With a coastline spanning about 70 miles, there’s a beach for everyone, and everything, in San Diego.
Stretching from Imperial Beach in the South Bay up to the northernmost city of Oceanside, San Diego’s white sand beaches often rank among the nation’s top coastal destinations. Throughout America’s Finest City, visitors can seek out a beach for every occasion—from popular surf spots and summer concerts on the sand, to photo-worthy sea cliffs and an oceanfront amusement park. These notable San Diego beaches make for 10 great excuses to hit the Pacific Ocean no matter the season.
Connected to San Diego by its namesake landmark bridge, Coronado is a utopian peninsula that’s often praised for its sparkling sand and prime real estate. At the north end near Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado’s Dog Beach allows pooches to run free sans leash. Farther down Orange Avenue past the main business district, Hotel del Coronado is a 130-year-old luxury hotel that draws thousands of visitors annually. Steps from the hotel, Del Beach is open to the public, with ample space for sunbathers who can take a break for lunch or happy hour at the property’s on-site restaurants.
INSIDER TIPThousands of U.S. Navy personnel work in Coronado, so during summer months it’s advised not to travel here during peak commute times, or use the Coronado ferry service instead.
Located near SeaWorld San Diego, Mission Beach is home to a bustling boardwalk that’s frequented by walkers, cyclists, and people-watchers. Sandwiched between Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean, the area has a bevy of beachside bars and restaurants including Saska’s steak house and Oceana Coastal Kitchen. The bay is popular for water sports such as stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, and Jet Skiing, but the beach is best known for its oceanfront amusement park. Belmont Park offers free admission, but guests pay for attractions and rides like the wooden Giant Dipper Roller Coaster that was constructed in 1925.
Torrey Pines State Beach
Situated at the base of a 1,500-acre natural reserve, Torrey Pines State Beach in La Jolla offers a long, narrow stretch of pristine beach framed by picturesque sea cliffs. Here, beachgoers can add a hike to their itinerary that starts or finishes on the sand, with plenty of lookout areas serving as great photo ops. Beyond the bluffs, a salt marsh provides seclusion from businesses and their associated street noise.
Seasoned surfers should head to La Jolla’s Windansea Beach for powerful waves. Tucked away in a residential area, Windansea’s entrance is marked by large rocks that make for a great place to watch or dry out, and a nearby thatched-roof surf shack provides a shady spot to stash belongings. Recreational swimming is not advised here due to the strong surf.
INSIDER TIPWedding ceremonies and photo shoots often take place at Windansea, so visitors should approach with caution and courtesy.
Moonlight State Beach
Those who prefer active beach days with access to firepits should look no further than Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas. Volleyball courts, picnic tables, and playgrounds line the beach, with a concession stand and equipment rental area open during high season. Particularly busy during their free concert series held on select Sundays in July and August, Moonlight State Beach has generous space for large groups.
La Jolla Shores
Pack up the whole family for a beach day in La Jolla Shores, which is known to have calmer waves, and includes two parks and a playground for children. Sea caves and underwater canyons that are part of La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Reserve—a marine protected area—attract kayakers and scuba divers to La Jolla Shores. Book a kayak tour with Everyday California to explore seven sea caves and three microhabitats found in the reserve.
INSIDER TIPFriendly leopard sharks frequent this area during summer, but do not pose a risk to humans.
Del Mar City Beach
In the upscale coastal neighborhood of Del Mar lies two beach parks that are popular for special events because of their stunning views of the Pacific. Seagrove Park is perched on the hill at the end of 15th Street, with benches for ocean gazing and winding paths along the bluffs. Farther north across the railroad tracks, Powerhouse Park offers easy beach access, a playground area, and a volleyball court. This manicured stretch of Del Mar City Beach is only a few steps from Jake’s Del Mar restaurant, a prime spot to enjoy sunset happy hour.
Swami’s State Beach
West of the magnificent Self-Realization Fellowship Temple and Meditation Gardens in Encinitas, Swami’s Beach draws surfers and yogis in with its Zen vibes. Others treat the steep staircase leading down to the beach as a workout, with a rewarding view of sea cliffs waiting at the bottom. At low tide, shells and other sea creatures are left behind for beachcombers to easily discover.
Fletcher Cove Beach Park
Nestled in the heart of Solana Beach, Fletcher Cove Beach Park doubles as a recreational park and beach access area. Here you’ll find a basketball court, playground, lawn area, and picnic tables. A paved ramp leads down to the crescent-shaped beach that’s flanked by cliffs on both sides. For sweeping views of the ocean, position yourself at one of the lookouts outfitted with seating and/or binoculars—yup, binoculars are waiting for you.
Follow the windy dirty path laden with switchbacks down to find Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas, a well-known beach spot and favorite locals’ hangout; on maps it may be labeled Leucadia State Beach. Since its entrance is hidden below sea cliffs on a one-way residential street, Beacon’s Beach has an air of exclusivity. With plenty of space to spread out here, you won’t have to infringe on sun-worshipping neighbors.