15 Fantastic San Diego Beaches You Should Visit

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Are you looking to go to the best beach in San Diego? We've researched all 15 options the city offers so you can find the very best match for your needs and preferences! All of these beaches have fantastic natural beauty.

They feature all kinds of facilities, including picnic areas, restrooms, and on-site grills. Beaches in the San Diego area include plenty of water activities and are located right next to bars, restaurants, and many other attractions.

Here are the fantastic beaches of San Diego, listed from north to south:

  1. Moonlight Beach
  2. Cardiff State Beach
  3. Solana Beach
  4. Del Mar City Beach
  5. Torrey Pines State Beach
  6. La Jolla Shores 
  7. Black's Beach
  8. Windansea Beach
  9. Pacific Beach
  10. Tourmaline Surfing Park
  11. Mission Beach
  12. Ocean Beach
  13. Coronado Beach
  14. Silver Strand State Beach
  15. Imperial Beach

But which beach should you visit? Let me take you on a virtual tour of all fifteen San Diego beaches so you can see which is the right one for your needs.

Why hit the beach while visiting San Diego?

San Diego has some of the nicest beaches on the West Coast. There are historic hotels and a plethora of restaurants that are not too far away from the beautiful beaches. 

The beaches in San Diego are sought-after by the world’s top surfers. The beaches are ideal for bike rides, bonfires, tide pooling, and more.

This list may not be the complete list of every beach San Diego has to offer. What's more, there's a difference between official lists of the San Diego municipality and other small posts favored by locals. We've tried to get you the best of both worlds here with a list of the most highly recommended beaches.

To find your beach towels, apply some sunscreen and explore some of the greatest beaches on Earth.

1. Moonlight Beach

Moonlight Beach is actually part of a California State Park! Facilities include a snack bar, a designated snack area, and a couple of restrooms. It is a family-friendly beach that includes well-groomed areas for volleyball and football.

A summer scene Moonlight Beach Encinitas California USA.

Kids can safely play close to the water, which is why parents love this beach; they can relax there. You will find paid parking areas just above the beach, but there is also decent street parking available to the public.

The official website for this state park states that this park is open from dawn to sunset. It offers free, spacious parking.

Moonlight beach highlights

  • Family-friendly
  • Volleyball and football areas

2. Cardiff State Beach

Cardiff State Beach includes Cardiff-by-the Sea, a small community that can be found north of the San Diego border. It is comprised of two miles of beach and the 900-acre Elijo Lagoon. 

Take a short break from driving on Highway 101, and you can observe remarkable surfers attempting to ride high waves. In fact, Cardiff Reef is one of the most popular surf spots in California.

Lonely Rock on the Shore of Cardiff State Beach

This is a great place to do some tidepooling. Check the tides timetable. If you happen to be visiting there when the tide is low and the pools are revealed, spend a while looking for anemones, sea stars, and other ocean critters.

Plus, in the nearby San Elijo Park, there are more than 170 campsites that include picnic tables and a fire ring.

This makes Cardiff State Beach a great spot for a longer vacation in your RV or tent. Check out the Restaurant Row area if you get hungry, and you will find some of the best cooking that the West Coast has to offer.

The official website for this state park states that this park is open from dawn to dusk.

Cardiff State Beach highlights

  • Surfing
  • Tidepooling
  • Nearby campground

3. Solana Beach

Solana Beach is located in San Diego’s North Country, and it features around five hidden surfing hot spots and coves. The Seaside is a great surfing spot that includes an outer reef. There are four mini-beaches in this area:

  • Del Mar Shores is the spot that is typically visited by the locals as well.
  • Tide Beach is well-known for its seemingly untouched white sand.
  • Seascape Beach draws in both locals and tourists who enjoy the great sport of surfing.
  • Fletcher Cove is a surfing hot spot as well.

Sunset in Solana Beach CA

There are also restroom facilities, showers, and lifeguards. Solana Beach offers free parking. There are eleven different parking lots and on-street parking zones. Click here to learn more about this beach.

Solana Beach Highlights

  • Surfing
  • White sand beach
  • Hidden coves

4. Del Mar City Beach

Del Mar City Beach is a great beach for parents who have kids. The North part of the beach extends from 15th Street to the Rivermouth and is completely dog-friendly. Seagrove Park and Powerhouse Park are the two parks on 15th Street.

Seagrove recreation beach park in Del Mar, California USA. Seaside garden with lawn in waterfront resort. Green grass and ocean coast view from above. Picturesque coastline vista point on steep hill.

Both of these parks are great spots for weddings, picnics, and other social gatherings.

There is a more rustic vibe with tidal pools and cliffs on the south side of Del Mar City Beach. Several semi-dangerous trails extend down from the cliffs that lead to the beach. Watch your step, especially if you like to hike or jog. There is a dirt path that is many miles in length.

