The Best Beaches in San Diego
San Diego’s sterling reputation for sun and vacation is largely founded on its sunshine and beaches. The rolling surf, the brilliant mornings, the vivid sunsets: You’ll find them all here. Seek out the beaches that are popular with surfers for a taste of the lifestyle Southern California is famous for, but don’t forget the more secluded coves with tidal pools and seals.
6600 Neptune Pl, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
When visiting this dramatic, narrow beach in the wealthy La Jolla enclave, take time to admire—and photograph—its single surf shack. One of San Diego’s most important surf-culture icons, the wooden palapa is actually a designated historic landmark, built in the 1940s by soldiers and surfers who served in World War II and reconstructed as recently as 2016. Windansea is also known for its pounding, experts-only surf break; you should attempt it only if you’re experienced, but it’s just as fun to watch from atop the beach’s smooth sandstone rocks. For some peace and quiet, sunbathe in one of this stretch’s secluded pockets.
8300 Camino Del Oro, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
Adjacent to the San Diego–La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, La Jolla Shores is popular for a variety of water sports—both above and below the surface. Gentle waves, particularly in summer, make this area a great place for beginner surfers and stand-up paddleboarders. Visitors can also kayak to the La Jolla sea caves to spot wildlife, or learn to scuba dive in the pristine waters. Birch Aquarium even offers snorkeling tours from July through September so brave souls can swim among the leopard sharks that congregate at one end of the beach.
Backed by historic mansions and a Victorian hotel, Coronado Central Beach recalls a bygone era. Park for free on Ocean Boulevard and make your way past purple-tinged beach grass to the soft sand, which is full of mica that shimmers in the light. The shoreline stretches about a mile and a half from the Hotel del Coronado to a dog-friendly area, providing plenty of room to play or relax. Surf, boogie board, and search the pools that form at low tide, or simply channel your inner Marilyn Monroe while sunning—Some Like It Hot was filmed at the Hotel del Coronado.
1298 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024, USA
Swami’s Beach, off hwy 101 in Encinitas, has some of the best surfing in the nation, especially during the winter months. Due to the competition for the waves, mostly expert surfers and locals are found in these waters. In this photo- Swami’s beach is actually the furthest point on the beach. So called “Swami’s” because of the Self Realization Fellowship Center located on the cliffs above. Even if you don’t surf, this part of the CA coastline is gorgeous. After enjoying the beach, you can head down the road to have lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants that line hwy 101.
Silver Strand, Coronado, CA 92118, USA
Bicycling the Silver Strand on Coronado is a relaxing way to enjoy a beautiful San Diego day. You can bring your own bike, or rent one. This cycling path is known as the Bayshore Bikeway and runs from Coronado via the Silver Strand to Chula Vista. Take the ferry from downtown San Diego to Coronado Island. The ferry docks in a little tourist area with several dozen shops, some restaurants and a couple parks. There’s also a bike rental shop that offers bicycles and surreys for two or more people. The paved path begins by the ferry landing and follows the flat coastline, so it’s an easy ride for anyone. The trails passes by the beautiful Tidelands Park and the famous Hotel del Coronado and continues on by the training grounds for the Navy Seals. The ride affords beautiful views of downtown San Diego and the ocean and bay. Further towards Chula Vista is the Silver Strand State Beach, where you’ll see many types of shorebirds, osprey, and sometimes, huge rabbits. Along the route, you’ll find many places to stop and picnic, so you can bring lunch or eat at any of the restaurants by the ferry landing after returning your bike. Tip: It can be windy, so bring wind protection gear & remember your sunblock!