6 Wildlife Tours in the San Diego Area

In General, SUP Activity Recommendations, SUP Location Recommendations by Perfect Paddles

One of the best ways to enjoy the beautiful Southern California coast is by standing on a paddle board and immersing yourself in the natural environment. The abundant coastline filled with coves, rocky cliffs, and inlets provides the perfect breeding ground for all types of wildlife to grow and proliferate.

By paddling into these environments, participants can fully see the natural wildlife and their environments firsthand. It is a total immersion experience.

Which is why if you are new to SUP or are an experienced paddler, wildlife tours are often the best ways to enjoy the sport as well as the area you find yourself visiting, vacationing in, or even in an area in which you may live.

And while California provides ample locations for SUP Wildlife Tours, for this article we will be focusing on San Diego and the surrounding areas in order to provide the curious with a complete idea of where to paddle, what they should expect to see, and which company best fits their needs when traveling.

Wildlife Tours on a SUP are one of the best ways to enjoy an afternoon on the water surrounded by nature. It is often the case these tours become the highlight of any vacation. So, if you find yourself in San Diego or surrounding areas, be sure to check out these shops and their tours – listed in no particular order - you won’t regret it!


Wandersurf Board Company (Pacific Beach and Mission Bay, San Diego)

A well-known rental and beginner lesson shop in San Diego, Wandersurf provides the curious ample opportunity to get comfortable on a board before heading out on a Wildlife Tour.

What makes Wandersurf land on our list of places in the San Diego area is our familiarity with the owner and instructor Jason Gonzales.

With over 30 years of experience surfing, 10 years’ experience on a SUP and 2.5 years’ experience owning and operating Wandersurf, Perfect Paddles knows your experience with him, and their team will be first-class.

After sharing his insider knowledge on paddling, Jason will guide groups through beautiful Mission Bay where they will be expected to see different species of gulls, egrets, pelicans, as well as bass, rays, and of course the main attraction- howling sea lions.

The manicured coastline of Mission Bay also provides paddlers with plenty of opportunities to capture interesting photos as well as ample breaks to take in the beautiful surroundings and see the privately owned sail boats docked in the marina.

As an additional attraction, Jason also leads groups through night tours where they will be equipped with a board outfitted with LED lights on the bottom, providing light for the paddle as well as interested glances from the curious spectators on land. The experience of witnessing the sunset from the water is not something to be passed up. Let Jason guide you through these unique tours and create lasting memories with friends and family! Also be sure to check out Wandersurf’s Buddy Deal on Perfect Paddles for additional savings on tours and rentals!


Aqua Adventures (Mission Bay, San Diego)

Aqua Adventures is located in Mission Bay where paddlers are able to paddle the calm water of the marina and surrounding waterways, discovering the beautiful San Diego coast and all the wildlife found on its shores.

Coming in a little shorter than other tours at 1-hour in duration, Aqua Adventures keeps paddlers off the ocean and in a protected area in the cove and marina. For those who are still uncertain regarding their skills and stamina, this is the tour for you.

Paddlers can expect to see plenty of bird species including pelicans, gulls and egrets while at the same time coming close to the sea lions who bathe in the sun during the day and greet paddlers with sleepy faces and loud honks.

If paddlers aren’t enamored by the big beautiful yachts, they can also see where Sea World is located while on the tour, supplementing their wildlife paddling trip with a family-friendly show involving local species of marine life.

Aqua Adventures makes it onto out list due to it being an easier, beginner friendly tour, while still being able to showcase one of San Diego’s gorgeous main attractions- that being Mission Bay. Perfect Paddles highly recommends this tour for those not quite ready to step up their time on a board or in the unpredictable currents of the ocean.

Blue Paddle SUP (Carlsbad Lagoon and Oceanside Harbor)

Situated north of San Diego in Carlsbad Lagoon as well as a location in Oceanside Harbor, Blue Paddle SUP, offers customers a SUP tour for the duration of 75 mins.

As participants become familiar with the area, highly trained SUP instructors will provide a beginner lesson, allowing paddlers to get comfortable with the board, paddle, and standing up successfully while they are on the water.

Once the group eases into paddling technique they are led through their respective locations, while searching for surrounding wildlife such as jumping mullet, several species of birds, turtles and even a sea lion or two!

