Best Beach in San Diego: Top 13 Gorgeous Beaches for Sun, Sand, and Surf

California dreaming? Treat yourself to 70 miles of spectacular sandy coastline when you make the journey to Southern California.

Beaches in San Diego sparkle with cerulean waters and entice visitors with rugged cliffs and wild waves. The best beaches in San Diego dazzle with their diverse offerings. Follow along to learn everything you need to know about the best San Diego beaches.

From tranquil swaths of coast that are ideal for practicing your breaststroke to the breaks that are best suited for experienced surfers, America’s Finest City serves up oodles of options when it comes to fun in the sun.

Feel free to bring Fido to a pup-approved dog beach or head to Mission Bay to soak in a ravishing sunset of red, orange, and purple at a nearby beach bar.

Teach your little ones about the wonders of crustaceans and anemones at the La Jolla Cove tide pools, or pack up that umbrella and volleyball for a day of vitamin Sea at Pacific Beach.

The San Diego coastline truly offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Ready to discover San Diego best beaches, and the best beaches near San Diego? Read on!

aerial view of san diego skyline during daytimeSan Diego Best Beaches

Calling all sun worshippers! If you dream of waves, marine life, and sunny skies, San Diego just might be your little slice of heaven. Blessed by near-perfect weather, this California coastal city often feels more like one big beach town.

California’s second-largest city can be divided into six distinct beach regions which include Coronado, La Jolla, Mission Bay, North County Coastal, South Bay and Point Loma, Harbor Island, and Shelter Island.

From which beaches are best for mini mermaids still perfecting their backstroke to where to find ample parking lots, we’ll dive into the ins and outs of the best beaches of San Diego.

Best Beaches to Swim in San Diego

Hoping to splish, splash, and maybe even work on that tan? Below you’ll find our top picks for the best swimming beaches in San Diego.

La Jolla Beaches

Splash among harmless leopard sharks or scuba through two underwater canyons when you make the trip to La Jolla Shores. Known for the La Jolla Underwater Park and Ecological Reserve at 8302 Camino Del Oro. La Jolla also happens to be our pick for the best swimming beach in San Diego California.

Related Post: Things to Do in La Jolla California – 9 Must-Try Activities

Equally perfect for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a kayak tour and young children, La Jolla beaches cover everything from sea lions to ragged and rocky cliffs. The northernmost point of La Jolla is home to Torrey Pines State Beach, while La Jolla Cove features a small deep water bay perfect for swimming and snorkeling among creatures such as the vividly orange-hued Garibaldi fish.

Please note that the parking lot at La Jolla Shores was not built to handle large crowds, so we suggest arriving early to find a spot.

sunset at the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier near San Diego, California, USA
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Children’s Pool Beach

What was once crafted as an area for kiddies to work on their water skills has recently been taken over by a crew of intrepid pinnipeds. Now the Children’s Pool beach San Diego area at 850 Coast Boulevard  is overrun with barking seals and sea lions. In addition, experienced divers will find tons of offshore reefs to explore here.

Pacific Beach

You might be wondering, “what’s the nicest beach in San Diego?” It’s arguably this! Pacific Beach at Ocean Blvd is an easy breezy coastal community that features tons of beachfront bars, restaurants, and of course generous swaths of sand. Here visitors can explore three miles of boardwalk during the day, or keep warm by a crackling bonfire at night.

On the hunt for Pacific Beach options for families? We recommend North Pacific Beach due to its calm waters and its lifeguard-supervised swimming areas and facilities.

Aerial view looking down at Pacific Beach - San Diego, California, USA

Moonlight Beach

Swing by this beloved State Park for a day of kid-friendly beaching in Encinitas, just shy of west of I-5. Thanks to wide berths of sand and a gently sloping foreshore, Moonlight State Beach is near perfect for swimming.

Minnows of all ages can doggy paddle stress-free in the designated lifeguarded swimming-only zone. Also a preferred spot for athletes, the beach hosts both volleyball and tennis court facilities, as well as recreational equipment rentals and a snack bar.

