Most Popular Beaches in San Diego

Many of San Diego’s beaches are popular tourist spots. See which ones draw the biggest crowds so you know where you absolutely must go on your vacation.
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See Everything San Diego Has to Offer At Its Most Popular Beaches

From the sandy shores of Pacific Beach where you can swim and sunbathe, to the cresting waves that give La Jolla its reputation as an incredible surfing spot, the beaches of San Diego California attract thousands of visitors every year for good reason.

San Diego has some of the finest weather with mild temperatures and primarily clear skies year-round making it one of the best beach cities on the West Coast, if not the entire country. With more than 75 spectacular beaches in the San Diego area, there’s truly something for everyone to love when they visit.

While you may have to deal with some crowds, the experiences you’ll have at the most popular beaches in the area are well worth it. Many are considered to be some of the overall best beaches in San Diego, especially if you’re looking for a place to take the family, or just somewhere to unwind as you enjoy your vacation or staycation.

What makes San Diego’s beaches so popular?

All the best California beaches stand out as the ideal place for anyone looking to get away, whether you’re visiting for just a weekend or you’re planning an extended stay. Here, you’ll find top-tier locations for swimming, picnicking, enjoying a boardwalk, kayaking, scuba diving, biking, snorkeling, and of course, surfing. You’ll also find a wide variety of beaches that appeal to different groups like families, couples, and young adults, meaning there’s a perfect spot on the beach with your name on it just waiting for you to find it.

The most popular beaches are those that offer the classic beach day experience. While you might not find especially challenging waves for surfing or the rocky shores necessary for the best tide pools, you can instead enjoy relaxing atmospheres, plenty of golden sand, and calm waters suitable for any level of swimming proficiency. The name of the game is relaxation, and these beaches deliver it in spades!

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Beginner and expert surfers alike will feel right at home at the San Diego beaches. The La Jolla beaches are an especially popular choice given the area’s long-standing connection to surf culture, but many surfers also ride the waves at Encinitas.

San Diego California has gorgeous weather year-round, which means you can visit these beaches and have a great time at any point in the year. Still, you may be asking yourself, ‘when is the best time to visit San Diego?’ It’s best to plan your trip around the best conditions for the activities you’re interested in.

If you’re trying to soak up as much sun as possible, go in late spring or summer; those looking to experience San Diego’s surfing culture for themselves, or who want to beat the heat while visiting local attractions should consider a fall vacation.

Whether you’re interested in renting beach equipment like surfboards, bikes, scuba gear, and snorkeling gear for a discounted price or you’re planning on hitting up some of the popular attractions near the beaches, you can’t go wrong with a Go San Diego Pass.

When you purchase this pass before your trip, you can save on many of San Diego’s most popular attractions and activities. You’ll even net yourself an additional discount by purchasing through our website where you can get an exclusive discount by using our promo code for the Go San Diego Pass.

Don’t wait any longer to plan the beach day you’ve been dreaming of. Check out these incredible beaches so you can surf, swim, and sunbathe to your heart’s content!

Tips for Making the Most of Your San Diego Beach Day

Follow Parking Guidelines

Many beaches have strict guidelines about where you are allowed to park nearby and what areas are off limits. Street parking may be available as well as pay lots or just beach access from neighborhood streets.

Make sure to check each of the dedicated beach pages on our site for more information about the best spots to park so you aren’t lugging your cooler for miles.

Beat the Crowds

Just because these beaches are popular doesn’t mean you have to put up with weekend overcrowding. Try visiting on the weekdays, or go early in the morning to secure your spot before other vacationers arrive.

A popular beach doesn’t have to mean a packed beach when you plan ahead!

Check the Schedule

Since these beaches are so popular, they’re often the site of many annual and pop-up attractions such as festivals and fireworks. Be sure to check for any upcoming events when you’re planning your trip so you can get in on the fun, or so you can avoid overcrowding and choose a day when the beach won’t be flooded with visitors.

Stay Close to One of the Beaches

There are plenty of hotels just off the shores of these popular beaches. For example, consider staying at the Grande Colonial La Jolla for a luxury hotel experience on the waterfront, complete with its own fitness equipment, business center, and free WiFi in the lobby.

The historic and picturesque Hotel Del Coronado is another excellent choice for those looking to stay near one of the most popular beaches, Coronado Central Beach. The hotel has been welcoming guests into its Victorian era halls since 1888, a true piece of San Diego history and worth a stay during your trip to San Diego.

Check Out Local Attractions

There’s no reason why a beach day has to be just a beach day!

Make the most of your trip by checking out the San Diego neighborhood of your chosen beach and finding some fun activities for you and your family. Whether you visit the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Oceanside or the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla, don’t forget that you can save on admission with an All-inclusive Go San Diego Pass as well.

