Most Beautiful Beaches in San Diego

Whether you’re looking for fun in the sun or a closer look at the natural beauty of San Diego, these beautiful beaches will impress visitors of all ages.
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Explore the Most Beautiful Shores and Seas in San Diego

San Diego is the ideal spot for a picture perfect honeymoon, a romantic couples’ retreat, or a family-friendly day with plenty of photos to add to the scrapbook. You’re sure to make long-lasting memories when you visit the most beautiful beaches the West Coast has to offer, especially since many of them are also on the list of the best beaches in all of San Diego.

Beautiful Southern California beaches come in all shapes and sizes. Some are thinner beaches surrounded by bluffs and gorgeous clear waves, while others are sprawling, sandy coastlines with plenty of space to relax and soak up the atmosphere. Whatever your preference is, you’re guaranteed to find something unique and breathtaking.

Incredible views are only highlighted by the year-round amazing weather. You can take full advantage of blue skies and mild temperatures with a Go San Diego Pass, which not only lets you rent equipment like surfboards, paddleboards, and kayaks at a discount, but also offers a reduced rate on many local attractions like the Japanese Friendship Garden and Coronado Museum of History & Art.

Read on to check out our list of San Diego’s most beautiful beaches!

Most Beautiful Beaches

Seascape Beach

1) Seascape Beach

Neighborhood:
Solana Beach

Seascape Beach offers multiple vantage points from which you can look out over the shimmering ocean and sandy shores. Walk along the cliffside just before the beach for some great photoshoots in front of the shore, or climb down the stairs into the beach area for a more up close and personal view.

Look out at the breathtaking backdrop as you do all your favorite beachside activities, including swimming, sunbathing, jogging, longboarding, and bodyboarding.

Seascape Beach doesn’t have the best waves in San Diego, but it’s still a great place to surf if you’re looking for somewhere a little less crowded, especially in the winter. Both intermediate level and beginner surfers fresh from a surfing lesson will enjoy an appropriate level of challenge, so be sure to rent a board before you walk down the long flight of stairs leading to the shore.

Blacks Beach

2) Black’s Beach

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

Black’s Beach includes not only a beautiful beach, but also incredible views at the nearby Torrey Pines State Reserve. Full of hiking trails and coastal areas, the preserve offers a direct view of San Diego nature that has been almost entirely undisturbed by development, providing the perfect window for getting in touch with the neutral world on your vacation.

When you tire yourself out hiking, stretch out on the beach for some sunbathing, or hit the water for swimming and surfing. Like many other La Jolla beaches, Black’s Beach is best experienced with a surfboard rental, boasting some world-class waves great for more advanced surfers. In winter, already large waves get even bigger, making the beach a popular spot for many local professionals.

Keep in mind that Black’s Beach is clothing optional in the sectioned-off portion closest to Torrey Pines Reserve. It’s a great spot for an all-over tan, but you might want to think twice about travelling to the far north end of the beach if you’re visiting with your family.

Coronado Central Beach

3) Coronado Central Beach

Neighborhood:
Coronado Island

Coronado Central Beach is a stretch of coastline on Coronado Island that looks like it was pulled right out of a vacation brochure. With a huge sandy beach and glistening, clear waters, this beach is the perfect place for anyone looking to soak up the sun and dip their toes into the waves that lap the shore.

Coronado Central is very popular with families, and it boasts a very laid back attitude. It’s not uncommon to see sandcastle sculptures dotting the shoreline in between beach chairs and towels. Visitors will also enjoy the boardwalk that stretches along the beach and goes in front of the Hotel del Coronado.

The wide shoreline of sparkling white sand is the perfect spot for some beach volleyball or frisbee. If you’re more interested in the water, try your hand at paddle boarding, and save by renting a board rather than lugging one from home.

North Pacific Beach

4) North Pacific Beach

Neighborhood:
Pacific Beach

With good waves and a wide, sprawling shoreline, North Pacific Beach in Pacific Beach is one of the best San Diego beaches for families, especially those with younger kids looking for a more laid-back experience. It’s a popular spot to sunbathe and cool off in the waves, or to bike along the beach during the golden hour.

