Powerhouse Park at Del Mar City Beach
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15 Most Popular Beaches In San Diego, California

If you asked someone what San Diego was best known for, one of the top three answers would undoubtedly be the beaches! And likely followed by awesome Mexican food and ideal weather. This guide will provide you with everything you need to know when visiting the most popular beaches in San Diego!

All of California has incredible beaches and coastline but the 70-miles of coastline along San Diego County has the most accessible beaches in the state.

Whether you enjoying walking on the beach, basking in the sun, playing volleyball, or surf, there is a beach for you.

Explore the most popular beaches in San Diego!
Explore the most popular beaches in San Diego!

The most popular beaches that I mention below will start out in the most northern beach in San Diego County and go in order heading south to San Diego.

And as an added bonus, I have listed my favorite restaurants for each beach community in case you get hungry!

And yes as a local I have eaten at all of these places several times and yum is an understatement…

For ideas on what to do in the San Diego area beside the beach, check out my posts:

15 Best Things To Do In San Diego
Exploring The Best La Jolla Attractions

When To Visit

The weather in Southern California and in San Diego, in particular, is wonderful year-round with a temperate climate that seems to hover around 68 F or 70 F.

Unlike other areas of the United States, San Diego does not get harsh cold winters or insanely hot and humid summers.

The best beach time in San Diego is mid-summer through fall
The best beach time in San Diego is mid-summer through fall

For the most part, San Diego is the perfect temp and sunny the majority of the year. But being situated along the ocean does bring fog and overcast days especially during the spring and early summer months.

It isn’t uncommon for the fog to burn off around noon or early afternoon during that period.

San Diego beaches are spectacular...
San Diego beaches are spectacular…

Rain is somewhat rare but is most prevalent from February to June if we do in fact get any.

For these reasons, I recommend visiting in July through November for the best overall weather.

Having said that there are numerous great days in the winter that are spectacular, so don’t count out the winter months.

How To Get There

There are a few options when visiting the best beaches in San Diego. You can either fly into the San Diego International Airport (SAN) which is in the heart of downtown San Diego or John Wayne Airport (SNA) which is in Orange County.

In planning for your trip, explore the best flight deals today!

Driving along the Coast Highway 101 you will pass miles of gorgeous coastline
Driving along the Coast Highway 101 you will pass miles of gorgeous coastline

No matter which one you choose, be aware that their airport codes are very similar! John Wayne Airport is 86-miles north of downtown San Diego but only 49-miles to Oceanside. So, you can’t go wrong with what airport you choose to fly into.

I usually look for the best deals and choose based on that. If you plan to spend more time in the North County part of San Diego then flying into Orange County could be a better choice.

To explore the beautiful beaches along San Diego’s coastline, book a car rental here for the best deals!

A plane landing over downtown San Diego
A plane landing over downtown San Diego

Note: When the plane is about to land in San Diego, it will appear that the plane is going to land on the rooftop of a building or take one out in the process. But don’t worry, the plane has plenty of clearance!

Where To Stay

There are so many great locations to stay at when visiting San Diego. But overall the locations I would recommend staying at are in Carlsbad, Del Mar, La Jolla, downtown San Diego and/or Coronado Island. I have listed some of my favorite hotels in each area.

Carlsbad

Del Mar

La Jolla

San Diego (downtown)

Coronado

All San Diego beaches are public meaning free!
All San Diego beaches are public meaning free!

Notes & Tips

  • All of these beaches are public and free to visit. You will need to pay at some of the beach parking lots. Check signs and if you want to avoid paying, look for street parking nearby.
  • From Oceanside down to La Jolla, you can access any beaches mentioned off of the 101 or Coast Highway 101. It is a great stretch of road to cruise along.
  • Even though the weather always seems to be around 70 F and sunny, the ocean temperature is still a bit cold. The warmest the ocean water will get in the summer is between 64 F and 68 F.  Although rare, the ocean has gotten up between 72 F and 78 F during an August heatwave.
  • During some parts of the year, you might see brown clumps of seaweed on the beach shore. Don’t fret, it is just washed up seaweed or kelp. There are incredibly tall kelp forests off the coast that are awesome to scuba dive in!
  • Unless a beach is designated a “dog beach”, dogs are not allowed on the beach. In the winter months, some beaches allow dogs but best to check ahead.
  • As a local, I had the leisure to photograph these beaches in the summer, fall, and winter months. I mainly visited during the week so beaches may look much more crowded on a summer weekend.
  • If you are interested in finding out when beaches will be at high versus low tide, you can check the tides here.
  • Unfortunately due to people going overboard, you can no longer drink alcohol at any beach in San Diego.
Make sure you have your essentials before you hit the beach!
Make sure you have your essentials before you hit the beach!

