From rocky coasts to beautiful stretches of crisp white sand, San Diego has something to offer for every beach lover. The area boasts a rich history tied into the surfing culture that grew up in the 1960’s and is still growing today. Those wishing to explore the waters of San Diego will find a beautiful variety of fish and sea birds while they snorkel, dive, or take a scenic boat cruise. Families and visitors of all ages can find a variety of fun and relaxing activities to do at any number of San Diego beaches.
1. Cardiff-by-the Sea
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Cardiff-by-the Sea is a small community situated just north of San Diego. The community features 2 miles of walkable beach and 900 acre Elijo lagoon. Surfers will love the Cardiff Reef, the area's most popular surf spot. Sightseers can stop along historic Highway 101 and watch the surfers or take in the breathtaking views of the lagoon. The San Elijo Park and Campground offers 171 campsites which include a picnic table and fire ring on each site. Along the beach is an area known as Restaurant Row which offers some of the best cuisine on the west coast and plenty of casual dining opportunities in the town. This is one of the best San Diego beaches.
124 Aberdeen Dr, Cardiff-by-the-Sea,CA 92007, Phone: 760-436-0431
2. Coronado Beach
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The four beach areas of Coronado City Beach, Centennial Park, Glorietta Bay Park, and Tidelands Park make up the Coronado Municipal Beach. Mica partials in the sand make the beach sparkle adding an extra glint of gold for travelers to enjoy. Due to the flat profile of the beach the area is very popular for skim boarding and kite flying. The northern part of the beach is open to dogs who are allowed to roam off their leashes and enjoy the sand and surf. The beach is also the home of the Hotel Del Coronado, built in 1888 and a popular destination for celebrities and royalty since. Things to do in Coronado
Strand Way, Coronado, CA 92118, Phone: 619-552-7300
3. Ocean Beach
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Dog loves will want to check out the first leash-free beach in the US located at Ocean Beach. The area is located at the end of the San Diego river and lets beach lovers, pet lovers, and surfers all enjoy the charm of a classic beach town. Standing for 50 years the Ocean Beach Pier is one of the most visited Landmarks in San Diego. Just south of the pier is the Sunset Cliffs National Park, a 68 acre park those wanting to enjoy the cliff views or pounding surf. Visitors just wanting a stroll should take in the Ocean Beach self-guided Historic Walking Tour through the areas historic district with buildings dating back to the early 1900's.
1868 Bacon St., #A, San Diego, CA 92107, Phone: 619-224-4906
4. La Jolla Cove
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The small area of La Jolla Cove is often cited as the most photographed beach in San Diego. The cove is hidden among the cliffs and caves of the area and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Nearby Scripps Park offers room for spreading out for those visitors who wish to picnic and let their children enjoy the soft grass. The cove is San Diego's most popular area for diving, kayaking, and snorkeling due to the areas calm waters. Beautiful orange garibaldi, yellowfin tuna, and rays fill the areas for divers and snorkelers to enjoy and the occasional leopard shark may even join the party. Next read: Best Things to Do in La Jolla
1162 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037,Phone: 858-454-5718
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5. Mission Beach
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Located on a sand bar between Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean is Sand Diego's own take on a Boardwalk town. Visitors can't help making one stop the Belmont Park which is home to the Giant Dipper which is the second oldest wooden roller coaster in the US. Popular with the 20-something crowd the areas offers a variety of nightlife bars and restaurants. The Bahi Bell paddleboat offers visitors an unforgettable night with live music and the beautiful sunset views. A handful of shipwrecks off the coast offer a great place for divers to explore.Mission Bay is also home to SeaWorld San Diego. More Things to do in San Diego
4475 Mission Blvd, Suite 212 Pacific Beach, CA 92109, Phone: 858-274-5439
6. Pacific Beach, San Diego Area
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Located between La Jolla and Mission Beach the Pacific Beach area offers an wonderful nightlife scene for the younger crowd visiting the area. The beach houses numerous bars and restaurants including the popular JRDN Lounge and Raw Bar. The Pacific Beach Ocean Front Walk is filled with those wanting to enjoy a jog, get in some inline skating, or just cruise the numerous shops. Garnet Avenue, the areas spot for trendy boutique shops, also hosts a farmers market on Tuesdays. The numerous beach front hotels and beach houses also attract families who wish to enjoy the sun and sand and maybe even some surfing.
