Best Surfing Beaches in San Diego

Surfing is deep rooted as part of San Diego’s culture. These beaches have the best waves & surfing conditions that San Diego has to offer for all skill levels.
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Ride the Waves and Enjoy the Sun at San Diego’s Premier Surfing Beaches

San Diego is absolutely inseparable from surfing culture!

With dozens of beaches and the perfect year-round sunny and clear weather, it’s no surprise that surfing became so popular on the West Coast, Southern California nor that it found a home in San Diego in particular. Neighborhoods like La Jolla, Point Loma and Encinitas serve as hubs for wave enthusiasts, but you can find excellent spots to surf just about anywhere you go in San Diego.

If you’re a beginner surfer, you’ll find beautiful and manageable waves at many of the best beaches in San Diego. If you’re more experienced and confident in your abilities, however, you’ll find that there are plenty of opportunities to put your skills to the test at local beaches.

Check out some of the best point breaks, reef breaks and beach breaks San Diego has to offer, many of which are nationally recognized for their incredible surfing conditions.

Local Tips
Seasonal Surfing
Surfing conditions are affected by the weather just as much as they are by the location.

Both beginners looking to spot local legends and experts in search of a challenge can benefit from investing in a Go San Diego Pass, which offers discounted rates on surfing lessons and board rentals. The Go Pass is also a great way to see various attractions for cheap, so make sure to grab a pass with our exclusive promo code for an additional discount.

Consider going on the San Diego beach tour to get the lay of the land, or learn about marine life at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, both part of the pass!

Grab a board and get ready for a fun day in the surf at one of San Diego’s best surfing beaches!

Best Surfing Beaches

Blacks Beach

1) Black’s Beach

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

Black’s Beach is very popular with students and other locals, in part thanks to its more secluded location and the fact that it is the closest beach to UC San Diego. You might not find it on most tourist brochures, but if you’re looking for a great place to surf, don’t count it out just because it’s not one of the most popular San Diego beaches.

The best and most challenging surf spot can be found toward the southern end of the beach, especially during the wintertime. There, an underwater canyon creates very powerful waves that are suitable for only the most experienced surfers. Less confident surfers may want to try their hands at the northern end, closer to the nearby state park, Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Black’s Beach is notable for having a clothing optional section near the Torrey Pines State Reserve, which can be a fun and unique experience for locals and tourists alike.

Windansea Beach

2) Windansea Beach

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

There are few better places in San Diego to get in a few hours of surfing than at Windansea Beach in La Jolla, and none nearly as iconic as this local landmark. Windansea has long played a part in San Diego’s surfing history as the home of the Surf Shack, but the main draw has always been the waves themselves.

The currents here are strong and fast, which makes them suitable for surfers looking for a challenge. Plenty of pros frequent the beach, so you can spend your time either surfing yourself or sitting back and learning from the best. Other popular activities at Windansea include paddle boarding and looking at the tide pools during low tide.

Swami's

3) Swami’s

Neighborhood:
Encinitas

Swami’s in Encinitas is a great spot for surfers with a lot of experience under their belts. The point break creates plenty of long waves, though you’ll need to paddle out pretty far to ride the best waves this beach has to offer.

In addition to tide pools and plenty of shady spots for relaxing and picnicking, Swami’s is part of a Self-Realization Fellowship that provides the perfect spot to rest after a long day of surfing. The center includes its own meditation gardens full of local and exotic flora, which contributes to the relaxed, zen atmosphere at the beach.

Donut's Surf Break

4) Donut’s Surf Break

Neighborhood:
Point Loma

You’ll need to take a boat if you want to reach the best waves at Donut’s Surf Break in Point Loma, but for serious surfers, the experience is well worth the price of entry!

Due to its steep difficulty and unusual location, Donut’s is rarely crowded, so it’s the preferred spot for many local professionals in search of some of the toughest waves in San Diego.

Keep in mind that surfing here can be risky for the inexperienced, so you should only surf here if you’re ready to tackle these large waves. Wiping out could mean an unfortunate encounter with the rocks and spiky sea urchins on the ocean floor, not to mention the rip tides. You’ll also want to be a strong swimmer to surf here, as you don’t want to end up with a trespassing ticket if you drift too close to shore, as the beach is part of the military base in Point Loma.

If you have the skills and the weather conditions are just right, though, the waves at Donut’s Surf Break make for a truly unique and unforgettable experience.

