Coronado Central Beach vs North Pacific Beach

Choosing between Coronado Central Beach and North Pacific Beach for your next trip can be a difficult one. We’re here with the details to help you decide.
Jessica VanHook
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.
Coronado Central Beach vs North Pacific Beach
Beach Battle Basics
Natural Features & Hotels
Save on Gear
Recreational Activities
Beach Feel & Crowds
ADA, Parking & Amenities
Safety & Rules
Overall Winner

Highlights

Coronado Central Beach vs North Pacific Beach
Scenery
Parking
Final Verdict
Coronado Central Beach vs North Pacific Beach
Scenery
Parking
Final Verdict

The Battle of Two of San Diego’s Biggest & Best Beaches

Looking at Hotel del Coronado over the beach bluffsLow Tide at North Pacific Beach

Both popular with families, if you’re looking for a big open beach perfect for sandcastles and beach games, Coronado Central Beach and North Pacific Beach are excellent options for your next trip to the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

Coronado Central Beach and North Pacific Beach offer many of the same features including excellent sunbathing spots, calm and gentle waves for swimming, and free parking, restrooms, and shower facilities.

Palisades Park at Law Street at North Pacific Beach
Palisades Park at Law Street at North Pacific Beach

At the same time, each also offers its own unique features and activities from biking trails to towering cliffs to beach volleyball and frisbee to ADA-accessibility.

With so many factors to consider, it can be hard to pick which one would be a better fit for you and your family on your next San Diego vacation.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the shared and unique features of each beach to help you decide between the two!

Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Central Beach
Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Central Beach

Let’s Start With Location

It’s an easy place to begin our ultimate comparison by considering the location of each beach.

Where Exactly is Coronado Central Beach?

When we talk about Coronado Central Beach, you’ll be located across the Coronado Bridge from the Downtown San Diego area of course on Coronado Island. You’ll cross the beautiful San Diego Bay to get there, but not be far from the Embarcadero, USS Midway and all the bay has to offer.

The area has a nice family feel where you can build sandcastles while gazing off at the nearby iconic Hotel Del Coronado.

Where Exactly is North Pacific Beach?

North Pacific Beach is north of the Downtown San Diego area and the San Diego International Airport (SAN) on the coast just north of Mission Beach and Mission Bay. You won’t be far from SeaWorld San Diego and the beaches and shopping in La Jolla are not far to the north of the beach as well.

The feel is a bit more lively with surfing and sunbathing on the menu. You’ll have a boardwalk, beach shops and dining close at hand. Given all that it offers, our team thinks that it’s one of the best beach locations in San Diego!

Local Tips
Avoid the Crowds
During peak vacation season or during the middle of the day, traffic can be heavy. The best option is to visit on a weekday to avoid the crowds. But if you do come on the weekends, know that it can be a bit crowded so I say arrive early to secure a prime location.

Popular Hotels Nearby
Popular Hotels
Price
Loews Coronado Bay Resort
$302
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Hotel del Coronado
$374
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Hotel Marisol Coronado
$237
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Natural Features, Scenery & Great Hotels on the Beaches

Both beaches will offer you a wide and sandy ocean front spanning the length of the beach.

Let’s start with a few features of the beaches and I’ll share my picks for the best hotel on each beach as well!

Aerial View of Coronado Central Beach
Aerial View of Coronado Central Beach

Natural Features & Scenery at Coronado Central Beach

Coronado Central Beach is especially known for its sparkling white mica sand, which attracts visitors and San Diegans alike. It also features a biking trail as well as a beach trail for those looking for a fun excursion.

Beach Chairs in Front of Hotel Del Coronado
Beach Chairs in Front of Hotel Del Coronado

My Pick for the Best Hotel on Coronado Central Beach

With hundreds of hotels spread throughout San Diego, picking my favorite hotel can be a tough call. Luckily at Coronado Central Beach, it’s a very easy choice!

The magnificent Hotel del Coronado sits as a majestic backdrop to its beautiful waterfront expanse. The hotel is an iconic and historical landmark in San Diego perfect for a couple or romantic getaway and thus it’s my pick as the best hotel for a stay in the area.

If you’re looking for a weekend of swimming, sunbathing, and beach volleyball, book a room at the Hotel del Coronado to be at the doorstep of the beach. The hotel also offers many amazing experiences year-round from Easter Brunch to movies on the beach to cabana parties and VR snorkeling.

Looking North from North Pacific Beach
Looking North from North Pacific Beach

Natural Features and Scenery at North Pacific Beach

North Pacific Beach lies under a 75-foot-tall bluff, which not only looks beautiful, but also helps block the wind, making it a great place to sunbathe or sit in the sand.