There are hundreds of free parking spots to choose from. Check out this link to learn about the parking options offered on the government website for Del Mar, California.

Del Mar City Beach highlights

  • Tidepools and cliffs
  • Dog-friendly
  • Nearby parks

5. Torrey Pines State Beach

Torrey Pines State Beach and Park are divided into a park section and a beach section. The park section includes eight miles of trails. The trail features the distinctive Torrey pine trees. They are the rarest native pine tree species in the US.

The beach section is located about three hundred feet below the park section. Families love to visit this beach. It includes bathroom facilities, fine white sand, and lifeguards.  The kids love to explore the northern lagoon part of the beach.

Early Summer Evening at Torrey Pines State Beach California

Unfortunately, there are no restaurants at this beach. If you are contemplating spending a day on the beach, then pack some refreshing drinks and food. There are a plethora of parking spots that border the busy approach road.

The official website for this state park states that this park is open at 7:15 A.M. and closes at sunset. Also, visit the site to learn more about parking.

Torrey Pines State Beach highlights

  • State park with trails in a pine forest
  • Kid-friendly lagoon

6. Children's Pool Beach

Seals at the La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores is a great beach for family fun. With several smaller beaches here, the highlight for visitors to San Diego is the seals viewing in the Children's Pool Beach.

As the name suggests, the area was designated as a beach for kids, with a special seawall built to protect the area from the waves of the Pacific Ocean. As it turned out, local seals loved the idea of a protected beach, too.

An entire colony of seals moved in, and you can see them on that beach. You may even catch the occasional sea lion visiting the area.

Aerial view of the Children's Pool in La Jolla | Photo by Phil Konstantin

You can't really swim at the Children's Pool Beach because, well, the seals get in your way (or you'll get in theirs). However, you can definitely swim in other locations along the shores of La Jolla, which draws large crowds of both locals and tourists.

This area is one of the nicest beaches in San Diego for paddle boarding, surfing, and scuba diving lessons because of the easy entry to the ocean.

In the summertime, La Jolla is a very popular area in San Diego. This means that parking can be quite hard to come by. Fortunately, it is free to park in the streets of La Jolla. 

Beware of signs that state that there are two-hour parking limits. Parking enforcement patrols the roads year-round, and tickets can be pricey. Learn more about parking on the official La Jolla Beach website.

Children's Pool Beach Highlights

  • Seals!
  • La Jolla nightlife
  • Paddleboarding and surfing

7. Black’s Beach

This gorgeous beach can be found underneath the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. It includes spectacular views of La Jolla to the south and San Diego’s coastal towns to the north. 

Black’s Beach is a beach that is clothing-optional in places and is considered by locals to be a gay-friendly beach. It is a great spot for surfing and offers stunning scenery.

You'll still find families with kids who come to this beach to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. It tends to be quieter here since this beach is not usually packed with people. Also, surfers are flocking to this beach because of its popular surf break.

The best parking spot is close to the Torrey Pines Gliderport. The Ho Chi Minh Trail is an awesome trail that leads to the sands.

Black's Beach | Photo by Levi Clancy

Black's Beach Highlights

  • Gay-friendly and also family-friendly
  • Clothing-optional in some areas
  • Surfing.

8. Windansea Beach

Windansea Beach is located in La Jolla, California. There are beautiful scenery and remarkable surf breaks. In the summer, this beach is typically filled with hard-core, experienced surfers and sunbathers who desire privacy. 

Swimmers are advised to be extremely careful when entering the water because the waves crash right at the shoreline.

Windansea Beach is also a great spot for watching whales during their annual migration. There are steep angles on the cliffs where you might want to position yourself for whale watching.

Windansea Beach in La Jolla, California with the historic surfer shack. Sunrise photo.

This can make it difficult for folks with mobility problems and older folks to walk around at this beach.

There are parking spots next to this beach. However, there are only about ten spaces in front of the beach. You may need to find parking spots somewhere in the residential neighborhood and walk a couple of blocks to get to the beach.

Windansea Beach highlights

  • Whale-watching options in season
  • Scenery

Interested in National Parks in California? This post covers the best of the best.

9. Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach is between La Jolla and Mission Beach. It is often called “The Strand." It is a great place for family activities and long strolls. 

This two-mile-long beach is one of the most well-known beaches in San Diego. It consistently attracts big crowds of tourists and locals as well.

There are numerous restaurants and bars as well as rental shops on the beach where you can get equipment for scuba diving.

The JRDN Lounge and Raw Bar are very popular with the locals. Visitors can also walk on the 3.5-mile-long boardwalk or go to the 90-year-old Crystal Pier.

