North Beach at Cardiff State Beach

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Located along S Coast Hwy 101 just north of restaurant row along the beach. There is a paid parking lot right along the beach.
North Beach at Cardiff State Beach is the perfect place for incredible surfing, diving, snorkeling, swimming and family-style gatherings. Come find out why!
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Why you'll love this beach
Why you'll love this beach
Activities for the Entire Family to Enjoy at North Beach at Cardiff State Beach
North Beach at Cardiff
Overview
Save on Gear
Things to Do
Popular Activities
Get There & Parking
Featured Activity
Know Before You Go
Stay Nearby
Similar Beaches

Highlights

Things to Do
Tips
How to get there
Parking
Things to Do
Tips
How to get there
Parking

Overview

Paddle Boarder Surfing a Wave at Cardiff ReefSurfing Line up at Cardiff Reef at North Beach

Activities and Amenities at Cardiff State Beach

North Beach at Cardiff State Beach is a peaceful paradise that offers glimpses of the ocean wildlife present along the San Diego coastline. Visitors to this beach can spend the day lounging on the clean, wide sandy beach or taking a dip in the calm waters that this area is known for.

Cardiff State Beach allows beachgoers to enjoy the sun and sand with their leashed dogs in tow. The beach is also a great spot for surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, scuba diving, beachcombing or checking out tide pools.

Across the Jetty from North Beach at Cardiff State Beach
Across the Jetty from North Beach at Cardiff State Beach

Exploring the Natural Beauty and Accessibility of North Beach

The California Parks System operates Cardiff State Beach. Visitors to the area can access the beach via car by purchasing a day pass or an annual pass.

The beach is located in the south end of the Encinitas area of San Diego. It's bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the San Elijo Lagoon to the east. Because it's a protected beach, the pristine, wide sands give it a rugged and untouched feel.

There are two reefs located within the waters of the beach, giving it ideal surfing conditions.

Restroom facilities are available for visitors. There is a lifeguard station that is typically staffed during the busier spring and summer months. Camping is also possible at the campground adjacent to the beach.

Throughout the year, this beach is a popular spot for long walks, photoshoots and relaxation. In the spring and summer, when the weather is a little warmer, the beach is a great place to spend the day swimming and getting some sun.

Local Tips
Want to Paddle Board?
North Beach at Cardiff is a great place to paddle board, whether you are a newbie or a seasoned veteran.

Kayak Ride with Go Pass!

La Jolla - 90-Minute Kayak Rental
La Jolla 90-Minute Kayak Rental
When visiting La Jolla, use your Go Pass and hop on a tandem kayak ride! This 90-minute ride from La Jolla Beach takes you on an adventure to see all the area has to offer. Check out the famous seven caves and sea lions while enjoying the SoCal sun!
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Local Tips
What activities does the Go City San Diego pass include?

There’s a variety of activities included with the Go City San Diego pass such as: The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, Hiking Tours, Whale Watching, Museum Tours, Speed Boat Adventures & more!

For the most popular attractions and water-sport rentals as well as the biggest discounts, consider the All-Inclusive Pass.

Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

Things to Do

Kayaking
Kayaking
Kiteboarding
Kiteboarding
Paddle Boarding
Paddle Boarding
Scuba Diving
Scuba Diving
Snorkeling
Snorkeling
Sunbathing
Sunbathing
Surfing
Surfing
Swimming
Swimming
Tide Pooling
Tide Pooling

Why This Beach Is One of the Best

Cardiff State Beach offers so much for all different types of beachgoers. There's almost something for everyone at this versatile beach.

Paddle Boader on a Wave at Cardiff Reef
Paddle Boader on a Wave at Cardiff Reef

Surfing at Cardiff Reef

One of the top attractions of the area is its surfing at the northern end of the beach, Cardiff Reef. The waves here are appropriate for surfers of all abilities, and the surfing conditions are good all year long.

There are two breaks on the two rocky reefs underwater. The bottom is flat rocks with sand. Swells come from the northwest with the wind blowing in from the east.

Waves typically range from knee high to almost head and half high plus waves depending on the swell. Weekends at the beach can get crowded with surfers, but weekday mornings are usually calmer with fewer people.

Outdoor Showers at North Beach at Cardiff State Beach
Outdoor Showers at North Beach at Cardiff State Beach

Accessible Beach

Another reason to love this beach is that it's an excellent choice for people with limited mobility. Beach wheelchairs are available for disabled guests to use. Additionally, there is a smooth mobi mat on the beach for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility to get out to the sand.