Garbage Beach & AB's

5) Garbage Beach & AB’s

Neighborhood:
Sunset Cliffs

Garbage Beach & AB’s in Sunset Cliffs feature incredible reef break waves just off the wide, sandy shore. While many surfing beaches tend to be rocky along the coast, this surf spot is just the opposite, meaning just as many people go to sunbathe as they do for the huge waves.

The risk of wiping out isn’t quite so steep here, as most rocks on the ocean floor are flat and smooth. As a result, both Garbage Beach and AB’s have become popular spots for intermediate to advanced level surfers.

It’s not unusual to see a surfing tournament held at Garbage Beach either, so be sure to check for upcoming events when planning your visit.

Bird Rock Beach

6) Bird Rock Beach

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

Bird Rock Beach, in La Jolla, gets its name from the towering rock a few hundred feet off the coast. While the structure no longer looks like the bird from which it got its name thanks to erosion, it’s become a popular spot for birdwatchers thanks to the variety of species that regularly gather and roost on the rock.

The beach is very rocky with no room to sunbathe comfortably, so it’s become predominantly known for its surfing conditions.

Surfing here is best during high tide, when you can enjoy consistent swells and the occasional barrel. Most surfers will want to ride a shortboard rather than a longboard. During low tide, it becomes difficult to surf, so some visitors bide their time at the tide pools that form along the rocky beach instead.

Boneyards

7) Boneyard’s

Neighborhood:
Encinitas

While some come to Boneyard’s, in Encinitas, to get an all-over tan in the clothing-optional section of the beach, many more show up to enjoy the excellent surfing conditions!

If you’re looking to try your hand, keep in mind that the size and difficulty of waves here can vary significantly, so always take a moment to examine the surf before you head out into the water. On most days, the waves are suitable for all skill levels, especially during the spring and summer.

Generally, waves from the left are a bit more difficult and unpredictable than those coming from the right, but an experienced surfer can handle just about anything Boneyard’s can throw at them. Just be sure not to tire yourself out on the trip to this secluded beach, as all access points require a fair bit of walking.

North Jetty, Harbor Beach & Breakwater Way Beach

8) North Jetty & Harbor Beach

Neighborhood:
Oceanside

If you’re in search of a picturesque stretch of coastline with plenty of space for all kinds of beach day activities, be sure to check out North Jetty & Harbor Beach in Oceanside. There’s plenty to do here, including everything from sunbathing and beach volleyball to ocean activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, and of course surfing!

The jetty creates excellent breaks for surfing that are fun without being too overwhelming for newer surfers. The waves at Harbor Beach tend to be more unpredictable, but not impossible to surf if you know what you’re doing.

Del Mar South Beach & 15th Street

9) 15th Street Beach

Neighborhood:
Del Mar

At Del Mar South Beach, as you head toward the narrowest part of the coast, you’ll come across the surfing hotspot that is 15th Street Beach. With easy access to excellent reef breaks, there are plenty of fast waves that are still suitable for less experienced surfers.

This beach is fairly out of the way, so it’s not nearly as crowded as more popular surfing spots. It’s the perfect place to rent a surfboard if you want to enjoy a full day of riding the waves without having to deal with any large crowds or wayward swimmers.

PB Point / False Point

10) PB Point/False Point

Neighborhood:
Pacific Beach

PB Point, also known as False Point, isn’t an ideal beach for sunbathing thanks to its rocky coastline. Instead, it’s found popularity with surfers, who appreciate the quick waves and especially large winter waves.

This spot, on the northernmost end of Pacific Beach, is better for more experienced surfers, especially when cold weather and winds make the waves a little rougher, though intermediate-level surfers can still enjoy themselves here in the summer months. Waves are especially consistent, often breaking at the same spot, which makes it a great training ground.

Tourmaline Surf Park

11) Tourmaline Surf Park

Neighborhood:
Pacific Beach

Tourmaline Surf Park, in Pacific Beach, is dedicated entirely to the water. It’s one of the more laid-back San Diego beaches where people come to kiteboard, windsurf, and paddleboard. It’s also home to a big surfing community.

The waves here tend to be large but fairly safe to surf for most skill levels. You’ll find different kinds of waves at each of the three main breaks, these being Pumphouse, Old Man’s, and Channels.

The Pumphouse break is a standard beach break. Old Man’s has slower waves that are accessible to beginners, and Channels has fast but fairly small waves. The variety at each of these spots means just about anyone with a rental board can enjoy their day here.