Surfing is allowed only in certain areas for safety reasons, and lifeguards are on duty daily.

Pacific Beach | Photo by Roman Eugeniusz

Parking is difficult for Pacific Beach. The best possible parking spots can be found at the lot on Tourmaline Street. Also, there are decent parking spots on the side roads on the north side of the pier.

Plus, there are also paid lots near this beach, which may be a good choice if you are staying for the entire day. Click here to learn more about this beach from the official Pacific Beach website.

Pacific Beach highlights

  • Popular boardwalk
  • Bars and restaurants
  • Lifeguards

10. Tourmaline Surfing Park

Tourmaline Surfing Park is a popular beach for sailboarding and sailing. This beach has nearby cliffs that are seventy feet high.

Be cautious when going over the rocks to this beach. This remarkable beach is split into two separate areas for surfing and sailing.

Tourmaline Surfing Park Lifeguard Tower

Most of the time, there will be lifeguards on the beach. There are usually not many travelers at Tourmaline Surfing Park. Therefore, this beach is an awesome place for travelers who prefer tranquility and isolation from others.

If you're looking to explore tidepools, visit the ones on the north end of Tourmaline Beach. Just check the tide tables first to make sure you're there when the tide is low.

There is a decent parking lot near this beach. Plus, there are restrooms and showers.

Tourmaline Surfing Park Highlights

  • Sailboarding and sailing
  • Surfing
  • Tidepools
  • Lifeguards on duty

11. Mission Beach

Mission Beach is one of the most jam-packed beaches in the city because of the area in which it is located. The well-known Belmont Park amusement park is right next to the Ocean Front Walk. The Ocean Front Walk will allow you to have an amazing view of the ocean.

Pier at Mission Beach in San Diego in the Early Morning

There are decent services and facilities on this beach. There are restrooms, showers, fire pits, and lifeguards on duty at this beach. 

After a long day on the beach, you can walk to one of the bars and restaurants on the Ocean Front Walk. Also, there is a free public parking lot right next to Belmont Park too.

You can find many parking spots on the bay side of Mission. They will probably not be free. Fortunately, Mission Bay is not a particularly big place, which means that you can walk to the beach quickly.

Mission Beach highlights

  • Oceanfront Walk

12. Ocean Beach

This gorgeous San Diego location is a great place to get some "California beach atmosphere." Visitors are instructed not to go very far into the ocean because of the strong rip currents.

Ocean Beach lifeguards are highly trained and do not allow surfing in some areas of the beach.

Ocean Beach is completely dog-friendly. Plus, there is a special dog zone where dogs are allowed to run around freely without a leash.

It is called Dog Beach, and it is the only 24-hour beach for dogs. The famous Ocean Beach Pier is on the other end of Ocean Beach. This spot is an excellent place for fishing, especially since a California fishing license is not required to fish here.

There is a large number of restaurants and bars on this beach where you can relax with a drink and have a delicious meal.

There is free street parking throughout the residential and commercial areas that surround Ocean Beach. Ocean Beach offers to park for the public at many locations throughout the community.

Check out the official Ocean Beach website and learn how to learn more about parking near Ocean Beach.

Ocean Beach Highlights

  • Dog-friendly
  • Ocean Beach Pier
  • Fishing

If you want to explore even more of California, check out this post on the best cities to explore!

13. Coronado Beach

Coronado refers to the famous Coronado Island, just off the shore of the city. The island - and its beaches - are accessible through the toll-free Coronado Bridge, which brings you over the bay.

It's a fantastic destination if you're visiting San Diego. Scenes from the popular movie ‘Some Like It Hot’ that included the famous actress Marilyn Monroe was shot in Coronado Beach.

The beautiful Coronado Municipal Beach contains these four different beach areas:

  1. Coronado City Beach
  2. Glorietta Bay Park
  3. Tidelands Park
  4. Centennial Park

There is free parking on Ferry Landing Marketplace and Ocean Boulevard. There are also exclusive lots for people who are staying at the resorts or hotels. The hotels and resorts are popular places for celebrities.

Coronado Island and the Beach

The beach has a flat profile, so it is also a great place for kite flying. The northern part of the beach is completely dog-friendly. Click here to learn more about this beach from the Coronado Visitor Website.

Coronado Beach highlights

  • Visiting Coronado Island
  • Family-friendly beaches
  • Kite flying opportunities

14. Silver Strand State Beach

Silver Strand State Beach is an awesome spot for countless activities, including water skiing, boating, kayaking, swimming, surfing, and beach volleyball, since it consists of beaches that border the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay.

If you enjoy oceanfront RV camping, then you will enjoy this beach because it includes fire rings, barbecue pits, and picnic tables that are free for public use. Many different pedestrian tunnels underneath the busy streets unite all of the beaches.

