5 best states for a water sports vacation

Whether you prefer sunned beaches or crystal clear lakes, here’s where to get your fill of fun in the waves.

If there’s one thing that joins sightseers and thrill-seekers, it’s the love of water sports. The wind rushing against your face while you jet ski, the quiet splendor while you tour the coast by kayak—but why not branch out and see what else the water has to offer? Swing into Lake Tahoe by rope swing in California or dare to take on new heights flyboarding in Florida.

Warmer weather is on the way, so there’s no time to waste in finding the best vacation spots for water activities. Here are our top picks of where to chase the perfect wave.

1. Texas

Lake Travis and South Padre Island

Under the wide-open skies of the Lone Star State, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for both saltwater and freshwater water sports. Lake Travis’ limestone bottom gives it crystal clear water, and makes it the most visited lake in Texas for swimming, paddling, fishing, wakeboarding, and boating. During your visit, try something new and course through the inflatable obstacles and trampolines at Waterloo Adventures’ floating water park. Further south, you’ll find the state’s only tropical island, where you can jet ski, paddleboard, parasail, or book a dolphin cruise to catch at sunset on South Padre Island.

Where to stay

Texas vacation rentals for water sports

2. Florida

Miami Beach and Key West

Travelers and staycationers alike take advantage of Miami Beach’s ideal warm waters for jet skiing, sailing, kite surfing, and the gravity-defying flyboarding. Key West’s small island stretches out into the sapphire waters of the Gulf of Mexico and is best known for its coral reefs, so don’t forget to pack your snorkeling gear. In between beach stops, make sure to grab a picture at the Southernmost Point Buoy, a landmark of the farthest reach of the United States, resting just 90 miles from Cuba.

Where to stay

Florida vacation rentals for water sports

Surfer in Hawaii tube riding

3. Hawaii

Oahu and Maui

Water sports are the name of the game in Hawaii, where you can take your pick of snorkeling, scuba diving, or surfing lessons just about anywhere you choose. If you’d like to sprinkle in a little city sightseeing to your adventure, look no further than Oahu’s shimmering beaches for swimming or a sunset cruise. Head over to Maui’s many dive spots (Lanai Cathedrals and Honolua Bay, especially) if you’re looking for a chance to get closer to the island’s marine life and brightly colored fish—without the crowds.

Where to stay

Hawaii vacation rentals for water sports

4. California

Lake Tahoe and San Diego

Lake Tahoe is tough to beat when it comes to lakeside water sports—an outdoor paradise in and out of the water, you can enjoy boating, fishing, swimming, and water skiing. Find hours of fun on the southwest shore of Bliss State Park, where you can even rope swing into the water. In San Diego, you can explore the tide pools, windsurf (or even flyboard if you dare) and then wind down at the spa. Whether you dream of catching a wave at the ocean or cooling off after a hike, California has you covered.

Where to stay

California vacation rentals for water sports

5. Alabama

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a hidden gem when it comes to water sports destinations, with the perfect mix of gorgeous ocean coastline, state parks to paddle through, and beach towns with rental shops and all the equipment you need. Kayak or paddleboard on Little Lagoon near the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores and spot turtles and coastal birds bustling around their natural habitats. Orange Beach’s blue waters make it the perfect escape for jet skiing, boat cruises, parasailing, or fishing.

Where to stay

Alabama vacation rentals for water sports

Best water sports vacation destinations FAQ

If you’re looking for a day at the lake, Lake Travis in Texas or Lake Tahoe in California are top vacation spots for adventure. If you’re bound for the beach, South Padre Island, Oahu, Maui, Key West, Miami Beach, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and San Diego are waiting with sapphire blue waters and water sports at the ready.

From easy sightseeing to the rush of adrenaline, there are different kinds of water sports for everyone. Kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, and scuba diving are relaxing ways to spend time in the water. For thrill-seekers, there’s jet skiing, surfing, paragliding, kite surfing, water skiing, and tubing if you’re down for more action.

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