Beach Essentials

Most Popular Beaches In San Diego

Oceanside

1. Oceanside Beach/ Pier

Oceanside and its beaches are the furthest north in San Diego County bordering Orange County.

Growing up a town over from Oceanside, the city was predominately a military town with not a lot to do other than visiting the beach and harbor.

Oceanside Beach north of the pier
Oceanside Beach north of the pier

Fast forward to today, there has been a revitalization in Oceanside adding in a number of incredible restaurants and shops making it awesome to visit. The main beach is Oceanside Beach located where the Oceanside Pier sits.

The Strand is the area along Oceanside Beach and Pier
The Strand is the area along Oceanside Beach and Pier

You can walk out onto the pier or try your hand at fishing off of it. There is a Ruby’s Diner at the end of the pier where you can enjoy a front-row seat to the ocean.

As a favorite spot for surfers, it is fun to watch them catch waves from the pier.

Looking down at the Oceanside Pier through the palm trees
Looking down at the Oceanside Pier through the palm trees

The road along the waterfront is referred to as The Strand and is a great stretch for a walk, run or bike ride.

On both sides of the pier you can see some very old vintage-style beach bungalows but on the north side are some adorably colorful ones that I love.

How adorable is this colorful 1920s beach cottage?
How adorable is this colorful 1920s beach cottage?

A few miles north of Oceanside Beach is the Oceanside Harbor where you can get some seafood and ice cream as you wander the small harbor.

If you want to enjoy smores around the fire pit, there are fire pits you can use at both Oceanside Beach and the harbor beach.

You can rent a Roberts Cottage for a week along the Strand
You can rent a Roberts Cottage for a week along the Strand

Tip: Every Thursday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm you can attend the Oceanside Farmer’s Market for some fresh produce, baked goods, and more! Located on Main Street up from the pier.

Address: Pier View Way and The Strand, Oceanside, CA 92054. Unless you are able to find a free parking spot in a nearby street, expect to pay at any nearby lots.

Favorite Oceanside Restaurants:

  • 333 Pacific (333 North Pacific Street, Oceanside, CA 92054) – seafood and drinks
  • Local Tap House & Kitchen (308 South Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054) – pub-style food and beer
  • Flying Pig & Kitchen (626 South Tremont Street, Oceanside, CA 92054) – modern american
  • Hello Betty Fish House (211 Mission Ave, Oceanside, CA 92054) – seafood and rooftop bar
  • Petite Madeline Bakery & Bistro (223 North Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054) – bakery

Carlsbad

2. Carlsbad State Beach

Of all the beaches listed here, Carlsbad State Beach might be my favorite. I grew up a few miles from here and this was the beach where I have some of the best memories so of course, I’m a little biased.

Even with that said, Carlsbad State Beach is beautiful with a long flat pathway up top with several staircases down to the beach level.

Running on the beach or stairs is a great workout!
Running on the beach or stairs is a great workout!

At beach level, there is a path running parallel along the sea wall that is the perfect place to get in a workout.

You can do a few loops and incorporate some stairs to get that heartbeat up. Up on top, the views looking down on the beach are spectacular.

Carlsbad Village is a charming place to spend a few days
Carlsbad Village is a charming place to spend a few days
Taking a stroll along the beach wall is the perfect way to relax...
Taking a stroll along the beach wall is the perfect way to relax…

A huge draw to Carlsbad is its adorable Carlsbad Village that is the heart of Carlsbad with an endless number of restaurants, cafes, bars, and shopping that is ideal as the majority of it is all within walking distance.

Carlsbad Beach is an excellent vacation spot!
Carlsbad Beach is an excellent vacation spot!

At Lifeguard Tower 36 on the south end of Carlsbad State Beach is known as Tamarack Beach and is a very popular spot with surfers.

There are restrooms at Tamarack and on the north end of Carlsbad State Beach near the ramp.

"Time wasted at the beach is time well spent" - unknown
“Time wasted at the beach is time well spent” – unknown

Tip: Every Wednesday from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm you can catch the Carlsbad Farmers Market on State Street (to 6:00 pm in the Winter). Oh, you must try the insanely delicious yogurt from Frenchy Yogurt!

And if you are curious about what other awesome things there is to see and do in Carlsbad, explore my post 25 Fun Things To Do In Carlsbad, California!

Address: 3150 Ocean Street, Carlsbad, CA 92008. There is plenty of free street parking in and around the nearby neighborhood. You do need to pay for parking at the Tamarack Beach parking lot.

3. South Carlsbad State Beach

Continuing south from Tamarack Beach, you will reach South Carlsbad State Beach. The majority of this beach is along the South Carlsbad State Beach Campground.

Every summer growing up, my family along with about 5 other families would camp here or further south at San Elijo Campgrounds.

