20 Best San Diego Beaches

If you are heading to San Diego then you would want to know the best San Diego beaches for sure! The city of San Diego has miles upon miles of sandy beaches. With so many San Diego area beaches, you will always have the option to choose between popular San Diego beaches, pet friendly beaches in San Diego, and even the best beaches for kids. The months of April through November are usually the best time to visit San Diego beaches, due to the warmer weather. However, since the weather is beautiful almost all year round in this city, the best beaches in San Diego will always be waiting for you.

Best San Diego Beaches

1. Cardiff-by-the-Sea Beach

Cardiff-by-the-Sea Beach is one of the beaches near San Diego. It is approximately two miles to the north of the city. This San Diego beach is popular amongst surfers. Even if you do not surf, you will want to stop at this beach to watch the surfers out on the waves.

Cardiff-by-the-Sea Beach
Credits: ricardo, Flickr CC BY 2.0

This is one of the best beaches in San Diego if you want to add a little camping to your San Diego vacation. The San Elijo Park and Campground is nearby and there are one hundred seventy-one campsites to choose from. The best part about this popular beach though is all the nearby restaurants on the stretch of road that is affectionately called Restaurant Row. You will find some of the best cuisine on the West Coast in this area.

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2. Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach San Diego is comprised of four beach areas. Those four beach areas include Glorietta Bay Park, Coronado City Beach, Centennial Park, and Tidelands Park. The sand on this San Diego coastline is a little more sparkly, because there are mica particles scattered amongst the sand. The northern section of this beach is one of the pet friendly beaches in San Diego. You may spot a celebrity or two when you are relaxing on this beach. The reason for this is the Hotel del Coronado is directly on this beach and many celebrities choose to stay there when they are vacationing.

3. Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is another pet friendly beach in San Diego, and you will love that your dog can run leash free. The Ocean Beach Pier is the perfect place to walk in the morning when the sun is coming up or at night when the sun is setting.

Ocean Beach- Best San Diego Beaches
Credits: Brian Roberts, Flickr CC BY 2.0

If you want even better views during your San Diego beach vacation, you can venture over to Sunset Cliffs National Park. There are sixty-eight acres to explore and the cliffs offer extraordinary views. There is a self-guided historic walking tour on this beach. If you decide to take it, you will learn quite a bit about the buildings that date back to the early 1900s.

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4. Windansea Beach

The waves are rough at this San Diego beach and there are more rocky cliffs in sight than soft sand. However, that doesn’t mean this isn’t one of the top beaches in San Diego. While the shore break can be dangerous, experienced surfers and divers still enter the water. We recommend taking a walk on the cliffs to see the views, especially if you are not a strong swimmer. Take the time to stop at the Windansea Surf Shack, which is a palm covered structure. It is a historical landmark that is continuing to be protected for future generations.

5. La Jolla Cove Beach

Out of all the La Jolla beaches, La Jolla Cove Beach is one of the favorites. This is one of the best beaches to visit in San Diego, especially for those people who love taking photographs.

La Jolla Cove Beach- Best San Diego Beaches
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The location of this San Diego beach allows for breathtaking views. However, it is also an excellent place for some kayaking and snorkeling. There is an abundance of marine life at this beach in San Diego and you may even spot a leopard shark during your visit.

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6. Swami’s Beach

If you are looking for the best surfing beach in San Diego, you must add Swami’s Beach to your itinerary. You will find this beach near San Diego to the southern end of Encinitas. It is only a twenty-five-mile drive to the north of San Diego, so you can get there in no time at all. While you may not be ready to catch the perfect wave when you arrive, you can easily sit at the top of the bluffs to watch all the action below.

7. Mission Beach

The San Diego coastline off Mission Beach San Diego is an amazing destination, because there are a few shipwrecks located there. Therefore, if you love to go diving, this San Diego beach should be at the top of your vacation list.

Mission Beach- Best San Diego Beaches
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

When you are not out in the water, or relaxing in the sand, you can go for a ride of the Bahi Bell paddleboat. The second oldest roller coaster in the United States, Giant Dipper, can be found nearby as well, so make sure a ride or two is on your itinerary.

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8. Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach California is a San Diego beach for the younger crowds, especially at night. During the day, this best beach in San Diego is perfect for walking and jogging along the Pacific Beach Ocean Front Walk. Afterwards, you can do a little shopping in the nearby boutiques before finally collapsing on the sandy San Diego coastline. There are many hotels near this beach, so make a reservation early to claim your room right off the sand. Once the sun sets, you must venture over to one of the restaurants or bars. JRDN Lounge and Raw Bar is the most popular of them all, so plan on arriving early if you want a seat.

9. Silver Strand Beach

This San Diego beach is actually on the bay and not the ocean, so it offers calmer waters to those who want to swim or go sailing. This is one of the best swimming beaches in San Diego, so you should add it to your list if you want to do a ton of swimming during your California vacation.

Silver Strand Beach- Best San Diego Beaches
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Many shells line the shoreline of this nice beach in San Diego, because massive waves do not sweep them back to sea. This is also an excellent place to do a little fishing if you want to catch yellow-fin croaker or some perch.

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10. Carlsbad State Beach

One of the San Diego area beaches for watching the sunset is Carlsbad State Beach. We recommend spending the entire day at this beach, as you enjoy the water and the sand. However, stay even longer, so you can watch the sun as it dips lower and lower into the horizon and eventually gets swallowed up by the Pacific Ocean. Since you will be at this beach for so many hours, we recommend switching up where you spend your time. The grassy park offers incredible views, but the bluff at the northern end offers views that are even better.

11. Solana Beach

Solana Beach is in a cultural area of San Diego. This is one of the best San Diego beaches in summer and one of the beaches to visit in San Diego during your vacation. Solana Beach is also one of the many family-friendly beaches in San Diego, thanks to the tide pools.

