There are hundreds if not thousands of prime destinations across the world to put a stand up paddleboard (SUP) into the water, but here are five of my favorites (along with my reasons why), including several in places you may not have thought of - or even heard of! All all of course have local outfitters who can rent you equipment and also provide excursions.
Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia
Part of the world's largest coastal rainforest region, home to towering evergreens such as the western red cedar and Sitka spruce, Great Bear ranges from the Discovery Islands near Vancouver up to the Alaska border. Paddle crystalline lakes, rivers, and estuaries either on your own or on outfitter-organized excursions such as that offered by Norm Hann Expeditions. While you're here you can also visit First Nations communities and heritage sites as well as take eco-excursions (especially those run by expert First Nations guides) to spot wildlife including cougars, whales, dolphins, spawning salmon, grizzly bears and especially its unique Kermode ("spirit") bears, a black-bear subspecies which includes a certain percentage of animals with white coats; the best time for wildlife viewing is the autum salmon run.
Kratié/Mekong River, Cambodia
The mighty Mekong is home to as many as 1,000 Irrawaddy dolphins - unique among cetaceans because their heads are rounded, and their beaks are short - but only 92 are left in a small section of the river between the town of Kratié (pop. just over 38,000) with its French-colonial-era architecture and the border with Laos. Most visitors take boat excursions, but stand-up paddleboarding is a wonderful way to spot this critically endangered species; explore remote river beaches and flooded forests; and meet with locals. Supasia offers various paddleboarding tours based out of Kratié, which is just under four hours by car north of capital Phnom Penh and six from Siem Reap.
The 450-odd cayes (pronounced "keys") off this Central American country's Caribbean coast are truly castaway destinations, and while Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are the best known, even smaller South Water Caye (just 15 acres) to their south boasts an even more "castaway" feel, with fantastic beaching, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and yes, stand-up paddleboarding through lagoons, mangrove channels, and over the Belize Barrier Reef, part of Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world's second-largest after Australia's Great Barrier Reef. You can rent your own; take a tour from a local outfitter; or opt for a multi-day luxury package from tour operators such as Island Expeditions. And of course there are several lodges here for overnighting.
Zadar Archipelago, Croatia
Few places in Europe are as wonderful for this activities as this more than a dozen sparsely populated or completely unpopulated little islands near the historic, picturesque Dalmatian-Coast city of Zadar, (four hours south of Dubrovnik), such as Dugi Otok, Ist, and Molat. Paddle the calm waters of the Adriatic Sea, including pristine coves, remote fishing villages, and mysterious sea caves. You can rent paddleboards and book tours with outfitters like ZadarSUP, and some like Malik Adventures, offer multi-day packages including tasty traditional meals with locally grown and harvested food.
Just under four hours down the coast from Rio de Janeiro, the resort town of Paraty on the Costa Verde has a lovely colonial old quarter along with a thriving beach/party scene. And for paddleboarders, the nearby "tropical fjord" of Mamanguá (a 20- to 40-minute boat ride away, depending on the boat) is a narrow, seven-kilometer (4½-mile) channel which cuts through hills covered in pristine Atlantic rainforest, making it a serene and beautiful place to paddle, including mangrove forests and secluded beaches. Various SUP outfitters operate out of Paraty, such as Paraty Explorer (with a variety of other tours/activities, as well).
Related: 5 Main Advantages of Inflatable SUP Board