Fun Fact: Moonlight’s moniker comes from the fact that beachgoers back in the early 1900s would have a night picnic here.

Sunset Cliffs

Perhaps not the most conducive spot for a dip, we still wouldn’t recommend skipping out on a visit to the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. This protected area at Ladera St extends 1½ miles along the Point Loma peninsula’s western shoreline and is home to sweeping ocean views and dramatic cliff formations.

Come with a camera in hand to document the native coastal sage scrub habitat and the panoramic cliff beauty.

Wide shot of where the ocean meets Sunset Cliffs Natural Park and part of the beach in San Diego, California, USA
photo credit: John Nicksic via Facebook

Solana Beach

Towering palm trees give the serene shoreline of South Sierra Ave a distinctly tropical feel. This charming beach town is known for its family-friendly beaches that contain ample amounts of trails, award-winning artwork, and landscaping.

Related Post: Bike Rentals San Diego: Exploring San Diego’s Best-Kept Secrets by Bike

Pack up your bikes or skates and hit the Coastal Rail Trail. Or stay aqua-bound with a trip to Fletcher Cove Beach. This small sheltered inlet is ideal for swimming, bodyboarding, surfing, surf-fishing, and kayaking.

Don’t forget to pack up some lunch to-go as you’ll want to take advantage of the beach’s adjacent playground, restrooms, and picnic table area.

Mission Beach

Looking for classic beach fun, fun, fun? You’ll find it at Ocean Front Walk. Swear you’ve stepped inside a Beach Boys song when you hightail it to Mission Beach. Scout out the crescent-shaped Mission Bay, or make a beeline for the boardwalk to stock up on souvenir t-shirts, or to gobble down some ice cream.

Take a break from the sand and surf with some roller coaster rides at Belmont Park. Or, check out the tranquil waters of the Bay for a serene sailboat ride or bayside bike cruise.

Wide shot of the Mission Beach Boardwalk on a busy sunny day in San Diego, California, USA
photo credit: Draft via Facebook

Coronado Beach

Thanks to Marilyn Monroe, there is perhaps no San Diego beach more iconic than Coronado Central Beach. Showcasing the Hotel del Coronado as the backdrop, this picture-perfect beach is one of the best San Diego California beaches for swimming and sunbathing.

Wriggle your toes in the white sugar soft sand. Or try your hand at watersports when you inquire about a jet ski rental. Lastly, to make your pooch happy as a very sandy clam, bring them to Coronado’s Dog Beach for an off-leash run. Make a beeline to Ocean Blvd for this experience.

San Diego Beaches for Dogs

Who says man’s best friend needs to be left in the lurch when it comes to a day of ocean air and frisbee fun? Bring along your best furry mate when you head to any of the following dog-friendly beaches.

Coronado North Beach

Off-leash plus zero time restrictions, yes please! Zip on over to Orange Ave at the Coronado shoreline for a salty, sandy romp with Fido at any hour you please.

Local dog owners love this spot due to its amenities such as foot showers, free dog litter bags, fire pits, and more. If your pup is a water baby this is also the spot to hang ten. Many dogs that like to surf can be seen riding the waves here, with life jackets and board shorts on hand!

dog laying on sandy beach during daytime blue watersDel Mar North Beach

Woof, woof, hooray! Three cheers for the only leash-free dog beach in Del Mar at Coast Blvd! Let Rover work out his zoomies, as he sprints up and down this pup-approved park that runs about half a mile from 29th Street to Solana Beach.

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Be sure to bring along a tennis bowl as there are opportunities for swimming, fetching, and more in the ocean section below the San Dieguito River mouth near the volleyball net poles.

*Please note there are designated times for off-leash access depending on whether it is peak or off-peak season. For a full list of restrictions please click here.

Best Surfing Beaches San Diego

Surf’s up! San Diego is a mecca for surfers of all ages and abilities. Groms from all over congregate here to ride some of the best waves in the country.

