15 Best Beaches in San Diego

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Featuring 70 miles of coastline, San Diego is well-known for its warm weather, fine dining, awesome museums, premium shopping, and a variety of activities. Going to the beach is a must-do activity when visiting the city and there are many different beaches to choose from.

Some beaches are ideal for surfing and kayaking, while others are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. It really depends on what you are hoping to find. To save you the trouble of hours of online research, we have come up with a list of 15 best beaches in San Diego.

1. Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach, San DiegoSource: Susanne Pommer / shutterstock
Coronado Beach

The amazing Coronado Municipal Beach consists of 4 different beach areas, including Glorietta Bay Park, Coronado City Beach, Tidelands Park, and Centennial Park. Did you know that scenes from the famous movie ‘Some Like It Hot’ with Marilyn Monroe were shot right here at Coronado Beach?

The island is easily reachable by public bus, car, private shuttle, or a taxi via San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge. This family beach is also perfect for kite flying because of its flat profile.

In case you own a pet, the northern part of the beach is pet-friendly. Coronado Beach is also close to the famous Hotel Del Coronado that dates back to the 19th century. This hotel is a popular destination for royalty and celebrities.

2. Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach, San DiegoSource: Sherry V Smith / shutterstock
Pacific Beach

Situated right between Mission Beach and La Jolla, Pacific Beach or as some like to call it “The Strand”, is a two-mile-long beach that is ideal for long strolls and family activities. It is one of the most famous beaches in San Diego area and attracts large crowds of visitors.

There are rental shops on the beach where you can get equipment for scuba diving, as well as numerous bars and restaurants. Keep in mind that surfing is allowed only in designated areas and lifeguards are on duty daily.

Young people will be pleased to hear that this small beach town features a lively bar scene. The Raw Bar and JRDN Lounge are highly popular among the locals. Travelers can also go to the 90-year old Crystal Pier or check out the 3.5-mile long boardwalk.

3. Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach, San DiegoSource: Michael in San Diego, California / Flickr
Ocean Beach

If you own a dog, then Ocean Beach is the pet-friendly beach for you. There’s even a special dog area where your pet is allowed to run around without a leash.

On the other end of Ocean Beach is the famous Ocean Beach Pier, which is a perfect spot for fishing. You don’t even need to have a California fishing license to fish here.

You will find plenty of restaurants and bars on the beach where you can unwind with a drink and have a meal.

However, travelers are advised to stay close to the Ocean Beach lifeguard towers when swimming because of the strong rip currents. Surfing is also allowed in some parts of the beach.

4. La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores, San DiegoSource: Dancestrokes / shutterstock
La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores is a perfect family beach that attracts large crowds of both tourists and locals. It’s one of the best beaches in the region for surfing, paddle boarding, and scuba diving lessons because of the sandy bottom and easy access to the ocean.

Take a short stroll through the lovely adjacent Kellogg Park which is perfect for picnics or visit the nearby Steven Birch Aquarium. Fishing is not permitted here at La Jolla Shores, but some areas are designated for surfing.

There is also a large grass area close to the beach where people come from all over town for regular yoga lessons.

5. Tourmaline Surfing Park

Tourmaline Surfing ParkSource: SpecialKRB / Flickr
Tourmaline Surfing Park

A hidden gem situated in North Pacific Beach, Tourmaline Surfing Park is a hot spot for surfing and sailboarding. Bordered by cliffs that are 75 feet high, this amazing beach is split into two separate areas. One is for surfing, while the other is for swimming. You will see lifeguards on the beach at all times.

There are not many tourists here, so Tourmaline Surfing Park is a great place for travelers who wish to seek some peace and quiet.

There is a parking lot in the area, as well as showers and restrooms. But be careful when heading to the beach over the rocks, it can be a little hazardous!

6. Imperial Beach

Imperial BeachSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
Imperial Beach

Situated just a short drive from Tijuana in Mexico, Imperial Beach is famous for hosting the U.S. Open Sand Castle Competition in the summer. This is the southernmost beach in California and features more than 300 species of birds, which makes it a popular area for bird-watching.

You can swim or surf on Imperial Beach or take a nature hike through numerous trails. There’s a pier at the beach which is one of the most popular fishing spots in the area and it also offers amazing views of the Los Coronados Islands.

Surfers love this beach and let’s not forget about the famous Surfboard Museum that is just a short walk away.

7. Mission Beach

Mission BeachSource: Dancestrokes / shutterstock
Mission Beach

Offering spectacular ocean views, Mission Beach is one of the most crowded beaches in the city because of its location. The popular Belmont Park is just around the corner and Ocean Front Walk is minutes away.

You will find good facilities and services on the beach including showers, restrooms, fire pits, and plenty of lifeguards on duty.

There is a free public parking lot near Belmont Park and in case you wish to grab a bite to eat, head out to one of the restaurants and bars on the Ocean Front Walk.