Grand and Ocean Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 619-221-8899
7. Silver Strand
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Located on San Diego Bay the Silver Strand Park is one of the cities finest camping and recreation areas. The calm waters make the area perfect for sail boating and swimming if visitors want to avoid the rougher waves of the open ocean. Due to the calm waters the beach is a great spot for shell collectors. Anglers and those wishing to fish off their boats can enjoy a variety of fish from perch to yellow-fin croaker. During summertime there are fire rings available for those visitors wanting to enjoy a cookout. Cars are not allowed on the bay side of the park to keep the beaches clean and protected.
G5000 Highway 75, Coronado, CA 92118, Phone: 619-435-5184
8. Solana Beach, San Diego Area
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Solana Beach is renowned in the areas for its art and music venues. Families can enjoy waterfront parks and let the little ones splash in tide pools. Couples may wish to take a drip to the local craft brewery or the local winery. While the beach is secluded and more difficult to access visiting Fletcher Cove is well worth it. Visitors can explore the secluded beaches and the numerous caves that have been carved into the cliffs by the ocean waves. The northern area of Seaside, home to the Table Tops, is the perfect surfing spot for those wanting larger waves. Those wishing to enjoy shopping and good food should visit the Cedros Design District which is home to 85 unique boutiques and restaurants.
210 West Plaza Street, Solana Beach, CA 92075, Phone: 858-755-4775
9. Imperial Beach, San Diego Area
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Located just five miles north west of Tijuana Mexico is Imperial Beach, the southernmost beach in California. The beach is home to more than 300 species of bird making it one of the most popular bird watching areas in southern Cali. For the last thirty one years the beach has been home to the US Open Sand Castle Building Contest. The pier at Imperial Beach is one of the area's most popular fishing spots and offers beautiful views of the Los Coronados islands. The area is very popular with surfers and is also home to the Surfboard Museum along with numerous surfboard shapers and designers.
Elder Ave, Imperial Beach, CA 91932, Phone: 619-423-0704
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Visitors wanting to enjoy the sound of crashing waves and won't miss soft sand will enjoy Windsnsea Beach. Due to the rocky cliffs and rough surf the area the area is more popular with experienced surfers and swimmer and divers are cautioned to be wary of the heavy shore-break. The cliffs offer wonderful views for those taking a stroll in the area and couples wanting a romantic backdrop for photos. The Windansea Surf Shack is a handmade palm covered structure that is now a protected historical landmark thanks to its connection to the local surfing history.
1162 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037, Phone: 858-454-5718
11. San Diego Beaches: Black's Beach
Black's Beach has arguably some of the best waves in the San Diego area, but it can be a hike to get there due to it being located under the Torrey Pines bluffs. It’s also known as San Diego’s “nudist beach,” or a “clothing-optional” beach. There are four different routes visitors can take to reach Black’s Beach: a 3-mile hike during low tide from La Jolla SHores beach, a two-mile hike from Torrey Pines State Reserve’s parking lot during low tide, a clearly marked and well-maintained trail from Torrey Pines State Park, or from Torrey Pines Glider Port Trail.
12. Del Mar City Beach
Del Mar City Beach consists of the Main Beach and the Del Mar North Beach. The Main Beach begins at Powerhouse Park, extending north to the lagoon entrance at the river, while the North Beach is located on the lagoon entrance’s other side. As dogs can frequently be spotted at Del Mar North Beach, it has become known among locals as the “Dog Beach.” Del Mar City Beach is considered to be one of the most versatile beaches in the San Diego area, offering a wide variety of activities that include games, taking a stroll, shelling, sunbathing, swimming, and surfing.
13. Tourmaline Surf Park
Situated on the border of San Diego’s La Jolla and Pacific Beach districts, Tourmaline Surf Park is a “surfers’ mecca” in the San Diego area and is home to Tourmaline Beach. Tourmaline isn’t really a beach for swimming, as the activity isn’t allowed in most areas, and the park doesn’t have much grass. The beach is excellent, however, for surfers or visitors wanting to sunbathe and simply watch windsurfers, kiteboards, and surfers. Just to the south is Pacific Beach’s Crystal Pier, while heading north will lead visitors to tide pools and a rocky beach at the Linda Way Beach Access.