Blue Paddle also offers paddlers a progression series where they are invited to sign up for an ocean paddle once they are comfortable in the bay. Most likely taking place on a different day, participants are guided through the proper technique to make it out through the surf, into the open ocean where they are likely to encounter different species of dolphin and if they are in the right location during the year, you may even seem a pods of whales!

If your adventure takes you a little north of San Diego, Blue Paddle SUP is the company to contact at one of their two locations. An excellent supplemental experience to any vacation, a wildlife tour with Blue Paddle is an exciting way to spend an afternoon.

Goff Tours (Laguna Beach)

Also located north of San Diego, Goff Tours is a premiere paddling shop which provides newcomers with beginner lessons on proper technique and water safety.

If you happen to be a novice on a board, Goff Tours recommends understanding the basics in a beginner lesson before venturing on an extended tour. But once you are comfortable with a paddle in your hands, then a Wildlife Tour along the coast is an exciting adventure.

The craggy coastline full of high cliffs and pristine cove beaches make for a picturesque afternoon on the water where participants are invited to take a few stops along the way and snap a few pictures of the palm trees and clear water along the coast.

As a bonus, paddlers will make their way to what is called Seal Rock, a sea lion sanctuary. It is here, paddlers will be able to see (and hear) multiple sea lions bathing in the sun and swimming alongside their boards. Just be sure to not get too close to them, they can be quite territorial! It is always better to use caution when dealing with live animals. Taking pictures though is a must if you feel comfortable bringing your phone along with you.



Sunset Standup Paddle (Laguna Beach)

Sunset Standup Paddle, located in Laguna Beach, provides adventure seekers with the ultimate coastline adventure experience.

In a 2-hour timespan, participants will be guided in a beginner lesson for newbies and a refresher for the experienced paddler in the finer things regarding technique, ocean skills as well as a general overview on ocean launching and current reading.

Once the lessons are administered, the group will make their way along the surrounding coastline in Laguna Beach where they will be expected to see a collection of ocean-going birds such as pelicans, egrets, and gulls. If paddlers are lucky, they may also see dolphins, ocean turtles and during the correct months due to migration patterns, the occasional whale!

And while Sunset Standup Paddle may not guarantee you will see all the above-mentioned species, they can fully guarantee seeing the beautiful sights of the craggy coastline and surrounding palm trees for a truly unforgettable experience on the water.


Spirit SUP (Encinitas)

Owned and operated by Adam Uribe, Spirit SUP is based just north of San Diego in Encinitas, California.

Adam has been surfing for his entire life and decided to expand his passion for the water into standup paddle boarding in 2008 where he has gone onto paddle in Southern California, Baja Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada.

With his extensive experience in the paddling world, Adam opened Spirit SUP in order to bring his love for the water to a wider audience.

His location in Encinitas provides participants with many different areas where they can paddle and see native wildlife species in the area. If you time your vacation appropriately it is possible to see whale migrations in January where paddlers can come close to these giant creatures as they occasionally make their way to the surface. Along with whales, paddlers can also expect to see dolphins, pelicans, king fishers and kelp beds- all making for a fun and exciting afternoon!

Along with his knowledge of paddling Adam can also point paddlers in the right direction regarding fishing if they wish to take their adventure from a paddle board and onto a boat.

Due to Adam’s extensive experience and knowledge of the area, Spirit SUP’s Wildlife Tour lands on our list of some of the best places to paddle in San Diego. And be sure to check out their Buddy Deals on Perfect Paddles for additional discounts!



San Diego and the surrounding area offers ample opportunity for potential paddlers to immerse themselves in the water and the surrounding wildlife. With its unique coves, extensive landscapes, and diverse wildlife, the California coast quickly has become one of the premiere areas to participate in a Wildlife Tour. From families of sea lions, to migrating whales and everything in between, vacationers should understand the potential these areas offer to create memories which will last a lifetime.

These six shops and outfitters all offer paddlers a unique experience. By understanding what they have to offer it is our hope at Perfect Paddles that vacationers will take the time to get on the water and see the natural world surrounding them, which can often be lost in the lights of the big cities. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us at Perfect Paddles, we will always be here to guide you in the right direction!