With 70 miles of coastline, it’s no wonder San Diego, California is known for its amazing beaches.
Whether you’re looking for surfing, water sports, beach games, or just a relaxing day at the beach — San Diego has some great choices for you.
Ready to get your beach on in Southern California? Here are some of the most popular San Diego beaches we know you’ll love.
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN SAN DIEGO
- Best Rooftop Views: The Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego has it all. This luxury waterfront hotel is minutes away from some of San Diego’s best beaches, has plenty of amazing onsite restaurants, two rooftop swimming pools, and more. Enjoy dinner at Top of the Hyatt which features sweeping views of the city, or enjoy a breezy meal at the waterfront Sally’s Fish House and Bar.
- Best Cottages near La Jolla Cove. Redwood Hollow Cottages offers a unique accommodation in San Diego, a few minutes’ drive from La Jolla Cove. Offering cottages, studios and townhouses, the individual accommodations at Redwood Hollow Cottages are cozy and fun. You’ll love the nearby beach and canyon views.
- Best Beachfront Location. This historic Hotel del Coronado is ideally situated along California’s Pacific coastline and boasts luxurious accommodations, first-class amenities and exceptional service in a charming Victorian-style atmosphere. Plan the day with the concierge staff, enjoy a swim in the spacious outdoor pool, or relax with a beach-side massage.
Imperial Beach is a well-known beach in San Diego. It’s a residential beach, meaning that it’s open to the public. It’s also only 5 miles from the Mexican border, so if you have your passport, you can hop on over after a spending the day in the sand.
The beach here is 4 miles long, and you can enjoy swimming, fishing, beach volleyball, and more.
You’ll find that Imperial Beach is a popular surfing spot, so you’ll have to watch for surfers when you’re taking a dip. It’s also near a wooden pier that is perfect for a romantic outing with your significant other, fishing, and even just strolling along to catch the amazing views.
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When it comes to the most popular San Diego beaches, Coronado Beach tops the list. Also known as Coronado Central Beach, this beach is popular for surfing, paddle boarding, sunbathing, swimming, and discovering the tide pools at low tide.
To get to Coronado Beach, you’ll take a drive across the 200-foot-tall Coronado Bridge, where you can see some of the best views of San Diego.
This beach is lined by many mansions and homes, and it even has the world-famous Hotel del Coronado situated at its southern point. (It was featured in Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like It Hot.) Outside of great housing and rental opportunities, Coronado Beach has many activities to keep you invested if you don’t just want to swim.
The great thing about Coronado Beach, is that in addition to their amazing beaches, there’s so much more to do in the area. With great shops, restaurants, parks, and playgrounds, this is one happening spot.
Looking to explore more of San Diego? Try one of these awesome activities!
- Get your USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket. Enjoy a memorable visit to the USS Midway Museum when you’re in San Diego. Skip the line when visiting the longest serving Aircraft Carrier in the American fleet.
- Take a Sea Cave Kayaking Tour with Guide. Explore La Jolla’s Ecological Reserve and Seven Sea Caves by kayak, led by a certified trained tour guide. See this marine protected area, home to a thriving ecosystem that boasts one of the highest concentrations of sea life in all of California.
- Enjoy a Harbor Sightseeing Cruise. Embark on a sightseeing harbor cruise on San Diego Bay. Sail through the harbor in style and comfort from the observation deck of a beautiful yacht.
Pacific Beach is one of the most popular San Diego beaches. Fondly referred to as “P.B.” by the locals, this beach has it all. Yet, despite how popular it is, you’ll find that it’s a surprisingly relaxed neighborhood and that people are extremely laid back.
Most people who visit will spend their time on the beach surfing or sunbathing, but that’s not all that Pacific Beach has to offer. Treat yourself to one of the many casual cafes on the boardwalk, or extend your stay by booking a room at the trendy Crystal Pier Hotel and Cottages.
There are nearby drinking spots, bars, yoga studios, and clothing outlets, so you won’t be bored, even if you wander away from the beach. And, if you’re looking for a place that is a less crowded area than the area near the pier, you can always head toward North Pacific Beach.
FLAT ROCK BEACH
Another popular destination when it comes to San Diego beaches is Flat Rock Beach at Torrey Pines State Beach. Keep in mind that this beach isn’t quite as accessible as some of the others – but you’ll find it’s worth it, even after the long walk.
During low tide you can hike down the steep cliffs to the beach, and can look for nearby sea caves. Or, you can seek out the large, flat rock that gives the beach its name and climb onto it while the tide is out.
The beach can also be reached by trail from the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
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OCEAN BEACH CITY BEACH
Ocean Beach City Beach is one of the most historic beaches in San Diego. This is family friendly beach exists on the south side of the San Diego River. If you look closely to the north, you can even see the iconic neighborhood that surrounds Mission Beach (another famous San Diego beach).
