What is the best beach in San Diego? That really depends on what you are looking for. This guide to San Diego Beaches will help you find the best beach for you. With 70 miles of coastline there are many beaches to choose from.
Most people head to one of the popular beaches where they can enjoy a day at the beach along with nearby restaurants,shops, and beach rentals. These are great beaches for people watching and meeting other beach goers. The lesser known beaches include marvelous small coves, great family beaches, fantastic surfing beaches, less crowded romantic beaches, dog beaches, and even an unsanctioned nude beach.
Guide to San Diego Beaches
The 300 foot cliffs surrounding this 2 mile stretch of beach make this one of San Diego’s most beautiful beaches. Though not officially sanctioned, its isolated location makes it a popular nude beach. This beach has one of the most powerful beach breaks in California making it extremely popular with surfers.
You will usually spot nude sun bathers at this beach. You will also see lots of people wearing clothes as well. Things to do at this beach:surfing, swimming, jogging, body surfing, and beach volleyball. If you are looking for a nude beach, this is the best beach in San Diego.
DIRECTIONS FROM DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO:
Take I-5 North to La Jolla. Exit at Genesse Avenue and drive west up hill. Turn left onto North Torrey Pines. Turn right onto Torrey Pines Scenic Drive. Take this road until it ends. Park in the dirt parking lot at Torrey Pines GliderPort. Follow the steep trail down to the beach. It is not an easy walk to the beach. Recommended for people in good shape.
Coronado City Beach
Coronado City Beach is located on Coronado Island near the famous Hotel del Coronado. This is a wide, flat beach that stretches 1.5 miles between Hotel Del Coronado and the Island Naval Air Station. The southern section of the beach allows dogs. This is the closest beach from downtown San Diego. Coronado City Beach is often named as one of the Top Ten Beaches in the United States.
Activities include volleyball, kite flying, swimming, fishing, surfing, sailing, body or boogie boarding, sun bathing, fire pits for bonfires, bicycle and surrey rentals,and exploring tide pools. There are life guards on duty. Coronado is a strong contender for best beach in San Diego for families.
DIRECTIONS FROM DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO:
Go south on Interstate 5. Merge onto CA 75 South toward Coronado. Turn left onto Orange Avenue, then right onto 10th, and left on G Street.
Del Mar Beach
Del Mar Beach is the upscale community of Del Mar where the Del Mar Horses Races are held each year. Seagrove and Powerhouse Parks are located on grassy cliffs overlooking the beach and ocean. Powerhouse Park has a children’s playground. There are life guards at this beach making it a great choice for families.
Del Mar Village, where you will find restaurants and shops, is two blocks away. The north end of the beach has a dog area. Activities include swimming, walking, surfing, body boarding, boogie boarding, and picnicking.
From San Diego go north on I-5 to Del Mar. Exit at Del Mar Heights Rd. Turn left onto Del Mar Heights. Turn right onto Camino Del Mar. Turn left on 15th. Turn right on Coast Blvd. Coast Blvd. runs along the beach.
Imperial Beach is located 20 miles south of San Diego. It’s one of the lesser crowded beaches. It’s known for its annual Sand Castle Competition, which is held each July. Shops and restaurants are nearby.
Activities include surfing, swimming, beach volleyball, body surfing, picnicking, and basketball. There’s a children’s playground adjacent to the beach.
From San Diego drive south on I-5. Exit at Palm Avenue. Turn right onto Palm Avenue. Take a slight left onto Palm. Turn left onto Seacoast. The beach runs along Seacoast.
La Jolla Children’s Pool
La Jolla Childrens Pool is a small cove that served as a swimming area for children until seals and sea lions claimed it. Children no longer swim here but visitors come to this beach to watch the sea life. This is the best beach in San Diego to observe sea lions.
Activities include scuba diving, snorkeling, and sunbathing. The beautiful cliffs make it a great place to watch the sunset.
DIRECTIONS FROM SAN DIEGO:
From San Diego drive north on I-5. Exit at La Jolla Parkway West. Merge onto La Jolla Parkway. Stay straight to go onto Torrey Pines Rd. Turn right on Prospect Place. Prospect Pl. becomes Prospect St. Turn right on Jenner St. Take a slight left onto Coast Blvd. The address is 850 Coast Blvd., La Jolla.