In addition to the nearby boardwalk which provides entertainment for all ages, North Pacific Beach has multiple outposts for stunning views. Take photos at sunset on the pier, or enjoy a bright and beautiful San Diego day on one of the most picturesque beaches in the area. You can even try your hand at some beginner-level surfing if you rent a board or take a class.

North Pacific Beach is a popular spot for all kinds of beach day activities. These include all the usual suspects like sunbathing, swimming, surfing and paddle boarding, as well as more adventurous exploits such as windsurfing and kiteboarding. It’s common to see some recreational fishing off the pier as well.

Windansea Beach

5) Windansea Beach

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

Windansea Beach in La Jolla is best known as a surfing spot, featuring excellent waves for experienced swimmers who want to rent a board and challenge themselves. It’s home to the Surf Shack, a local landmark with deep roots in San Diego surfing culture. Of course, that’s not all this beautiful beach has to offer.

While the main draw is the surf, visitors will also enjoy the natural beauty of this secluded cove among the bluffs. Enjoy the “wind and sea” from which the beach gets its name with a relaxing day of sunbathing, or stroll along the shore at low tide to check out the tide pools and the sea creatures within them.

As one of La Jolla’s most prominent beaches, there’s a little something for everyone at Windansea.

Terramar Beach

6) Terramar Beach

Neighborhood:
Carlsbad

If you’re in the mood for a fairly secluded beach but you still want beautiful shores, check out Terramar Beach in Carlsbad. While the beach itself is somewhat narrow compared to other wide, sandy beaches, it still offers an excellent vantage point from which to look out over the ocean and take some incredible photos to commemorate your trip.

You’ll also want to visit at low tide so you can see the tide pools that form. The regular but fairly calm waves make this an excellent spot for swimming and surfing, even for beginners who are just trying surfing for the first time.

Looking for an especially breathtaking view? Try the cliffs overlooking the beach, which offer a whole new view of the gorgeous San Diego beach’s scenery.

Boneyards

7) Boneyards

Neighborhood:
Encinitas

Boneyards in Encinitas can be a little tricky for out-of-towners to find thanks to its secluded location, but it’s well worth the voyage for the stunning backdrop alone. Check out the bluff for a great view of the ocean horizon, or enjoy the picturesque combination of palm trees and the cliffside. Either way, the beauty of Boneyards is remarkable.

Surfing is especially popular at Boneyards. Beginners will want to visit in the summer, when the waves are smaller and calmer. Experienced surfers will find more enjoyment in renting a board in the fall or winter to surf the bigger swells.

Boneyards is a clothing-optional beach, so keep this in mind when you’re planning a trip!

Swami's

8) Swami’s

Neighborhood:
Encinitas

Swami’s, also in Encinitas, is known for its world-class surfing with challenging waves, and it’s similarly popular for other water sports like paddle boarding. Of course, that’s far from all this excellent beach has to offer.

In addition to the many grassy areas just off the coastline, the rockier stretches of land near the shore make Swami’s a great place to look at tide pools.

Visitors will also enjoy the nearby meditation gardens, which are part of the Self-Realization Center that gives the beach its name. Experience native San Diego flora and fauna up-close and personal, and let yourself truly relax in nature.

Both Swami’s and the Moonlight State Beach a little ways to the north offer uniquely gorgeous views at night time. Looking out at a moonlit beach is a view like no other, which makes this a popular spot for couples.

Stone Steps Beach

9) Stone Steps Beach

Neighborhood:
Encinitas

Stone Steps Beach, located in Encinitas, features crystal clear water and a narrow but extensive beach area full of glistening white sand. It’s a popular spot for strolls along the shore, especially when combined with beach combing and people watching, but many vacationers also like to sunbathe and play some beach volleyball before cooling off in the water.

Surfing is popular here as well, but be warned that the surf can be unpredictable. Some days have incredible waves, while others have mild tides that are few and far between. Your best bet is to check out the beach first, then decide whether or not you want to rent a surfboard or enjoy another of the many fun activities possible at this beach.

It’s important to note that, as the name implies, access to the beach by a steep set of stone stairs. If you need a more accessible beach, this may not be the spot for you, but fitness buffs looking to add a little exercise to their beach day will enjoy the moderate challenge.