Ocean Beach is home to the Ocean Beach Pier, which will allow you to walk about half of a mile over the Pacific Ocean. This means that you’ll find some stunning views that you wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else.
Beneath the pier are numerous tide pools that can be fun for you and your family to explore. Additionally, part of the beach has been cordoned off and made into one of San Diego’s dog beaches, meaning that you can bring your furry friend to enjoy the vacation, too!
LA JOLLA SHORES BEACH
La Jolla Shores Beach is frequented by kayakers and beach walkers, and it’s a wonderful place to choose if you’re looking for picnic tables. A quick note – if you wander north along this beach, you will eventually reach the stretch of land that is known as Black’s Beach. If you make it to Black’s Beach, keep in mind that this is a clothing-optional beach, so you may get more of an eyeful than you want!
As a very popular beach, La Jolla Shores Beach fills up fast, even on days when the weather isn’t perfect. If you’re hoping to chill at the beach for a while, make sure you come early. But, if you can’t make it onto the beach, there are nearby restaurants and markets that you can enjoy, too.
Read More: 17 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA JOLLA FOR COASTAL FUN
LA JOLLA COVE
If your passion for the water exists below the surf breaks rather than above them, then La Jolla Cove is the place for you. This is a small cove with a beach that is surrounded by La Jolla cliffs. It’s part of a marine reserve, and it’s a great place to examine the marine life present here.
If you are a fan of snorkeling or scuba diving, this is a must-do. You can also see some of the most breathtaking and stunning sunsets while looking over the rafts of sea lions.
Nearby, you’ll find Windansea Beach — which is a great beach for expert surfers.
Near La Jolla Cove, you’ll find some amazing restaurants, making it easy to make a day of visiting here. La Jolla Cove is a one-stop-shop of entertainment and beauty, and you won’t regret visiting it.
Read More: 17 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LA JOLLA FOR COASTAL FUN
SUNSET CLIFFS NATURAL PARK
From the 68-acre Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, you can look out over the Pacific Ocean from one direction, and then check out caves and cliff formations from the next. Because of its proximity to the Point Loma peninsula, it is connected to the Point Loma Ecological Reserve, so get your beautiful views and education at the same time.
If you want to visit this place, realize that you can check out what it has to offer on foot, or you can choose to drive. The drive along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, which is nearby, will provide you with breathtaking and unique sunsets.
SOUTH MISSION BEACH
South Mission Beach is located near the Mission Bay/Mission Beach Peninsula. Here, you can find a more recreational spot which includes a beachside basketball court, a grass park – great for picnicking! – and even restrooms.
This beach is also very large, meaning that you and all your extended family could come and visit and still easily find a space to relax. Bring a volleyball and play some games on the sand before taking a long swim in the water.
PLAYA PACIFICA, MISSION BAY
Also known as Playa Pacifica Park, this is one of the most popular San Diego beaches. Similar to South Mission Beach, this beach also features a large, grass park that feeds into a sandy shoreline. The sandy shore hugs the cove of Leisure Lagoon, and many families enjoy hanging around this area with their family.
As part of Mission Bay, it is also near some stunning bike paths that are frequented by locals and tourists alike. The Mission Bay Bike Path in particular is very popular – it’s a 12-mile loop around the bay!
Bermuda Beach is a beach that you might not be able to find on your own. Considered sort of a “local’s beach,” this beach is hidden away beneath some apartment buildings and homes in the Ocean Beach district.
This beach is near many other famous San Diego spots, such as Bermuda Avenue, Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, and the Ocean Beach Pier. Take a stroll along this beach and check out the moss-covered rocks that are safe to climb when the tide is out.
Parking isn’t too terrible here. Off-street parking lots are at a premium, but you should be able to find a parking space without too much issue. If you want to experience the true wonder of Bermuda Beach, visit at sunset and watch the sun go down. Don’t forget your camera!
As mentioned above, Black’s Beach is very popular…although perhaps not for the reasons you’d expect. If you’re looking for a standard beach – like the types of beaches in San Francisco – you might want to avoid this one.
Black’s Beach is located beneath the Torrey Pines bluffs, and it’s a certified part of the Torrey Pines State Beach. This beach is also a clothing-optional beach, meaning that you can – and will – see people wandering around nude on this beach.
It’s a stunning beach with a rich history however, so as long as you’re willing, you’ll have an enjoyable and educational time here.
CARDIFF BY THE SEA
Cardiff (short for Cardiff-by-the-Sea), is a quaint little beach town that offers cute shops and phenomenal food places. It’s a town that’s popular with snorkelers, surfers, and beachcombers.
Cardiff-by-the-Sea is also near San Elijo State Beach, which is a popular campground for those with RVs and tents. San Elijo State Beach also hosts San Elijo Lagoon, which is an area with many trails that will excite nature lovers, painters, and even bird watchers.
