If you live near, or have visited, a body of water you have probably seen people paddle boarding. Over the last few years, Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) has become extremely popular. It is very easy to do, requires just a little equipment, and provides a great whole-body workout.
If you haven’t tried it yet, or even if you are an experienced pro, paddling in Puerto Rico is a great vacation activity that the whole family can enjoy.
We recently tried it with Velauno Paddleboarding in Condado and really enjoyed it. It was more peaceful and easy than I thought it would be, and I can see why it is the newest water-sport craze!
SUP has its roots in Hawaii, but has fast taken over the planet as “the” thing to do. The name pretty much describes the activity … you stand up on a board and paddle.
Once you got the hang of it, there is almost no limit as to what you can do out on the water with your board and paddle — surfing, yoga, and fishing are just a few options. But mainly, you just enjoy the scenery and your time on the water.
People may find it amusing that I was a bit nervous to try this. I just didn’t think I was coordinated enough to be able to stand up on a board in the water and paddle around. But we finally bit the bullet and gave it a try. And, honestly, it was a piece of cake!
We met Roderyck from Velauno Paddleboarding at their “office” in the shade under a tree beside the Condado Lagoon. They have a big red van full of paddleboards ready to go, and a sign-up table right at the water’s edge. They also have a secure place where we stored our dry “stuff” (shoes, keys, towel, etc).
After we signed the usual release forms, Roderyck asked us about our experience with swimming, surfing, paddleboarding and other “paddle” sports (like kayaking and canoeing). That helped him gauge our experience level for SUP, and our comfort level on the water. He measured our arms’ reach (to give us the correct sized paddles), and he got our paddleboards.
It wasn’t until after we finished, when I was feeling all good about myself and my ability to do so well, that he told us that our boards were beginner’s boards that are huge (12 feet long by 2½ feet wide) and very stable — almost impossible to fall off of. As you advance, they make smaller, thinner boards — which they also have available.
Anyway, after setting us up with our equipment, he gave us a quick, land-based demonstration on how to do SUP. It is a bit different than kayak/canoe paddling since you use your core muscles more than your arms. He answered our remaining questions, and pointed out the best route for our trip.
The day we went was a bit windy, so our route would be to go east along the water’s edge (where the birds, iguanas, and star fish hang out among the mangroves) and then back around the other side of the lagoon. If we were up to it, we had the option to go under Dos Hermanos bridge to the other lagoon area next to the Condado Plaza Hilton Hotel and Playita de Condado beach.
So off we went into the lagoon. Following the instructions, we started off paddling while kneeling on the board. Once we had some confidence, we tried standing up slowly while paddling. And it worked!
At first I was worried I wasn’t doing it “right”, but after a few minutes I decided to stop worrying about my form and just enjoy myself. Once I did that, everything fell into place. I really started to get moving. I got the feel of the water, waves, wind and the changes as we moved around the lagoon. It really can be a great whole body workout if you did it enough because you end up using leg, arm and core muscles without really even noticing it.
We enjoyed the scenery and the peacefulness of the water. You really kind of loose yourself in the experience. We did end up going under the bridge, but the wind was pretty strong on that area, so we came back (paddling in a kneeling position to reduce wind resistance). The knee paddling was fun too! Neither of us fell in at all. It took us about 1 hour to go around the lagoon once, and we could have kept going without any problem.
Velauno’s location is really great, and easy to get to. It is in the San Juan metro area, close to major hotels, and not too far from the cruise ships. The Condado Lagoon is great for beginners since the water is generally flat and the wind is usually low. It offers some beautiful views to both the Condado “city”, mangroves growing around the lagoon, and the Atlantic Ocean.
You might get lucky enough to see some “big” animals like manatees, dolphins, turtles, stringrays, or tarpon. The water is warm all year round, just in case you take an unexpected dip in the water. There is always the possibility of that happening, so the have personal flotation devices (PFDs, i.e. lifejackets) available as an option if it would make you more comfortable.
The Condado Lagoon is a nature reserve, so there are no restrooms on the premises. But you can use the facilities at the Conrad Condado Plaza Hotel just across the street.
SUP has become very popular here in Puerto Rico, so you will find a number of other companies that rent boards or do tours all over the island, and even on Vieques and Culebra.
Anyone can do it. There are no real restrictions. Velauno has a minimum age 8 years old to go.
You may fall into the water, so being able to swim is a helpful skill, but PFDs are available. No matter what, you are attached to the floating board (via a bungy cord hooked to your ankle), so that helps!. SUP requires some balance, and the ability to move from a kneeling to a standing position. It is a great multi-generational activity that is fun and easy for the whole family.
Normally, when we review an activity that is not free to the public, we pay the admission price out of our own pockets. However, we just want you to know that the guys at Velauno Paddleboarding were kind enough to offer us this trip for free. While we don’t feel that this free ride influenced our review one way or the other, we felt that we should tell you, just as a matter of fact.
Condado Lagoon Board Rentals — Velauno offers 1-hour board rentals for $25/person. Reservations are recommended in general, and required on the weekends. They also have kayaks- $25 pp for single kayak, $35 for double kayak per hour. All rates include tax and equipment. There is a discount for multiple hours.
Guided Tours — Velauno offers a few guided tours, such as Tours to Old San Juan (from Condado to OSJ), which start at $125 per person. The price includes tax, gear and return transport. Much lower rates are available to groups of 2 or more. Reservations are required.
They also offer longer term board rentals, smaller boards for experienced SUP-ers, roof racks to transport rental boards, and delivery. Contact them to see what they can do for you.
If you’re happy, let them know it — Don’t forget to tip your your bartender, tour guide or trip operator if you enjoyed yourself. Gratuities are appreciated and typically aren’t included in the price they charge you.
Velauno appears to rent boards in the Condado Lagoon from 10am-6pm during the week, and from 9am until 6pm on the weekends.
Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a waterproof camera. A rash guard (or long sleeve shirt) will provide additional sun protection. Drinking water would be good to have, too (though Velauno can provide that).
Allow an hour or 2, so that you don’t feel rushed.
You can call Velauno at 787-470-9099 for more information or to make a reservation.
It looked like they had about 25 boards in their truck, for everyone from beginner to expert.
Velauno is located at 890 Ashford Avenue in Condado, at the east end of Dos Hermanos Bridge, and across the street from the Condado Plaza Hilton Hotel. Look for their truck and sign. You can park in the Condado Plaza Hilton Hotel parking deck (for a fee).