Looking north from South Carlsbad Beach
Looking north from South Carlsbad Beach
A perfect beach day in paradise...
A perfect beach day in paradise…

If one campground was filled up then we would book at the other. If you know you want to camp a specific week, book months ahead of time to guarantee a spot in summer.

South Carlsbad State Beach
South Carlsbad State Beach

Tip: If you are visiting Carlsbad in March through May, pay a visit to the Carlsbad Flower Fields. I wrote a complete guide on visiting, The Flower Fields in Carlsbad: The Ultimate Guide.

Favorite Carlsbad Restaurants:

  • Campfire (2725 State Street, Carlsbad, CA 92008) – modern american
  • Harbor Fish Café (3179 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008) – best fish and chips in the county!
  • Paon Restaurant (2975 Roosevelt Street, Carlsbad, CA 92008) – french, seafood and wine bar
  • Las Olas Mexican Restaurant (2939 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008) – mexican
  • Vigilucci’s Seafood & Steakhouse (3878 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008) – pasta, steak & seafood
  • Board & Brew (201 Oak Ave, Carlsbad, CA 92008) – best sandwiches

Leucadia

4. Grandview Beach

Officially Leucadia is part of the city of Encinitas but any local still refers to this area as Leucadia.

Leucadia is the next town and beach after South Carlsbad State Beach and is known for its very chill atmosphere and surfer vibe.

Taking in the grand view on top of the bluff...
Taking in the grand view on top of the bluff…

Grandview Beach gets its name because as you stand at the top of the bluff and look out it is indeed a grand view!

Gazing from north to south you will see a much thinner section of a beach compared to Carlsbad or Encinitas.

Looking south from the stairs at Grandview Beach
Looking south from the stairs at Grandview Beach

From the top of the wooden staircase, make your way down the steps to the beach for a walk, to sunbathe or surf some waves.

You will likely notice several surfers trekking up and down the staircase with their surfboards in tow as this is a favorite surf spot among locals.

Surfers find Grandview Beach a popular surf spot
Surfers find Grandview Beach a popular surf spot

The houses along Grandview Beach must have a stunning view year-round! Located in a residential neighborhood, turn right onto Grandview Street off of Coast Highway 101. Then turn right onto Neptune and park where you find an available spot.

"To escape and sit quietly on the beach - that's my idea of paradise." - Emilia Wickstead
“To escape and sit quietly on the beach – that’s my idea of paradise.” – Emilia Wickstead

Note: There are no restrooms at Grandview Beach (1700 Neptune Ave, Encinitas, CA 92024). If the tide is high, there won’t be much of a beach and primarily only ideal for surfers.

5. Leucadia State Beach

Heading south of Grandview Beach is Leucadia State Beach or what most refer to as Beacon’s Beach.

You might see both names used interchangeably. Park in the small parking lot (free) or find a spot nearby in the neighborhood.

The path leading down to Leucadia State Beach or Beacon's Beach
The path leading down to Leucadia State Beach or Beacon’s Beach

Like with Grandview, you are high above the beach looking down over the bluff. Take the stairs and follow the dirt path down a series of switchbacks to the beach. Beacon’s Beach has a much wider sandy beach compared to Grandview.

Beacon's Beach is a favorite among surfers
Beacon’s Beach is a favorite among surfers

Although there are no restrooms, there is a lifeguard on duty during the summer months.

Bring a cooler and some snacks so you can spend the day without losing your parking spot! Beacon’s Beach is great for taking a walk, sunbathing or surfing.

The walk down to this fabulous beach is worth it!
The walk down to this fabulous beach is worth it!

Address: 948 Neptune Avenue, Encinitas, CA 92024 and parking is free.

Favorite Leucadia Restaurants:

  • Fish 101 Leucadia (1468 North Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024) – seafood, fish tacos
  • Le Papagayo (1002 North Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024) – latin american
  • Solterra Winery & Kitchen (934 North Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024)- american, wine bar

Encinitas

6. Moonlight State Beach

Moonlight Beach is another one of my favorite beaches in San Diego as it has it all with a wide-open sandy beach, restrooms, a lifeguard tower, and a concession stand.

There is also a playground for kids and picnic tables here.

Moonlight Beach has everything you might need!
Moonlight Beach has everything you might need!

Located in the heart of Encinitas and a short walk from many restaurants and shops at the end of B Street is Moonlight. Because Moonlight Beach has facilities, a park, fire pits, volleyball courts, and a good beach it tends to get crowded.

Moonlight Beach tends to be well liked by families
Moonlight Beach tends to be well liked by families

I still enjoy going but usually walk to the left further away from the crowds. The beach between Moonlight and D Street is great.

And if you just want to visit the ocean without going down to the beach, there are a number of benches on top where you can sit and enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean.

Address: 386 B Street, Encinitas, CA 92024. You can park in the parking lot off of C Street that sometimes charges for parking or on a nearby residential street for free.