Nearby, you’ll also find Seaside Beach. This sandy beach in Cardiff State Beach at the border between Solana Beach and the Cardiff-by-the-Sea area, is especially popular with surfers.
Cardiff-by-the-Sea is, as you may guess, near Cardiff Beach, and there are many hotels and inns in the area. Come to Cardiff and get the best of both worlds: San Diego city life and San Diego beaches.
Officially called the San Onofre Surfing Beach, this is – as you might gather – a beach that is extremely popular with surfers. It is located near the SONGS nuclear plant (now decommissioned), and although it’s a public beach, it has specific routes you must take to arrive.
Surfers from around the world come to San Onofre, but if you’d rather observe and enjoy the beach more than catch some waves, there are many fire rings and volleyball courts that line the beach. If you’re a beginning surfer however, this is considered one of the top surf breaks for newbies in SoCal.
You can only go to San Onofre during the day, but there’s a nearby RV and tent campground that will allow you to be near the beach while you traverse numerous trails and hiking paths. The exit off I-5 for the beaches is Basilone Road (3 miles south of San Clemente).
TORREY PINE STATE BEACH
When it comes to the most popular San Diego beaches, Torrey Pine State Beach should be at the top of the list. It exists as part of the Los Penasquitos Marsh Natural Preserve. Along with stunning beach views, it also offers activities for the land lovers in your group.
There are high bluffs and hiking trails above the beach that overlook the ocean and saltwater marsh. If you have questions, check out the nearby visitor center for answers and warnings.
This beach is rockier than most others on this list, so it’s best to wear sensible shoes when it comes time to visit. However, despite the potential for rocky footing, this beach is pretty easy to access, making it a great place to explore.
Another beachside community similar to Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Leucadia is a small-town beach town that sits aside three secluded beaches. If you’re looking for a place that is near the beach but that also offers additional entertainment, this is a must-visit location.
Leucadia Beach, which is made up of three separate beaches, is known for its majestic waves and accessibility for bikers, runners, and sightseers. This beach is fun for the whole family, no matter what time of day you go.
Leucadia offers restaurants and activities, and, considering it’s near Encinitas, it’s also near a Legoland if you’ve got kids in your group. This is, undoubtedly, one of San Diego’s most friendly beaches.
SOUTH CARLSBAD STATE BEACH
South Carlsbad State Beach is attached to the South Carlsbad Campground. The campground is extremely popular, so make sure you get your reservation in early. This campground sits above the beach on a bluff — making for amazing ocean views.
Once you manage to get a spot at the campground, accessing the beach is easy. Make sure to make the most of your trip here, especially because you’ll have to stay for longer than a day – there are no day-use parking spaces in the campground.
DEL MAR CITY BEACH, NORTH
Del Mar City Beach is made up of a few beaches. When discussing the main beach, it stretches to the San Dieguito River in one direction, and then to the lagoon entrance that makes up “Dog Beach” in the other direction.
Make sure to go early, as parking is hard to secure at this beach. This might be because this beach is popular with picnickers, foodies, beachgoers, and sightseers. Go for a few hours or plan a day trip – no matter how long you stay, you won’t want to leave.
Mission Beach is high on the list when discussing the most popular San Diego beaches. This beach is sandy, but if you’re not feeling the sand, there’s also an amusement park nearby called Belmont Park.
Belmont Park includes several attractions, such as a swimming pool, surfing wave pools, a golf course, a game arcade, and – of course, a full-size roller coaster. As an amusement park, there are shops, restaurants, and more.
People come from all over the world to visit Mission Beach. Whether they want to play in the ocean, go to Belmont Park, skate, walk, run, or bike, Mission Beach can accommodate.
SAN DIEGO BEACHES FAQ
What is the most famous beach in San Diego?
One of the most popular beaches in San Diego is Coronado Beach. It’s home to soft white sand and plenty of water sports like surfing, paddle boarding, sunbathing, swimming, and discovering the tide pools at low tide. The amazing Hotel del Coronado can be found at the southern point.
Which San Diego beaches are the least crowded.
If you’re looking for a quieter beach experience, try Flat Rock Beach at Torrey Pines State Beach. This beach isn’t quite as accessible as some of the others u002du002d it requires a walk u002du002d which keeps the crowds down a bit.
What is the best swimming beach in San Diego?
If you’re looking to swim, Coronado Beach is one of the best swimming beaches in San Diego. Because of this, and because of the beauty of the area, this beach is one of the most popular in the city.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO CALIFORNIA
- YOUR CALIFORNIA VACATION
- SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: 29 Amazing Things To Do In Southern California
- CARLSBAD: 19 Super Fun Things To Do In Carlsbad, California
- LAGUNA BEACH: 20 Best Things To Do In Laguna Beach, California
- GOT TEENS: Amazing Things to do in San Diego with Teens
WHERE TO STAY IN SAN DIEGO
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