By Sarah Sekula, published on usatoday.com
TABERNASH, Colo. — There’s nothing quite like skimming across the water on a stand-up paddleboard. Especially when that paddleboard is floating on a picturesque pond surrounded by wildflowers, a yurt and the snow-covered Rockies.
My location is Devil’s Thumb Ranch, a whimsical retreat near Winter Park, Colo., that keeps its guests pretty active. Post archery lesson, I make my way over to the pond (with my eyes peeled for moose, fox and hummingbirds) and spend an hour with an instructor mastering SUP yoga moves. It’s something that never gets old, to me, and plenty of others. It’s also a skill that travels well, as there are many equally epic paddleboarding places to choose from around the world.
Huvadhoo Atoll, Maldives
Guests at The Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort in the Huvadhoo Atoll have the chance to paddle their way above a pristine barrier reef. On a clear day you can see up to 30 feet below. Bring a snorkel along so you can listen closely for parrot fish nibbling on the coral. It’s also common to find dolphins, surgeon fish and turtles. outrigger.com
Merritt Island, Fla.
Add this bioluminescent tour to your bucket list. Guests get to paddleboard along the scenic Banana River after dark. As the dinoflagellates (single-celled micro organisms) get stirred up, they begin to glow, creating a glow-in-dark spectacle. You’ll be in good hands: SoBe Surf’s instruction team is made up of a competitive SUP racer and a lifeguard with a marine biology background. Expect an up-close encounter with manatees, pelicans and fish of all sorts as you glide by waterfront mansions. It’s equally peaceful and thrilling at the same time. sobesurf.com
Lake Powell, Ariz.
With 96 dramatic red-rock canyons as your backdrop, plenty of caves and inlets and surreal blue water, Lake Powell is a popular spot for boating, kayaking and tubing. However, it doesn’t ever feel crowded because of its scope. As the second largest man-made lake in the U.S., it has more shoreline than the entire West Coast. Bring a sandwich along and picnic along the beach. And don’t forget the camera. Scenes from Planet of the Apes and Gravity were filmed here. You’ll want to document the otherworldliness. lakepowell.com
Dewey Beach, Del.
Dewey Beach, just south of Rehoboth Beach, is your launching pad. Delmarva Board Sport Adventures is your guide. Float along past waterfront eateries, Thompson Island and Cape Henlopen State Park where dolphin sightings are nearly guaranteed. If you go during the spring season, be on the lookout for spawning horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebirds. delmarvaboardsportadventures.com
Paddle along the Wailua River with Sleeping Giant, a well-known mountain ridge, in the background. Both Kayak Kauai and Outfitters Kauai have tours that will take you down the watery expanse, which happens to be one of the only navigable rivers in the state. kayakkauai.com
Who knew paddleboarding in the crystal-clear waters of Antarctica was even an option? First, bundle up with layers, a full dry suit, gloves and boots and then prepare to be wowed. Not only do you have the chance to spot penguins, seals, dolphins and whales from a distance, you are also passing by icebergs, glaciers and snow at the same time. quarkexpeditions.com
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
There are plenty of places to SUP in Fort Lauderdale and Sunrise Paddleboards gives guests plenty of fun choices. There’s a 20-acre waterfront park in downtown, for example, where you can paddle down a waterway leading into the Intracoastal. Or make your way past the mansions on Millionaire’s Row. Or opt for manatee tours, nighttime tours, paddleboard yoga sessions and fitness workouts. Deerfield Beach is yet another gem. Afterward, picnic on the beach and search for rare seashells. sunrisepaddleboards.com
Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours will take you on a guided tour that will have you maneuvering around rocks and sections of fast-moving water. Or opt for a sunrise stand-up paddling tour in the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a super unique way to start the day in Asheville, and the only place you can paddle at sunrise in the mountains on the entire East Coast. In the fall, guests take leaf-peeping SUP tours on the French Broad River. waimaunaashevillesuptours.com
Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Bring your GoPro along: After all, your backdrop here is towering pines, mountains, sandy beaches and granite peaks. Even better, you can see 70 feet below you in Emerald Bay thanks to the super-clear water. Once you reach Tahoe’s only island, Fannette, take a break and hike up to the tea house (open May through October). Be ready for encounters with eagles, ospreys, fish, bears and beavers. Outside of the Tahoe Basin there are several natural hot springs in Genoa and Carson Valley, which are accessible by car. visitinglaketahoe.com
Get to know the locals (sea lions, penguins, reef sharks) as you explore designated areas of Galapagos National Park with Ecoventura, a luxe expedition yacht that operates seven-night cruises. Keep a lookout for rays and sea turtles swimming along, marine iguanas lounging on the rocks and blue-footed boobies flying overhead. ecoventura.com
For starters, you are nearly guaranteed a bear sighting along the shore. But also look for whales, birds, sea otters, seals, sea stars and other intertidal life as you paddle. uncruise.com