Solana Beach- Best San Diego Beaches
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

There are many tucked away coves in this area, as well as caves to explore in the nearby cliffs. At the end of the day, you can head to one of the local wineries or craft breweries for a drink and bite to eat.

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12. Moonlight State Beach

The name of this San Diego beach came from the large number of people who used to show up in the area back in the early 1900s for midnight picnics. You can no longer have those midnight picnics, but you can still spend hours participating in numerous water sports, tennis, and beach volleyball. If you plan your beach visit for June, July, and August, you can listen to many of the different summer concerts that are held there. However, the Wavecrest Woodie Meet is held in September and it is quite the sight to see as well.

13. Imperial Beach

Imperial Beach is one of the beaches near San Diego. You will find this beach to the south of the city and it is only five miles to the north of Tijuana, Mexico as well. This is the best beach in San Diego for bird watching, because there are more than three hundred different species flying around.

Imperial Beach- Best San Diego Beaches
Credits: chrisinphilly5448, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

While you can fish from the pier, it is better to simply walk down it to see the views of the Los Coronados Islands. Imperial Beach is where many surfers go and after watching them on the water, you can venture into the Surfboard Museum to learn more about the different boards. If you can, we recommend planning your visit to this San Diego beach for when the US Open Sandcastle Building Contest is taking place.

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14. Del Mar City Beach

One of the top ten beaches in San Diego is Del Mar City Beach, despite the fact it is only two miles in length. This is an excellent San Diego beach for swimming, as well as surfing and having picnics. There is a dirt trail along the bluffs down at the southern end of this beach. Those trails are perfect for when you want to take a walk to experience the gorgeous views.

15. Blacks Beach

Blacks Beach is the best beach to visit in San Diego for surfing. The waves along this San Diego beachfront are rough, so you must make sure you are experienced at surfing before you venture into the water. It is not easy to get to this San Diego beach, but there are four different routes you can take.

Blacks Beach
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Those routes include paths from Torrey Pines Glider Port Trail, Torrey Pines State Park, Torrey Pines State Beach, and La Jolla Shores. If you happen to reach this beach via the Glider Port Trail, do not be surprised to see people sunbathing in the nude. While this is not allowed in San Diego, the location of this beach has visitors doing it anyway.

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16. Encinitas Beaches

There are four main Encinitas Beaches near San Diego and we mentioned two of them, Moonlight and Swami, above. However, the other two beaches near San Diego in Encinitas include D Street Beach and Sea Cliff Beach. These two beaches are smaller, but they are perfect if you want to avoid the crowds at the other two beaches in the area.

17. Tourmaline Surfing Park Beach

Tourmaline Surfing Park Beach is a popular San Diego beach for sailboarding and surfing. This beach in San Diego is tucked away in between cliffs that are seventy-five feet tall and those cliffs actually split the beach into two.

Tourmaline Surfing Park Beach
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

One side is perfect for surfing, while the other side is where you will want to be if you only want to do a little swimming during your visit. This is a quiet beach in San Diego, so you may want to venture there if you are tired of the crowds.

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18. Point Loma Beaches

There are not really any San Diego beaches in Point Loma, but the water is picture perfect when it comes to waves for surfing. You can also explore the numerous tide pools to see the abundance of marine life. When you are not in the water, you can explore the nearby Cabrillo National Monument and the Point Loma Lighthouse. The Arts District is also close by, which is perfect for wandering through galleries and doing a little shopping if you have the time.

19. Torrey Pines State Beach

Torrey Pines State Beach can be found to the north of La Jolla and there is so much to do there. We recommend you take a little time to wander along the trails at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park.

Torrey Pines State Beach
Credits: Darshan Simha, Flickr CC BY 2.0

However, you can see even better views if you choose to do a little hang gliding. Don’t worry, there are plenty of places for sunbathing when you are tired of the water and simply want to do a little people watching.

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20. San Onofre Beach

San Onofre Beach is comprised of two different beaches and they are Lower Trestles and Old Man’s Beach. The former is one of the popular San Diego beaches for surfing, while the latter is a sandy beach with gentler waves. If you are new to surfing, you must begin your time at Old Man’s Beach. Once your surfing skills improve, you can head over to Lower Trestles.

FAQS About San Diego Beaches

Can you swim in San Diego beaches?

Yes, you can swim at many of the San Diego beaches. However, there are some beaches where the water is so rough that you should not go into the water unless you are quite experienced with swimming. It is also recommended you wear a life jacket in the rougher waters, just in case the waves are more intense than you thought.

What is the nicest beach in San Diego?

The nicest beach in San Diego is Coronado Beach. The four different beach areas will allow you to choose the one that fits your needs the most. Plus, since it is so easy to reach this beach, you can spend more time there than any of the others in the city.

What is the best month to visit San Diego?

The best month to visit San Diego is September, because many of the tourists have left. However, the weather is still warm and beautiful, so you can spend hours at the beach and in the water.

Best San Diego Beaches

Is the ocean warm in San Diego?

The ocean water in San Diego is usually on the colder side with temperatures in the sixties. However, the month of August usually brings slightly warmer ocean temperatures. That doesn’t mean the water will ever get really warm though, so you should always be prepared for a shock when you first get in.

Are San Diego beaches free?

Most of the San Diego beaches have no admission fees and the parking is also free at many of them. You will find an admission fee or parking fee at a couple of San Diego beaches though, so you should always have a little cash on you just in case.

These are the best beaches in San Diego, and you will have a blast at any of them. We recommend doing a little beach-hopping during your San Diego vacation, so you can experience many different public beaches in San Diego. This will ensure you find your favorite San Diego beach along the San Diego coastline.

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