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Destinations  •  June 21, 2022

The Ultimate Guide to San Diego Beaches

Danielle Vito
Danielle Vito

As Senior Social Media Manager, Danielle manages AvantStay's social media platforms and writes content for the Atlas blog. Previously, Danielle was the Social Media Producer at The Points Guy where she ran TPG's Instagram and wrote articles on the most social media-worthy destinations, and tips on hacking your travels by using credit cards.

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Explore San Diego

Whether you’re looking for a getaway place to sunbathe, surf, or simply take in incredible views of the seaside, San Diego has a perfect beach for you. With more than 70 miles of coastline, the city offers a wide variety of beaches, each with its own unique character. From bustling Mission Beach to the secluded Black’s Beach, there’s a beach in San Diego to suit every taste.

So, where should you start your search for the perfect beach? Well, we’ve put together the complete guide to San Diego beaches to help you out. So, keep reading for a list of all the best beaches in this sunny southern California city. 

1. Mission Beach

San Diego is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in California, and Mission Beach is one of the best. Though it’s not as well known as La Jolla or Newport, it’s a favorite among locals because it’s a great spot to relax and enjoy the sunshine. 

The wide, sandy beaches are perfect for sunbathing, and the gentle waves make it an idyllic spot for swimmers and surfers. Next to the sandy shores, you’ll find a boardwalk perfect for walking, jogging, or biking. And, when you work up an appetite from spending a day in the sun having fun, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes nearby to satisfy your hunger.

Plus, Mission Beach is situated next to Belmont Park, so it’s easy to get to, and there’s plenty of parking.

2. La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores’ wide, sandy beach stretches for more than a mile, and the warm water is perfect for swimming, surfing, and kayaking. La Jolla Cove, home of “Seal Rock,”  draws locals and visitors alike to watch San Diego’s seals and sea lions basking in the sun. La Jolla is also a fantastic place to snorkel, thanks to the clear water and abundance of marine life. 

In addition to the beach and cove, La Jolla Shores has an abundance of tidal pools that draw people in, providing a close-up look at sea stars, crabs, and other creatures native to the Pacific coast. La Jolla Shores also features several excellent restaurants, cafes, and shops, making it the perfect place to spend a day or a week. Stay at Vista, an elegant home perched on the hills of La Jolla and take in the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

3. Torrey Pines State Beach

Torrey Pines State Beach is a beautiful stretch of coastline in San Diego that happens to be a state park. Located just north of Torrey Pines State Reserve, the beach is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, and tranquil lagoon. 

The area is a popular destination for visitors from all over the world, who come to enjoy its many facilities and attractions. These include picnic areas, hiking trails, and a variety of water sports. The beach is also home to many unique plant and animal species, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers. Our esteemed home with a pool, Romero, is just steps away from Torrey Pines State Beach.

4. Pacific Beach

If you’re looking for a laid-back beach neighborhood in San Diego, Pacific Beach is the place for you. This beach community is popular with sunbathers and surfers alike, and you’ll find plenty of trendy hotel bars and casual cafes lining the boardwalk. 

In the surrounding streets and along Mission Boulevard, you’ll find many shops, boutiques, eateries, and bars that cater to a younger crowd. 

Unlike the other beach spots, Pacific Beach offers more of a community feel since it’s in the middle of the neighborhood. However, the beach still offers a relaxed place to enjoy the sun, sand, and ocean.

5. Del Mar City Beach

Del Mar City Beach is one of the most popular beaches in San Diego. Located just north of downtown, the beach offers beautiful views of the city skyline. The sand is clean and well-maintained, and there are lifeguard stations located throughout the beach that provide maps of the area. 

The beach is also a great place to catch some waves, as it’s one of the few beaches in San Diego that offers consistent surf. For those looking for a more relaxing experience, Del Mar City Beach also has many restaurants and bars, making it the perfect spot to grab a bite or watch the sunset.

In addition to the sand and sun, Powerhouse and Seagrove are two of the beach’s coastal parks, providing excellent spots for picnics and BBQs. 

6. Black’s Beach

Black’s Beach is one of the best-kept secrets in San Diego. This secluded section of the beach is situated beneath the bluffs of Torrey Pines, providing stunning ocean views. 

Although it is technically part of Torrey Pines State Beach, Black’s Beach feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. However, the beach is also attractive to surfers who flock to the beach for the winter waves.

Because of the beach’s seclusion, Black’s Beach has also become a well-known nude beach, although you don’t have to be naked to visit. Visitors can sunbathe, swim, surf, or simply take a walk along the coast. 

7. Flat Rock Beach

In Torrey Pines State Beach, Flat Rock Beach is a great place to spend a day in San Diego. There’s plenty of space to spread out, and the beach is well-known for its cleanliness and steep bluffs that provide breathtaking views of the Pacific Coast. 

The beach has plenty of amenities to keep you entertained, including a playground, volleyball courts, and a picnic area. The clear blue water is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. 

If you get tired of the water or want to shake out your legs, you can hike either the Beach Trail or Broken Hill Trail, both of which take you on a loop around the beach and up the cliffs for panoramic views.

8. Ocean Beach City Beach

If you’re looking for a laid-back beach town with great surfing and tasty food, you’ll want to head to Ocean Beach. This southern California gem is located just north of Point Loma and has a busy local scene. 