Tower 23 Hotel
Tower 23 Hotel

My Pick for the Best Hotel on North Pacific Beach

My choice for the top hotel in North Pacific Beach is surely the TOWER23 Hotel.

The hotel gets its name from the nearby lifeguard tower 23. It offers a sophisticated and unique boutique hotel experience with pristine Pacific Ocean views, a clean and modern design, high-end amenities, and a 70-foot-long “wave wall” at its very own JRDN restaurant.

My Pick for the Better Natural Features & Scenery

While it’s true that Coronado Central Beach has a deeper beach than North Pacific Beach with beach chairs and a jetty, it has no surf.

There is a beautiful pier at North Pacific Beach plus cliffs right next to the shore that really fill out the natural and manmade scenery. Plus, our team has a couple surfers that love the waves at North Pacific Beach.

So for me, the winner here is North Pacific Beach!

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Coronado - Full Day Bike Rental
Coronado - Full Day Bike Rental
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Local Tips
What kind of deals does the Go City San Diego pass offer?

The Go City San Diego pass gives visitors the ability to save up to 55% on attraction admissions.

Combine our exclusive 5% discount to save even more and consider the All-Inclusive pass to maximize your savings. Plus the pass gives you the ability to skip the line when visiting select attractions.

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

Recreational Opportunities and Activities

While both beaches are great places to visit, there are some key differences in what activities you might like to try when choosing which to visit.

Surfer Walking to Surf at Breakers Beach Fromcoronado Central Beach
Surfer Walking to Surf at Breakers Beach Fromcoronado Central Beach

Recreational Activities at Coronado Central Beach

Let’s do a deeper dive into the details of how you might best spend your time at Coronado Central Beach.

Surfing, Body Surfing, Windsurfing, and Kiteboarding

These are incredible activities to try or watch but unfortunately there really is no surfing at Coronado Central Beach.

Stairs to at North Pacific Beach at Diamond Street
Stairs to at North Pacific Beach at Diamond Street

Swimming and Sunbathing

Coronado Central Beach is perfect for swimming and sunbathing. The water is generally calm and the waves gentle, it’s a great place for families with children young and old to swim safely and without too much stress.

Kids Checking Out the Beach at Coronado Central Beach
Kids Checking Out the Beach at Coronado Central Beach

Biking and Beach Trails

Coronado Central Beach is part of the 24-mile-long Bayshore Bikeway cycling circuit and is ideal for cycling enthusiasts and those preferring a leisurely ride rather than a stroll.

Coronado Central Beach is also home to the Coronado Beach Trail, a popular 3.7-mile out-and-back beach trail that is accessible year-round and only has an elevation gain of about 42 feet, making it appropriate for most skill levels.

Surfer Getting Ready to Go Out at North Pacific Beach
Surfer Getting Ready to Go Out at North Pacific Beach

Beach Games

There is a lot of open sand to build sand castles or play a beach game at both North Pacific Beach and Coronado Central Beach.

Coronado Central Beach is especially great for playing beach volleyball and frisbee because of its relatively flat landscape.

Sand Dunes That Spell Coronado at Coronado Central Beach
Sand Dunes That Spell Coronado at Coronado Central Beach

Fishing and Tide Pools

Coronado Central Beach DOES allow fishing and has tide pools in front of the Hotel del Coronado.

Recreational Activities at North Pacific Beach

North Pacific Beach is good for sunbathing but also can be a great spot for water activities. Let’s have a look!

Surfing, Body Surfing, Windsurfing, and Kiteboarding

North Pacific Beach is a great place for children and beginners learning how to surf and swim. It offers surfing, body surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable surfing experience at North Pacific Beach, be sure to surf during medium to high tide, as its normal waves are a bit calm.

Surfing at North Pacific Beach offers few hazards, but be on the lookout for new surfers losing their boards occasionally or for the beach’s pier.

Swimming and Sunbathing

North Pacific Beach is a fantastic place for swimming and sunbathing. The water can be a bit more choppy than North Coronado Beach but generally the water is calm enough for a swim.

I’d say families with children young or older travelers should be fine to swim, and of course, sunbath at the beach.

Biking and Beach Trails

North Pacific Beach has a fantastic boardwalk perfect for an easy oceanfront stroll. The Mission Beach/Pacific Beach boardwalk, also known as the Oceanfront Boardwalk can be used by inline skaters and cyclists.

Honestly though, the trails around nearby Mission Bay are a bit more welcoming for true riders with less dog walkers and obstructions.