La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove in located in the village of La Jolla. It’s a short walking distance to upscale shops and restaurants. It’s a beautiful cove and one of the most frequently photographed beaches in California. The cove is located within the boundaries of the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, so marine life is abundant.
Activities include scuba diving, snorkeling, sunbathing, picnicking, swimming, kayaking, and hiking. Lifeguards are on duty. It’s a great place to watch the sunset.
DIRECTIONS FROM SAN DIEGO:
Take Interstate 5 North. Exit at La Jolla Parkway. This road will become Torrey Pines Rd. Turn right onto Prospect Place. Make a right onto Coast Blvd. If you are lucky, you might find parking on the street, but there are a number of parking garages in the area as well. The address for the cove is 1100 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, CA.
La Jolla Shores Beach
La Jolla Shores offers gentle waves and almost one mile of sandy beach. Kellogg Park is located next to the beach. This park has a large grassy area and a children’s playground. The small waves make this a popular beach for novice surfers and scuba divers. Surfing and swimming areas are separated. Life guards are provided. This is a likely choice of best beach in San Diego for young children.
From San Diego go north on I-5 and exit at La Jolla Parkway. Turn right at LaJolla Shores Drive. Turn left at Avenida de la Playa. Turn right on Camino del Oro. There is a large parking lot, but parking can still be a problem on summer weekends.
Marine Street Beach
Marine Street Beach is located in La Jolla at the base of Marine Street. This is one of San Diego’s less crowded beaches. The large waves that crash on the shoreline make it a popular beach with body surfers and boogie boarders. While the rough waters and lack of bathroom facilities make this beach unsuitable for children, Marine Street Beach is a great beach for watching the sunset or enjoying a stroll on an uncrowded beach.
From San Diego drive north on I-5 toward La Jolla. Exit at la Jolla Parkway West. Merge onto La Jolla Parkway. Go straight onto Torrey Pines rd. Take a slight left onto Girard. Turn right at Pearl. Go left on La Jolla Blvd. Turn right on Marine Street and start looking for a parking place on the street.
Mission Bay is the largest man made aquatic park in the country. This park consists of 27 miles of shoreline with 19 miles of sandy beaches. Enjoy bicycling, picnicking, beach bonfires, boating, jogging, swimming, sailing, waterskiing, windsurfing, jet skiing, rowing, swimming, sunbathing, basketball, and volleyball. There are grassy parks as well as beaches throughout this area. Sea World San Diego is located in this area.
DIRECTIONS: This park covers 4,600 acres. This huge aquatic area has many beaches and is bordered by East Mission Bay Drive to the east Sea World Drive to the south, and Mission Boulevard to the west. To reach this area from Interstate 5 you can exit at East M. Bay Drive, Grand Avenue, Clairemont Drive, or Sea World Drive.
Mission Beach is a busy beach area known for its boardwalk and beachfront roller coaster. A variety of stores, restaurants, bars, and beach rental facilites line the area near the beach.
Enjoy surfing, swimming, kayaking, picnicking, bicycling, rollerblading, running, skateboarding, volleyball, and sunbathing at this beach popular with both locals and tourists.
From Interstate 5 exit at Grand Avenue and go west toward the Pacific Ocean. Turn left onto Mission Blvd.
Ocean Beach has long been considered San Diego’s “hippie” beach neighborhood. This is a relaxing laid back beach community. The Ocean Beach Municipal Pier, the longest concrete pier on the West Coast is located on the south end of the beach. You’ll find a casual restaurant and a bait shop on the pier. Visitors can walk or fish on the pier. Bring your fishing pole; you don’t need a fishing license to fish on a municipal pier in San Diego.
Enjoy the fishing pier, dog beach, swimming, surfing, beach volleyball, explore tide pools, roast marshmallows at your own beach bonfire, and walk along the shoreline. Bonfires must be lit in the fire rings provided. Considered by many to be the best beach in San Diego for dogs. The dog area of the beach is quite nice and even has drinking fountains for dogs.