7. Swami’s State Beach

Driving south from Moonlight Beach, continue along the Coast Highway 101 and turn into the parking lot at Swami’s State Beach.

This is a popular spot for surfers and has a small park surrounding the parking area.

Tiki statues or Moai greet you as you visit Swami's
Tiki statues or Moai greet you as you visit Swami’s
Looking down at the exquisite Swami's Beach
Looking down at the exquisite Swami’s Beach

Swamis is distinct along the coast as you can find tiki poles that have been carved into old palm tree stumps as you enter.

Swami’s got its name from Swami Paramahansa Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship next door and shares the same beach.

If you haven't noticed, there are many epic surf spots in San Diego!
If you haven’t noticed, there are many epic surf spots in San Diego!

Before you head down the stairs to the beach take in the spectacular views of a wide sandy beach below. The sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean can display blue and turquoise colors on a sunny day.

Mussels among the rocks on the beach
Mussels among the rocks

Swami’s is an excellent beach if you want to take a walk, run or sunbathe. If the tide is low then you can explore the tide pools in hopes of seeing different sea animals such as sea stars, crabs, octopus, mussels, and sea anemones.

At low tide explore the tide pools and cool rock formations
At low tide explore the tide pools and cool rock formations

Note: There are restrooms and picnic tables next to the parking lot. Parking here is free and there is a lifeguard on duty during the summer months.

Tip: Visit this post to find out other fun things to do in Encinitas!

Address: 1298 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, CA 92024

Favorite Encinitas Restaurants:

  • Union Kitchen & Tap (1108 South Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024) – modern american
  • Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria (897 South Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024) – pizza & salads
  • 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro (897 South Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024) – wine, pasta, seafood
  • Trattoria I Trulli (830 South Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024) – italian
  • The Crack Shack (407 Encinitas Blvd, Encinitas, CA 92024) – american highlighting fried chicken
  • Better Buzz Coffee (578 South Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024) – coffee and light breakfast
  • Pannikin Coffee & Tea (510 North Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024) – coffee & tea

Cardiff-by-the-Sea

8. San Elijo State Beach

San Ejio State Beach is most known for the San Elijo State Campgrounds and is the best place to beach camp in San Diego.

Over the years I have camped here countless times and enjoyed access to the beach from my campsite via a staircase.

A little further south of the campgrounds is still San Elijo Beach but it flattens out where you can just walk out onto the beach.

Along this section of the beach has incredible places to eat on both sides of Coast Highway 101 such as those listed below.

The Cardiff Kook bronze statue
The Cardiff Kook bronze statue

A well-known resident of Cardiff and along the campgrounds is the Cardiff Kook. It is a bronze statue of a surfer officially known as the Magic Carpet Ride that has caught a lot of attention over the years.

Depending on when you visit, don’t be surprised if he is decorated for various holidays or occasions.

Tip: If you are staying somewhere with a kitchen and BBQ, then pick up some seasoned tri-tip meat at Cardiff Seaside Market (2087 San Elijo Ave, Cardiff, CA 92007). It is also known as “Cardiff Crack” and is truly mouthwatering…

Address: 2050 South Coast Highway 101, Cardiff, CA 92007. Restrooms and picnic tables are available but you do need to pay for parking.

Favorite Cardiff Restaurants:

  • VG’s Donuts (106 Aberdeen Drive, Cardiff, CA 92007) – donuts
  • Zumbar Coffee & Tea (111 Chesterfield Drive, Cardiff, CA 92007) – my favorite coffee shop!
  • Pacific Coast Grill (2526 South Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007)- seafood with beach view
  • Chart House (2588 South Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007) – seafood with beach view
  • Las Olas Mexican Restaurant (2655 South Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007) – mexican

Solana Beach

9. Fletcher Cove Beach Park

I have countless wonderful memories at Fletcher Cove and is one I like to frequent. It also happens to have an exceptional beach that is awesome for walking or running when the tide is low. There is plenty of room to sunbathe or just enjoy the beauty.

Can you spot any whales or dolphins passing by?
Can you spot any whales or dolphins passing by?

There is a small park, picnic tables, basketball courts, and a lifeguard on duty year-round that makes it one of the most popular beaches in San Diego.

If you can grab a parking spot in the small lot, as it is free or look to park on a nearby street.

Fletcher's Cove is an idyllic beach...
Fletcher’s Cove is an idyllic beach…

There is a gradual ramp to walk down to this beautiful sandy beach. There is even a lookout point where you can look in stationary binoculars to possibly spot a dolphin or migrating gray whale!

Fletcher Cove is also known as Pillbox because a WWII gunnery installation was located here.