Dogs are only allowed in the public camping area. They are not permitted on the beach, unfortunately. There is a large amount of parking space at this beach.

Silver Strand State Beach Highlights

  • Water skiing
  • Kayaking
  • Volleyball field
  • RV campground

15. Imperial Beach

Imperial Beach is recognized for hosting the U.S. Open Sand Castle Competition every summer. This beach is California’s southernmost beach, just a short drive from Tijuana in Mexico.

There are more than 300 species of birds at this beach. It is a great place for bird-watching. You can surf and swim on Imperial Beach. There are also numerous trails that you can go on a nature hike through. 

One of the most well-known fishing spots in the area is the big pier at this beach. The dock will give you a decent view of the Los Coronados Islands.

The well-known Surfboard Museum is just a short walk away from this beach, too. There is street parking in residential neighborhoods, and there are some public lots as well.

To learn more about Imperial Beach, visit the official website for the beach.

Imperial Beach highlights

  • Birdwatching
  • Surfing & Surfboard Museum
  • Scenery

Where to Stay While Visiting The Beaches of San Diego

San Diego is a fantastic travel destination. We hope this list of San Diego beaches will help you fill up at least a couple of days' worth of sightseeing.

The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Balboa Park with its museums, the historic Old Town, and the chic Gaslamp Quarter - those are just some of the places you should definitely incorporate into your trip.

This means you'll be spending quite a few days in San Diego - and will need a place to stay. We've put together a short list of some of San Diego's best places you can stay at for a truly unforgettable dream vacation.

These hotels will put you right next to one of the beaches on this list so that you can use any spare time for yet another beach visit.

Hotel Del Coronado

The legendary, 5-star Hotel Del Coronado dates back to the 19th century and is located on one of the best parts of Coronado Beach.

This luxurious hotel has a full-service spa, a family pool, an adults-only pool, a haunted room, and multiple restaurants. It also has an exclusive enclosed area called Beach Village at Del. It includes suites and cottages and various VIP amenities.

Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, USA

The Lodge at Torrey Pines

The Lodge at Torrey Pines is located right next to La Jolla Shores and the San Diego business district. It is a 5-star hotel that has 170 air-conditioned rooms with private furnished patios and balconies.

You can enjoy relaxing and recreational amenities such as an outdoor pool and tennis courts while the golfer in the family is playing golf on the course.

Blue Sea Beach Hotel

The Blue Sea Beach Hotel is an oceanfront, 60's era hotel that is directly on the sand in Pacific Beach. Guests are mandated to sign a no-excessive-noise agreement upon check-in because of the party crowd the hotel attracts.

There is a bike rental, heated pool, pricey on-site parking, hot tub, and airport transfers as well.

Villa L'Auberge

Villa L'Auberge is just a quick, 10-minute walk away from Del Mar City Beach. This 3.5-star, 120-room condo building has an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and in-room, completely free WiFi. 

There is a multilingual, 24-hour front desk staff that will assist you with securing valuables and concierge services.

So, which is the best San Diego Beach?

We hope the list above helped you make up your mind about which beach is the right one for you. Here's a quick recap based on what you'd like to do the most when visiting the San Diego Coastline.

  • If you're looking to surf, try Imperial Beach, Tourmaline Surfing Park, Solana Beach, or Cardiff State Beach.
  • For wildlife viewing, nothing beats The Children's Beach at La Jolla for a close encounter with seals. You can also try the nearby Windansea Beach for whale watching during the migration season or birdwatching at Imperial Beach.
  • Do you feel like exploring tide pools? Go to Cardiff State Beach or Tourmaline Surfing Park, and check the tide tables first!
  • For a nice stroll on a boardwalk along the ocean, you should visit Pacific Beach or Mission Beach.
  • Looking for a dog-friendly beach? Look no further than Del Mar City Beach or Ocean Beach.

And if you're looking for the best "tourist attractions" overall, then our recommendation would definitely be driving to Coronado Island and taking the time to visit the beaches there. Don't miss out on an iconic selfie with the San Diego coastline in the background, as viewed from Coronado.

Another fantastic spot - especially if you're visiting with kids - is the seals' area in the Children's Pool Beach at La Jolla. When the kids are tired from watching the seals (which could take a while!), get them to walk on the seawall. Nothing would make them happier than seeing those ocean waves coming in and hitting the seawall itself! Tried and tested!

Final Words And A Map

If you have more recommendations for a great San Diego Beach, let us know by leaving a comment below! Until then, we leave you with a map of the beaches described in this post.

15 fantastic san diego beaches you can visit

15 Fantastic San Diego Beaches You Should Visit!

Fantastic San Diego Beaches

Fantastic San Diego Beaches

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