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Top Family-Friendly Paddling Destinations For The 2023 Holiday Season

With the holiday season around the corner, it is time to start planning where to take a winter vacation, as well as what gifts to buy your family. As this season approaches this also means cold weather and dark days are approaching faster than you might like in many regions of the world. This is why a holiday vacation in an exotic paddling destination is a perfect gift for the entire family.

Just because it is cold and dreary in many places in December does not mean there aren’t some incredibly bright and sunny locations worth visiting this time of year. Tons of top paddling destinations are perfect to visit between mid-November and mid-March. Additionally, these spots are not only for adult paddlers but for all ages.

The Bahamas and Mexico’s Riviera Maya are excellent paddling destinations for families. They have stunning protected waters and many family-friendly all-inclusive resorts. If you are looking for something less commercial, consider a trip to Vietnam, Bali, Costa Rica, or the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. The Florida Keyes and Hawaii are fantastic American destinations, whereas Thailand and Australia are far, but fantastic paddling destinations during the holiday season.

Just as there is not one type of paddler, there is also not one perfect holiday paddling destination. The list below features some epic locations, all of which experience favorable weather between November and January. Some are geared towards those who love resort life with paddling gear included, while others involve more off-the-beat-path adventure. So regardless of what type of paddling you and your family are looking for in a holiday paddling trip, this list has a location that should suit you perfectly.

12 Ideal Family-Friendly Paddling Destinations For The 2023 Holidays

1. The Bahamas

The Bahamas is a short and often direct flight from many of North America’s cities. But this tropical paradise feels a world away from the snow and cold that November brings much of the continent. November also marks the end of hurricane season in the Bahamas, which means safe and great weather for paddling.

There are tons of family-friendly beachfront resorts in the Bahamas, many of which offer complimentary paddling equipment. If nature and tranquility are what you are after, there are various smaller islands and cays in this chain of nearly 700 islands where you and the family can enjoy a more deserted island paddling vibe.

2. Riviera Maya, Mexico

Another popular winter destination that has no shortage of family-friendly resorts is Riviera Maya, Mexico. There are dozens of family-oriented resorts and even adventure parks dedicated to families who love the water. Riviera Maya is also an incredible location for those who love all sorts of water activities.

You can enjoy SUP boarding in the calm clear waters of a cenote, kayaking in a turquoise lagoon, or scuba diving off the shores of Cozumel. It is easy to spend an entire Riviera Maya vacation enjoying its beautiful and varied aquatic playground. It is a great way to balance adventure and relaxation, not to mention some incredible food and cocktails.

3. Costa Rica

If you and your family seek authenticity over resort convenience, consider the lush tropical lands and waters of Costa Rica. While both coasts of this nation are stunning, the Gulf coast and its calmer Caribbean waters tend to be ideal for families. Costa Rica is rich not only in its paddling locations but also in wildlife viewing opportunities.

Costa Rica has many safe and stunning eco-friendly hotels and accommodations. It’s possible to stay in the heart of the rainforest, and still be within walking distance to a great paddling beach. You and your family can see all sorts of tropical birds, sloths, and monkeys. Costa Rica is a great and affordable place to take surfing or SUP lessons, which is another great holiday gift for a family member.

4. Oahu, Hawaii

The Hawaiian islands are perhaps the pinnacle of holiday bliss for those paddling families looking to escape the cold during the holidays. While all the Hawaiian islands have many incredible paddling locations for those who surf, kayak, or SUP board, Oahu is ideal for families.

Waikiki is not only a world-famous beach area but also a fantastic place for children and adults to learn how to surf. The friendly and reliable waves, sandy bottom, and plethora of surf instructors make this a great first stop. You can also try outrigger canoe paddling here as well.

Then there is the incredible kayak paddle from Kailua Beach to the Mokulua islands. This is perhaps the most popular and enjoyable paddle on the island. There are also paddling opportunities in the stunning North Shore town of Haleiwa. In reality, no matter where you visit in Hawaii, you are sure to find a great place to SUP board or kayak with the family.

5. Ha Long, Vietnam

If you want to bring your family to a place that looks like it’s out of a different world, then look no further than a trip to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. Ha Long Bay is a new wonder of the world thanks to its insane geological wonders. There are natural arches, caves, and giant limestone towers that protrude out of the emerald water like a city of rocks. This area looks more like the set of “Avatar” than planet Earth. Best of all, Vietnam is quite affordable, making it a great destination for budget-minded paddling families.

Ha Long Bay might feel like a different planet, but it is close to the vibrant food and cultural capital of the nation, Hanoi. A trip to Ha Long Bay can be combined with other Vietnam paddling adventures, as this country has tons of unique opportunities, from caves to tropical islands. This makes it an ideal country for families looking for an exotic and different type of holiday paddling vacation.

6. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

If you want to combine a holiday family paddling trip with a visit to one of the wonders of the world, then you might want to take a trip down under. Snorkeling and scuba diving might be the two best ways to see under the water, but kayaking above the surface is another incredible experience.

You and the family can take guided kayaking tours and visit some of the incredible islands sprinkled throughout the world’s largest coral reef system. Kayaking in Australia is a wild adventure, and it is also a great way to reach some epic snorkeling spots that power boats can’t get as close to. Australia might be far from North America, but it is a very family-friendly destination with lots of one-of-a-kind experiences like top-notch zoos and other attractions that the whole family will love.

7. Turks And Caicos

The Caribbean is loaded with incredible picturesque islands that are perfect for paddling. While it is hard to pick the absolute perfect Caribbean island for paddling, the Turks and Caicos may just be the best. Its water is some of the clearest you will ever see, and the sands the most inviting powdery white. It also has several islands that are best explored with a kayak, and uninhabited inlets you can SUP board in.

You and the family can visit Turks And Caicos on a cruise and kayak around Grand Turk. But for a true taste of paradise and paddling heaven, consider renting a bungalow Westward near Providenciales where there are endless kayaking, SUP boarding, and other water activities in some of the most incredible and unspoiled waters you could hope for.

8. Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

If you are looking for incredible paddling, snorkeling, and diving at a reasonable price, then Thailand is the answer. There are countless incredible beaches for kayaking and SUP boarding, but the Phi Phi islands are arguably the most magical waters and islands in all of Thailand.

The Phi Phi Islands have been featured in such films as “The Beach,” as they represent the idyllic image of what a beach should be. These islands are affordable and easy to access from Phuket, and there are endless water activities. There are multiple types of paddling opportunities, as the waters are often calm and serene. This area also has incredible diving and is a great place for you and the family to get SCUBA certified.

9. The Florida Keyes

Hawaii is not the only warm and tropical holiday paddling destination in the United States. Nor is Disney World the only place in Florida you should take your kids over the Christmas break. The Florida Keyes are a wonderful destination for families looking for a tropical paddling location in the continental United States this winter.

The Florida Keyes has many different aquatic landscapes, and all of them are worth exploring on a kayak or SUP board. One highlight for the entire family is a kayaking trip through Key Largo’s vast mangrove forest. Further down the archipelago, there is Islamorada Key. This island is known for fishing and diving, but you can also kayak to a tropical and unspoiled island called Indian Key. This is a great day trip and a perfect hidden gem.

The entire stretch of the Florida Keyes is filled with fun for the entire family, and much of this fun is best enjoyed with a paddle in hand.

10. Bali, Indonesia

Bali is a wondrous island for all sorts of reasons. While it is perhaps best known as a beautiful and inexpensive island where people go to get lost in meditation and private jungle bungalows, it is also an incredible family paddling destination. For one, Bali is a relatively safe island that has some of the friendliest locals you will ever meet.

It has tons of rivers and waterfalls, as well as countless secret beaches and coves that are great for kayaking and SUP boarding. Places like Uluwatu are also iconic in the surfing community and a great place for families who like surfing and surf culture.

This might be a long trip from North America, but it is also very inexpensive to stay here, so the expensive flight is negated once you book your accommodations. Best of all, this is a wonderful place for you and the family to embrace a new culture together, and immerse yourself in its cuisine and positivity.

11. Bay Of Islands, New Zealand

For something stunning yet outside the box, consider a paddling trip to New Zealand for you and the family this holiday season. New Zealand is known for its bountiful wilderness, stunning coastlines, and paddling culture. It also happens to enjoy very pleasant weather in December. This is especially true in the northern region of New Zealand, including the beautiful Bay Or Islands.

The Bay of Islands is a group of more than 140 islands in the subtropical northeastern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. Located less than 100 miles from Aukland, the country’s capital, this area is fairly easy to reach when traveling from an international destination, but it could not feel more remote and unspoiled.

The Bay of Islands is one of the top kayaking destinations in the entire country, as the waters are a beautiful emerald blue and well protected, and the various islands offer endless exploring opportunities. This, combined with the subtropical climate, all helps to make this a fantastically unique holiday paddling destination that the whole family is sure to enjoy.

12. Patagonia Region, Chile

When you think of Patagonia, you most likely aren’t thinking of palm trees and warm inviting oceans. It’s true, Chilean Patagonia never gets hot, or even much above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But being deep in the southern hemisphere, it just so happens that the warmest and most pleasant weather in this famous paddling and exploring region coincides with the holiday season.

So if you don’t mind wearing your Christmas sweater paddling, take a trip down to this area that is filled with glacial lakes, towering mountains, glaciers, and volcanos. While Torres Del Paine is perhaps the most iconic area in Chilean Patagonia for both hiking and paddling, there are many great destinations.

The Lagos region, including Pucon, Puerto Varas, and Chiloe Island feature slightly warmer temperatures (often in the 60s and sometimes higher), and amazing river, lakes, and bays to explore.

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