Surfers and sun-worshippers are drawn to San Diego’s stunning ocean views, water-sports, and boardwalks full of shops and restaurants. Here are the eight best beaches in sunny San Diego for swimming, fishing, and everything in between.
Take the expansive Coronado Bridge across San Diego Bay or ride the ferry from downtown to Coronado Island’s iconic, 130-year-old Hotel Del Coronado. The grand, 1888 Victorian property is a National Historic Landmark, and the perfect place to enjoy a beachfront cocktail at sunset.
Beginning at the hotel, Coronado Municipal Beach continues north to Sunset Park and encompasses four different beach areas: Coronado City Beach, Centennial Park, Glorietta Bay Park, and Tidelands Park. The pristine beach is a mile-and-a-half strand of sparkling sand. Literally, the mineral mica mixed into Coronado’s golden, powdery sand sparkles when the southern Cali sunshine hits it. This wide, flat beach makes for family fun, from flying kites to fishing. There are even firepits if you want to bring s’mores ingredients! Coronado Municipal Beach is pretty popular, but it’s big enough that there’s a spot for everyone. Speaking of which, there’s free parking nearby. The northern part of the beach allows dogs to freely roam in the sea and sand.
Silver Strand State Beach is a recreation destination just a handful of miles south of Coronado on Highway 75. Head here to boat, swim, water ski, kayak, surf, play beach volleyball, camp, picnic, or fish. Pay to park, then take one of the three pedestrian tunnels that run under the highway to the bay. This beach/campground is a gorgeous place to watch the sun go down over the Pacific.
The ritzy, hilly seaside suburb of La Jolla is known for its fine dining, upscale shopping, and rugged coastline with beaches tucked in between rocky points. The gentle waves lapping up against the crescent-shaped mile-long shore make it a popular place for surf lessons, paddle boarding, scuba diving, and boating. La Jolla Shores Beach is the only beach in the city limits with a boat launch and one of the nine beaches that has a lifeguard on duty. However, no fishing is allowed since it is on the southern end of the La Jolla underwater marine park, which draws in snorkelers and scuba divers. It’s conveniently located in front of Kellogg Park, which has a playground and two grassy areas for ocean view picnics (grab a sandwich from the nearby Cheese Shop). What else makes this one of our favorite San Diego beaches? Dogs are allowed, parking is free, there are fire pits.
Just south of La Jolla Shores Beach, La Jolla Cove is nestled between sandstone cliffs northeast of Ellen Browning Scripps Park. Tranquil turquoise water fills La Jolla Cove’s deep, gorgeous bay. Two rocky points flank the cove, protecting it from westward waves, so its a great place to swim. It’s walkable bluffs and the resident population of sunbathing seals and sea lions make La Jolla Cove one of the most photographed beaches in Southern California. The waters are protected by the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, so there is abundant marine life underwater too, making it a popular place with snorkelers and scuba divers. Sometimes you can see 30 feet underwater here! Yes, it’s magical. And everyone knows it. Get there early for a parking spot.
Clothing is optional at Black’s Beach, but it seems only saggy old men take advantage. Nevertheless, this secluded spot beneath the bluffs offers stunning scenery of coastline cities
and a well-known surf break. Black’s Beach is located right by the oceanfront Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, one of the most popular attractions in San Diego. Park at the Torrey Pines Gliderport and take the Ho Chi Minh Trail down to the sand before changing into your birthday suit.
Surrounded by 27 miles of sandy shoreline, Mission Bay Park is the largest waterpark of its kind in the world, at 4,200-acres. Mission Boulevard divides the lapping waves of Mission Beach from Mission Bay’s calm waters. Restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and rental shops dot the boulevard, which runs along the sandbar and has access to both sides.
The bayside vibe is as calm as the water with a lot of gray heads sunbathing. You can paddleboard or kayak through the interconnected waterways to the two miles of action-paced oceanfront, which is full of bikers, runners, and boogie boarders. Mission Bay Aquatic Center offers surfing, sailing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing, stand-up paddling, waterskiing, rowing, kayaking, and windsurfing lessons. Ride a rickety roller coaster at the boardwalk’s amusement park, Belmont Park, complete with a carousel, an arcade, carnival food, and miniature golf.
Swim, sunbathe, and surf on this beautiful, wide, sandy beach located on the south side of the San Diego River mouth. You don’t even need a fishing license to cast off at Ocean Beach Pier. There are lifeguards on duty, and you’ll want to stay pretty close to their stations while swimming since there can be strong rip currents. This Fido-friendly beachfront sports a special off-leash area. Ocean Beach is also the name of the area, and has plenty of restaurants and bars that boast ocean views.
This classic SoCal beach community between Pacific Beach Drive and the Crystal Pier is known as “PB” by the locals. The two-mile stretch of sun-drenched of sand itself is referred to as “The Strand,” which is popular with surfers and sunbathers alike. This is one of San Diego’s most famous beaches, so it attracts a ton of tourists in addition to surfers and bar-hoppers. Join the party people by starting your own barhop at Pacific Beach AleHouse and continue inland down Garnet Ave.
The 3.5-mile boardwalk on the city side is dotted with shops, restaurants, and bars, while Crystal Pier offers public fishing and city views. Bonfires are allowed here, so beach parties are pretty common. Nearby rental shops offer everything from surf lessons to scuba gear. Lifeguards are on duty daily, but surfers have to stick to designated areas, and should definitely check out Tourmaline Surfing Park in North PB.