August 29, 2020 7 min read

Key West is famous for its stunning beaches and energetic nightlife. It is one of Florida’s most loved holiday destinations nestled in between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Crystal clear waters and high temperatures make this a perfect spot for water sports and, of course, stand up paddle boarding.

Are you looking for the tropical SUP experience of your life? Explore these amazing locations on a paddle board on your next trip and we promise you won’t be disappointed.

From scenic spots of beaches and harbors to mangroves and islands with abundant marine life, Key West is simply gorgeous out on the water. So what are you waiting for?

Grab a stand up paddle board, book a tour, and hit the water in Key West at some of these amazing locations listed below.

Most Scenic Paddle Board Locations in Key West

The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands extending 120 miles off the southernmost tip of the State of Florida. Key West is an island city that’s part of this idyllic chain of islands. Check out these most scenic locations and get paddle boarding Key West.

And remember, take your action camera along for the paddle to capture some stunning shots in backcountry landscapes, especially if you are heading out on a tour.

Fort Zachary Taylor

paddle board key west - fort zachary taylor

Aquamarine water. Pristine lookouts. Superb snorkeling sites. If that all sounds like a dream to you then get yourself over to Fort Zachary Taylor pronto to make it a reality.

Located at the most southern tip of Key West, you can carefully navigate your SUP in between boats traveling from the Key West Channel to the Atlantic Ocean. The shoreline at Fort Zach is rocky and more exposed to oceanic swells, so it’s best to have some basic paddle boarding skills under your belt first.

There are excellent opportunities to explore under the surface, so consider taking a snorkel and mask with you while out SUP touring. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles or dolphins cruising next to you. You will see birds along the way as well, so don’t forget to look up every once in a while!

There are plenty of tours and board rentals available in this southern part of Key West, so don’t worry if you haven’t got your own gear yet.

Big Pine Key

paddle board key west -  big pine key

Further up The Keys is Big Pine Key. This spot is equally breathtaking and scenic, and is also home to a deer refuge center at the inland parks. The beaches are more sandy in between the incredible mangroves, making this a great place for beginners to get on a stand up paddle board.

Head over to Serenity Eco Guides for equipment rental, a guided tour of the mangroves and beaches, or even a SUP yoga class in Manatee Bay. You will find this location restores your mind, cleanses your soul, and allows you to discover the beauty of the surrounding ecosystem.

Big Pine Key is one of the more highly recommended and raved about locations for paddle boarding in Key West and should be included on everyone’s lists.

Bahia Honda State Park

paddle board key west - bahia honda state park

Continue heading up the US-1 S Highway to reach Bahia Honda State Park. This is an absolute beach haven with some of Florida’s most incredible marine life waiting to be discovered. Again, the beautiful waters are inviting you to grab a board and paddle out. In the crystal clear ocean you are highly likely to see turtles, colorful fish, and other amazing marine creatures and birds.

Paddle the length of Sandspur Beach and find a personal palm tree along the 1-mile stretch to lounge under while you escape the world. This sandy beach framed by pristine waters and tropical palm trees really will take your breath away.

There are no SUP equipment rentals or organized tours here. So either bring your own paddle board or track down a rental shop further south in Key West, and make sure you have a map on hand to help guide you through.

Seven Mile Bridge

paddle board key west -  seven mile bridge

The Seven Mile Bridge in Key West is on every tourist “Key West bucket list tour”, be it from road or ocean, thanks to featuring in several Hollywood action movies: True Lies, License to Kill, Mission Impossible III, and 2 Fast 2 Furious.

This is typically tackled in scenic drive road trips as it covers the open ocean. However, you can get up close and personal to some of Hollywood's most iconic scenes. But, it is not for the faint hearted. Only serious, experienced paddlers should take on this adventure from the water. Always be sure to check the conditions before setting off and take time to carefully consider your times and full route.

Any advanced and highly experienced paddle board enthusiasts must have this spot on their ultimate lifetime bucket list.

Best Beaches for Paddle Boarding in Key West

So you are after some postcard picture-perfect beaches to paddle board? Don’t worry, there are plenty of stunning beaches dotted around Key West waiting for you to discover them. However, these two really take the podium for being the best beaches in Key West for paddle boarding.

