and cliffs that line the coast. Even on small days, this view is worth the trip.
The best time to go for big waves is during the winter swell season. The structure of reefs here hold up in well overhead surf where other breaks in San Diego will close out. On bigger days, the waves will have pitch and power. So, as we've already mentioned, it's important to know your limits. You do not want to be caught in a dangerous position here.
With that understanding, you can expect to have a fantastic time at Sunset Cliffs.
Military History in San Diego (source):
Military history is interwoven in the streets of San Diego. If you visit the city, to get a real idea of what makes it unique you need to understand how the military is represented here.
"All across San Diego, visitors and veterans can find access to military history. The symbiotic relationship between locals and the military is found in all aspects of daily life. Through the decades the economy, culture and prowess of this sun-drenched city has become intertwined with military life. One of the first sights visitors see across the downtown skyline is the USS Midway.
One of the most photographed areas in the city is ‘the kissing statue’ of the sailor and the nurse set amidst the backdrop of the massive strength of the USS Midway and adjacent to the Embarcadero’s Greatest Generation Walk. Today’s visitors shop and enjoy what was once San Diego’s Naval Training Center in Point Loma’s Liberty Station. Visitors and nature lovers hike and whale watch at San Diego’s own Cabrillo Point. The military is woven into the fabric of San Diego’s history and the city; its residents and visitors are better for it.
For more places to check out the military history of San Diego, visit:
Home to over 60 exhibits and 29 restored aircraft, visitors can take a self-guided audio tour through one of America’s longest serving aircraft carriers. Guests of the USS Midway can chat with volunteers, experience the life of a sailor aboard the carrier, meet veterans and try their hands at the amazing feats of technology aboard the decks.
Dedicated to preserving the culture and history of aviation, visitors to this museum journey through the world of aviation, from the first flight to present day.
This free museum is located at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The only museum of its kind, the Flying Leatherneck museum preserves contributions of Marine Corps aviators, their flight and ground personnel while also allowing guests to experience the vintage aircrafts used in Marine Corps history.
Top Restaurants in San Diego (source):
Local Info from Adam of Spirit SUP:
This is the perfect place to go for a big breakfast feast after a few hours spent on the water. They have a full menu of breakfast foods along with juices, smoothies, and smoothie bowls.
It is common to find locals dining at this bistro in the morning, reading the newspaper and relaxing for hours. Breakfast is served all day. Consider the Three Cheese Omelette, combining Swiss, Cheddar and Mozzarella. The Smoked Salmon Scrambler offers eggs, Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese, tomatoes, red onions and Capers. But really - everything is good!
Perfect if you're vegan or if your friends are! They offer world-class vegan fare with a touch of home-made freshness.
If you're looking for healthy food that will fuel your time on the water, then head to GoodOnYa Cafe. Owned and operated by a former Olympic athlete who knows what it takes to fuel the body in a healthy way.
Local Info from Jason at Wandersurf:
This place has great views and great food. Catch ocean views right from the deck!
Super mellow place, great for breakfast and a really good coffee. And it's right on the beach.
This place has a ton of energy and fun beach games to play. Outdoor seating, great bar and food as well.
This might be the tastiest Mexican food in San Diego. It's amazing! Choose your own custom taco and burrito and it's also a vintage surf museum. Super cool SoCal thing to do. It's Mom and Pop run and the people are super nice.
Additional top restaurants:
Preview of the list:
Helping to kickstart the culinary evolution of Oceanside, the restaurant has attracted the attention of the Michelin Guide, which honored it as a 2020 “new discovery” along with four other San Diego restaurants. The restaurant conveys the complex flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine through its interpretation of some of the area’s signature dishes.
Another standout in Oceanside, sushi spot Wrench and Rodent showcases chef/owner Davin Waite’s unique skills with foraging and far-out flavor innovations. Though his path veers from traditional sushi to include unconventional rolls and creative sauces, Waite is uncompromising in his care for ingredients.
Chic to the max, the second Carlsbad restaurant from the team behind Campfire is a modern French restaurant seen through a SoCal lens. An enviable open kitchen is the sparkling stage, turning out a sophisticated but not at all stuffy menu that’s quickly become an industry favorite. Under executive chef Eric Bost, Jeune et Jolie was one of a handful of local establishments given a Michelin star.
Jeune et Jolie’s casual sibling is now overseen by chef Eric Bost. At this sincere charmer, wood-fired cookery permeates every aspect of the menu, including the creative cocktails. Smoked and grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables are showcased in an atmosphere that’s equally suited for date night or family dinners.