Address: 111 South Sierra, Solana Beach, CA 92075

Favorite Solana Beach Restaurants:

  • Pizza Port (135 North Coast Hwy 101, Solana Beach, CA 92075)- awesome pizza and beer
  • Naked Café (106 South Sierra Ave, Solana Beach, CA 92075) – breakfast & brunch
  • Crush Solana Beach (437 South Coast Hwy 101, Solana Beach, CA 92075) – italian & wine

Del Mar

10. Del Mar Dog Beach

If you have a dog who loves the water, then head to the Dog Beach in Del Mar. During the summer months dogs are to be on a leash but the rest of the year they can roam free.

Having said that, I have been on a weekday in the summer and dogs seemed to run free.

Dog Beach is a hit as it is one of the few beaches where dogs are welcomed
Dog Beach is a hit as it is one of the few beaches where dogs are welcomed

I would keep to the leash rule during the summer weekends though. On a busy day, it is quite fun to see dogs of all ages and sizes splashing in the waves and enjoying a beach day.

The dog I had previously used to love charging the waves but we had to keep her from wanting to drink the ocean water. That isn’t good due to the high salt content. For this reason, bring a bowl, freshwater, and a towel to dry your pup off after.

The trail up to the overlook is on the north side of the beach
The trail up to the overlook is on the north side of the beach

There is an outlet of water that forms a small lagoon that has calm water and nice for dogs that are intimidated by the waves along the shore.

There are shower stations to rinse off your dog (and maybe yourself) near the street parking.

If you happen to enjoy beach volleyball, there are usually volleyball nets up for players. For an even better view of Dog Beach, you can walk up the trail to the bluff on the north end of the beach for a breathtaking overlook.

Dogs playing on the south side of Dog Beach
Dogs playing on the south side of Dog Beach

Address: 3200 Camino del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014. There is both metered parking and free parking on nearby streets.

11. Del Mar City Beach

The Del Mar City Beach is a pristine sandy beach that has easy access to it. Del Mar City Beach runs from Powerhouse Park up to Dog Beach north of it.

This is an excellent beach to swim, surf, walk or sunbathe at as there is a lifeguard on duty.

Powerhouse Park is the beginning of Del Mar City Beach
Powerhouse Park is the beginning of Del Mar City Beach

During a summer weekend, it can be hard to find parking here as it is one of the best beaches in San Diego.

As the beach is nestled in a residential neighborhood, there isn’t enough parking in my opinion. If you don’t want to deal with parking, you can always get an Uber or Lyft here.

Powerhouse Park is a lovely park to visit on the beach that has restrooms, rinse-off showers, and picnic tables. The lifeguard tower is located on the beach at 17th Street.

For those of you that would rather sit back with an incredibly delicious meal and a cocktail, Jake’s and Poseidon’s is the spot.

Jake's and Poseidon Restaurant are a short distance past the palm tree on the beach!
Jake’s and Poseidon Restaurant are a short distance past the palm tree on the beach!

I love coming to either of these for brunch for some Bloody Mary’s or near sunset to enjoy the beachfront view. There are not a lot of places in San Diego to dine literally on the beach so these two spots are special!

Address: 1660 Coast Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014. There is a fee to park in parking lots or metered parking on the street.

Favorite Del Mar Restaurants:

  • Jake’s Del Mar (1660 Coast Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014) – seafood on the beach
  • Poseidon on the Beach (1670 Coast Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014) – seafood on the beach
  • The Brigantine (3263 Camino Del Mar, CA 92014) – seafood and taco tuesdays
  • Board & Brew (1212 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014) – the best sandwiches to take to the beach!
  • Il Fornaio (1555 Camino del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014) – great spot for sunset
  • En Fuego Cantina & Grill (1342 Camino del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014) – they have excellent taco tuesday!

La Jolla

12. Black’s Beach

When I was younger, my friends and I couldn’t wait to see what Black’s Beach was like!

Why? Well, it has always been “the nude beach” in San Diego, and since it isn’t the easiest beach to access it makes it perfect for seclusion…

Every time I have been to Black’s Beach, the only people that are nude tend to be older men that I really don’t want to see.

Don’t go expecting to see young hot bodies scattered along the beach! One time I saw a nude man doing yoga in quite interesting poses that I couldn’t help but laugh at.

View of Black's Beach from Torrey Pines Reserve
View of Black’s Beach from Torrey Pines Reserve

I must say Black’s Beach is a breathtaking sandy beach that is wonderful for a walk or sunbathing but it is a trek to get down from the sheer bluff above.

There are three ways to get to Black’s Beach, either walk 2-miles from Torrey Pines State Beach if the tide is low, hike down from the Torrey Pines Nature Reserve or the Torrey Pines Glider Port.

Sticking to the south end of Black's Beach there shouldn't be many nude sunbathers
Sticking to the south end of Black’s Beach there shouldn’t be many nude sunbathers

Personally, I would choose hiking down from the Glider Port or from Torrey Pines Nature Reserve as the views from the top of the bluff are breathtaking.

