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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Browse Sights

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Fodor's Choice

Area

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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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Category

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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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Birch Aquarium at Scripps

  • Zoo/Aquarium

Affiliated with the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography, this excellent aquarium sits at the end of a signposted drive...

Black's Beach

  • Beach–Sight

The powerful waves at this beach attract world-class surfers, and the strand's relative isolation appeals to nudist nature lovers (although...

Children's Pool

  • Beach–Sight

Due to the groups of harbor seals that have claimed it as their own, this shallow cove, protected by a seawall, is closed to the public...

La Jolla Caves

  • Cave

It's a walk of 145 sometimes slippery steps down a tunnel to Sunny Jim, the largest of the caves in La Jolla Cove and the only one reachable...

La Jolla Cove

  • Beach–Sight

This shimmering blue-green inlet surrounded by cliffs is what first attracted everyone to La Jolla, from Native Americans to the glitterati...

La Jolla Shores

  • Beach–Sight

This is one of San Diego's most popular beaches due to its wide sandy shore, gentle waves, and incredible views of La Jolla peninsula.

Marine Street Beach

  • Beach–Sight

This wide expanse of white sand is famous for bodysurfing due to its powerful shorebreak, but it also teems with sunbathers, swimmers,...

Mount Soledad

  • Mountain–Sight

La Jolla's highest spot can be reached by taking Nautilus Street to La Jolla Scenic Drive South, and then turning left. Proceed a few...

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

  • Museum/Gallery

Driving along Coast Boulevard, it is hard to miss the mass of watercraft jutting out from the rear of the Museum of Contemporary Art...

Salk Institute

  • Educational Institution

The world-famous biological-research facility founded by polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk sits on 27 clifftop acres. The twin structures...

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