Tide Pools at Low Tide

Next, visitors to the beach shouldn't miss the opportunity to see a tide pool up close. During low tide, the reef is visible, with vibrant tide pools to explore and discover. Visitors may see starfish, hermit crabs, sea anemones and even prehistoric clam fossils here.

Snorkeling or Scuba Diving

There are also opportunities here for shore diving and snorkeling from the beach. Since the reef is close to the shore, scuba divers and snorkelers can swim about 400 yards out to experience some of the underwater sights.

Stay Close at Cardiff by the Sea Lodge

Cardiff by the Sea Lodge is located less than one mile from North Beach at Cardiff this 17-room cute boutique hotel is a great place to relax after exploring the area.

How to Get There & Parking

Free Parking
Free Parking
Lot Parking
Lot Parking
Street Parking
Street Parking

Aerial Looking South from North Beach at Cardiff State Beach
Aerial Looking South from North Beach at Cardiff State Beach

Getting to North Beach at Cardiff State Beach

Getting to the beach takes a little bit of time from Interstate 5. Visitors must get to Highway 101 from the I-5, either via Lomas Santa Fe Drive from the south or Birmingham Dr from the north.

From Lomas Santa Fe Drive turn west towards the beach once you exit the freeway. Turn right at Highway 101 heading north. Once you start to exit Solana Beach you will start to see the beach. You will pass a large parking lot on the left; this is Seaside Beach. Continue until you pass the restaurants, known as Restaurant Row, and there will be a parking lot on the left. Turn in here, you have arrived.

From Birmingham Dr Ave exit the freeway and go west towards the beach. Once you hit Highway 101 turn left going south. Pass San Elijo State Beach keep going until you pass a small overpass with the beach on your left and just before Restaurant Row. Turn right in the parking lot, you have arrived.

Parking Lot at North Beach at Cardiff State Beach
Parking Lot at North Beach at Cardiff State Beach

Parking at North Beach at Cardiff State Beach

There is limited free parking on the side streets. Most visitors will need to use the main lots that charge a daily fee or an annual fee. There is a small lot in the northern part of the beach and a larger one a bit south of the park.

Featured Activity

Solana Beach: 2-Hour Surf Lesson
Solana Beach: 2 Hr Surf Lesson
Learn to surf at your own pace on the calm waves of Solana Beach! This 2-hour lesson is led by an experienced surf instructor and is suitable for all levels. Wetsuit and surf board is included in this lesson.
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Know Before You Go & Tips

Disabled Accessibility
Disabled Accessibility
Lifeguards
Lifeguards
No Alcohol
No Alcohol
No Camping
No Camping
No Glass Containers
No Glass Containers
No Motorized Vehicles
No Motorized Vehicles
No Smoking
No Smoking
Outdoor Showers
Outdoor Showers
Public Transportation
Public Transportation
Restrooms
Restrooms
Shade
Shade
Trash Cans Available
Trash Cans Available

Things to Plan for Before Visiting

Enjoying the Day on the Beach at North Beach at Cardiff State Beach
Enjoying the Day on the Beach at North Beach at Cardiff State Beach

Kelp Next to the Reefs

There are beds of kelp along the reefs in the water at this beach. Scuba divers and snorkelers can see the rich wildlife that lives in the kelp.

Red Tide

During the summer, there can sometimes be a red tide. This is caused by an abundance of marine algae and creates an algal bloom. This can be harmful to ocean life as it staves the water of oxygen which is much needed for life in the ocean.

Watch Out for Rip Currents

Water can be especially strong with a powerful rip current at the northernmost end of the beach. Be sure to pay attention to all lifeguard announcements and check conditions before swimming.

Spearfishing

Spearfishing is another popular activity here that visitors can try. Campers at nearby San Elijo State Beach can also take advantage of the prime spearfishing conditions and catch their dinner for the night.

Enjoy the Beach

North Beach at Cardiff State Beach is a prime vacation spot that gives visitors so many activities to try. Experience the beauty and wonder of this incredible San Diego attraction.

North Beach at Cardiff State Beach
is Known For:
Surfing
Surfing
Know This:
Lifeguards
Lifeguards
Outdoor Showers
Outdoor Showers
Restrooms Available
Restrooms Available
Tide Pools
Tide Pools
This Month's Forecast
67°F / 77°F
Sunny in July
Aug
69°F / 79°F
Sunny in August
Sep
67°F / 79°F
Sunny in September
Oct
63°F / 78°F
Sunny in October

Stay Nearby

Cardiff by the Sea Lodge
Boutique Hotel
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Cardiff by the Sea Lodge
from $156 / night
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