Additional Attractions if the Wind and Weather Don’t Cooperate (Click on the links for additional information on each location):
Local info from Jason: "Go hike Torrey pines; Balboa park area for museums and great places to walk around; Ax throwing (bulls-eye!) right on Pacific Beach - seriously, it's a thing and it's super fun!"
Whale Watching in San Diego
WINTER & SPRING GRAY WHALE WATCHING
Migration Period: Mid-December - April
Each year, more than 20,000 gray whales make a 10,000 mile round-trip journey from Alaska to the lagoons of Baja California, where the females give birth to their calves. After spending time in warm Baja California waters so their young can grow strong, they make the journey north again in spring. The longest known distance any mammal migrates on an annual basis, it is truly an extraordinary spectacle to observe. With 70 miles of coastline directly in the migration path, San Diego is an ideal destination to see this impressive parade of gentle giants. According to the Birch Aquarium in San Diego, gray whales generally travel alone or in pods of two or three but more may be seen traveling together during peak migration season. These giants are roughly the width of a basketball court and cruise at an average speed of five knots (about six miles per hour).
SUMMER & FALL BLUE WHALE WATCHING
Migration Period: Mid-June - September
Blue whales, the largest creatures on earth and thought to be among the most endangered of the great whales, may be found off the coast of San Diego mid-June through September. In fact, the largest group of blue whales in the world, some 2,000 to 3,000, feed off the California coast during the summer months.
These magnificent mammals, who can be 100-feet, give away their location by spouting a 30-foot column of water in the air that can be seen from miles away. The migratory patterns of blue whales have been tracked from the Antarctic to California to Costa Rica. Changes in ocean temperatures and the abundance of krill over the past few years have attracted far more blue whales to San Diego's coast than in the past. Since blue whales tend to be found further out to sea than their grey whale cousins, it's recommend to venture on a boat trip versus viewing from the shore in order to catch a glimpse of these incredible leviathans.
Surf History of San Diego
If you want to experience the golden age of California's surf and car culture, take a nostalgic car ride with the top down along the coast on Historic Highway 101, otherwise known as Coast Highway. The landscape around the roads may have changed, but the Pacific blue surf still remains, with surfers, kayakers, paddle boarders and boaters enjoying the cool Southern California waves every day of the year. Be sure to stop by the California Surf Museum in Oceanside to learn about how the sport transformed the Southern California lifestyle, and continues to shape and influence the region's culture today.
For additional ideas on what to see and do in San Diego check out sandiego.org
Additional Attractions and Activities:
Home to the renowned San Diego Zoo. This 1,200-acre park is the city's cultural hub. Located in downtown San Diego (about 2 miles north of the city center), Balboa Park is a great place for a stroll, bike ride or picnic. Wander around the park's many gardens while admiring the intricate Spanish-Renaissance architecture that permeates the grounds (the best examples are the California Building and the House of Hospitality). The Botanical Building is a great starting point in Balboa Park. The building is one of the most photographed places in Balboa Park and is one of the largest lath structures in the world. But don't just look at it. The famous botanical building features more than 2,100 permanent plants, including striking collections of tropical plants and orchids. The park also features a cactus garden, rose garden, a Japanese-style garden as well as a palm tree canyon, among many others.
The Gaslamp Quarter's 16 blocks are peppered with Victorian-style buildings that now house a variety of shops, art galleries, theaters and trendy restaurants, not to mention plenty of bars and clubs. The area stretches from L Street all the way up to Broadway, including Sixth, Fifth and Fourth avenues as well as out to First Avenue at G Street. The best place to start your tour of the Gaslamp Quarter is the Horton Plaza outdoor shopping center, situated at First and G Street. From there, you can explore the neighborhood's side streets that will eventually lead you to the main avenues. Or you can start at the Gaslamp Quarter Gate itself, located at L Street and Fifth Avenue. Fifth Avenue is considered downtown San Diego's main thoroughfare. You'll find the most action here, especially at night.
Want to see what San Diego looked like at its founding? It's at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This oceanfront reserve features 1,750 acres of unspoiled land, protecting the unique topography and various types of flora present from way back when, including the Torrey Pine, America's rarest pine tree. There are 3,000 Torrey Pines in the reserve alone and aside from San Diego, the only other place in the country the pines grows are on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Santa Barbara. The reserve also houses one of Southern California's last salt marshes and waterfowl refuges.
Take a trip back in time at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, a mile-long stretch of restored shops and houses on the grounds of the first European settlement in California. Widely considered the "birthplace of California," Old Town San Diego shows visitors what it was like to live through different eras of California history, from the time of Spanish explorers to the California gold rush. Some important stops include the Whaley House, a former granary and courthouse which was originally built in 1857, and Casa de Estudillo, a house built in the 1820s which utilizes traditional furniture and decor to illustrate how people lived years ago.