Beach Games

North Pacific Beach has a big sandy area perfect for lounging with a good book or playing in the sand. You could surely kick a ball around or play volleyball but honestly, the water calls me when I’m at North Pacific Beach so I prefer to leave my towel and go for a swim or surf.

Fishing and Tide Pools

You’ll probably want to fish from the Pacific Beach Pier and tide pools are best left to other beaches in San Diego. Know that you do need a license to fish.

If you’d like to explore tide pools, they’re not far, just a beach north at Tourmaline Surf Park.

San Diego Zoo Sign
San Diego Zoo Sign

Bonus Activities

If you’re looking for more fun activities to do in San Diego County, consider a Go City San Diego pass which will help you save up to 55% off the cost of dozens of San Diego’s top attractions, activities and rentals of beach gear like snorkels, kayaks and surfboards.

Beyond the beach, you can visit the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park, the USS Midway Museum on the San Diego Bay and SeaWorld San Diego in Mission Bay. Plus if you like museums, the pass includes dozens in the Downtown San Diego area, Balboa Park and throughout the city.

Don’t forget to use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to enjoy even greater savings as well!

Relax at North Pacific Beach
Relax at North Pacific Beach

My Pick for the Beach with the Best Recreational Activities

While you can swim, sunbath, bike, fish and play beach games at both beaches, the waves at North Pacific Beach allow for surfing, body surfing and more.

My winner here is North Pacific Beach!

Atmosphere and Crowds

Both beaches can be crowded during weekends, vacation times, and the middle of the day, but it’s fair game during most weekdays.

The Atmosphere & Crowds at Coronado Central Beach

I got a bit excited covering all the activities offered at each beach in our last category so let’s keep this one a bit shorter!

To me, Coronado Central Beach has a family feel, can be crowded on holidays and weekends and feels a bit more formal if that is a way to describe a beach.

The Atmosphere & Crowds at North Pacific Beach

From my experience, the vibe is a lot more chill at North Pacific Beach versus Coronado Central Beach. This beach fits the feel of ‘no shoes, no problem’ younger and feels like a laid back surfing or sunbathing Southern California beach.

My Pick for the Beach with the Better Feel and Less Crowds

I can’t deny that Coronado Central Beach is great for young families that want to play in the sand or splash in the water. Todd, our founder, pitched in here and I know he has a family with kids that love this beach, so I totally get the allure.

But for me, the feel of North Pacific Beach with young people, families, surfers and just all types of people just calls me in.

Once again, my winner here is North Pacific Beach!

Featured Hotel
Tower 23 Hotel
Tower 23 Hotel
Beachfront
Beachfront
Boutique
Boutique
Couples
Couples
4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars
At Tower 23 Hotel, you don’t have to compromise your lifestyle or your luxury when you travel. This boutique hotel in Pacific Beach is about more than comfort.
Prices Starting at $199
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Accessibility, Parking & Amenities

From ADA-accessibility and wheelchairs to parking, restrooms and shower facilities, let’s look into these features of each beach.

Boardwalk at Sunset in Front of Hotel Del Coronado
Boardwalk at Sunset in Front of Hotel Del Coronado

ADA, Parking & Facilities at Coronado Central Beach

Coronado Central Beach is ADA-accessible, has parking and other amenities.

Accessibility and Parking

Coronado Central Beach is ADA-accessible and can be accessed via Coronado Bay Bridge, The Strand, ferry, or water taxi.

You can also access free parking at Coronado Central Beach along Ocean Boulevard and at the Ferry Landing Marketplace.

Restrooms and Shower Facilities

Coronado Central Beach has restrooms and shower facilities available to the public that you’ll easily find upon arrival.

Lifeguard Station at Sunset at Coronado Central Beach
Lifeguard Station at Sunset at Coronado Central Beach

Beach Accessible Wheelchairs

Coronado Central Beach does offer beach accessible wheelchairs free of charge at the Central Beach Lifeguard Tower.

ADA, Parking & Facilities at North Pacific Beach

Let’s look at how North Pacific Beach stacks up with ADA-accessibility, parking and other amenities.

Accessibility and Parking

North Pacific Beach has free on-street parking at all of its many access points (Diamond Street, Emerald Street, Feldspar Street, Missouri Street, Chalcedony Street, and Law Street Park), as well as parking at the Tourmaline Surf Park (located at the end of North Pacific Beach, or on Mission Boulevard). Garnet Street has also recently added metered parking.

Handicapped spots are found near the Law Street Beach ramp.