Black’s Beach

Officially part of Torrey Pines State Beach, this secluded sandy reprieve is both a prime surf spot and a clothing-optional destination. Surfers adore this spot due to its three main peaks.

However, Black’s Beach is also renowned as a birder’s paradise thanks to its high population of peregrine falcons, Red-tailed hawks, Cormorants, and Blue herons.

man surfing on wave during sunset at Blacks Beach La Jolla in San Diego, California, USA
photo credit: Anthony Ghiglia Photography via Facebook

Ocean Beach

With a name like Ocean Beach, it’s no surprise this town receives its fair share of swell. The breaks of Ocean Beach at Abott St are known to be pumping when the rest of San Diego runs dry.

Head to the South of the pier for a consistent reef break. Or go North for an excellent beach break that offers both lefts and rights. For experienced surfers and locals, Avalanche is always an option. However, be prepared for some crowds.

Swami’s Beach

This internationally known point break in Encinitas is immensely popular due to its consistent, yet challenging surf. Featuring a right point, surfers will need a substantial amount of skill to conquer the steeper sections here.

Related Post: Family Vacation San Diego: 13 Can’t-Miss Destinations 

While Swami’s needs a decent amount of swell to live up to its full potential, beachgoers can also pass a pleasant day here picnicking or exploring the tide pools exposed at low tide. Make your way to S Coast Hwy 101 to experience it for yourself.

Wide shot of Swami State Beach covered in shells on a sunny day in San Diego, California, USA
photo credit: Helen Quail via Facebook

Best Beach Hotels San Diego

You’ve stuffed your beach bag full of towels, sunscreen, frisbees, and some tasty snacks. Now, make sure you haven’t forgotten about the most important part of your San Diego getaway – booking your hotel!

The Best San Diego beach hotels add a whole new layer of salty, sandy excitement to your trip. Treat yourself to some of the best beach hotels in San Diego when you make your reservation with Tripster.

Relax and unwind after a long day of body surfing and beach volleyball with a soothing spa treatment. Or, raise a glass of ice-cold bubbly in celebration of stunning ocean views. Keep things classic with a stay at the Hotel del Coronado, with a spacious and stylishly appointed Victorian suite.

Or, opt for lodgings in Mission Bay and delight in waterfront dining and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Beach resorts offer even more bang for your buck, as you can take advantage of complimentary services such as beach chairs, umbrellas, and more. As always, make your booking worry-free knowing you are guaranteed our lowest rates online.

Exterior ground view of Hotel del Coronado along sandy beach in San Diego, California, USA
photo credit: Hotel del Coronado (1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA) via Facebook

Whether you come to San Diego for a tour of their world-famous zoo or to load up on tacos and tequila. You simply must carve out some time for a beach adventure.

A veritable paradise for swimmers, kayakers, snorkelers, and more, all of San Diego’s beaches feature countless amenities and attractions.

Suit up your pup in a life vest and prepare to ride the white water at Coronado. Or make the journey to Black’s Beach for some sans swimsuit sunbathing.

Work on your cutbacks when you paddle out at Swami’s, or take advantage of the volleyball facilities at Moonlight. Don’t just longingly look at images of San Diego beaches. Experience them yourself, and take lots of pictures of San Diego beaches!

Wherever you go in America’s Finest City, you are guaranteed a beachy great time!

San Diego Beaches FAQs

For the best beach experience in San Diego, aim to visit during August, September, and October when the weather is ideal and the water inviting. These months offer sunny skies and warm temperatures, perfect for sand and surf lovers.

San Diego is a beach lover's paradise, boasting an impressive collection of 31 beaches, each offering its own unique slice of seaside bliss. From bustling boardwalks to serene stretches of sand, there's a perfect spot for everyone!

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Written by Sara Berden

Sara is a Content Writer from the Philippines experienced in writing for websites and social media in different industries. She is an introvert...

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