Recommended Parks and Beaches in San Diego
San Diego has so many beaches it can be hard to figure out which is best for you.
BEST QUIET BEACHES
Coronado Silver Strand It can get windy here and it might be a little unnerving when the military helicopters fly over you throughout the day, but Silver Strand is a great young family beach because the shore drops gradually. With 4 parking lots and an RV campground (first come, first served), good choice for a quiet beach. Sunset Cliffs Located beneath the cliffs of Point Loma, this secluded beach is popular with surfers, tide pool hunters, and locals. No restrooms, so this is not the place for those with weak bladders or adversity to doing it as the fish do in the waves.
BEST FOR SINGLES
Mission Bay and Mission Beach, San Diegos center of tourist activity, the gorgeous, 4,600-acre Mission Bay Park offers swimming, power boating, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, boat tours, whale-watching excursions, picnic and playground areas, and some of the citys most expansive ocean views. Also located in the park is the ever-popular Sea World (open daily; 619-226-3901). A favorite way to tour the bay is aboard the Bahia Belle, a restored paddleboat that provides sunset cruises (858-488-0551). Belmont Park features the Plunge and Giant Dipper roller coasters. Contact the Visitor Information Center at 2688 E. Mission Bay Drive (619-276-8200). Pacific Beach and Mission Beach South of La Jolla, the boardwalk that lines Pacific Beach and Mission Beach welcomes throngs of roller skaters, bicyclers and pedestrians who browse or breeze past oceanfront shops and eateries. At the south end of Mission Beach lies Belmont Park, home of the historic roller coaster, The Giant Dipper, and a new seaside shopping center. Point Loma stretches south from Mission Bay along a finger of land that separates the ocean and San Diego Bay. Near Point Lomas northern border are the hillside communities of Sunset Cliffs and Ocean Beach (among the best of San Diegos surfing spots
BEST FOR SINGLES AND FAMILIES
Pacific Beach is popular with tourists and locals alike, and for good reason. It’s a nice mix of singles and families. You might not see as many hardbodies here, but you also won’t have to put up with some idiot with a boombox blasting hip-hop music putting down a towel next to yours. Parking is often difficult and parking 5 or more blocks away is not unsusual, so pack light and get ready to walk. Diamond Street is a good place to start hunting for your piece of sand.
Carlsbad State Beach is one of the nicest stretches of sand in North County. Start at South Carlsbad Beach (where you can camp overnight with an RV), and keep going until you get to Carlsbad Village. All along the way you will find excellent, mostly local and typically uncrowded beaches. These are some of my favorite beaches if all you want is the sun, the sand, a beer and no hassle.
BEST ALL AROUND BEACHES
Coronado Beach is by the Hotel Del Coronado Excellent public beaches located right outside the “Del”. Like the Silver Strand, the gradually sloping shoreline is safe for kids, the surf is generally small, and restrooms are close enough. Parking during midday can be a very tough thing to do. La Jolla has every type of beach you can imagine, the beauty of the area and the pristine beaches will absolutely astound you.
Tourmaline Beach: Take Mission Blvd, which turns into La Jolla Blvd, and turn right west on Tourmaline St. Popular with surfers and sailboarders.
Windansea Beach: Take La Jolla Blvd and turn west onto Nautilus St. Big waves, great scenery, and great sunsets.
Children’s Pool: With live seals taking up the bulk of the beach, probably not the best place to lay down your towel but certainly an excellent place to get some pictures.
Shell Beach: Just north of the Children’s Pool is Shell Beach, a small and secluded beach. Ignore the crowds on the sidewalk above you and instead watch for seals and dolphins in the waves.
La Jolla Cove: Has to be one of the best beaches and most beautiful spots in the entire world. If this doesn’t impress you, nothing will. Don’t forget that there’s a short hiking trail starting by the Cave Store.
La Jolla Shores: The busiest beach perhaps in all of San Diego on a hot summer day, and Local Wally’s choice for top beach for “Visitors with only one beach day”. Sure it’s busy, and yes, parking is an absolute joke. But get there early and plan to stay all day and, yes, all night! Get yourself some firewood, some hotdogs,. When you get to the beach, grab a fire ring then. They’ll be all gone within minutes after you get there. Then when the sun goes down, make a fire and have a beach party! Got an old guitar?
Blacks Beach: This is the unofficial “clothing optional” beach, a Nude Beach. Best Top Surfing
Torrey Pines This place a good alternative to La Jolla. Located just north, Torrey Pines offers a mix of forested pine trees, the Torrey Pines only grow here in San Diego and sunny California beach. You can hike the trails along the bluffs.