You’ll find people surfing, sunbathing, and taking a stroll along the pier. Plus, if you head to the north end of the beach, you’ll find yourself at Dog Beach, where you can frolic with some pups.

The vibe here is very vintage and groovy, and the locals are friendly and welcoming. In addition to the great atmosphere, you’ll also find excellent dining and microbrews, and when the sun goes down, the nightlife picks up. 

9. Playa Pacifica on Mission Bay

Playa Pacifica Park is a great place to enjoy the sunny California weather with a protected beach located on Mission Bay’s eastside. This protected beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and building sandcastles. In addition, it features a large grassy area ideal for picnicking, playing games, or just relaxing.

The best part of Playa Pacifica Park is its location; it’s situated right in the heart of San Diego, so you can enjoy all the city has to offer while still getting away from the hustle and bustle. The whole park has beautiful views of Mission Bay and is a great place to watch the boats go by. 

10. Encinitas Beach 

Encinitas Beach is a beautiful, serene beach that’s perfect for a day of relaxing and enjoying the incredible views. The park sits just off Highway 101, but the cliffs and limited access points make it feel more secluded. The tidal pools are also a hit with the kids, providing much to explore and splash around in. 

This beach is also one of the cleaner beaches in the area, with spotless bathrooms and showers just off the sand so that you can rinse off before heading home. So whether you’re looking to soak up some sun, take a dip in the ocean, or just enjoy a peaceful stroll along the shore, Encinitas Beach is worth a visit. 

11. Coronado Beach

If you’re looking for a breathtaking beach to relax on while in southern California, look no further than Coronado Beach, otherwise known as Central Beach. 

Located just across the bay from the city, the miles of breezy coastline provide a family-friendly haven. The sand is also incredibly soft and clean, making it a perfect place to sunbathe or build sandcastles with the kids. In addition to being well-maintained, Coronado Beach offers plenty of amenities, including showers, restrooms, and picnic tables. 

Visitors can also rent chairs, umbrellas, and boogie boards. The water is clean and clear, perfect for swimming, surfing, and paddleboarding. 

12. Imperial Beach

Just five miles north of the Mexican border, Imperial Beach is a residential beach city in San Diego that offers various activities for residents and visitors. The four-mile stretch of beach is excellent for surfing, sport fishing, beach volleyball, and even horseback riding along the sandy shore.

As a part of a revitalization effort in the area, Imperial Beach is home to a boardwalk overlooking the beach. On the boardwalk, you’ll find benches, bike lanes, and a spacious lane for taking a stroll. Plus, you can travel just a short way down the beach to the Tijuana Sloughs, one of the most popular surf spots in the area.

13. Oceanside Harbor Beach

Harbor Beach is a great place to spend the day, whether you’re looking to catch some waves or just soak up the sun. The beach offers plenty of activities for everyone, from surfing and volleyball to simply relaxing on the sand. And when you’re ready for a break from the beach, the adjacent Oceanside Harbor has plenty to offer. 

You can go sailing, deep-sea fishing, whale watching, or kayaking. Or, if you want to explore the area, you can stroll around the marina and visit the sea lions. There’s also a variety of shops and restaurants in the harbor, so you can easily find something to eat or drink.

14. Solana Beach

The Solana Beach coastline is stunning. The cliffs are beautiful, and you can only access Fletcher Cove from a path here. The cove offers seclusion, white sand, and the ability to walk quite a ways both north and south. Plus, you don’t have to pay for parking at Fletcher Cove. 

Besides the cove, Solana Beach features the main beach area for those who want to lounge in the sand and swim in the waves and Seascape Surf Park for visitors looking to take their boards out.

15. Swami’s Beach

Swami’s Beach is one of San Diego’s most attractive spots for surfers. This secluded spot is located just south of La Jolla and is known for its dramatic cliffs, crystal-clear water, and lush vegetation. Besides surfing, visitors can enjoy various activities at Swami Beach, including swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and exploring the tidal pools. 

The beach is also a popular spot for picnics and barbecues, so you can enjoy a quaint lunch while watching surfers hit the waves. Several picturesque trails lead to San Elijo State Beach and the Boneyards below the Encinitas Bluffs, making it the perfect place to enjoy a day in nature. 

16. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a gorgeous 68-acre park located on the western edge of Point Loma in San Diego. The park features stunning cliffs, dramatic ocean views, and a variety of natural habitats that allow visitors to take in a variety of plant and animal species and several cultural and historical resources.

Visitors can hike along miles of trails, relax on one of the many scenic overlooks, or even swim in the ocean; however, the water is probably too rough for swimming. Luckily for travelers with kids, there is an abundance of tide pools here in case your kiddies want to splash around. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is a special place where people can connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

Final Thoughts

San Diego is a fantastic place to spend a summer vacation, and with this guide to its beaches, you’ll find the perfect spot for your needs. Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to relax or join in on the action-packed fun, San Diego has something for everyone. So pack your bags and get ready for some sun and sand.

Danielle Vito
Danielle Vito

As Senior Social Media Manager, Danielle manages AvantStay's social media platforms and writes content for the Atlas blog. Previously, Danielle was the Social Media Producer at The Points Guy where she ran TPG's Instagram and wrote articles on the most social media-worthy destinations, and tips on hacking your travels by using credit cards.

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