Beacon's Beach

10) Beacon’s Beach

Neighborhood:
Leucadia

With incredible bluffs as a backdrop and a gently sloping rocky shoreline, Beacon’s Beach in Leucadia is truly a sight to behold that stands out among some of the more stereotypical San Diego beaches. This is a great spot for a unique experience and some excellent photo opportunities, especially if you stick around until sunset, when the sky and sea light up in orange and red hues.

This is a more secluded beach, so there’s little worry of other beachgoers photobombing your carefully crafted shots. But just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean there’s nothing to entertain yourself with there. On the contrary, popular activities at Beacon’s Beach include everything from sunbathing and swimming to surfing that’s accessible to pros and beginners alike.

Bring a surfboard or paddle board and take full advantage of this hidden gem to make the most out of your trip.

Oceanside Boulevard Beach & Buccaneer Beach

11) Buccaneer Beach

Neighborhood:
Oceanside

At the southern end of Oceanside is Buccaneer Beach, which is a popular spot for families with plenty of eateries and picnic areas just off the shore. The beach is especially gorgeous when the tide comes in, as the sunlight reflects off the glistening waves to create an unforgettable view.

The combination of narrow but long shores and a grassy park bordering the sand makes Buccaneer Beach a great spot for sunbathing, strolling, and frisbee tossing. Swimming, wading, and bodyboarding are especially popular with the calmer summer waves, when parts of the beach are sectioned off to prevent collisions with surfers.

Those looking to hang ten should aim for the late summer and early fall months. The rockier terrain in the ocean here means surfing is a little more challenging, so it’s best left to intermediate or experienced surfers who are ready to rent a board or bring their own and try their hand at a real challenge.

Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

12) Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Neighborhood:
Imperial Beach

When you think of a typical beach experience, you likely picture something very different from the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge located in the southern end of Imperial Beach, but the beach’s intimate connection to nature makes it all the more special.

The beach is gorgeous with plenty of spots perfect for surfing, snorkeling, and kiteboarding, but the real draw is the varied landscape surrounding the area.

On clear days, which are more often than not the case in San Diego, you can stand on the beach and catch sight of Coronado Islands just past the border of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean. The surrounding wildlife refuge is home to hundreds of unique and endangered bird species, so you’ll want to bring along a pair of binoculars if you’re interested in getting a good look at both the islands and the wildlife.

A rocky path connects the beach to the greater preserve, which includes scrublands, dunes, and wetlands. Walking the preserve is a great way to make your vacation truly memorable, especially if you’re interested in seeing local wildlife up close and personal.

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Attractions that you can visit with a Go San Diego Pass include:

The San Diego Zoo, Birch Aquarium, SeaWorld, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, Harbor Cruise, USS Midway Museum, the NAT Museum, Whaley House, PETCO Park Tour, iFLY San Diego and many, many more!

Tips for Navigating The Beaches

If you want to ensure your vacation, staycation, or day trip is a resounding success, check out these must-know tips so you can get the most out of your time on the beach.

Stay On the Beach

No one likes a long commute, so skip the traffic by booking a hotel right on the beach.

One top pick is the Hotel Del Coronado, which is a mere few steps away from Coronado Central Beach. There you’ll enjoy a four star, family-friendly experience with waterfront views from your hotel window as well as a fantastic pool and fitness center complete with instructors.

Local Tips
Did you know?
Coronado Central Beach is on the Travel Channels “Top 10 US Beaches” list.

Check Parking Before You Go

If you opt to stay a little further away from the coast, make sure you check out the parking situation before getting in the car in the morning.

Many beaches do not have parking lots, while others have designated lots for your convenience. You don’t want to miss out on snagging that perfect spot for sunbathing because you couldn’t find a spot to park!

Another option is to take one of San Diego’s many public transportation options like a local rideshare with Uber or Lyft and skip parking all together!

Consider the Season

The best season for visiting these beaches depends on what activities you’re interested in doing!

If you want to surf, the colder months generally offer larger waves, while those looking to soak up the sun and heat before cooling off with a swim might be more interested in a spring or summertime visit.

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