Best Sunbathing Beaches in San Diego

For the picture perfect relaxing vacation with ample time to soak up the year-round Southern California sun, check out the best sunbathing beaches in San Diego.
Best Sunbathing Beaches
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Get the Perfect Tan at San Diego’s Best Sunbathing Beaches

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the process of planning out a vacation that hits all the most popular San Diego attractions and neighborhoods, from Downtown San Diego and Petco Park to Balboa Park and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, that you forget to actually relax.

Vacations are meant to be soothing, and in a place like San Diego, a true Southern California gem, there’s no better way to unwind than to spend some time sunbathing. With so many beautiful coastlines and more than 75 beaches in San Diego, the decision of where to sunbathe can be challenging, especially when many of them make our list of the best beaches in all of San Diego.

Local Tips
Book in Advance
The best way to ensure you’re on the beach early enough to get the best sunbathing spot is to stay at a beachfront hotel.

Whether you’re interested in the resort vibes of the Coronado Island neighborhood, the surfer attitude that permeates Pacific Beach, or the more secluded Solana Beach shores, you’re sure to find the perfect San Diego beach for your personal tastes.

Better yet, with the Go San Diego Pass, you can make the most of your beach day while also saving on admission prices to those aforementioned attractions. Take advantage of our exclusive discount code and consider picking one up in advance to minimize stress and maximize relaxation.

Best Sunbathing Beaches

Coronado Central Beach

1) Coronado Central Beach

Neighborhood:
Coronado Island

With plenty of white sand and slow-moving waves, Coronado Central Beach on Coronado Island is the ideal place for a relaxing vacation. There’s more than enough space to stretch out and tan, and while the beach is family-friendly, it also has a relaxing atmosphere perfect for sunbathing.

When you’re ready to cool off, enjoy the calm ocean waters with a quick swim. Alternatively, you can rent a paddleboard, or walk or bike the trails along the shore.

Coronado Beach is very popular and it can get a little crowded, so you’ll want to arrive early if you’re looking to snag the ideal sunbathing spot as well as a parking spot near the beach.

Windansea Beach

2) Windansea Beach

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

While Windansea Beach, in La Jolla, is best known for its waves, with plenty of visitors rushing to almost every La Jolla beach to rent surfboards as soon as they arrive, it’s also a great spot to sunbathe. You won’t be disappointed by this picturesque beach whether your interests lie in the sand or the surf.

Even if you’re staying on shore, you can still watch people-watch, and you just might see a few local pros hanging ten if you’re lucky. Windansea is a popular spot for tourists and San Diego residents alike, partially due to being the home of the Surf Shack, a local landmark and a signpost of La Jolla’s key role in San Diego surf culture.

At low tide, make sure to take a stroll along the coast and check out the ocean life in the tide pools on the rockier northern side of the beach.

North Pacific Beach

3) North Pacific Beach

Neighborhood:
Pacific Beach

North Pacific Beach, in Pacific Beach, is a beautiful and relaxing area, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of San Diego’s most popular beaches. It’s an excellent place to take the family, with plenty of space for picnicking and building sandcastles.

There are designated areas in the ocean for both swimming and surfing. The calm waters lend themselves well to all kinds of activities such as surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, and paddleboarding. It’s not unusual to spot people fishing off the nearby pier too.

Once you’ve tired yourself out from all the fun activities available at this beach, lay back and soak up the sun to wrap up your perfect beach day with an equally perfect bow.

Mission Beach

4) Mission Beach

Neighborhood:
Mission Beach

If you’re interested in the typical beach day vacation seen in magazines and brochures, you can’t do much better than Mission Beach, which is one of the crown jewels of San Diego coastlines. The beach is bordered by a boardwalk and the Belmont Park Amusement Park that’s great for the kids, but the real draw is the sand and surf.

San Diego’s beautiful year-round weather means it’s always the perfect time to sunbathe for an hour or two before hopping in the ocean for some light swimming. You can also work up a sweat playing beach volleyball, going for a jog along the beach or boardwalk or visit nearby Mission Bay Park.

After sunbathing, score discounted admission for your entire family to Belmont Park Amusement Park with a Go San Diego Pass. As an extra bonus, use our exclusive discount code and save even more!

Del Mar City Beach

5) Del Mar City Beach

Neighborhood:
Del Mar

Del Mar City Beach, in Del Mar, is a very long beach, with a coastline spanning about two miles. This provides ample space for those looking to stretch out and relax without being disturbed by loud or unruly beachgoers, especially in more secluded sections of the beach.

Del Mar Beach’s size means it’s the perfect beach for all kinds of activities, which you can pop in and out of in between sunbathing sessions. These activities include swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, kiteboarding, and windsurfing, so make sure to rent some gear for the ones that sound most appealing. Del Mar Dog Beach is right within a stones throw, so bring your furry friends along for a day in the sun!