La Jolla Cove

1) La Jolla Cove

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

If you’re looking for one of the best beaches to go swimming in San Diego, look no further than La Jolla Cove. This gorgeous beach is protected from strong currents and rip tides by the rocky point, which means the waves are perfect for a relaxing dip in the ocean, even for beginner swimmers and young kids. Scuba divers and snorkelers also frequent the calm, clear waters.

La Jolla Cove comes complete with a wide, sandy shore perfect for beachside activities like getting a tan, taking pictures of the sea lions that sometimes sun themselves on the nearby bluffs, playing a few rounds of beach volleyball, and watching the sunset in the evening.

It’s easy to see just why this beach is one of the most popular options on the West Coast if you’re looking for an ideal place to enjoy a lazy afternoon.

La Jolla Shores

2) La Jolla Shores

Neighborhood:
La Jolla

Like many other Southern California beaches in the La Jolla neighborhood, La Jolla Shores beach is a popular choice for vacationers seeking somewhere to unwind and enjoy the rays. It’s most well-known for its excellent swimming, as there are few waves, as well as its extra large sandy shores with plenty of space to lay out your towels and beach umbrellas.

La Jolla Shores is a vacationer’s paradise, thanks in part to its popularity, which has allowed many businesses to support themselves just off the coast. Enjoy authentic food at one of the many restaurants and street cafés scattered along the shoreline, take a peek underwater with a full day snorkel rental with your Go Pass, and enjoy other San Diego favorites like kayaking and paddle boarding.

While plenty of La Jolla beaches have challenging waves, the calmer and more consistent waves of this La Jolla beach, formally known as La Jolla Shores beach, make it the perfect spot for beginners to rent a surfboard or take some surf lessons as well.

Coronado Central Beach

3) Coronado Central Beach

Neighborhood:
Coronado Island

Looking for a beautiful beach with plenty of white sand and calm waves perfect for swimming? You’ll find it at Coronado Central Beach!

Right in the heart of Coronado Island, this beach is a great spot for a laid-back afternoon soaking up the sun and some of enjoying the clear, calm waters that make San Diego so famous.

Coronado Central Beach is considered one of the most popular beaches in San Diego for families, with kid-friendly stretches of flat, sandy shore where you can prop up an umbrella or canopy. It offers plenty of space for sunbathing and other fun activities like biking or strolling along the shoreline. There are also plenty of photo opportunities, where you can capture the beautiful coastline and a breathtaking sunset.

Pacific Beach

4) Pacific Beach - Just South of the Pier

Neighborhood:
Pacific Beach

If you’re in search of somewhere you can surf with an incredible beach to match, make sure to head to Pacific Beach. It’s part of a very popular stretch of beaches known as The Strand, and it more than earns its place as an ideal vacation spot as a picturesque San Diego coastline.

Pacific Beach offers beachgoers a whole host of fun activities for all ages. Beginner surfers can rent a surfboard and enjoy the waves, while those seeking a more relaxing beach day experience are free to swim and sunbathe. Other water activities popular on the beach include paddle boarding, body surfing, and kiteboarding. You will also be able to find a lifeguard at the lifeguard stations every day of the year!

Even if you’re not keen on getting in the water, you can still enjoy yourself at Pacific Beach. Make sure to check out the boardwalk, which is popular with surfers, skateboarders, runners and walkers alongside the usual family crowds.

Mission Beach

5) Mission Beach

Neighborhood:
Mission Beach

Mission Beach is one of the many San Diego beaches with major attractions nearby. Not to be confused with Mission Bay, a man-made bay not far from the beach that’s great for picnics, paddle boarding, swimming and surfing, Mission Beach faces west along the Pacific Ocean.

Just a few short steps away from the beach you’ll find Belmont Park, an amusement park with plenty of rides and games for kids and young adults. Combine a trip to Belmont Park with any of the other excellent attractions included with the Go San Diego Pass for a fun-filled day at a fraction of the standard cost.

While the boardwalk park is exciting, don’t forget to spend some time on the beach too! Mission Beach is most well-known for its surfing, which is suitable for all skill levels. There’s also plenty of space on the beach, so you can play a few games of beach volleyball, go for a jog, or just soak up some sun.

6) Del Mar Powerhouse Park & Beach

Neighborhood:

Powerhouse Park is located at the southern end of Del Mar South Beach & 15th Street. The park has a wide grassy area that’s great for all kinds of outdoor activities. Whether you’re planning on enjoying a brunch picnic, taking a scenic walk, or playing frisbee, there’s plenty of space for everyone to enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather.

Next to the park is a beautiful beach that’s more well-known with locals than it is with the usual tourist crowds. This makes it an excellent spot for a secluded getaway and one of the most popular beaches in San Diego for couples. The beach itself is fairly narrow here, but there are some excellent waves for intermediate-level surfers who want to rent a board and dive in.