BEST BBQ SPOT
Del Mar The tourists thin a bit when you reach Del Mar, a nice upscale beach community, though summer can still get pretty crowded. “Where the Surf Meets the Turf” is the town’s unofficial logo, and the beach where this happens is north of where the downtown area ends. Just drive until you see the big Del Mar Plaza on the right, then turn left to get to the ocean. Public parking is across the street, and the nice grassy area is perfect area to set up the BBQ
BEST DOG BEACH
Ocean Beach One unique feature of Ocean Beach is a section designated for all Dog lovers, This section of Ocean Beach has been named Dog Beach, which is located at the north end of OB. All Dogs are allowed to run and are permitted without a leash at all hours of the day. Dog owners are fully responsible for the control and cleanup of their dogs. Standard dog laws apply on other portions of Ocean Beach and are strictly enforced. Please be under control of your Dog at all times regardless of the leash law, children have been hurt by ill-responsibilities. Ultra laid back and casual, OB is for the young and odd. North of San Diego, 15 miles, is Del Mar’s Dog Beach located just south of Via De La Valle by the fairgrounds. This is also a great place to take your dogs.
BEST UNCROWDED BEACHES
Encinitas’ Moonlight Beach (take Encinitas Blvd until it runs right into the ocean) is a fantastic throwback to the beaches of the past. With easy parking, volleyball courts, firepits, and an honest to God concession stand selling ice cream and corn dogs, this is one heck of a great beach experience! For a very local beach, try Beacon Beach in Leucadia. Just take Leucadia Blvd until you hit water, park in the small lot and trek down the stairs. Bet you won’t find too many non-locals here, and it’s a pretty nice primitive beach. As with all beaches north of Del Mar, traffic can be tough during rush hour, so plan accordingly. If you must leave during rush hour, do what Wally does forget the freeway and take 101 along the coast until you get to Carmel Valley Rd. in Del Mar, then cut back into the freeway. More relaxing, even if there is traffic.
BEST CLOTHING OPTIONAL BEACHES
Blacks Beach is an unofficial “clothing optional” beach, a NUDE BEACH. Parking at the Glider port you must hike a 1/4 steep trail to visit this beach.
Blacks Beach This place is known for very advanced surfing. It is considered the “Hawaiian Pipeline of California”, and can get very big during the winter months. In Summer the waves are much smaller. Great Place to Surf and Hang Loose
GREAT BEACHES IN SAN DIEGO
Border Field State Beach – Located just minutes north of the Mexican border, this beach is popular to hikers and horseback riders. Due to sewage contamination from Tijuana, Mexico swimming is not allowed at any time during the year and definitely in the winter. The beach is open Thursday – Sunday in the summer and it’s closed in the winter.
Imperial Beach – The clean beaches are open all year and are protected by the International Boundary Wastewater Treatment Plant. Imperial Beach is known for world-class waves and it’s natural surroundings. The Tijuana Estuary is a international favorite for birdwatchers.
Coronado Beach – As you head even further north you’ll come across Coronado Beach, which is a very popular spot for just sun bathing and relaxing. Though it may get a little busy with locals and tourists.
Sunset Cliffs – A popular spot with surfers, and couples who just want to be alone. There is a staircase that leads down to the shore, making it very easy to access.
Ocean Beach – The mile long Ocean Beach is popular spot for just about everyone (surfers, sunbathers, swimmers etc.). The Municipal Pier is located on the south end of the beach.
Mission Beach – Mission Beach is popular with roller blades, swimmers, surfers, and volleyball players consuming mostly the south end of the beach. On the north end of the beach the waters are a little rougher, so you’ll sea less beachers however the north end of the beach is home to the Belmont Park roller coaster. –
Pacific Beach – Located just to the north of Mission Beach. Another popular spot for a variety of beachers. There are designated surfing spots and fire rings available. Rather than a boardwalk along the beach front like Mission Beach there are sidewalks, but bike paths and picnic tables are still plentiful.
La Jolla Cove – A palm tree lined park sits on top of cliffs just above the ocean waters. At low tide Divers and snorkelers enjoy exploring the Underwater Ecological Reserve at La Jolla.
La Jolla Shores – It’s the people’s choice among San Diego beaches.
Black’s Beach – One of the northern most beaches in the San Diego area and it’s said to be a beach for experienced swimmers because of its rough waters.
Del Mar Beach – Most of the beach is very crowded on nice days, so parking is sometimes a problem. Del Mar Beach is very popular for sun bathers, volleyball players and surfers.
Cardiff State Beach – A nice family beach, though it gets crowded during summer months.
Moonlight Beach – The beach of all beaches, everything you look for in a good beach, no alcohol allowed.
D Street Beach – Quiet and secluded, steep stairs from the top of the bluffs.
Swami’s Beach – Immortalized in the Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA, long steep stairs lead down to the beach.
Oceanside – Some of the best waves in San Diego. Tubes next to the O’side Pier, and Awesome breaking waves at the harbor. But beware its very “local” out there.