Check out these SUP rental shops if you are in need of gear for your trip or fancy joining some tours for a better experience:

Smathers Beach

paddle board key west - smathers beach

Parasailing, SUPs, kayaks, wind sailing, and more. Smathers Beach is fully loaded to have an ultimate day of fun with the family. This is the largest beach in the Florida Keys offering rentals, pristine waters, perfectly white sand, and nearby mangroves to explore.

If you are a beginner or want to take the family to a safe spot, then Smathers Beach is perfect for you. You can even book a tour with Sunset Watersports to explore further afield and discover the backcountry close by to Smathers Beach.

Higgs Beach

paddle board key west - higgs beach

Soak up the Caribbean vibes right here in Key West and melt your worries away. The turquoise waters and perfect sand provides some of the most stunning scenery for a paddle boarding retreat. If you need a break from the sun you can easily come to shore and find a patch of shade under a palm tree.

The shallow waters here are ideal for beginner paddlers or someone looking for a truly relaxing experience. Launch off either directly from the beach or make use of the long wooden pier to start off further out. You can also use the pier to see around the headland and catch a stunning view of the sun melting into the Atlantic Ocean.

Other Amazing Places to Paddle Board in Key West

The SUP locations don’t stop there. The Florida Keys are packed full of dreamy locations waiting to be discovered. Think more stunning beaches, hidden mangroves, and crystal clear waters waiting for you to paddle board your way through.

Simonton Street Beach

paddle board key west -  simonton street beach

Looking for the perfect place to catch the sunset? Be sure to check out Simonton Street Beach on the western tip of Key West. Here you can easily launch from the beach and have front row seats to the sundown show.

Sugarloaf Key

paddle board key west - sugarloaf key bat tower

Sugarloaf Key is a superb spot for paddling through wildlife and escaping the crowds of the southern parts of Key West. This is a good place for beginners to start challenging themselves and explore further afield with tidal currents to consider.

Keep your eyes open for the Bat Tower in the middle of the mangrove ecosystem which was established as a control measure against mosquitoes in the Key West area.

Stock Island

paddle board key west - stock island

A true paddle boarding adventure in Key West. Stock Island offers incredible wildlife through mangrove highways, clear waters to the bottom in the bays, and perfectly chilled out vibes. If you are after a casual SUP session then this is the place for you!

Don’t have your own paddle board yet? No worries. Head over to Lazy Dog for rentals, have a lesson, or even join one of the daily tours.

Dry Tortugas National Park

paddle board key west - dry tortugas national park

There are several options to choose from in Dry Tortugas National Park depending on your experience level. Garden Key offers shorter paddles close to shore, whereas Loggerhead Key provides miles to explore over to Garden Key.

The longer explorations are perfect for more intermediate paddlers and involve some strong currents over the deep, open ocean.

Places worth a Day Trip and Driving Distance from Key West

You shouldn’t just stop there. Check out these places close by that are worthy of day trips out of Key West for some more epic adventures.

Islamorada - Florida Bay

paddle board key west - islamorada

Take a drive up the Keys and discover the famous coral reefs, beautiful sunshine, and incredible fishing spots. This is Islamorada and we promise you won’t be disappointed. It’s a string of islands that lie in the open ocean with insanely clear water to show off the diverse marine life.

Beach Bum Paddle Sports offers great guided tours and competitive prices for rentals, if you don’t have your own. If you are interested in SUP fishing, this is the perfect place to hit up.

Key Largo - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

paddle board key west - Mangroves in Pennekamp State Park

If you are looking for something really special for a day trip then this is the place to check out. Key Largo is the first underwater park in the US and offers some incredibly diverse reefs to explore. The perfectly crystal clear waters mean you get excellent visibility from on top of your SUP, or you can tie up and explore up close with a snorkel from your board.

The 50 miles of natural mangrove wilderness will keep you busy all-day for numerous day trips. Rental is available if you choose not to travel with your equipment.

Interactive Map of Paddle Boarding Key West

Wrapping Up - Key West Paddle boarding

On your next vacation to Key West, why not jump onto a paddle board and see a whole new side of this stunning location? The backcountry offers excellent opportunities to immerse yourself into nature, see wildlife and birds, and escape the world for a moment.

There are plenty of places available for rentals and tours if you do need that extra helping hand to get going on a stand up paddle board.

Now there is no stopping you to get paddle boarding Key West and creating memories to last a lifetime!

Warren Tsoi
Warren Tsoi

Editor - Warren is an avid waterman and conservationist who will take any chance to be outdoors. He believes the best way to protect our environment is to get people outside to appreciate nature.


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