What are the Best Beaches in San Diego?

Year-round balmy & mild weather is what you’ll find in San Diego….making it a fantastic beach destination nearly any time of the year: but especially during summer, when the temps heat up.  Because San Diego encompasses such a large area, & has so much beach frontage, this article will discuss where to find some of the “Best Beaches in San Diego.”  Whether you’re looking to surf, bring the family out for a beach day, lay out, take a swim, or go for a romantic stroll with your sweetie ~ San Diego’s got the beach for you.  Our tour will feature beaches as far south as Coronado & end up as far north as Cardiff State Beach…

What are the Best Beaches in San Diego? Girl Who Travels the World

Windansea Beach in La Jolla makes the cut in TWO categories: it’s a great San Diego surf spot AND a fantastic spot for a romantic sunset stroll.

Map of San Diego Beaches

Blacks Beach

Windansea Beach

Pacific Beach (North of Pier)

Ocean Beach (North of Pier)

Tourmaline Beach

Cardiff State Beach

La Jolla Shores Beach

Coronado Beach

Torrey Pines State Beach

Sunset Cliffs

Del Mar City Beach

Overview of Best San Diego Beaches

Best San Diego Beaches for Surfing

  • Blacks Beach, in La Jolla = A nude beach AND one of San Diego’s best breaks for advanced surfers, as the ocean can be unpredictable here. Where to Park: Torrey Pines Gliderport Trail (then you’ll need to hike 30-minutes downhill).
    What are the Best Beaches in San Diego? Girl Who Travels the World

    As you can see in this photo: Blacks is NOT for beginners! This is an advanced break that can be unpredictable. Plus, getting to the beach requires a 30-minute hike downhill, & a calf-burner on the way back up.

What are the Best Beaches in San Diego? Girl Who Travels the World, Blacks Beach

This is the trail you’ll need to get up & down before you can surf NAKED at Blacks!

  • La Jolla Windansea Beach: Underwater reefs create consistently good shore breaks here, where waves often reach 6-8 feet tall ~ making this a better spot for more advanced surfers, not those looking to learn. Where to Park: Located on Neptune Place between Nautilus Street & Bonair, there is a parking lot here ~ with only about 20 spots. Park there, or look for street parking.
  • Pacific Beach = Good for beginners; spots to go include north of the pier & PB Point. For live surf conditions in PB, click here. Where to Park: Look for street or residential parking ~ there aren’t many parking lots in PB.

What are the Best Beaches in San Diego? Girl Who Travels the World

Many SD surf schools take their students to Pacific Beach, where you can reliably find good waves for beginner to intermediate surfers.

  • Ocean Beach = Good for beginners, especially north of the pier; plus Ocean Beach has one of the BEST off-leash dog beaches in San Diego (it’s my favorite)! Where to Park: Good news: OB has several big parking lots by the beach: at Dog Beach (far north), at the end of Voltaire Street, & by the pier. Try your luck there, or look for street parking.
  • Tourmaline Beach = Located between La Jolla & Pacific Beach off of Tourmaline Street, this is a friendlier surfing beach than either Windansea or Blacks, where you might find surfers a little more….territorial. Be aware though: there’s pretty much no swimming allowed here; surfing only. Where to Park: Tourmaline Street dead-ends at the beach; park in the large lot there.
    What are the Best Surfing Beaches in San Diego? Girl Who Travels the World

    Tourmaline Beach at sunset…this is a local’s favorite spot, & is less intimidating than either Blacks or Windansea.

Looking for great off-leash dog beaches in San Diego?? Read this article for a list of the city’s best spots where your dog can run free on the sand….or if you’re looking for hotels that will put you steps from the sand, check out the hotels below.

What are the Best San Diego Beaches?

Best San Diego Beaches for Families (with Gentle Waves)

  • Cardiff State Beach = This beach is unique because it backs up to San Elijo Lagoon; so while the kids are paddle-boarding in the calm waters of the lagoon, Dad can be out surfing on the State Beach. Something for everyone here, & parking is nearby, which makes carrying a bunch of gear a little easier. Where & How Much to Park: $12-25 per vehicle, pay at the kiosk in the large lot.
  • Mission Bay = I know this article is about beaches ~ but if you’ve got kids, don’t rule out Mission Bay: you’ve got nice calm waters to swim, paddle, kayak, or wind-surf in. Where to Park: The bay is HUGE, & there are many parking lots located at parks around the bay.

