With year-round sunny weather and miles of sandy beaches, San Diego is the perfect vacation destination. From family beaches to surfing hotspots, we look at some of the best beaches San Diego has to offer.
Designated by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1971, San Onofre State Beach has been a magnet for surfers since the 1940s. It’s even mentioned in the Beach Boys’ 1963 hit “Surfin’ U.S.A.” Today, San Onofre is one of California’s most popular beaches and most-visited state parks, drawing almost 2.5 million visitors each year. Sea lions, whales, and dolphins are all spotted regularly from San Onofre’s shoreline and sandstone bluffs.
In addition to surfing, popular activities include bird watching, hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, sunbathing, and kayaking. At the San Mateo Campground, there are several campsites, each featuring a fire pit and picnic table, along with restrooms and shower facilities. The campground is open year-round.
San Onofre State Beach lies on the site of an ancient Native American village called Panhe, which was inhabited by the Acjachemen people 8,000 years ago. Many Acjachemen people today trace their lineage back to this sacred site.
Situated in San Diego’s Mission Bay, Pacific Beach’s vibrant atmosphere draws young people from the city with its beach parties, bars, and clubs located just steps from the shore.
Tourmaline Surfing Park is the perfect spot for novice surfers—its slow, gentle waves are ideal for beginners. When the wind is up, kiteboarders and windsurfers favor the area.
Pacific Beach offers ample amenities, though parking can be a challenge in summer months. North Pacific Beach’s lifeguard-supervised swimming areas lie along a calmer stretch of water, making it popular with families.
The small city of Solana Beach has a more laid-back feel than some of the other beach towns in San Diego. Flanked by scenic cliffs, this picturesque stretch of Southern California shoreline incorporates the Coastal Rail Trail, a 1.7-mile meandering path dotted with award-winning sculptures, mosaics, and art installations.
Fletcher Cove Beach is popular with swimmers, bodyboarders, surfers, and kayakers, thanks to a protected inlet that blocks the roughest waves. In addition, the beach’s playground and picnic areas attract those with young children.
Located within Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, Torrey Pines State Beach lies beside a saltwater marsh and is flanked by high cliffs that are popular with hikers. The nature preserve draws bird watchers from across the county, as well as whale watchers during the wintertime, when gray whales can be spotted offshore making their annual migration.
Torrey Pines State Beach is a dog-free beach manned by lifeguards. There is parking nearby, thought lots quickly fill up during the summer. The beach is ideal for those who want to relax in a more natural setting, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. In addition to bird watching, Torrey Pines is an excellent spot for fishing, swimming, and surfing. People also love walking along the beach at low tide.
Located north of Torrey Pines, Del Mar’s South Beach is a picturesque alternative to Del Mar City Beach, which can get a little crowded in the peak season. South Beach’s high, jagged cliffs draw walkers from across the area for the panoramic Pacific Ocean views. The beach is dog-friendly, though dogs must remain on the leash. South Beach offers free parking and is less popular with swimmers and surfers, making it ideal for those seeking a little tranquility at the height of summer.
The city of Carlsbad boasts some of the best beaches in San Diego County, with activities to entertain visitors of all ages. Attractively architected sea walls, carefully plotted coastal paths, and a host of facilities draw vacationers year after year.
Tamarack Beach is popular with surfers as well as paddleboarders and boogie boarders. Nearby, Agua Hedionda Lagoon features a YMCA sports camp and fish farm. Meanwhile, South Carlsbad State Beach offers overnight camping facilities, as well as restrooms, showers, and lifeguards during the peak season.
The shoreside bluffs throughout Carlsbad are popular with hikers and dog walkers. In addition, Carlsbad State Beach’s Ponto Jetty is a renowned fishing spot, as is Ponto Lagoon, where anglers regularly reel in halibut and bass.
Set against the backdrop of the iconic Hotel del Coronado, the location of the 1958 Marilyn Monroe film Some Like it Hot, Coronado Beach has received awards from The Travel Channel, Dr. Beach, and other travel industry reviewers, and is widely revered as one of America’s finest beaches.
Driving across Coronado Bridge, 200 feet above the water, visitors can experience one of the best views in the region as they descend to the beach and seaside town. Orange Avenue’s restaurants and shops draw locals and vacationers in equal numbers, while Ocean Boulevard’s mansions and fine homes skirt Coronado Central Beach. Glorietta Bay’s parks, playgrounds, picnic tables, and small beach area make it perfect for families.
South of the city of Coronado, Silver Strand State Beach is accessible via an underpass. Ferry Landing Marketplace also incorporates a sandy beach adjacent to a pier, as well as expansive grassy lawns that afford impressive views of San Diego Bay.
Lifeguard stations are manned seasonally, making Coronado an ideal summer swimming spot. Watersports popular in the area include bodysurfing, paddleboarding, boogie boarding, and surfing. At low tide, the tide pools around Coronado Central Beach are popular with families with young children.