Restrooms and Shower Facilities

North Pacific Beach has restrooms available at both the Law Street and Diamond Street entrances, while its outdoor showers are located at its Diamond Street entrance.

Beach Accessible Wheelchairs

For those in a wheelchair, North Pacific Beach’s boardwalk is accessible and could make for a nice afternoon of sunshine and fresh ocean air.

My Pick for the Beach with the Better ADA-accessibility, Parking & Facilities

Coronado Central Beach has a bit more parking and offers beach accessible wheelchairs free of charge at the Central Beach Lifeguard Tower.

With that, my winner in this category is Coronado Central Beach.

Safety & Rules

From alcohol policies and smoking to lifeguards, dogs and overnight camping, here are some of the safety and rules you’ll want to know about each beach.

Safety & Rules at Coronado Central Beach

Let’s look at the rules to know at Coronado Central Beach.

Sunset from the Boardwalk in North Pacific Beach
Sunset from the Boardwalk in North Pacific Beach

Alcoholic Beverages & Smoking

All San Diego beaches prohibit alcoholic beverages and glass containers in any area (beach, walkways, grassy areas or parking areas). There is also no smoking on the beach.

Overnight Camping

There is no overnight camping allowed on Coronado Central Beach.

Lifeguards

Lifeguards are on duty 365 days a year from about 9:00 AM to dusk.

Dogs on the Beach

Sunset Park otherwise known as Dog Run Beach is just north of the beach and a dog friendly nearby beach. Service animals are always welcome.

Safety & Rules at North Pacific Beach

Now let’s look at the rules to know at North Pacific Beach.

No Alcoholic Beverages & Smoking

The policies at North Pacific Beach match that at Coronado Central Beach – no alcohol and glass containers on the beach, walkways, grassy areas or parking lot and smoking is prohibited.

Overnight Camping

North Pacific Beach does not allow overnight camping.

Lifeguards

Lifeguards are on duty 365 days a year from about 9:00 AM to dusk.

Dogs on the Beach

North Pacific Beach allows dogs during limited hours. From April 1 to October 31, you cannot bring your dog to the beach from 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM, and from November 1 to March 31, you cannot bring your dog from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM. Service animals are welcome at all hours.

Dogs must be on a lead and you must also pick up their waste.

Kids Watching the Sunset at Pacific Beach
Kids Watching the Sunset at Pacific Beach

My Pick for the Beach with the Safety & Rules That Work

While North Pacific Beach allows dogs on the beach, this is just at limited hours. This category is too close to call so for safety and rules, I call this a tie!

Local Tips for Visiting Each Beach

Before you go, be sure to read up on these tips for your next visit.

Nearly Empty Beach in North Pb
Nearly Empty Beach in North Pb

Tips at Coronado Central Beach

During peak vacation season or during the middle of the day, traffic can be heavy at Coronado Central Beach, so a better way to avoid rush hour hassles would be to come by either ferry or water taxi.

Tips for North Pacific Beach

If you plan to come to North Pacific Beach, it is best to do it on a weekday to avoid the crowds. But if you do come on the weekends, know that it can be a bit crowded so I say arrive early to secure a prime location.

Take public transportation to North Pacific Beach to avoid parking hassles and consider the electric shuttle service, the Pacific Beach - Beach Bug to get around the area.

Aerial View Looking North at Del Mar City Beach
Aerial View Looking North at Del Mar City Beach

A Local Bonus Tip - Other Beach Options Nearby

I love these two beaches and know that the founder of Go Visit San Diego, Todd, lives not far from North Pacific Beach. But I can also say that San Diego is home to more than 75 beautiful beaches, so if these two aren’t your style, there’s 70+ more to try!

Some of my favorites include Del Mar’s Del Mar City Beach and Torrey Pines State Beach. When I’m in La Jolla, it’s La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores and Blacks Beach for some surfing for me!

If you’re in the Point Loma area, Ralph’s Surf Break is a blast or if you find yourself in the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park beach area, Garbage Beach and AB’s is a lot of fun.

Our Team’s Pick for the Overall Winner

Spring Sunset at Pacific Beach
Spring Sunset at Pacific Beach

Both Coronado Central Beach and North Pacific Beach are lovely choices for a sunny day in San Diego. We wouldn’t have gone to all the effort to write the article if we didn’t think you’d enjoy them both. But we must pick a winner!

They both have wide sandy shores perfect for sunbathing, sand castles and swimming, we just think that the natural and manmade beauty with the pier, the laid back Southern California feel and the waves that call us for some surfing put North Pacific Beach over the top!

Overall Winner: North Pacific Beach

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