14. San Onofre State Beach, San Diego Area
One of the most popular beaches in the state, San Onofre State Beach attracts surfers, kayakers, sunbathers, swimmers, bicyclists, anglers, birders, and campers. It’s also possible to do some wildlife viewing from the beach with sea lions, dolphins, and whales sometimes spotted offshore. The park is one of California’s top five most visited state parks, drawing nearly 2.5 million visitors every year. San Onofre State Beach consists of three different areas: the San Onofre Surf Beach, San Mateo Campground, and the San Onofre Bluffs, which is home to beach access and a camping area as well.
15. Beaches Near San Diego: Torrey Pines State Beach
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Stretching around 4.5 miles, Torrey Pines State Beach is easily accessible from the Pacific Coast Highway and historic Highway 101, just to the north from La Jolla, and offers plenty of parking for summer crowds. With sandy stretches of beach, it’s a great spot for sunbathing and watching hang gliders soaring above as they launch from the cliff top. Visitors can also take a nature hike on the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park trails, guiding them through the namesake pine trees of the area, and take in the views from the high bluff overlooking the ocean.
16. Encinitas Beaches, San Diego Area
The Encinitas Beaches are a hidden gem along California’s historic Highway 101 and feature terrain ranging from rocky bluffs to white sand beaches. They are also home to some of the North County Coastal region’s legendary surf spots. Perhaps the easiest Encinitas beach to find, Moonlight State Beach can be found where the shore starts to drop closer to sea level off of Encinitas Boulevard. There is abundant parking, volleyball courts, bathrooms, a snack bar, playground, and a spacious sandy area. D Streets provides access to the Boneyards, a mile-long beach, while Swami’s, a popular surf break, is located at Encinitas’ southernmost end.
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17. Leucadia State Beach, San Diego Area
Possibly the least touristy out of all the California state beaches, Leucadia State Beach is considered by many to be one of the most local state beaches. Two different beaches make up the state beach: Grandview off of Grandview Street and Beacon’s off of Leucadia Boulevard. Both of these beach access points provide small parking lots, but visitors should note that on sunny days they typically fill up quickly. Sunbathing and surfing are the most popular activities at Leucadia State Beach. It’s also possible to walk the sandy one-mile between the two beaches when the tide isn’t high.
What are the 17 Best San Diego Beaches?
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Unique Places to Stay on the Beach
Capri by the Sea
Offering one, two, and three-bedroom condos, Capri by the Sea is ideal for guests who are planning an extended stay in the area and for those looking for a true home away from home. The furnishings and decor vary from condo to condo, but all feature full kitchens, stunning panoramic views of the ocean, and balconies with double sliding doors. The beach is only a 1-minute walk away, but guests can also go for a swim in the outdoor hotel pool or relax on the sun terrace and enjoy the beautiful view of the water.
4767 Ocean Blvd, San Diego, CA 92169, Phone: 858-483-6110
Crystal Pier Hotel & Cottages
Located right on the pier, Crystal Pier Hotel & Cottages offers cottages and suites that can accommodate between two and six people. All units have separate living rooms and private patios with ocean views, and all of the cottages offer kitchenettes as well. Each unit comes with one complimentary parking spot, and free Wi-Fi is available all throughout the property. Because of the hotel's popularity, minimum stays of 2 to 4 nights are required depending on the season, and guests are advised to book well in advance. Pets are not permitted to stay in any of the rooms.
4500 Ocean Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 800-748-5894
Pacific Terrace Hotel
Less than a 5-minute walk away from Crystal Pier, the Pacific Terrace Hotel offers beautiful beachfront rooms with exterior entrances. Many of the rooms come with kitchenettes, and suites have full kitchens and separate living areas, and balconies are available for guests who want more space. Hotel amenities include a heated outdoor pool, a hot tub with views of the ocean, and a limited menu of in-room spa treatments. Parking is available for a fee, and guests are also required to pay a daily resort fee, which covers bike rentals, Wi-Fi, and use of the 24-hour fitness center.
610 Diamond St, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 858-581-3500
Pacific View Inn
Boasting a wonderful location right on Pacific Beach, the Pacific View Inn offers a variety of comfortable rooms and suites with free Wi-Fi and cable TV. Some of the rooms also offer kitchenettes and separate living areas, but none have air conditioning. The rooms are accessed via an exterior corridor, and they are only steps away from the beach. Guests are also welcome to relax on the hotel's beautiful communal terrace. A complimentary breakfast is available for guests to enjoy every morning, and bicycles can be rented from the front desk for a small fee.