Expect to hike about 2-miles roundtrip. I prefer taking the Beach Trail from Torrey Pines Reserve as I think it is much easier than from the Glider Port.

Wandering down beach trail to Black's Beach
Wandering down beach trail to Black’s Beach

The best way to get to Black’s Beach is to park at Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve. Turn off onto North Torrey Pines Road (at Torrey Pines State Beach) off of Coast Highway 101.

There is parking on top, but on a weekend, it might fill up quickly. If it’s full, you can park in the lot at the base of the hill and walk up.

Address: 12600 North Torrey Pines Rd, San Diego, CA 92037

13. La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores is an exceptional palm tree-lined beach that is south of Black’s Beach and the Scripps Pier.

It is both a long and wide beach making it so popular among locals to swim, kayak, snorkel, scuba dive, SUP, and surfing.

La Jolla Cove Beach with La Jolla Shores in the distance
La Jolla Cove Beach with La Jolla Shores in the distance

The water out in front of La Jolla Shores and over to the Cove is a marine protected area that makes it great for snorkeling and scuba diving.

I have scuba dived here on a number of occasions and although it is fun, you can’t compare it to the warm tropics.

Caroline's Cafe has stunning beach views...
Caroline’s Cafe has stunning beach views…
La Jolla Shores Beach
La Jolla Shores Beach

You might see lobsters, Garibaldi fish, octopus, large kelp forests, leopard sharks, and hundreds of sand dollars.

Diving at La Jolla Shores is definitely the best dive site in San Diego followed by La Jolla Cove close by. And of course, a number of sea lions that bask on the rocks near the Cove.

Scripps Pier on the north end of La Jolla Shores Beach
Scripps Pier on the north end of La Jolla Shores Beach

Although you can’t walk out onto it, take a stroll on the beach to the Scripps Pier on the north end of La Jolla Shores Beach. It is usually a hotspot for photographers and photo shoots especially near sunset.

Scripps Pier near sunset...
Scripps Pier near sunset…

There is a good size parking lot at Kellogg Park along La Jolla Shores Beach but if it is full, you are left with looking for a spot in the streets nearby.

Tip: To find out more about what to see and do in La Jolla, explore my post Exploring The Best La Jolla Attractions!

Address: 8200 Camino del Oro, La Jolla, CA 92037

14. Windansea Beach

A little south of La Jolla Cove is Windansea Beach which is usually a lot less crowded than the Cove. It is frequented by surfers looking to catch that next great wave.

It isn’t a large beach but a nice spot to sunbathe and enjoy the rather picturesque beach.

A surfer exiting the ocean at Windansea Beach
A surfer exiting the ocean at Windansea Beach

You will notice some unique and beautiful rock formations that are scattered along the beach that are great for photography lovers. If the tide is low then you can see tide pools and look for various sea critters.

The waves kissing the shoreline...
The waves kissing the shoreline…

The most recognizable feature on Windansea Beach is a palm-covered surf shack that you can sit under to escape the sun. I don’t have a photo as each time I have gone there are people under it that I’m sure they don’t want their photo in my post!

Love the sandstone rocks at Windansea
Love the sandstone rocks at Windansea

There are a few parking spots but likely you will need to find street parking or walk the 1.8-miles from La Jolla Cove. There is a lifeguard on duty but no other facilities at this beach.

Address: 6800 Neptune Place, La Jolla, CA 92039

Tip: Click here if you want to explore more things to do in La Jolla!

Favorite La Jolla Restaurants:

  • Caroline’s Seaside Café (8610 Charles F. Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037) – sandwiches, salads, coffee
  • Duke’s La Jolla (1216 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037) – hawaiian and excellent ocean view
  • George’s at the Cove (1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037) – modern american on the cove
  • The Cottage (7702 Fay Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037) – modern american
  • Puesto (1026 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037) – modern mexican

Coronado

15. Coronado Central Beach

Coronado Island has two beaches that I love, the Coronado Central Beach and Coronado Dog Beach.

Even though Coronado is referred to as an island, it is actually a peninsula that extends out into the San Diego Bay.

View of downtown San Diego from Coronado
View of downtown San Diego from Coronado
A small idyllic beach next to where the ferry drops off
A small idyllic beach next to where the ferry drops off

It is linked to downtown San Diego via the Coronado Bridge and is a stunning curved bridge that is high enough for Navy Ships to pass under. I used to sail underneath it which was quite the sight and viewpoint!

The Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Central Beach
The Del on Coronado Central Beach

Coronado Central Beach is the main wide and beautiful section of white sand beach out in front of Hotel Del Coronado usually referred to as “The Del”.

The Del has a fascinating history and has been famous for its luxury dining, iconic architecture, and supposedly haunted past.

