San Diego Beaches Guide

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San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA

San Diego Beaches Guide Reviews

cneoridium cneoridi…
44 reviews
All of the good beaches in San Diego - an ongoing project... Feb 07, 2007
The big reason you're coming to San Diego is probably... the beaches. Good news is that by law all California beaches are free and must have public access!

I'll try to get some descriptions in here, but for my friends who have asked, here's at least a list of good ones to get you started, from south to north. I'll rate them with 1 to 3 stars *** You can print this out as a guide.


*Imperial Beach: sort of a forgotten beach area near the Mexican border. It's the same sun and sand as up north, but can be a whole lot cheaper to stay beachfront. Unfortunately, beaches are closed a lot in the winter for water quality problems, but not a problem during the summer since it never rains

***Coronado: Cross the Coronado Bay Bridge to "Coronado Island" (really a sand spit). Coronado is basically all beach- ocean on one side, bay on the other. Beautiful sand beaches, in front of the Hotel Del Coronado is nice. The beaches around the city of Coronado are free, there's a nice beach in the middle is a state beach and has a fee, but has facilities and lifeguards. The rest is a military base, marked No Entry, and I of course have never been to that part : )

***Point Loma - bay side: There are a couple tiny "secret" beaches on the Bay side of the point, very quiet and uncrowded.

-at the Shelter Island Boat Launch is a little beach with fire rings. Sweet - no one uses them! Anywhere else in the city you have to stake out a ring early in the morning to use it at night.

-Kellogg Beach. Follow Rosecrans out to Kellogg Street. Usually deserted, you can launch kayaks, swim, fish, and watch the ships inter the harbor.

***Ocean Beach: Just north of downtown (see my Ocean Beach review). Nice wide laid back beach with a surfing, a really long pier, and a cool beach community with taco shops and street bars right on the shore. Surf shops and rental places will set you up. Free fire pits for a night time bonfire. Watch your step on Dog Beach at the far north end : )

*Mission Bay: Skip the beaches on Mission Bay unless you're boating, kind of a stinky, man-made "aquatic recreation area" dredged in the 60s from a salt marsh. Fiesta Island is kind of cool at night, there are plenty of places to have a bonfire or barbecue, even when the beaches are full. On the water you can ski, jetski, sail - you can rent about anything there.

*Mission Beach: the shore is beach party central- wide sandy beach lined with rental condos, apartments, and taco shops. This is where you live with your 14 roommates in 2 rooms when you're in school. Don't trip over the empty kegs...

**Pacific Beach: This is a wide, sandy beach packed with a sea of bikinis, volleyball nets, towels, and umbrellas during the summer, probably the most popular beach. The Boardwalk runs along the beach head- skateboards, bikes, rollerblades... bring something with wheels or get run over. The beach-side community is loaded with bars, clubs, restaurants, and surf shops. Parking is impossible except on the coldest days...

***Windandsea: A hard to find little paradise in an upscale residential area. You'll swear you're in the tropics with sugar sand beach, turquoise water, nice surf. The beach is just south of La Jolla with access through a grassy little park. Google "Neptune Place", the nearest street. Pretty hard to find, but worth it.

***La Jolla (along the cliffs): This is the rocky section of our coastline below the ritzy community of La Jolla. This is the best dive and snorkeling spot in southern California (see my Pacific Ocean review). See the seal colony at the Children's Pool, snorkel or swim at La Jolla Cove, explore the sea caves to the north. There are little sandy beaches to be had between the rocky points, and an ocean front walk and park along the top of the cliffs. There are even free showers at La Jolla Cove. The only bad part is the parking, you just have to keep circling.... It's worth it though.

***The Marine Room: One of my favorite beaches. You can get to it by parking near the Marine Room restaurant in La Jolla (google it). There's a secret little alley on the left of the restaurant that leads to the beach. It's a lot less crowded and there's usually parking. Really small surf and a kayak launch. In the summer you can see hundreds of harmless leopard sharks in just a few feet of water. Really great snorkeling. Only down sides area that Kayak schools kind of take the water over in the summer, and the beach submerges at really high tides.

***La Jolla Shores: Another wildly popular, wide, sandy beach just north of La Jolla. 200,000 people can visit on a summer weekend. Not bad during the winter. There is a huge beach rental industry here, you can get lessons on everything from surfing to diving, sea kayaking, snorkeling... You'll see the flotilla of hundreds of kayakers offshore some days. More info in my Pacific Ocean review. Well equipped with lifeguards, restrooms, even free outdoor showers to rinse the sand off. Fire pits for bonfires, but hard to get during the summer.

*Black's: Difficult to find or access, best known as San Diego's only nude beach (don't get too excited, think 60 year old gay men). Either risk climbing down a 300-foot cliff, or walk waaaaay back at low tide from Torrey Pines to the north.

***Torrey Pines State Park: Named after an endemic coastal pine tree that grows only at this spot. This is a fun place- hike the trails through the hills above the cliff. Better, park at the state beach just to the north, take a walk south along the beach, then climb the trail up through the park back to the parking lot. Good surfing.

**Torry Pines State Beach: Nice, uncrowded sandy beach along the Pacific Coast highway (101). Lots of parking and access to the State Park to the north.

*Del Mar and Solana Beach beaches: Nice beach, but difficult access because of the high cliffs.

**San Elijo: on Highway 101 between Loma Santa Fe and Manchester Ave. This is a good, uncrowded beach for sitting or body surfing, lots of parking and some good restaurants you can walk to across the Highway (try Los Olas!) Like many north county beaches, the sand can wash away in the winter leaving cobbles, but not always.

Cardiff State Beach: San Diego has these linear state beach campgrounds that are basically parking lots along the cliff tops with hookups for camping. There are numerous trails and stairs leading down to nice beaches below. Decent surf, nice sand.

**Carlsbad State Beach: Another linear campground. Cheap camping on the cliffs above a nice beach. Set up for motorhomes, trailers (caravans), or tents. Make reservations well in advance- months in the summer, weeks in the winter

**Tamarak: an huge, wide, sandy beach running for miles. More family oriented than the southern beaches and quieter. Accessed from Tamarak Avenue off the freeway. Where all the kids from the inland towns hang out. Good surf.

**Oceanside: Miles of wide, sandy beach (though sometimes cobble during the winter). Oceanside is like Imperial Beach at the top of the review, nice beaches, less expensive community to stay in. Really long fishing pier in the middle, little harbor at the north end.

**San Onofre State Beach: Like Carlsbad and Cardiff, a campground on cliffs above a beach. This one is interesting, it's part of an inholding along with a nuclear power plant in the middle of a huge military reservation. No other public access from Oceanside to the Orange County border. Really nice beach, make reservations really early. Careful you specify camping on the beach rather than the other part of the campground across the freeway.

More beaches, a map, and pictures coming soon...
The Children's Pool at La Jolla - …
Kellogg Beach in Point Loma - shhh…
Ocean Beach
cneoridium says:
You're welcome Trissy, I've been meaning to update it, but... well I opened it again in 2009 to work on it again and got distracted... and its five years later! If you get any good pictures for any of the other beaches maybe you can send them along and I'll drop them in the guide : )

Posted on: Jul 17, 2014
Trissylyndee says:
Thanks so much for this post! This is very useful for me. I'm originally from Hawaii and a beach isn't just any beach to me. It's great to see what each place has to offer and your opinions of them.

Posted on: Jul 17, 2014
HeatherHop says:
You were able to review quite a few of them!
Posted on: Aug 01, 2009
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