610 Emerald St, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 858-483-6117
Paradise Point Resort & Spa
Tucked away on a private 44-acre island off the coast of Mission Bay, the Paradise Point Resort & Spa offers a beautiful selection of rooms, suites, and bungalows with flat-screen TVs and private patios. Some also offer fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, or full kitchens, and bungalows include separate living and dining rooms. There are also plenty of excellent amenities on the property for guests to enjoy, including five on-site restaurants, an award-winning spa, an 18-hole golf course, and five pools. In-room Wi-Fi and access to the fitness room are covered by a daily resort fee, and parking is available for a surcharge.
1404 Vacation Rd, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 858-240-4913
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PB Surf Beachside Inn
PB Surf Beachside Inn can be found only a few blocks away from Pacific Beach, and it offers stylish rooms with flat-screen TVs, coffee machines, and mini-fridges. Some rooms also offer microwaves and pull-out sofa beds, and in-room Wi-Fi is available for a fee. Guests will also have access to a laundry room with coin-operated machines, a daily continental breakfast, and an outdoor barbecue area with grills. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants within easy walking distance, and guests will also be able to enjoy complimentary use of the heated pool at the hotel's sister property.
4760 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 858-483-6780
Pier South Resort, Autograph Collection
Sitting only a few minutes walk away from the Imperial Beach Pier, Pier South Resort, Autograph Collection offers a wonderful selection of well-equipped suites. The units all feature floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies with ocean views, and all are equipped with flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Watersports equipment can be rented from the front desk, but guests looking for a more relaxing time can lounge by the outdoor pool, indulge in a massage at the hotel spa, or head to the on-site restaurant to enjoy a delicious meal and panoramic views of the water.
800 Seacoast Dr, Imperial Beach, CA 91932, Phone: 619-621-5900
The Beach Cottages
Right across the street from Pacific Beach Park, the Beach Cottages have been proudly family owned and operated since 1948. In addition to one and two-bedroom cottages, the location offers hotel-style rooms and suites with complimentary Wi-Fi. Most of the units offer fully equipped kitchens, but all include microwaves, mini -ridges, and coffeemakers. Free parking is available on-site, and guests are encouraged to make use of the ping pong table, shuffleboard table, and outdoor grill on the communal patio. There is no restaurant on-site, but plenty of excellent dining options can be found within easy walking distance.
4255 Ocean Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 858-483-7440
The Inn at Sunset Cliffs
Ideally located right by the pier on Ocean Beach, the Inn at Sunset Cliffs has been a popular San Diego hotel since the 1950s. The nautically themed rooms come with flat-screen TVs and complimentary Wi-Fi, and guests can also opt for rooms with add-ons like kitchens or kitchenettes, Jacuzzis, and panoramic views of the beach. Other perks of staying here include free parking, an outdoor pool, a large communal deck, and a variety of exclusive activity packages. The hotel is also proud to offer plenty of activities for guests to enjoy, including on-site fishing, seasonal yoga classes, and oceanfront massages.
1370 Sunset Cliffs Blvd, San Diego, CA 92107, Phone: 619-222-7901
Blue Sea Beach Hotel
Thanks to its fantastic location right on the water on Mission Beach, the Blue Sea Beach Hotel boasts direct beach access and the only beachfront hotel pool in the Pacific Beach neighborhood. All of the rooms come with flat-screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi, and private balconies, most of which overlook the ocean. Video games are provided in every room, and the lobby features several retro video games. Crystal Pier is only a short walk away, as are many cafes and restaurants, but guests who want to venture further afield can rent bicycles from the 24-hour front desk.
707 Pacific Beach Dr, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 858-488-4700
Named after the lifeguard tower that sits next to the hotel, TOWER23 Hotel is an upscale boutique hotel located right on the beach. The modern rooms boast flat-screen TVs, minibars, and private balconies or patios, many of which have views of the ocean. Upgraded suites with whirlpool tubs are available as well, and complimentary Wi-Fi is offered for guest use all throughout the property. The on-site restaurant specializes in upscale Californian-style cuisine, and happy hour is held every weekday between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Guests are also welcome to relax by the firepits on the rooftop lounge.
723 Felspar St, San Diego, CA 92109, Phone: 858-270-2323
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