This beach is located 7 miles from downtown San Diego, just south of Mission Bay. Go east on I-8 until it ends. Turn left on Sunset Cliffs Blvd. Turn right on Santa Monica Avenue.
Pacific Beach is a popular San Diego beach located just north of Mission Beach. “PB” is the happening beach in San Diego. Experience the feel of a beach community with its ecletic combination of tourists, surfers, students, and families. A cement boardwalk borders the entire length of the beach. Walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and roller bladers travel up and down this boardwalk enjoy the coastal scenery.
Pacific Beach is a fabulous beach for surfing, swimming, boogie boarding, beach volleyball, people watching, and bonfires on the beach. There’s a mixture of casual food stands, surf shops, unique boutiques, and casual as well as fine dining. If you are looking for an active beach scene, PB is a top contender for best beach in San Diego.
From Interstate 5 exit at Grand Avenue and go west to the beach.
Silver Strand State Beach
Silver Strand State Beach is located just 4.5 miles south of Coronado. It includes beaches on both San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Water is typically calmer and warmer in the bay. Also known as “The Strand” this is part of a narrow isthmus that connects Coronado Island with Imperial Beach. This seven mile stretch is a popular place for joggers and bicyclists.
Visitors to this San Diego beach enjoy swimming, surfing, boating, fishing, body boarding, jet skiing, sailing, fishing, waterskiing, beach volleyball, and camping. This is one of the best beach in San Diego for ocean camping.
From I-5 South merge onto 75 South toward Coronado. Turn left on Orange St/75 S. Follow CA 75 to the beach.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park encompasses a number of beaches including Gargage Beach, No Surf Beach, and New Break Beach. The beaches are located at the base of 68 acres of rugged cliffs dotted with walking trails overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Hiking, photography, bird watching, swimming, sunbathing, whale watching, and surfing are popular activities. You might spot a gray whale as it migrates south during the winter months. This occurs from December through March with January being the peak of the migration. Getting down the cliffs to the beach is not an easy task. There are steep stairs near Ladera Street that you can take down to the beach. It’s too dangerous to climb the cliffs.
DIRECTIONS:Take I-8 west. It turns into Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, which takes you to the beaches. Most parking is on the street although there are a few small parking lots. Park near Ladera Street for the easiest access down to the beach.
Torrey Pines State Beach
Torrey Pines State Beach is located north of La Jolla. This 3 mile long beach has breathtaking scenery of the Pacific Ocean and the gorgeous sandstone cliffs. Enjoy swimming, hiking, surfing, collecting shells, and picnicking along with the panoramic views. This is a beautiful beach bordered partially by 300 foot sandstone cliffs. The south end of the beach is is reserved for swimmers and the north end for surfing.
The beach area closest to Interstate 5 is easily accessible and gets the most visitors. The area to the south is hidden by the bluffs and is usually not crowded. You can park in the lots just off the highway or enter the Torrey Pines State Reserve and park just beyond the entrance gate. There is a fee for entering the reserve. The reserve has miles of hiking trails and a visitors center. The trail from the visitor’s center down to the beach is a beautiful hike. This is probably the best beach in San Diego for hiking.
From San Diego travel north on I-5 toward La Jolla. Exit at Carmel Valley Rd. and turn left. Turn left onto N. Torrey Pines Road.
Windansea Beach is popular with experienced surfers, snorkelers, body surfers, and sunbathers. Swimmers should enter the water with extreme caution. You need to be a strong swimmer due to the rough breaking surf right at the shoreline.
Windansea is famous for its “Surfers’ Shack” built by surfers in 1948, which has been designated as an historical landmark. There’s a grassy area perfect for picnics. Large sandstone rocks provide secluded settings for relaxing on the beach. This is a great beach to watch the sunset set or take a romantic stroll on the beach. It’s considered by many to be the best beach in San Diego for surfing.
From San Diego, take Interstate 5 north to La Jolla Parkway. Continue on as it becomes Torrey Pines Road. Follow Torrey Pines Road to Pearl Street and turn right. Turn left on La Jolla Boulevard. Turn right on Nautilus. There is a small parking lot. Most visitors need to park on the street in the neighboring residential area.
What do you think is the best beach in San Diego? Please leave a comment below.