The low tides at Del Mar Powerhouse Park and Beach make it an excellent spot for beachcombing, and you may even spot a tide pool or two. Hit the scenic trail along the bluffs nearby if you’re looking for the best views for photo ops.

Moonlight State Beach

7) Moonlight State Beach

Neighborhood:
Encinitas

Moonlight State Beach is another picturesque beach that makes for a great romantic getaway for couples. As the name implies, the beach really stands out in the evening, with plenty of space for gathering around a fire pit and watching the sunset.

The beach has designated sections for surfing and swimming. The waves tend to be calm and welcoming to beginner surfers, which means swimmers don’t have to worry about avoiding many strong rip tides. All of this makes Moonlight State Beach an ideal place for relaxation and one of San Diego’s most popular beaches.

8) Pier View North

Neighborhood:

Just a little ways off from the pier, you’ll find Pier View North, one of the most popular beaches in Oceanside. Like many Oceanside beaches, this is a great spot for surfing, though North Beach generally maintains a laid-back atmosphere with fewer challenging waves in the warmer months. Still, these waves can get quite large during the winter, so consider taking a few surfing lessons to brush up on your skills.

Beachgoers can also kayak and paddle board, and many people fish off the pier. Additionally, Pier View North offers a great chance to check out some local wildlife. Pelicans frequently land on the pier, and if you look closely, you just might spot a dolphin or seal among the waves.

9) Sunset Cliffs

Neighborhood:

Beach access is fairly limited at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. You’re not going to find the typical sprawling, sandy, family-friendly beach here. What you will find, however, is a pristine coastline view and an excellent point from which to watch the sunset in the evening.

The setting sun reflecting on the glittering ocean waves makes for a can’t-miss photo opportunity, which is part of the reason why Sunset Cliffs is one of the most popular beaches in San Diego for millennials. Other common activities include surfing, birdwatching, hiking the trails, and checking out the tide pools at one of the best named beaches in San Diego, No Surf Beach.

Pacific Beach

10) North Pacific Beach

Neighborhood:
Pacific Beach

North Pacific Beach is just as popular with families looking for a getaway as it is with those looking for beginner-friendly water sports. Notable features include the tall bluffs that protect the beach from excessive beach and the nearby boardwalk. Of course, one of the biggest draws at this beach is the surfing and the big open sandy beach!

While the waves aren’t especially challenging here, they’re great for beginners fresh from their first surfing lesson and ready to try out what they’ve learned. The best waves arrive at medium to high tide, and since there are few rocky outcroppings, visitors can enjoy a relaxing and safe experience. For added safety, there are lifeguard stations on the beach in case of any trouble.

Other popular activities at North Pacific Beach include paddle boarding, kiteboarding, fishing, swimming, and windsurfing. There’s even a dedicated family area for vacationers and locals with younger children.

Fletcher Cove Beach

11) Fletcher Cove Beach

Neighborhood:
Solana Beach

Located just off the highway in Solana Beach, Fletcher Cove Beach is an ideal spot for families. It offers a nearby park with picnic tables, a secluded cove protected from strong waves and winds by the surrounding bluffs, and a breathtaking view overlooking the Pacific Ocean at sunset.

During low tide, there’s plenty of space to spread out and do some sunbathing and light swimming. Rent a paddle board or kayak and enjoy the calm waters, or wander the beach and check out the tide pools. As high tide approaches, Fletcher Cove Beach becomes an incredible spot for some laid-back surfing and bodyboarding.

Fletcher Cove Beach is also home to the annual Fiesta del Sol music festival, one of the biggest events on beaches in San Diego.

12) Honorable Mentions

Neighborhood:

With so many amazing beaches throughout San Diego, it can be tough to name just a few as many beaches are popular to different people for many different reasons.

Others worth mentioning and exploring for yourself include Ocean Beach Dog Beach, an especially popular dog beach in San Diego and for pet lovers of all types, Imperial Beach home to diverse wildlife, birdwatching and casual surfing and Silver Strand State Beach, one of Coronado Island’s finest and most popular beaches.

Also considered for our list of the most popular beaches in San Diego were Black’s Beach and Windansea Beach, two of the most iconic and popular surf beaches in Southern California.

South Mission Beach, home to a popular boardwalk and The Dana on Mission Bay, a family-friendly hotel and amazing place to stay during your trip to San Diego and Del Mar City Beach, home to miles of sand and the five star L'Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa, a real treat for those looking for a bit of luxury on their trip are also both very popular and worth exploring during your trip to San Diego.

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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.

Popular Activities

Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
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The World Famous San Diego Zoo
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
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Visit SeaWorld San Diego
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
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Surf Lessons in La Jolla
Surf Lessons in La Jolla
$69 per person
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Beach function, Kona Kai Resort & Spa, A Noble House Resort
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Tours & Adventures
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
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The World Famous San Diego Zoo
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
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