This 100-acre establishment is one of the most famous zoos in the country. The San Diego Zoo is not only one of the largest zoos in the USA but also houses one of the largest collections of rare and endangered animals in the world (3,500 to be exact). Giant pandas, giraffes, elephants, polar bears, and koalas (the largest collection outside of Australia) are just a few of the many animals that call the San Diego Zoo home. The exhibits are linked by an expansive series of trails such as the Monkey Trail, Hippo Trail or Tiger Trail.
Travelers say this is the next best place for ocean views in Point Loma. Situated a little more than 9 miles due west of downtown San Diego, Sunset Cliffs stretches across 68 acres and runs 1.5 miles along Point Loma peninsula's western shoreline. The dramatic sandstone cliffs and untouched vegetation along with its stunning ocean vistas make for an unforgettable stroll both during the day and at night. The area is also home to a few secluded beaches as well, though getting to them can be tricky. There is a beach popular with locals at the beginning of Cordova Street off of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, but you have to traverse down the rocky bluffs to get there. For an easier descent, head to the end of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard at Ladera Street and take a walk down the available stairway.
There are numerous places to stay in San Diego. We always recommend doing your own research before booking. However, to give you an idea on the prices you should expect we’ve listed a few options below.
Legacy Resort Hotel and Spa: $152/night
Doubletree by Hilton: $132/night
Manchester Grand Hyatt: $219/night
La Pensione Hotel: $139/night
The Dana on Mission Bay: $159/night
Humphreys Half Moon Inn: $169/night
San Diego KOA Resort: This renowned KOA (Kampgrounds of America) RV park and campground located in the Sweetwater Valley offers 270 full hook-up sites, plus tenting sites and cozy "Kamping Kabins" ideal for inexpensive family vacations. The cabins require bedding although mattresses and wood frames are provided. The KOA park also provides free modem access, cable TV hook-ups and propane.
Lake Jennings Park: It’s time to gather around the bonfire, make s’mores, and be a kid again! A beautiful place to get away without having to travel a long distance, Lake Jennings Park is an easy weekend getaway. With scenic views, the Campground at Lake Jennings Park is open year-round with a variety of campsites available, including hookups and primitive tent sites. Popular large group sites are also available with panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountain area.
Carlsbad State Beach: This San Diego beach features camping, swimming, surfing, skin diving, fishing and picnicking. The large bluff-top campground is very popular, especially in summer. Stairs lead to the beach.
San Elijo Campground: For all kinds of water related activities and sports such as swimming, surfing, boogie-boarding and more, head over to San Elijo State Beach for a grand time. This beautiful beach is famous for its nearby reef where underwater watersports ensue, and it is also quite the phenomenon at low tide, when tide pools leave behind marine gems for visitors to marvel at
Fun San Diego Area Info (source):
- San Diego is one of only two places the rare Torrey pine tree grows. See them for yourself at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
- San Diego County has the most small farms of any US county and produces the most avocados, so don’t skimp on the guacamole.
- Fast-food mega-chain Jack in the Box started out as a drive-thru hamburger stand on El Cajon Boulevard.
- The Spirit of St. Louis, flown by Charles Lindbergh in the world’s first nonstop solo transatlantic flight in 1927, was built in San Diego by Ryan Airlines. See a flyable replica built by some of the original builders at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
- Belmont Park‘s 94-year-old wooden roller coaster is one of only four roller coasters on the National Register of Historic Places.
- The 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High was based on San Diego’s Clairemont High School.
- Wild West gunslinger Wyatt Earp lived in downtown’s Horton Grand Hotel for seven years.
- Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, was one of La Jolla‘s most prominent residents; so was Dr. Jonas Salk, who created the first successful polio vaccine in 1955.
- Just 100 people attended the first San Diego comic convention in 1970. Today, more than 130,000 people attend Comic-Con every July.
- The Travel Channel named The Whaley House Museum the country’s most haunted house.
- San Diego has the most dog-friendly restaurants per capita in the country.
- Check out the piano at Kansas City Barbecue. It’s where Maverick and Goose belted out “Great Balls of Fire” in the 1986 film Top Gun, filmed in San Diego.
The California Adventure Continues…
We hope you enjoyed our Perfect Paddles Guide to San Diego SUP and kayak. This bustling beachside city is known for its chill vibes 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 San Diego and the areas around it on your paddling list.
Looking for a location outside of San Diego? 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!
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