Guide to Two California Coastal SUP Hotspots: Pismo Beach and Mission Bay

Paddling Mission Bay, San Diego

Want the perfect SUP getaway for the family? Two hotspots in California — Mission Bay and Pismo Beach — have you covered, head to sandy toe.

Mission Bay

Part of Mission Bay Park, at 4,235 acres the largest man-made aquatic park in the country and ninth largest municipally owned park in the country, San Diego’s Mission Bay is seemingly sculpted for families seeking tranquil float time on everything from sit-on-tops to SUPs.

Paddling Mission Bay off the Bahia Resort Hotel.

With miles of sandy beaches and a meandering pedestrian path placating those traveling by land, its main appeal is the calm water housed within, which becomes SUP central at sunrise and sunset.

Plus, wet a fishing line trolling for Cilus gilbert, spotted bass, halibut and spotted sand bass, and birdwatch for such species as theCalifornia least tern.

While a host of hotel options exist, stay somewhere like the Bahia Resort Hotel and you can hop on your SUP right from your rear porch — right after you’re through playing tennis, shuffleboard or volleyball on the beach.

“It’s truly a great place to SUP, for the entire family,” says Miguel Muniz of onsite concessionaire Action Sport Rentals. “And it’s the cleanest water in the bay. All the runoff heads east, so the water clears out here the quickest.”

Mission Mission Bay: Paddling like this offers fun for the whole family right out your back door.

Your paddle might take you around the docked “Bahia Bella” paddlewheel boat (formerly a charter boat named “Juanita” offering passage from Coronado Island), on which you can take a sunset cocktail cruise to its sister Catamaran Resort, or around the point of Santa Barbara Cove to a live band at Paradise Island’s Barefoot Bar (whose patio abuts a shark-filled lagoon) and some of this side town’s best pies at Caveman Pizza. Afterward, you can return to wine chilling in a decanter in your room, or a drink at the resort’s Tangier bar, where you say hello to blind rehabilitation seals Billy, 4, and Grace, 15, in the adjacent lagoon. Top the evening off with a soak in its giant, 17-person jacuzzi and cool dip in the pool.

Must-Dos: While in the area, take in nearby Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and explore downtown’s Gaslamp district. Also, hop on a pay-as-you-ride Lime E-scooter over to the boardwalk along Mission Beach to surf, chillax on the beach and ride the Giant Dipper rollercoaster and other classic SoCal, Belmont Park attractions. Plus you’re just a Frisbee’s throw away from gentle waves of Mission Beach.

Eats:The Pacific Beach Fish Shop on Garnet Street serves up arguably the best fish tacos in town. Also, try the lobster roll at Cannonball above the Draft bar on the boardwalk; Konos near the pier at Pacific Beach for breakfast sandwiches; the brunch and sushi bar at the Catamaran’s Oceania restaurant; or the catch of the day at Bahia Resort’s Bahia Café.

Board/Kayak Rentals:Try Action Sport Rentals onsite for everything from SUPs (Jimmy Styks and NSPs) to sit-in-top kayaks, sailboats, motorboats and more. The company has nearly 200 SUPs at its six different rental locations around the bay. Info:

History Sidebar:Originally developed in the 1940s, Mission Bay Park was originally a tidal marsh named “False Bay” by explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. With levees dispersing flow from the San Diego River from silting it up, the Bay is preserved by restrictions limiting commercial development, ensuring no more than 25 percent of the land and 6.5 percent of the water area can be used for private purposes. This means most of the Bay is available for public recreation, including its 19 miles of sandy beaches with eight designated swimming areas.


Paddling Pismo Beach

The wifi password was a dead giveaway for the kind of weekend we were in for: Hangten!

That’s the vibe of the SeaVenture Beach Hotel and the surrounding Pismo beach, and that’s what you’ll be doing on a SUP or longboard as soon as you step from the resort to the beach.

Sea caves are waves are what’ you’ll find paddling Pismo Beach.

Pismo bills itself as “Your Wine And Waves Destination” on California’s Central Coast, for good reason. You’ll find both in abundance, from smooth ones to those with a little more bite.

While Pismo Beach was known as an early Chumash Indian settlement, and debauchery-filled haunt in the early mining days and through the 1920s, now it’s a picturesque family beach, with oodles of options for dining, lodging and ocean activities. Plus, its 1,200-foot-long pier, destroyed in a storm in 1983, is now fully restored, letting you walk seaward to fish, watch surfers, search for such wildlife as whales, dolphin, sea otter and more, and take in the Pacific Coast sunset.

Boards: Rented a sup or surfboard from board from Esteem ( or Pismo beach Surf Shop(, both located in the heart of downtown, letting you carry your board to the beach.

Eats: For breakfast, hit Penny’s All-American Café restaurant or Brad’s Diner and the Splash Café. For cards-replenishing dinner fare, try Sea Venture (atop the SeaVenture hotel); the Cracked Crab for fresh seafood; and F.McLintocks Dining House & Saloon.

Must-do’s: Visit during the annual Clam Festival, kayak to a lighthouse from Avila Beach; tour Dinosaur Caves Park; taste test any number of vineyards; visit Hearst Castle (with sides trip to see elephant seals); surf or tour Morro Bay; or drive the beaches along the Montaña de Oro coast. The Monarch Butterfly Grove shelters monarch butterflies that migrate to Pismo State Beach in the cooler months. Plus, visit the 900-acre Pismo Preserve, offering panoramic vistas of the Pacific from the Irish Hills to Point Sal. Over 10 miles of ranch roads and trails meander through the property, offering routes ideal for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. (Other green spaces include the wetlands of Chumash Park, and Margo Dodd Park, on a bluff.) Finally, take a day-trip to the colossal sand beaches, waterfalls and mountains of Big Sur.

Wines and waves: SUP-ing, whether on waves or on a tour, is in close proximity wherever you are in Pismo Beach.


Bonus:Kayak to and then enter a spectacular 230-foot-long sea cave, filled with colorful Pleistocene sandstone and lit by natural “skylights.” Up to 50-feet-wide and 30-feet-deep, the caves were only a few feet short of being the largest caves on the entire California coast. Pismo Beach is also this year’s Stage 5 Start Host City for the Amgen Tour of Californiabike race.

Wine, Wine, Wine: No visit to Pismo Beach is complete without touring its many wineries and vineyards. Pismo offers the perfect pairing of wine and waves, withthree wine tasting rooms downtown including Taste of the Valleys, named one of the Top Wine Bars in the country. Wine country itself, with over 30 wineries in the Edna Valley, is only a short drive away off Price Canyon Road. Hint: Visit Kynsi Winery (,a family-run operation producing limited distinguished wines including Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and unique red blends. Bonus: Visit during the annual Wine, Waves & Beyond festival in early May, marrying the magic of wines and waves ( Visit for more on Pismo Beach.

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The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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