What are the Best Beaches in San Diego? Girl Who Travels the World

Mission Bay is a great alternative to the ocean for families seeking calm water, & a great place to kayak, learn paddle boarding, or simply lay out ~ at hotels like the Catamaran Resort.

  • La Jolla Shores Beach = Mile-long, beautiful wide beach that’s great for swimmers & boogie boarders ~ plus there’s a nice big parking lot next to it (that will make life easier for Mom & Dad). Where to Park: Google “La Jolla Shores Parking,” & you’ll find the big lot next to La Jolla Shores Park.

What are the Best Beaches in San Diego? Girl Who Travels the World

La Jolla Shores Beach = Boogie-Boarding Heaven, with nice & gentle waves.

  • Coronado Beach = The beach with the prettiest white sand, & a WIDE beach that runs for almost two miles ~ from the Hotel Del up to Coronado’s Dog Beach; gentle waves & occasional tide pools make it a great family spot with plenty of room to spread out. Where to Park: Look for street parking along popular Ocean Boulevard.

What are the Best Beaches in San Diego? Girl Who Travels the World

The Hotel Del is one of San Diego’s iconic hotels: & the wide beach in front of it is one of the city’s prettiest, perfect for families & swimming.

  • Del Mar City Beach = Just down the way from the city’s famed L’Auberge Resort is Del Mar City Beach. You can surf AND swim here (I know because I surfed here last year), but the beach in Del Mar isn’t nearly as wide as it is in La Jolla or Coronado ~ so you may feel a little cramped here on a busy day. Where to Park: The Seagrove Parking Lot has 126 spaces; if you can’t find anything there, look for street parking.
    What are the Best Beaches for Families in San Diego? Girl WHo Travels the World

    My surf instructor hamming it up at Del Mar City Beach, just down the hill from the L’Auberge Del Mar. You can surf AND swim here, but as you can see, the beach in Del Mar is a lot more narrow than beaches in Coronado or La Jolla.

  • Torrey Pines State Beach = Torrey Pines is unique because of its high-cliffs & pine-wood nature preserve; Blacks Beach forms its southern (& harder to access) end. You’ll find bathrooms, showers, good swimming & sun-bathing here. Where to Park: There’s a small lot down on the beach that fills up quickly; otherwise, look for free parking along 101 or in the other parking lots on top of the hill.

What are the Best Beaches in San Diego for Families? Girl Who Travels the World

Located south of Del Mar & north of La Jolla, Torrey Pines State Beach is a beautiful, long stretch of sand: but you’ll have to pay to park here.

  • La Jolla Tide Pools = If you & your kids are looking for tide pools: check out the La Jolla Tide Pools ~ some of the best in San Diego. La Jolla Cove is also nearby, where you can swim, snorkel, & watch the seals & sea lions frolic! Where to Park: Look for parking along Coast Boulevard or in surrounding residential streets.
 

Best Beaches in San Diego for Romance…

Best San Diego Beaches for Romance

Technically, any of San Diego’s beaches could provide the right setting for romance…..(Black’s Beach, anyone?!), but certain spots just seem to have more going for them in this department than others: particularly Windansea Beach in La Jolla & Sunset Cliffs, in Point Loma.  Mission Bay is another calm spot to take in the sunset, whereas places like Pacific Beach & Ocean Beach seem to be perennial-party spots far more than romantic havens. 

Two of San Diego’s most reliably romantic hotel getaways?  The Lodge at Torrey Pines & the L’Auberge Del Mar.

What are the Best Beaches in San Diego for Families? Girl Who Travels the World, Windansea Beach

Windansea Beach in La Jolla wins on several fronts: it’s a great spot to surf…but it’s also a great, romantic spot to stroll along the beach & watch the sunset…

What are the Best Beaches in San Diego? Girl Who Travels the World

Sunset Cliffs, in Point Loma, is one of the most romantic places in the city at any time of day ~ but particularly at sunset.

What are the Best Beaches in San Diego?

I hope you’ve found this comprehensive list of some of San Diego’s best beaches helpful for your next outing.  If I’ve missed any of your favorites, let me know in the comments below! 

(Or if you’re a local & would prefer to keep some secret spots under wraps, I totally understand…)

xoxo Noelia

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