Wrap up your day by watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean, which is a one-of-a-kind experience you definitely want to stick around for. Take a few pictures to commemorate your trip, or just enjoy the experience with your loved ones.

South Ponto Beach

6) South Ponto Beach

Neighborhood:
Carlsbad

Locals and tourists alike can all find something to like at beautiful South Ponto Beach, in Carlsbad!

Unlike its cousin to the north, this beach is about much more than just surfing, though you can rent a board and ride some beginner-friendly waves here too. Sunbathing, playing beach volleyball, swimming, and watching the sunset are all perfect activities for anyone looking to unwind and destress.

While it’s tempting to run yourself ragged seeing everything there is to see and do in San Diego, don’t forget to let yourself breathe. South Ponto Beach provides the ideal restorative atmosphere to let you truly enjoy your vacation or staycation.

Ocean Beach Pier & City Beach

7) Ocean Beach Pier & City Beach

Neighborhood:
Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach Pier & City Beach, in Ocean Beach, is a popular spot for fishing off the pier and looking at tide pools.

You can also surf at the main beach, City Beach, whether you’re fresh out of surfing lessons or ready to rent a board and strut your stuff. While it may not be what the beach is best known for, you can still get some excellent sun exposure if you’re looking to work on your tan, and just to the north is Ocean Beach Dog Beach as well.

Stretch out your beach towel on the wide, sandy shore for some early afternoon sunbathing. When it gets a little too hot, cool off in the grassy Ocean Beach Park area and enjoy a meal on the picnic tables. You can also wade into the shallows, but watch out for surfers if you go further.

La Jolla Shores

8) La Jolla Shores

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

The La Jolla neighborhood is one of the more popular neighborhoods for vacationers interested in the full beach day experience, and it’s not hard to see why when you look at beaches like La Jolla Shores. If you want to relax with a little swimming and plenty of sunbathing, you’ll definitely want to add this beach to your itinerary!

The ocean access here is partially protected by a cove, which helps to break up any strong waves. This gives La Jolla Shores beach a more laid-back vibe, though there’s certainly no shortage of things to do.

You can take a beginners surfing class, try out scuba diving, hop on a paddleboard, go kayaking, or just enjoy your day in La Jolla while you relax and sunbathe.

Fletcher Cove Beach

9) Fletcher Cove Beach

Neighborhood:
Solana Beach

If you’re looking for a more secluded beach to get you in the right state of mind for ultimate relaxation, you’ll want to check out Fletcher Cove Beach in Solana Beach.

Solana Beach isn’t nearly as popular as many other neighborhoods, but that just means there’s more space available without having to rush to stake out a spot early in the morning, and without other loud beachgoers to interrupt your tanning time.

Note that while surfing and sunbathing are popular at medium tide, the beach isn’t very wide here, so you may lose your spot to the waves as the tide rises. That’s no problem though; just head to the bluffs to catch an incredible view of the sunset over the ocean, or try your hand at bodyboarding or paddleboarding.

Moonlight State Beach

10) Moonlight State Beach

Neighborhood:
Encinitas

Moonlight State Beach, in Encinitas, is an especially wide sandy beach, so it’s no surprise that it has the perfect conditions for sunbathing. It’s not uncommon to see people swimming and surfing here, especially since the waves are generally calm.

As the name suggests, this beach is just as popular when the sun goes down as it is during the perfect tanning hours!

Stick around to make s’mores over the fire pits and take a walk along the beautiful beach’s moonlit shore. Moonlight State Beach’s romantic evening atmosphere makes it a popular spot for couples, but it’s just as enjoyable for the whole family.

Beacon's Beach

11) Beacon’s Beach

Neighborhood:
Leucadia

At the base of a small trail down from the bluffs overhead, you’ll find Beacon’s Beach, a secluded spot that’s great for sunbathing in peace and quiet in Leucadia. Compared to other Leucadia beaches, Beacon’s Beach is far less crowded and primarily populated by locals, so you’re sure to find your ideal relaxing West Coast getaway there.

In addition to relaxing sunbathing, Beacon’s Beach also offers consistent and beginner-friendly surfing, so don’t be afraid to rent a board or take surfing lessons, even if you’ve never tried it before.

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Tips for Soaking Up Sun in San Diego

Turn an average beach day into an unforgettable experience with these simple tips.

Arrive Early

Many sunbathing beaches are very popular, so you’ll want to come early so you can claim the best possible spot, far away from any shade. Check out relevant information like parking and nearby hotels on each beach’s individual dedicated page to make this process as smooth as possible.

Book a Nearby Hotel

The best way to ensure you’re on the beach early enough to get the best sunbathing spot is to stay at a beachfront hotel.

You might consider the Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa, which is a luxury and boutique hotel with a beautiful pool, spa tub, and fitness center.

You can also book your stay at another hotel from our selection of the best hotels on the beach in San Diego.

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