Staying on Coronado Island makes for the perfect getaway
Staying on Coronado Island makes for the perfect getaway

Many celebrities have stayed here over the years since 1888 and it is a beautiful hotel that is now a Hilton property. They definitely picked the most pristine beachfront location to enjoy a top San Diego beach.

Coronado Dog Beach is just north of Coronado Central and is a beach where dogs can roam free off of leashes year-round!

Coronado Central Beach is known for its white sand beach!
Coronado Central Beach is known for its white sand!

Another option for traveling to Coronado is a 15-minute ferry ($5 one-way) that leaves from two ports, the Broadway Pier and San Diego Convention Center. You can even bring your bike onto the ferry with you.

Address: Ocean Blvd, Coronado, CA 92118

Favorite Coronado Restaurants:

  • Tartine (1106 1st Street, Coronado, CA 92118) – european bistro
  • Clayton’s Coffee Shop (979 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118) – diner & coffee shop
  • Peohe’s (1201 1st Street, Coronado, CA 92118) – seafood with a view of downtown San Diego
  • Miguel’s Cocina (1351 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118) – mexican
  • Brigantine Seafood (1333 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118) – seafood
  • Crown Room Brunch (1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118) – a luxury brunch at Hotel Del

How To Get Around

Do you need a rental car? Having a rental car gives you more flexibility and freedom to get around but you can do without if you are mainly visiting places along the coast.

These beaches are along the entire coast of San Diego’s County and are a distance from downtown.

Depending on where you are staying, you get around easily using an Uber or Lyft service. If you are staying in the downtown San Diego area and want to go to the beaches further north, there are a few options.

You can take an Uber/ Lyft the whole way or take the Coaster and then using an Uber or Lyft from the train station stop to get to the beach if necessary.

Enjoy many fabulous beach days in San Diego!

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San Diego, California has plenty of sunny perfect beach days to enjoy year-round. Follow this guide for 15 reasons to hang out at the prettiest and best beaches in San Diego County. San Diego beaches are a photographers dream. Plus I include a restaurant guide for every top beach!

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50 Comments

  1. Loved this article! I grew up there in North county SD and never knew there were so many beaches! Always wanted to rent Roberts cottage …

    1. It is amazing how many gorgeous beaches San Diego has and yet we tend to go to the same ones a lot. Now you can explore some of these next time you visit! And yes, renting a Roberts Cottage would be awesome… 🙂

  2. Wow! You sure know your San Diego beaches!! Would love to stay in the gorgeous cottages in Oceanside 🙂 And thanks for putting all the food recommendations too! You know I need that 🙂

    1. Thanks Lannie! Haha yes, you would enjoy all of these yummy places eat! Aren’t the cottages adorable? They are just a few steps from the sand so a perfect beach location. 🙂

  3. How lucky you are to have so many beaches where you live! I’ve not yet been to San Diego, but I’m ready to visit each one. La Jolla looks superb!

    1. Thanks Lisa! Yes, I am very lucky to live here and I admit sometimes I forget. Since you love the beach then you would feel right at home in San Diego! 🙂

  4. You just had to go and make me miss CALIFORNIA!!!??? Loved this post and those photographs!!! We were just in Portugal for a couple weeks and kept commenting on the landscape and parts of the coast reminding us of some of the CA beaches! This confirmed it! 🙂

    1. Thank you and hopefully it will inspire another trip back to California! I can’t wait to visit Portugal one day. From the photos I’ve seen, there are definitely similarities to the California coast.

  5. San Diego sounds wonderful. Clearly I’m living in the wrong part of the country. I spent a few hours in San Diego a really long time ago with dad mostly looking at boats. The weather was way nicer in the winter then at home.

    1. Haha, you have awesome places to kayak though! Every city has its pluses but I do agree San Diego is a gorgeous spot to call home. Now you have a reason to come back and spend some time on the beach. 🙂

  6. Gorgeous photos, I would love to explore every beach on this list someday. The cottages are so cute and Grandview Beach definitely deserves its name. I love that you included the best places to eat as well as special things like that Farmer’s Market.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed reading about San Diego’s beaches and like the tips on where to eat. The farmer’s markets in San Diego are so good and fun to visit. 🙂

  7. As someone who gets bored at beaches (yep there’s probably something wrong with me) I’d be off looking for something to do. The art at Swami and houses at Oceanside would keep me happy. Great collection and details Vanessa.

