Best Beaches in San Diego

San Diego, California is known for its sunshine and beaches. When visiting San Diego, you have many different styles of beaches to visit. Whether you’re looking for a beach to party at, lounge on, or to surf its waves, you’ll find it in San Diego. Here are some of the best beaches in San Diego and along San Diego’s North County coastline.

Windansea Beach is located in the upscale town of La Jolla, located just north of San Diego. Just like the posh town of La Jolla, Windansea Beach has an upscale, almost Hampton-like vibe to it. With craggy rocks stretching out into pristine sand, Windansea is located behind a residential area of million dollar beach houses, though La Jolla Boulevard is located just a few blocks away with coffee and acai bowl cafes plus local restaurants you can get take-out from to enjoy on the beach.

Also in La Jolla is the spectacular La Jolla Cove, a haven of a beach with a blanket of clean-cut, bright green grass leading to a rocky, sloping cliff. Along the cliff is a walking path with stunning views of the curving cove. Beneath the cliff are worn in trails and rock stepping stones down to pockets of sandy beach amidst the rocks. The beach is accented by rocky tunnels and sea creatures – crabs, octopuses, and even reef sharks – that live in the calm waters of the cove. The nearby rocks are also great for both kids and adults to look for sea creatures and barnacles that make a temporary home in the tide pools that form when the tide is out.

Coronado Beach is an expansive beach that is kept impeccably clean and which is located on Coronado Island across the bay from downtown San Diego. The sand looks devoid of imperfections and behind you are views of the Hotel Del Coronado, an iconic and historic hotel, while in front of you are rippling waves lapping against the gorgeous shore. Even if you can’t afford to stay in the expensive Hotel Del Coronado, you can still enjoy its large oceanfront terrace and historic bars to grab lunch or a cocktail at. Walk around the gorgeous lobby or ask the concierge about the rooms rumored to be haunted at the hotel.

Looking for a party beach that is reminiscent of the scenes of the opening credits of Baywatch? Head to pretty much any stretch of beach in the San Diego communities of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach (PB). Music, games, and 20-something coeds give the beaches in the area a fun and flirty feel. When the sun begins to weaken in the sky, head to Mission Boulevard in Mission Beach or Garnet Avenue in PB for some after-beach beers on the many outdoor restaurant patios.

Del Mar, California, is a ritzy beachside community located just north of La Jolla, which upon first glance doesn’t appear to be a mecca for hikers and outdoor lovers, but behind the beach glamour of the small city’s main street is a small beach that boasts an envious location next to Torrey Pines State Reserve, a wooded area full of wildlife that borders the ocean along a high ridge that can be hiked down and up for panoramic views of the sea.

When the sun goes down, the beach to be at is Moonlight Beach in the lively and eclectic San Diego County beach town of Encinitas. Moonlight Beach, which along with a coveted shoreline has bonfire pits all ready for roasting hot dogs or marshmallows. Get there early in the day to nab a bonfire pit. The town of Encinitas also has great shopping with a variety of boutique and vintage shops. The city also has several fun dive bars plus some great gourmet restaurants.

If you’re a surfer head farther north to Carlsbad and hit up Tamarack Beach. With large swells coming in at regular intervals, you’ll have prime surfing conditions, especially early morning and late evening when the tide comes in. Carlsbad is also known for being a good place to spot dolphins. Keep your eyes open and you may get to see them bobbing in the water.

No matter what San Diego beach you find, you’re bound to encounter sunshine, sand, and fun. You’ll also find wonderful beach communities that are ideal for exploring for shopping, food, and more.

Gina Tarnacki is a freelance writer, online marketing professional and avid traveler. When she's not busy finding a creative way to squeeze in a few more vacation days so she and her husband can explore the world together, she writes about balancing travel with a career and relationship at One Day in a City.


  • viveka

    San Diego … that was many years ago … and I love my long weekend there. Maybe one day, but I doubt it. Very interesting read and I wish I had this information when I went there – still the beach we went to was fine and the sunsets was so beautiful.

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