Ralph's Surf Break

12) Ralph’s Surf Break

Neighborhood:
Point Loma

Very experienced surfers who aren’t put off by more dangerous surfing conditions should check out Ralph’s Surf Break, in Point Loma!

Like Donut’s Break, Ralph’s Surf Break is only accessible by boat. Additionally, the rocky bottom and undertows here can make it quite dangerous for beginner surfers, so it may not be the best choice for everyone.

For those looking to rise to the challenge, however, Ralph’s is one of the most unique surf spots in all of San Diego, and definitely worth checking out for its large barrels. Just avoid the sea urchins and keep an eye out for sharks, which have occasionally been spotted in the ocean here.

Be sure to not touch the beach as it is also part of the Military base and you will get a trespassing ticket.

Grandview Surf Beach

13) Grandview Surf Beach

Neighborhood:
Leucadia

If you want to beat the tourist crowds, head to Grandview Surf Beach in Leucadia, which is much more of a local beach in a mostly residential location.

Grandview’s waves are calm and consistent, making it a great spot for a surfing lesson for beginners. Still, longboarders of all skill levels can find something to love here, especially since you won’t have to vie for space.

Keep in mind that you must head down a steep staircase to access Grandview Surf Beach, and that the beach lacks certain facilities like bathrooms. These factors make it a less convenient place to spend the day for some, but if you’re willing to trade convenience for solitude, it may be well worth the trip.

Beacon's Beach

14) Beacon’s Beach

Neighborhood:
Leucadia

A rocky beach with just a bit of sand, Beacon’s Beach is located at the southern end of Leucadia State Beach in Leucadia. It’s a little secluded with thin crowds, so the thinner coastline isn’t much of a problem for those looking to secure a good spot.

The main draw at Beacon’s Beach is the surfing. Everyone from beginners to old pros can enjoy the consistent waves and clear waters here. Right and left waves from the beach break provide the perfect amount of difficulty without the risk of disturbing the laid-back atmosphere.

Stone Steps Beach

15) Stone Steps Beach

Neighborhood:
Encinitas

Another remote surfing spot, Stone Steps Beach, in Encinitas, isn’t very popular with the tourists, but that doesn’t mean you should write it off right away. Fitness buffs enjoy running up and down the stairs near the entrance and walking along the beach, and many surfers enjoy the waves here.

The surf at Stone Steps Beach is far less consistent than at many other San Diego beaches. Waves are usually small and fairly easy, even for beginners, which could make for a boring day.

However, when conditions are right, there are some truly powerful and exciting waves. Check the weather, then decide if you want to rent a surfboard or not for the day.

Tamarack Surf Beach

16) Tamarack Surf Beach

Neighborhood:
Carlsbad

Tamarack Surf Beach, also known as Carlsbad State Beach in Carlsbad, is unsurprisingly a great place to ride the waves. It has a very relaxed atmosphere with lots of space for sunbathing and other beach day activities like fishing and swimming. If you want to spend time in the water, make sure to rent the proper gear so you can paddle board, kayak, scuba dive, or surf.

Waves are regular and long, making them perfect for more experienced surfers looking for hollow waves and light winds. There can be an undertow and there are some rocks along the ocean floor, but if you can avoid wiping out, Tamarack Surf Beach offers a great all-around surfing experience.

Go Surfing with Go Pass!
La Jolla - Surf Board Rental
La Jolla - Surf Board Rental
La Jolla is home to some of the world's best beaches for surfing, and with your Go Pass, you can enjoy this experience. Whether you are a rookie or a pro, get a full day Surf Board rental. The waters are perfect for those learning.
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What activities does the Go Pass include?

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

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

Tips for Visiting one of San Diego’ Best Surfing Beaches

Get the most enjoyment out of your surfing excursions by following these simple tips and tricks.

Seasonal Surfing

Surfing conditions are affected by the weather just as much as they are by the location.

Thrill seekers should book their trips for the colder months, which are still quite temperate in San Diego, as there are larger and more powerful waves in the winter. Less confident surfers might consider a summer vacation instead.

Stay Nearby

Get on the beach early to beat the crowds by staying at a nearby hotel. Waterfront lodging like the Pantai Inn in La Jolla offers a luxury and boutique experience with plenty of amenities, including WiFi, a health club, a fitness center, and a shuttle.

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