    1. You are too funny John! I can’t believe beautiful beaches bore you, haha. It’s ok, lounging on the beach isn’t for everyone. I like to alternate with some reading and water sports to keep it interesting. You would definitely love spending some time at Swamis and Oceanside. The good news is there are some great walks and hikes nearby plus great eating spots! 🙂

    1. Thanks Sara! Yes, I am very blessed to have so many beaches near me and makes it great for taking walks as an escape these days. Oh wow, 5 hours is quite the distance to the beach! Hopefully, these photos will visually transport you there. 🙂

    1. Thanks Deborah! Yes, San Diego has so many beaches that range in activities for everyone. Plus good weather makes it very appealing. 🙂

  8. I did a day trip to San Diego when I visited LA last year. We really wanted to visit some beaches too but didn’t have enough time unfortunately 🙁 Hopefully next time!

    1. That’s a bummer you didn’t get the chance to see some beaches but more reasons to come back for a visit! There is so much to see in San Diego that you definitely need a few days dedicated to beach days to appreciate it. Hope you get to enjoy them on your next trip! 🙂

  9. Wow, this is such a good guide! So many beautiful beaches. San Diego was one of the first places I ever visited outside of Europe during my gap year. It’s exactly 10 years ago and I can’t wait to go back one day hopefully soon 😀

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed reading about the best beaches in San Diego! That is so cool that San Diego was the first stop in the U.S. and great to hear that you liked it. 🙂

  10. So many beautiful beaches around San Diego – this post is making me crave the ocean because I haven’t seen it in months. I have bookmarked your post for my next trip to San Diego because I have only been to a handful of these beaches

    1. It is tough not being able to go where we want right now but wishing that you get the chance to see the ocean soon! San Diego beaches will be waiting when you get the chance to visit! 🙂

  11. I would love to be at one of these San Diego beaches right now! I appreciate that you included info about the beaches and helpful tips for visiting and what is nearby. Del Mar City beach sounds really nice with a park, restrooms available and lots of eating options.

    1. I’m so happy that you found the tips on what to do and facilities at each beach helpful! If I could transport you here to the Del Mar City Beach I would. 🙂

    1. Anywhere in San Diego but especially the beaches are super relaxing and there is a very calm vibe that you don’t find in LA or SF. Hopefully, you will get the chance to see these beautiful beaches one day!

    1. That is wonderful to hear! If you have the opportunity one day, the beaches in San Diego are worth spending time at. 🙂

  12. San Diego is somewhere I loved visiting when I was younger and am hoping to get back to again! The beaches are fantastic, and I love all the details you included here!

    1. Thank you and I’m so glad reading this brought back great memories. Now you have a great reason to visit again! 🙂

  13. I’ve always wanted to go to San Diego- this is literally the perfect guide for beach lovers! I’ll definitely be referencing it when I make it out west! 🙂

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you find it helpful and I’m sure you will love the beaches here! 🙂

  14. It looks so pretty! The only San Diego beach I’ve been to is the Del but I would love to see the Oceanside Beach! It’s so pretty!

    1. The Del is a pretty awesome pick if you can only visit one beach. Now you have many beaches to explore next time you are in San Diego! 🙂

    1. I hope that you do get the chance to visit San Diego as there are so many awesome places to have multiple beach days here! 🙂

  15. Amazing account of beautiful beaches in San Diego. I have never been to US so far, but I can safely say that my bucket list USA is growing bigger and bigger ..ha ha ..

    1. Thank you! I agree, there are so many amazing places to visit in the US and it makes it more challenging as it is such a big country. 🙂

  16. So many gorgeous beaches! Just another reason for us to (finally) visit San Diego! My husband keeps telling me that there’s “nothing to do” in San Diego… I’m slowly building a list of all the awesome things to do to convince him otherwise.

    1. Oh yes, there are so many awesome things to do in and around San Diego that I’m sure you will both love. I have a few other posts on things in or around San Diego if you are interested. Besides the obvious beaches, we have hiking, wineries, great food, museums and sailing to name a few. Good luck in winning him over to make a trip here! 🙂

  17. Was supposed to take a day trip to San Diego during my Los Angeles trip. Had to cancel back in March. So many lovely beaches. Cannot wait to reschedule my trip and check some of them out.

    1. It has been so hard to cancel and postpone trips but I guess it leaves us more appreciative when you can get away again. Enjoy your time in San Diego when you can visit! 🙂

  18. I have family in San Diego, so this post reminds me of some good times! I actually had no idea how many beaches there are there! Can’t wait to visit again someday soon!

    1. I’m so glad to hear reading about San Diego brought back good memories! Yes, so many awesome beaches to choose from that I’m sure you will enjoy on your next visit. 🙂

  19. Goodness there are soooo many good beaches!

    I have been avoiding beaches this year as they can get pretty busy here, but you have access to sooo many that seem quiet and gorgeous! I also love that some of these look like they’d be perfect for a walk along the beach (once you’re bored of laying/reading.swimming…)

    1. There really are so many awesome beaches in San Diego and you can always find a quieter section away from the crowds. I agree, taking a walk is definitely a nice break from layout out for hours! 🙂

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