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Stand up paddle boarding at sunset | © Ian Barbour/Flickr
Stand up paddle boarding at sunset | © Ian Barbour/Flickr
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The Best Stand Up Paddle Boarding Spots in Costa Rica

Picture of Jenn Parker
Updated: 21 August 2017
Stand up paddle boarding is a sport that has rapidly gained popularity around the world in the past decade or so. This water activity ranges from peaceful paddles in calm waters to catching mammoth waves at world-renowned surf breaks. It is done in both fresh water lakes and rivers, and saltwater coastlines and open ocean. It is especially popular in Costa Rica among total beginners and advanced paddlers alike.

Tamarindo Bay

Tamarindo is an excellent place to learn how to paddle board or venture off on your own if you are already experienced. While paddle boarding is not a hard sport to pick up, especially if you are just planning on cruising around in calm waters, it is important that you learn the basics and safety precautions first from an experienced instructor, as you are dealing with a big piece of equipment in the water and likely around other people. There is a small island called Capitan Suizo that is a great place to paddle out to, as well as around the entire bay area.

Cruising in Tama Bay
Cruising in Tama Bay | ©Les Chatfield/Flickr

Rio Nosara

The Rio Nosara is one of the region’s largest rivers. Stand up paddle board tours take place on this river during the rainy season months, between June and November. On this tour you will have the opportunity to witness some incredible wildlife, as well as the peaceful feeling of paddling down a calm river toward the ocean. An experienced paddle board instructor and guide will lead you down the river toward the Nosara river mouth.

Surf’s up
Surf’s up | ©Steve/Flickr

Matapalo mangroves

Do you want to see monkeys, sloths, raccoons, anteaters, lizards, snakes, crocodiles, and an astonishing variety of birds, all while paddling through a stunning mangrove forest? Paddle boarding through the Matapalo mangroves is a truly magical experience that is perfectly suited for both total beginners and advanced paddle boarders. The waterway between the mangroves is extremely calm and this sanctuary is teeming with animal and plant life.

Paddle through a mangrove tunnel
Paddle through a mangrove tunnel | © Stefan Krasowski/Flickr

Baru river

The Baru River is in Dominical in the Central Pacific region. This is an incredible river to paddle down outside of the rainy season. In the months between June and November, especially during a particularly rainy period, the river can be undesirable as a paddle boarding destination. This river region is home to over 30 different tropical bird species and a variety of other forest and wetland animals.

Blend birding with stand up paddle boarding
Blend birding with stand up paddle boarding | © Laura Wolf/Flickr

Coronado mangroves

The Coronado mangroves are part of the Sierpe mangrove system, which is the largest mangrove system in all of Central America. This mangrove system is located about 45 minutes south of Dominical and is geared more toward intermediate to advanced paddle boarders due to its length and strength of currents. Silently stand up paddle boarding through these mangroves will put you in the perfect position to experience the rich wetland and forest wildlife.

Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve

The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve is located on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula next to Mal Pais. It is a captivating location to take a paddle boarding tour. The landscape is pristine and bursting with nature. Paddling just a half mile into the reserve you will see Cabo Blanco Island, which can only be seen from the water. There are several different ways to experience the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, but stand up paddle boarding is a beautifully unique way to experience what you can’t see by hiking through it.

Punta Uva

Punta Uva is a spectacular place to stand up paddle board on the Caribbean coast. You can take a tour down the calm river and out into the ocean where you will have the opportunity to observe sloths, monkeys, tropical birds, coral reefs, rays, fish, and turtles during your adventure. Punta Uva is one of the top places to stand up paddle board on the Caribbean coast.

As tropical as it gets
As tropical as it gets | © Tambako the Jaguar/Flickr

Lake Arenal

Lake Arenal is Costa Rica’s largest lake that is situated in view of the famous Arenal Volcano. The lake is typically very calm, but foul water and winds can change the conditions, especially during the rainy season. Stand up paddle boarding around the lake offers magnificent views of the surrounding mountains, forests, and of course the volcano. This is a peaceful way to spend an afternoon. A SUP tour on Lake Arenal is suited for all levels.

The calm waters of Lake Arenal
The calm waters of Lake Arenal | © Nora Goetz/Flickr