San Diego Sights

California’s entire coastline enchants, but the state’s southernmost region stands apart when it comes to sand, surf, and sea. Step out of the car and onto the beach to immediately savor its allure: smell the fresh salty air, feel the plush sand at your feet, hear waves breaking from the shore, and take in breathtaking vistas.

San Diego’s sandstone bluffs offer spectacular views

of the Pacific as a palette of blues and greens: there are distant indigo depths, emerald coves closer to shore, and finally, the mint-green swirls of the foamy surf.

San Diego’s beaches have a different vibe from their northern counterparts in Orange County and glitzy Los Angeles. San Diego is more laid-back and less of a scene. Cyclists whiz by as surfers saunter toward the waves and sunbathers relax in the sun, be it July or November.

Whether you’re seeking a safe place to take the kids or a hot spot to work on your tan, there’s a beach here that’s just right for you. La Jolla Shores and Mission Bay both have gentle waves and shallow waters that provide safer swimming for kids; whereas the high swells at Black’s and Swami’s attract surfers worldwide. If you’re looking for dramatic ocean views, Torrey Pines State Beach and Sunset Cliffs provide a desertlike chaparral backdrop, with craggy cliffs overlooking the ocean below. Beaches farther south in Coronado and Silver Strand have longer stretches of sand that are perfect for a contemplative stroll or a brisk jog. Then there are those secluded, sandy enclaves that you may happen upon on a scenic drive down Highway 101.

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Fodor's Choice

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Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo 27

Point Loma and Coronado 17

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Coronado 7

Harbor Island 2

Ocean Beach 1

Point Loma 6

Shelter Island 1

La Jolla 15

Mission Bay, Beaches, and SeaWorld 12

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Mission Bay 9

Mission Beach 2

Pacific Beach 1

Old Town and Uptown 11

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Hillcrest 2

Mission Valley 1

Old Town 8

Downtown 10

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East Village 2

Embarcadero 5

Gaslamp Quarter 2

Little Italy 1

South Bay 2

Cardiff-by-the-Sea 1

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Amusement Park/ Water Park 2

Arts/ Performance Venue 3

Beach–Sight 19

Bridge/ Tunnel 2

Building/ Architectural Site 1

Canyon 1

Carousel 1

Cave 1

Cemetery 2

Educational Institution 2

Fountain 1

Garden/ Arboretum 4

Historic District/ Site 1

Hotel–Sight 1

House/ Mansion/ Villa 2

Island 2

Marina/ Pier/ Dock 1

Market/ Bazaar 1

Mountain–Sight 1

Museum/ Gallery 22

Nautical Site/ Lighthouse 2

Neighborhood/ Street 3

Park (National/ State/ Provincial) 3

Park/ Playground 3

Promenade/ Boardwalk 2

Religious Building/ Site/ Shrine 2

Sports Venue 1

Store/ Shop/ Mall 4

Transportation Site (Airport, Bus, Ferry, Train) 1

Viewpoint/ Scenic Overlook 3

Zoo/ Aquarium 2

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Best For

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Family 31

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San Diego Sights

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Alcazar Garden

  • Garden/Arboretum

You may feel like royalty here as you rest on the benches by the exquisitely tiled fountains—the garden's highlight—and it's no wonder:...

Bea Evenson Fountain

  • Fountain

A favorite of barefoot children, this fountain shoots cool jets of water upwards of 50 feet. Built in 1972 between the Fleet Center and...

Botanical Building

  • Garden/Arboretum

The graceful redwood-lath structure, built for the 1915 Panama–California International Exposition, now houses more than 2,000 types...

Cabrillo Bridge

  • Bridge/Tunnel

The official gateway into Balboa Park soars 120 feet above a canyon floor. Pedestrian-friendly, the 1,500-foot bridge provides inspiring...

House of Pacific Relations

  • Arts/Performance Venue

This is not really a house but a cluster of red tile–roof stucco cottages representing some 30 foreign countries. The word "pacific"...

Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden and Desert Garden

  • Garden/Arboretum

These neighboring gardens sit just across the Park Boulevard pedestrian bridge and offer gorgeous views over Florida Canyon. The formal...

Japanese Friendship Garden

  • Garden/Arboretum

A koi pond with a cascading waterfall, a tea pavilion, and a large activity center are highlights of the park's authentic Japanese garden,...

Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater

  • Arts/Performance Venue

Performances incorporate marionettes, hand puppets, rod puppets, shadow puppets, and ventriloquism, while the stories range from traditional...

Marston House Museum & Gardens

  • House/Mansion/Villa

George W. Marston (1850–1946), a San Diego pioneer and philanthropist who financed the architectural landscaping of Balboa Park—among...

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