San Diego has acres and acres of coastline. With breathtaking views and free public beaches choosing the “best beaches” is very subjective. In most cases accessing San Diego’s coastline also requires a car rental unless you are staying very close to the beach. San Diego’s International airport is located minutes from downtown; consider an International Air Charter. Here are five on my favorite beaches and each is dramatically different in topography, culture and use. Enjoy!
The city’s Grande Dame, the Hotel Del Coronado, sits on the most resplendent beach in the county. Coronado’s white sandy beach lies like a sparkling wedding train behind the Hotel Del. East Coast tourists looking for BEACH won’t be disappointed. The little hamlet of Coronado is fun to walk around and close enough to the beach to enjoy. Nightlife is very subdued to non-existent on the island. This beach is family oriented, tourist populated and almost never crowded due to its immense size and Island location.
2. Point Loma, Ocean Beach
I’m cheating here; this section actually deals with two separate beaches. Although Ocean Beach’s beach and town are nice the two real draws my opinion are Dog Beach and the trails and small beaches at the end of Point Loma up to the fence of the naval base. Dog Beach is one of the best doggie social places in the city. It is located on the eastern side of Ocean Beach proper. Here dogs can frolic in the waves or saunter in the calmer waters along the jetty.
On the other side of Point Loma and largely hidden to tourists are the hiking trails that begin at the surfers parking lot (Sunset Cliffs Park) located at the very end of Sunset Cliffs Blvd. The drive or hike along the road getting to these trails is one of the most scenic in the city. Mansions line one side of the narrow winding road with cliffs, sand and sea challenging the arrogance of mankind on the other. At the very end there is a large public parking lot dotted with eucalyptus trees. A maze of trails winds back along the cliffs. At several points there are steep trails providing access to small-secluded bits of beach. Ask a local surfer for guidance. This area is like a Zen experience and even after walking here every day for years its magic never ceased to take my breath away. The “beaches” here are small and filled with rocky ocean gardens filled with small crabs and anemones. There are no lifeguards and neither the hike nor the beaches are recommended to anyone who isn’t a fit and agile hiker. There are no lifeguards and do not visit if you have a fear of heights.
3. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach
Park the car and rent a bike or a pair of roller blades. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are filled with hotels and apartment rentals and this is one part of San Diego that is completely accessible on foot as long as you don’t want to leave the area to see other tourist sites. Long boisterous sandy beaches line the ocean side of Mission Beach and Pacific Beach on one side while just a few short blocks away there is the quiet alter ego of Mission Bay. Both the bay and the beach side have paved biking and walking paths. Small bars and restaurants line the beach side. Sailboats bob up and down on the bay side. Filled with college kids, tourists and an amazing variety of small beachside bars, restaurants and bikini shops, this is flip-flop heaven. Nearly extinct California Dreaming can still be glimpse in this area despite new attempts to control alcohol usage and partying in Pacific Beach. The best French toast on earth is to be had at the Mission Cafe.
San Diego Bay is one of the most peaceful city shorelines on the coast
Pacific Beach is fun, full of college kids and best yet you don’t need a rental car!
4. Windansea Beach
The beach of La Jolla High School with its iconic shack and dependable break Windandsea is one of the coolest beaches in San Diego. The beach itself is small, densely packed in summer and offers beach goers a bikini stripping whomp shore break. The timelessness of the place makes it fascinating. Generations of kids have grown up on this little strip of beach under the changing fronds of the shack.
The shack at Windansea is a beloved relic and well taken care of. Christmas in CA!
Next to the town of La Jolla proper is La Jolla Cove and the “children’s pool” now filled with wild seals and off limits to human swimmers. The small Cove is a good place for snorkeling and swimming. Walking along the boardwalk and then up for dinner somewhere in the town is also an excellent way to spend a relaxing evening.
5. Del Mar at 15th Street
Del Mar is one of many small beach towns that dot the coastline past the city limits of San Diego. It is one of the most historic towns along the coast and it boasts the Del Mar Fairgrounds and the Del Mar Race Track. The entire beach between 15th-19th streets is excellent for days of lounging in the sun, hanging out with the kids or running at dusk. The shore break makes this a fun family place. The beaches also have one of the best lifeguard staffs in the county. A small park, children’s park, shopping, dining and running trails are all a short distance from the beach. These once sparsely populated beaches are now fairly busy year round due to the residential developments east of the 5-freeway. East of the freeway too can be found larger new hotels with cheaper rates. Directly to the south are the hiking trails of Torrey Pines State Reserve and the excellent public golf course.
The Children’s Pool in La Jolla is now Seal beach!
Beach going in San Diego is weather driven. June and often large sections of July can see the coast cold and socked in with fog until 1-2 pm. August and September are the best beach months. The ocean water is chilly year round. These are not Florida style beaches. On the other hand the diversity and beauty of San Diego’s beaches makes them one of the top things to enjoy in the city.
San Diego’s beaches are as varied and unique as the city itself. Here is an insider’s look at the 5 best beaches in San Diego. From hiking the cliffs of Point Loma to boogie boarding with the kids in Del Mar, this list gives tourists important information about what to expect from different beaches along the San Diego coastline.