8. Windansea Beach

Windansea BeachSource: Autumn Sky Photography / shutterstock
Windansea Beach

Situated in La Jolla, Windansea Beach features awesome surf breaks and fabulous scenery. This place attracts experience surfers and sunbathers who are looking for some privacy.

The waves crash right at the shoreline, so swimmers are advised to be extremely careful when entering the water.

Windansea Beach and its rocky cliffs is also a great spot for whale-watching during their migration. If heading down to the beach via these cliffs, keep in mind that paths are steep in places, making it difficult for older people and folks with mobility problems.

9. Silver Strand

Silver StrandSource: aliciamariemassie / shutterstock
Silver Strand

Made up of beaches that line with the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean, Silver Strand is a great place for various activities including boating, water skiing, kayaking, swimming, surfing, and beach volleyball.

There are several pedestrian tunnels under the busy street that connect all of the beaches. It’s an ideal place for oceanfront RV camping and you will find barbecue pits, fire rings, and picnic tables available for use. Bring your dog, but they are not allowed on the beach itself, only at the public camping area.

10. Cardiff-by-the-Sea

Cardiff-by-the-SeaSource: Marcel Fuentes / shutterstock

Located just north of San Diego, Cardiff-by-the Sea is a small community that consists of the 900 acre Elijo Lagoon and 2 miles of beach.

Check out the famous Cardiff Reef which is one of the most popular surf spots in the area. You can even stop along the Highway 101 and watch the impressive surfers ride the high waves.

There are also more than 170 campsites at San Elijo Park which feature fire rings and picnic tables. If you get hungry, head out to the Restaurant Row area to find some of the best cuisine on the west coast.

11. Solana Beach

Solana BeachSource: You Touch Pix of EuToch / shutterstock
Solana Beach

Located in San Diego’s North Country, Solana Beach features many hidden coves and surfing hot spots. There are five hot spots in total here. Del Mar Shores is usually visited by the locals, while the Seaside is great for surfing and has an outer reef.

Tide Beach is famous for its pristine white sand while Fletcher Cove is another surfing favorite. Seascape Beach attracts both tourists and locals who again, love surfing. Expect to find showers and restroom facilities and lifeguards are present during the long summer season.

12. Del Mar City Beach

Del Mar City BeachSource: Ken Lund / Flickr
Del Mar City Beach

Del Mar City Beach is an ideal beach for families with children. The North part of the beach is dog-friendly and stretches from the 15th Street to the Rivermouth.

There are two parks on the 15th Street, Powerhouse Park and Seagrove Park. Both are perfect sites for picnics, weddings, and other social gatherings.

At the south side of Del Mar City Beach, expect to find a more rustic vibe with cliffs and tidal pools. There are several treacherous trails going down the cliffs to access the beach, so be careful!

If you like to jog or hike, there is a dirt path that goes on for miles.

13. Torrey Pines State Beach and Park

Torrey Pines State BeachSource: ZAB Photographie / shutterstock
Torrey Pines State Beach

Torrey Pines State Beach and Park is divided into two sections. A park with eight miles of trails that features the unique torrey pine tree is one of the wildest areas in the state. The other section is the beach itself, which is located three hundred feet below the park.

It is popular among families and features fine white sand, bathroom facilities, and lifeguards. The kids love the northern lagoon part of the beach where they can spend hours splashing and exploring.

There are no restaurants here, so if you are planning to spend a day on the beach, pack some food and refreshing drinks. You will find plenty of parking spots along the busy approach road.

14. Moonlight Beach

Moonlight BeachSource: Jon Buder / shutterstock
Moonlight Beach

Moonlight Beach is a family-friendly beach that offers a designated snack area, a snack bar and a couple of restrooms. There are even nicely groomed areas for football and volleyball.

Parents love this place because they can relax while their kids are safely playing close to the water. Above the beach, you will find paid parking areas, but there is also ample street parking available.

After a long day at the beach, head out to the city and have dinner at one of the cozy restaurants.

15. Black’s Beach

Black's Beach San DiegoSource: thierryt / shutterstock
Black’s Beach

Black’s Beach is a clothing optional gay beach that is perfect for surfing and offers stunning scenery. It may come as a surprise to some people, but there are many families with kids who come here to enjoy the peace and quiet.

This beautiful beach is situated underneath the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and offers spectacular views of San Diego’s coastal towns to the north and La Jolla to the south.

The views are not the only reason for Black’s Beach’s popularity, surfers are also in love with the area because of its well-known surf break.

The best place to park is close to the Torrey Pines Gliderport, while the Ho Chi Minh Trail is the best path to get access to the sands.

15 Best Beaches in San Diego:

  • Coronado Beach
  • Pacific Beach
  • Ocean Beach
  • La Jolla Shores
  • Tourmaline Surfing Park
  • Imperial Beach
  • Mission Beach
  • Windansea Beach
  • Silver Strand
  • Cardiff-by-the-Sea
  • Solana Beach
  • Del Mar City Beach
  • Torrey Pines State Beach and Park
  • Moonlight Beach
  • Black's Beach